First Time at Amazon Day 17 – Day 19

Disclaimer:  We  are not spokespersons or officially affiliated with Amazon in any way. This account is of our personal experience as seasonal employees in the Cambellsville, KY distribution center in 2017.  I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part and are not intentional.

Day 17

Well, the foot pain is definitely manageable, but I will say by the end of the night I was “hobbling” a little.  Mainly that’s because my routes have included a ton of stairs.  Lee has been in the “E mod” for the last few days and he’s largely stayed in that one area, just bouncing between the four floors of it. I, on the other hand, have been all over the place, and as much as I enjoy the variety, it does include going up and down quite a bit.  Early in the shift I really don’t mind so much, but in that last quarter it can be pretty tough.  For example, last night in the last 2-1/2 hours I picked in 4K (up three flights of stairs), 2C (down three flights of stairs and up a long ramp), 4K (down the long ramp and up three flights of stairs), 4D (down one flight then up one flight), L (down three flights of stairs), and finally 2K (up a flight of stairs).  I should say though that the stairs themselves are pretty nice.  They have traction on them and nice hand rails and I find the spacing between stairs to be good, but I do get some cardio going walking up them and if there isn’t much a break between moving again that’s a little rough.  I definitely feel like I am getting into shape though, which is a great thing.

We also got our weekly numbers and I actually outpicked Lee!!  I had 2732 last week and Lee had 2675. My percent to curve was actually slightly higher at 139.27% versus 137.45% so yeah me! He did get another atta boy for 100% quality though, and since they didn’t come and talk to me I am guessing I made a quality mistake somewhere along the way.  Not surprising really as it is harder than you might think to not make a simple mistake, especially later in the shift where you start to feel a little tired.

We also had our first below freezing night and although we prefer to use our electric space heaters we both felt we should leave the furnace on low throughout the day.  Unfortunately we were also very low on propane, so Lee had to find a place to fill up the tanks.  There is a company that will fill the tanks of Class A’s onsite, but for some reason they won’t do smaller tanks.  The propane price is also pretty high here, around $2.69 a gallon, but with temps like these it is what it is.  The days aren’t so bad though.  When the sun is out it’s very pleasant, and although we had some serious rain on our days off, it’s generally pretty sunny here, which is nice.

Oh and I’ve been wanting to mention that we do see lots of the same clothing vendors throughout our shift and apart from the well-known brand names like Haines and Wrangler I am also seeing lots of lesser known brand names.  These brands are not ones I am familiar with, but are super popular and although I have never worn any of these items, the packaging is nice and the clothes appear to be well made.  We pick tons of Cherokee Scrubs for all our nurse friends out there, along with French Toast kids clothing, Lucky Leaf scarves, and women’s clothing from a company called Patty Boutik.  The last in particular is pretty interesting to me, because the packaging is very nice and they have a huge selection of women’s clothing and I have never heard of them.  We also pick lots and lots of Miracle Socks, and since Lee’s Gold toe socks have helped my foot pain so much, I am very tempted to try some of these.  They are pretty pricey though and since I am not sure how often I would wear them, I am going to give them a pass at least for now.

Tracy:  28.522 steps (11.91 miles)
Items Picked: 704

Lee:      28,734 steps (12.69 miles)
Items Picked: 894

Interesting Item Picked: I know funky socks are all the rage in the business world, but for those who still work in a conservative environment I thought these Star Wars Rebel Logo socks were really cool.  They are black and grey and the rebel logo is very discreet, and you really can’t tell what it is unless you are a fan.  No one would have any idea you were wearing Star Wars rebel socks unless they were a fan too, and then they would be in on the secret!  For some reason Ted, they made me think of you!

