It's the world's biggest online retailer which prides itself on stocking everything you could possibly desire.

But behind Amazon's success lies something far more sinister, if the latest investigation into its working practices is to be believed.

From employees crying at their desks to annual staff culls designed to foster a culture of fear, merciless conditions at the company have been described by more than 100 workers.

Bosses were said to push workers so far past breaking point that they would "practically combust", while regular sackings to keep staff on their toes were described by one HR manager as "purposeful Darwinism".

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According to the expose, the company's best workers are known as "Amabots" - because they are so "at one with the system" they are almost cyborgs.

One employee in the marketing department said he had seen virtually all his colleagues in tears at work, while another recruit said that when they "hit the wall" because of the fast pace they were told: "Climb the wall."

More than 100 current and former Amazon workers were interviewed for the New York Times investigation.

Looking at life inside Amazon's 10million sq ft HQ in Seattle, the piece describes how, from their first Monday morning, new recruits are told to forget the "poor habits" they learned at previous jobs.

It claims workers put in at least 80 hours a week and are sent emails long past midnight, followed up by text messages asking why the emails have not been answered.

'Conflict brings about innovation

Employees are encouraged to report on their colleagues' progress to bosses using a feedback tool, which lets them criticise or praise others discreetly.
A suggested example comment is: "I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks."

Some workers even claimed that staff who had been diagnosed with cancer or suffered miscarriages were not given enough time off to recover. Former marketing executive Bo Olson said: "You walk out of a conference room and you'll see a grown man covering his face.

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"Nearly every person I worked with I saw cry at their desk."

The mantra at Amazon is that "conflict brings about innovation" and those who succeed are rewarded with stock options that double their pay.

Whilst companies like Google shower gifts on their workers like free lunches and free shuttle buses, Amazon employees have to embrace frugality by paying their own travel expenses.

The company has drawn up 14 guiding principles, the top of which is "customer obsession".

It reads: "Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers."

Toilet button

Such is the slavish devotion that Amazon requires that one employee claimed she did not sleep for four days straight she was working so hard.

Dina Vaccari, who joined in 2008 to sell Amazon gift cards to other companies and once used her own money to pay for a job to get done, said she was "addicted" to her job.

She said: "For those of us who went to work there, it was like a drug that we could get self-worth from."

According to the New York Times, Amazon retains workers by making them repay some of their signing bonus if they leave within a year. They also have to pay high relocation fees if they leave within two years.

Amazon also keeps them on their toes in terrifying ways.

Former employee Chris Brucia, who worked on a new Amazon fashion website in 2012, was savaged by his boss for half an hour during a performance review which left him thinking he was about to be fired.

But at the end the boss told him, "Congratulations, you're being promoted", and gave him a hug which he was too shocked to give back.

It was also revealed that Amazon has installed a button in the toilets to call for a replacement toilet roll rather than wasting time trying to find a cleaner.

- Daily Mail