Amazon sold bottles of urine collected from its drivers' discarded bottles as an energy drink called "Release." It became the No. 1 bestseller in "Bitter Lemon" drinks, reports Wired.
The bottles were the brainchild of documentary filmmaker Oobah Butler, who collected discarded urine bottles from drivers along roads near warehouses to create Release. The bottles are featured in Butler's new documentary, The Great Amazon Heist, airing on Channel 4 in the UK.
As reported in Wired:
Drivers urinating in bottles has been reported in the past, but what wasn't known is that some claim they also get penalized for having those urine-filled bottles in their truck when they return to the warehouse. (Drummond denies this and says Amazon drivers receive reminders to take regular breaks on the Amazon Delivery app). To avoid penalties, they end up discarding the bottles by the side of the road. Butler searches the roadsides near Amazon warehouses from Coventry to New York to Los Angeles and more often than not strikes liquid gold.
From there, it's laughably straightforward for Butler to get Release listed for sale on Amazon, with very few checks and balances in place to ensure the product he's selling is safe and legal. "Releasing the drink was surprisingly easy," Butler told WIRED. "I thought that the food and drinks licensing would stop me from listing it, so I started it out in this Refillable Pump Dispenser category. Then the algorithm moved it into drinks."
At one point, he's even contacted by an Amazon representative ready to handle the packaging, shipping, and logistics through the Fulfillment by Amazon program. (No members of the public were actually sent driver urine; instead Butler corralled a group of friends into making the purchases.) When he saw the product listed for sale, Butler felt "initially really excited and found it very funny," he says. "Then when real people started trying to buy the product, I felt a bit scared."
[Amazon spokesperson James] Drummond says this was a "crude stunt" and that the company has "industry-leading tools to prevent genuinely unsafe products being listed."