Day 18

Normally I write these posts after a good night’s sleep, but I think today calls for writing the experience while it’s fresh in my mind.  Keep in mind as I write this I am sitting at the desk with my feet soaking in freezing cold water and as such am not exactly in the best frame of mind.  The day started out OK, with some nice easy runs and I was mostly in one or two areas.  Then at first break my supervisor came and found me because my name had once again come up on an exception report.  This time it was for missing three items, and I have to say he handled the conversation very well.  He is an earnest young man and was very gentle in his coaching, but it still stung that I had made the mistake.  I know how it happened.  I was pretty distracted this week and wasn’t giving the job my full attention so somehow I scanned items but they didn’t make it to the tote.

At first I thought, well that’s fair, and to some extent it is, but then I started thinking about 3 mistakes out of 2732 picks last week.  So let’s do the math on that. my error rate for last week was .001% which in all fairness is not Six Sigma which is 99.99966% error free (that equals 3.4 defects in every one million attempts btw)So I get it.  If I had three errors and everyone else had three errors that all adds up.  But two weeks in, with minimal training, and that’s really not so bad.  It wasn’t the coaching, and certainly not the way it was handled, but the understanding that if he hadn’t chalked it up to my “learning curve” I would have started down a corrective action path.  I talked to one of the full time employees that I have become friendly with and asked if they really were that particular and the answer was “oh yes.”

Update: In the clear light of day, lots of thoughts are rolling around in my head.  As a Six Sigma manager I was always a person who strove to put error free processes into place.  I’d like to think my standards were reasonable, but after a couple of weeks being a front line worker with those systems in place, I will say there is a ton more pressure than I ever realized.  This is a temporary job for me, and when we move on, I don’t ever have to do this again if I don’t want to.  For the folks who live in this small town, with limited employment opportunities, bills to pay and kids to feed,  this is a much bigger deal.   The standards in place are pretty high, and the combination of needing to meet productivity levels and be error free is a tough one.  You don’t really get to have an off day.  Well, you do, but someone is going to take note of it and string too many “off” days together and you have a problem. There are two distinct sides of my brain at war on this particular issue, but ultimately I have to be on the side of the human beings.  Yes, you need policies and standards in place and absolutely those standards should be high, especially in such a competitive global market, but the human factor should not be ignored. Otherwise we dehumanize the workforce, and as history as shown that is never a good thing.

So I get now why some folks really aren’t fans of Amazon, and if having those kind of conversations reminds you way too much of your “old life” then you really might want to consider if this job is for you.  Because I consider myself a conscientious person, and that’s two conversations in two weeks, because I showed up on a report. It didn’t ruin my day or anything, but it wasn’t great either.  Unfortunately though the day just got worse.  We ran out of work around 4:16pm and this time it was for a long time.  What you do when the screen says there is no work is keep logging back in until you get some.  Most people take a bathroom break or have a quick chat with someone, but it’s never a good sign, because when work is that low we know the loooong walks are coming.

And that’s what the rest of the day was like, and not just for me.  It was up stairs, pick a couple of items then down stairs, and repeat.  Occasionally I got a nice little run somewhere, but mainly it was long walks either from one mod to another, or within the same mod.  I spent 30 minutes for example on one floor walking from one end to the other and putting 2-3 items in a tote and then starting another one.  Not fun at all, and very difficult to get into a rhythm.  What was surprising was the workload was that small with mainly just work kampers.  Almost all the full time employees were pulled to either stow or to train the several groups of new temporaries that they have hired for the peak.  All I can say is I really hope this is the calm before the storm, because the day was very tiring both physically and mentally.

Oh and I should mention something sort of funny did happen to Lee.  They were playing the “Where’s Waldo game” on the night shift and they put some pictures of Waldo in various bins throughout the building.  If you found a picture you were supposed to go to the pick desk and get your prize.  Lee found one and got kind of excited because he saw the number 40 on the back and thought it might be a $40 gift card.  So he walked all the way to the pick desk to turn it in and was given a candy cane.  The look on his face when he told me this story had me laughing so hard.  He doesn’t even like candy canes lol.  When he said “Sometimes my life is like a bad sitcom,” I lost it 🙂

Tracy:  29,239 steps (12.22 miles)
Items Picked: 778

Lee:      30,498 steps (13.47 miles)
Items Picked: 787

Interesting Item Picked:  There was only one item I picked up all day that stopped me dead in my tracks and that was mainly because I held it up and said “What the heck is this?”  Well, it was Zombie Intestines.  It didn’t look much like intestines, but was pretty gross in a fun way, plus it’s long enough and soft enough plastic that you can whack people with it.  So if you have a 10-12 year old boy in your life (or someone who acts like one) this might be the perfect present for them.

Day 19

Well, today was much better, and that’s mainly because at the beginning of our shift one of the managers asked for volunteers for some “5S work”.  I raised my hand immediately, using Lee’s advice to volunteer for everything, and for the first half of our shift we were putting new tape on the floor.  Now, this probably doesn’t sound very fun, but we actually had a pretty good time, especially after we asked if we could take the red and white tape and peel off from the group.  We walked all the mods and replaced all the caution tape near the conveyor belts and not only got to do something different, but felt like we accomplished something.  We still walked a lot (11,384 steps or 5 plus miles) but since we didn’t have the pressure of the computer telling us where to go it was much more relaxing.  We found out later only one person from the day shift volunteered for this and I am not sure why.  We had knee pads, and yes, the floor was dusty, but the opportunity to do something else was too good to pass up.  It’s all relative I guess.

The second half of the day also went much better for me at least.  I had some nice routes (lots of items to pick in the same area) and even spent close to an hour up on one small floor where I didn’t see another soul.  That happens on occasion, you get into a small area and get to stay there alone, and personally I love that because I don’t have to worry about where I put my cart or running into anyone else.  Lee didn’t have it so good, though.  He had one of those days where he was all over the place, and was pretty tired when we got home.  Thankfully they changed our schedule for this week so we have Thanksgiving off (we work Black Friday instead) and are planning on really relaxing, before going out for a group Thanksgiving dinner, which Kelly was kind enough to arrange.

That’s one other thing I should probably mention.  Amazon is open for Thanksgiving for both day and night shift, and everyone who works gets time and a half for that day.  Pretty late in the evening  on Wednesday though they changed the schedule, and put them all on half days, which I kind of thought was bullshit (excuse my language).   People had already built plans for that day around their work schedule and for those who want/needed the money they were just out of luck.  And it would have been one thing if they would have made that decision a week in advance but notifying people (they do this via a voice message on your cell phone) pretty much last minute was really not OK in my opinion.  It’s not like they were let go early and still got paid (which many, many jobs do for holidays) but they actually lose money, as 4 hours at 1-1/2X does not equal an 8 hour day. We will have to see how the overtime plays out over the next couple of weeks and I will wait and see what occurs, but don’t be surprised if this becomes an issue.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving everyone, hope you have a wonderful day with friends and family!

Tracy:  26,292 steps (10.98 miles)
Items Picked: 421

Lee:     27,772 (12.27 miles)
Items Picked: 395 (half day)

Interesting Item Picked: I saw a T-Shirt that said Hawkins Middle School AV Club and for all you Stranger Things fans I thought it was pretty neat since it didn’t mention the show at all. I also wanted to mention that I picked a ton of Beat Head Phones.  I have no idea if they are any good, but they come in lots of cool colors and have really nice packaging which is generally a good sign.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time at Amazon Day 15 and Day 16

Disclaimer:  We  are not spokespersons or officially affiliated with Amazon in any way. This account is of our personal experience as seasonal employees in the Cambellsville, KY distribution center in 2017.  I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part and are not intentional.

Day 15

So today went pretty well.  I wore a pair of Lee’s Gold Toe socks and they seemed to really help.  Or my feet are just hardening up, either way I was grateful for it because I went the first three quarters without being in significant pain.  I was tired though, especially because I had lots of stairs the third and fourth sessions. Oh and I forgot  to mention we  got  free  Camperforce Tshirts as well, which was a nice  little  perk.  I should mention  though  that  we did have our first “counseling” session by our supervisor (which  involved a 5 minute chat in an aisle), because we both showed up on a report that we had put too many things in the amnesty bins.  Our supervisor is a very nice and earnest young man, and he was extremely respectful, but the conversation was interesting.  The bins have been overstuffed by the stowers in recent days, and many times when you open a drawer above you a “waterfall” of items falls out.  Seriously they were so jammed in that it was like a spring pushed off and socks, gloves and other small items rained down.

At this point we have two choices.  Shove the stuff back in the bin so the next person has the same thing, or take the items on the floor and put them in the amnesty bin.  In serious cases, Lee and I were both using the bin, in the hopes that the person who re-stocked them would put them in another bin.  Apparently though a report shows who was in that bin last so amnesty is not really amnesty after all.  That didn’t surprise me, but they really need to rename the bin if they are going to do reports and then talk to people about it when they use them.  Our poor supervisor wanted to believe that it was a misunderstanding on our part, but I was honest about the fact that it was intentional.  His solution was to shove the stuff back in the bin, and since I hate ending up on reports that will be how I handle it going forward, but really that’s not a great policy.  The internal customer of the stowers process is the pickers, but we have absolutely no way to provide feedback. At least using the amnesty bin got some folks attention and we were told that there would be additional training for some of the stowers, many of which are also new, so that’s a good thing. If I worked here full time though I would definitely have a problem with that long-term as there appears to me no checks in place for stowers just ramming things in there which costs us more time and ultimately impacts efficiency.

On a completely different note, I don’t know if I have mentioned this yet but there are absolutely no cell phones in the building. Some people put cell phones in their locker and check them on break but we don’t really want to mess with out lockers so leave them at home. They do have an emergency number, which I gave out to my parents, kids, and brother and sister, in case something happens during the ten hour shift, but we are largely disconnected from what is happening in the world while we are working.

On this particular day I came home and fell into bed without checking my phone and I missed an important message from a friend. That made me angry.  I understand that they sell electronics and for security reasons need to keep outside items to a minimum, but it’s tough being so disconnected.  We had the same thing happen at the beet harvest, by the way.  A close friend had a personal emergency and because of the schedule and physical demands of the job I was completely unaware of it. I’m not sure why this bothers me so much.  I remember living in a world where we weren’t connected to each other constantly, but the social mores have changed, and not getting back to people pretty quickly feels at best, thoughtless, and at worst, rude. And since very few people have a job where they aren’t connected you feel like you want to let every single person know your special circumstance.  I know I am probably worrying about this too much, but all I can say is it really bugs me and is definitely not a plus for this job.

Tracy: 20,088 (8.38 miles)  Somewhere along the way I lost my Fitbit so this wasn’t a complete day.  Luckily someone turned it in and they had it at security on my next shift

Items Picked:  846

Lee:  28,585 steps (12.63 miles)
Items Picked: 924

Interesting Item Picked:  My favorite item of the day was a Glenn from the Walking Dead action figure. I am not a big fan of action figures myself, but I loved the Glenn character and this action figure is one of the best I have ever seen.  It looks exactly like him and even has blood splatter all over it which gives it a truly realistic look.  So for those of you who are still mourning the loss of Glenn (uber fans you know who you are), an action figure might be just what you need to remember him.

(Roasted Turkey hat. Need I say more? There’s still time to get this, in time for Thanksgiving, if you order right away. I wish I had one! – Lee)

 

Days Off

Thankfully we had the next couple of days off, and the timing was great because we got a call on Thursday that our couch was in. You can read about how we ordered it here.  The only day we could pick it up was on Friday so the timing was absolutely perfect.  Unfortunately we had to drive 1-1/2 hours to a Dayton Freight in Bowling Green to pick it up, but the drive was pretty.  And we stopped along the way to get some McDonald’s and a McRib.  Lee loves the McRib, and he got pretty excited eating it as you can see.

Personally I don’t get it, but Lee loves them

When we arrived at Dayton freight they didn’t quite know what to do with us.  Ultimately they used a forklift and loaded the pallet into our truck, which had a giant cardboard box strapped to it.  Lee then ratchet strapped the pallet to the truck since it was too long for us to close the tailgate.  I was nervous driving back, but we had no issues and ultimately we arrived at the campground.  There was really nothing wrong with our original couch and we weren’t sure what to do with it, so we asked the owner of the campground if she would like it for her rec room.  Thankfully she was glad to take it, so we dissembled the love seat (to get it out the door) and place it outside.  Then Bill came over and helped us move the new couch into the RV, which was a little tough because it actually came in three pieces.

Lee was a little surprised by that and it didn’t come with any instructions, but he and Bill figured out how to fit it together.  Then as a temporary measure we placed it on our old stand and this is what it looked like. I was really happy with the lighter color and the back support is amazing.  It’s still too large for the space, of course, but when the middle section is down I can get some good airflow, which was a real problem with the old couch.  The cloth is “stiffer” than the ultra leather, which I knew going in, but it will be nice once it gets broken in a bit.  And I can actually lay down on my couch now, which is awesome, because before with the love seat that was too uncomfortable.

Couch with middle section up, with a temporary box from the old couch supporting the front.

Couch with Middle cup holder down and the storage drawer out

At this point Lee called it a night, and we went over to Kelly and Bill’s for dinner.  It was my turn to cook and I was originally going to make a pot roast when the news came in about the couch.  Knowing it would take several hours to get the couch set up and the fact that my pot roast is a two stage process, I was trying to figure out what else to cook when Kelly came to the rescue.  She sent me a text that dinner was covered and served us spiral ham, green beans, and hash brown casserole.  WOW!!  What an amazing meal, and so nice of her to take over when she saw I was having a complicated day.  I owe her two dinners now and am definitely making that pot roast as soon as the schedule allows!

The next morning Lee woke up and immediately started in on the couch.  Like the old one, we knew it would hang over some (this is the only way to fit a reclining couch in that space), so it needed to be screwed down into the slide.  Then he measured and after some discussion went to buy the materials for a new box to go underneath it.  We talked about having a platform that stuck out a little more for people to put their feet on, but ultimately decided we wouldn’t like how that worked in the small space.  Then we discussed how we were going to cover it and Lee had a great idea. If he left the front open, not only would we not need to match the carpet or couch for covering but I would have a place to store my shoes.  I loved, loved this idea since our current storage is in the bedroom and being too lazy to walk back there I often leave my shoes all over the place, which makes him crazy.

Pretty excited about this! Storage space trumps style every time.

From Left: Harry, Vicki, me, and Lee

After getting the couch mostly done (Lee still needs to secure the base), we watched Wind River, which was a really great movie and went to dinner at Colton Steakhouse with Harry and Vicki. We originally met them at an RV-Dream gathering in Quartzsite two years ago and just really liked them from our first meeting.  We’ve followed their travels over the last couple of years and were very excited to get to know them better in Kentucky. Vicki has maintained her corporate job the entire time they have been on the road, and despite being officially retired Harry has had a series of work kamping jobs.  His attitude is “she’s working, so I’m working” which I absolutely adore, and I was very interested in learning about how they managed their schedule. The first year that we were on the road I worked a corporate job and Lee went to school and did some freelance work, but we have never tried corporate with work kamping and that is absolutely a direction I would like to explore. So I pounded them with questions, poor Harry barely got to eat his dinner lol, and they were kind enough to answer them all.  There are some people you just immediately click with, and Harry and Vicki are definitely that for us, so we’re looking forward to getting to know them better in the future.  I promise I won’t ask so many questions next time!

Day 16

Feet felt pretty good again.  I am definitely thinking it is the long gold-toed socks so sticking with those for sure.  I’ve been wanting to talk about colors for a while, so today I am going to tackle that.  One of the best ways of finding an item quickly in a bin is to look for colors.  If there are multiple items with the same color (black is a pain), then you have to look at clothing type or brand name, but the simplest and easiest is often color.  Unfortunately, the names for colors that are used in these descriptions are wide and varied.  I consider myself an educated person and remember fondly my first 100 crayon box with the built-in sharpener, but many of these names make me stop and pause.  Which to me sort of defeats the whole purpose.  If they have selected a color name that you really have to think about maybe they should have gone with something simpler.  It certainly would make the picker’s job easier.  Keep in mind, that you are tired and in a hurry when your brain is trying to translate these colors and it’s not always easy. So let’s see how you would do.

These aren’t too hard:  Mint (light green); Olive (dark green); Plum (dark purple); Navy (dark blue); Ivory (off-white); Nude (pinkish-tan); Burgundy (dark red); Charcoal (dark grey); Grape (purple);  and Eggplant (deep purple).

These are a little tougher:  Teal (blue/green); Bamboo (light tan); Aqua (greenish blue); Wine (dark red); Coral (bright orange); Watermelon (orangish red); seafoam (light green); Lepoard (tan/brown/orange); Oatmeal (light brown); Champagne (light gold); Royal (bright blue); Pewter (dark gray); Indigo (dark blue); and Sage (green).

These ones really stumped me mainly because no one color immediately came to mind when I first read it:  Sierra (reddish brown); Orchid (pink); Raspberry (purple); Grenadine (orangish red); Lupine (light purple); Coral (bright orange); Egret (white); Cayenne (brownish red); Fuchsia (bright pink); Heather (light gray; Cinder (gray); Natural (off-white); and Punch (orangish-red).

And my personal favorites:  Melange (which is a combination of colors), Confetti (lots of bright colors) and Fairy tale (which was a bright, shiny Cinderella pink).

In all fairness I think the vendors are the ones that select the colors, but the more exotic ones are really a pain to figure out in the few seconds you have and in the case of many of the items marketed (versus manufactured because almost all of the items are made in foreign countries) by Chinese companies the descriptions make no sense.  Whether that is a language issue or a cultural one, I have no idea, but the important thing the is the lack of a good description slows the process down.

Tracy: 27,202 steps (11.34 miles)

Items Picked:  738

Lee:  31,812 steps (14.05 miles)
Items Picked: 866

Interesting Item Picked: One of the things I have been picking lately are vinyl records.  It’s kind of cool that people still buy vinyl and the neatest one I saw was The Rat Pack Live at the Sands. That’s not my pick though, because we don’t have a record player. What we do have is a tent and I saw this cool Duro lantern that you can disassemble easily and also use as a hanging light.  Seemed like it would work well for us. 

(You’ll be the best dressed guy at any holiday party this year in your Santa Tuxedo. Red “velvet” with white faux fir trim.  Seriously. Just look at this thing. It’s spectacular. I would swap out the lame necktie for a bow tie, though.- Lee)

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time at Amazon Day 12 – Day 14

Disclaimer:  We  are not spokespersons or officially affiliated with Amazon in any way. This account is of our personal experience as seasonal employees in the Cambellsville, KY distribution center in 2017.  I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part and are not intentional.

Day 12

One of the interesting things about the day is how it is divided into four quarters.  We work 2-1/2 hours then have break, 2 hours and 10 minutes then lunch, 2-1/2 hours then break, and then 2-1/2 hours we are done.  So the day is broken into quarters.  Each time we log out from picking we generally come back to a different section and in general my productivity follows a trend.  First part of the day I am really productive, with the second quarter being my worst generally.  Third quarter, after lunch, I am peppy again, but then flag considerably at the end of the day.  The nice thing for us has been the fourth quarter involved going into the section with stuff other than clothes and since that sparks my interest I often rally a bit.  I also get some nice runs of picking quantities (the numbers below include 59 of a single item) which really helps the numbers.

What was different about today though was we finally got opened up for all the other sections.  Thankfully this didn’t happen until near the end of the shift, but it did have a significant impact on Lee’s numbers in particular.  With other sections comes both stairs and long walks to the next section, and in my case figuring out how to get to where I need to be.  I also don’t really understand the layout of the higher floors, since the totes and carts are all in weird places, and the aisles aren’t necessarily laid out logically.  I am sure we will learn all this over time, but I will say this definitely should have been included in our initial training.  The ground floors are all simple grids with lots of totes and carts and pretty easy to figure out.  Each little higher section seems to have it’s own unique layout, many of them are quite small, and I found it pretty confusing.

On the plus side, walking on wood floors rather than concrete was pretty nice.  I imagine we will have much more of this higher floor activity to talk about and it will be interesting to see how the stairs impact our knees.  Thus far the two areas I was most concerned about (knees and back) have actually done pretty well, but I imagine that is about to change.

Tracy: 24,754 ( 10.34 miles)

Items Picked:  First Quarter – 214 (111 per hour); Second Quarter- 161 (79 per hour); Third Quarter- 177 (91 per hour); Fourth Quarter- 303 (121 per hour)  Total:885

Lee:  27,796 steps (12.28 miles)
Items Picked: 883

Interesting Item Picked:  Saw some cute things today, but my favorite had to be a Sherlock Homes hat and pipe.  The set was really adorable and made me smile thinking of Lee wearing it, but seriously I know we have absolutely no need for that.  We are huge fans of the show Sherlock on BBC (really if you haven’t seen them I give them the highest recommendation) and Benedict Cumberbatch has once again made this look cool!! 

Day 13

OK, I really hurt.  My feet are absolutely killing me and I am hobbling into the rig each night.  Every time I feel like I start to turn a corner they throw something else at us and it’s back to really hurting.  In today’s case it was because they opened us up completely to other mods and many of those included stairs.  So to give you a feeling for how the day went, let me lay it out for you.  Some of the moves happened after more than an hour in a location, and others after only 5 minutes or so, but I think you will get the picture.

  • Started on third floor of J (the wooden floors are a nice change of pace)
  • Second floor of K (which is right to J, but it’s down the two flights and then walk across and up again.  No way to cut across that I saw, although I could be wrong about that, I’m still learning my way around the upper floors)
  • First floor M (which I really liked because it had lots of non-clothing items)
  • First floor L (my least favorite because the clothing is in large boxes even at the higher levels, and it was hard for me to pull those down and look.  They call it “hell mod” I can see why)
  • Second floor C (again, not a fan.  It’s a concrete floor and the lighting is really awful up there.  They have strings of construction lights in cages strung along the top of the rows and it’s really dark in several places)
  • First floor C (that was better because it is close to a bathroom, although there is no conveyor belt inside it.  A nice full time employee told me I could put my totes on a cart at the front which really helped me a ton)
  • Fourth floor J (which I liked because it was a ton of shoes.  I find those pretty easy to pick)
  • Second floor K ( despite being on higher floors the ventilation and air flow is really good)
  • First floor K
  • First Floor M (I got my first “hot pick” which is an item that is needed badly, and of course it was at the complete opposite end of the row I was at.  I did my best to get there quickly though and get it in a tote)
  • Fourth floor K (at this point we were 5 minutes until going home and I said “Screw it”  Four floors at the end of the night is rough and I didn’t have it in me so went to the bathroom instead)

So, I only did 7 flights of stairs, but it sure felt like much more. Add in walking back and forth to the different aisles and it felt much tougher than what we were doing before although my step count was roughly the same.  And as much as I appreciate the wood floor break, I found my feet were screaming when they were sent back to concrete floors, especially because (with one exception) those wood floor segments were pretty short.  My numbers definitely suffered as well. It’s hard to get into a rhythm when you are moving all around. Lee seems to excel at that and his numbers are also down, but not nearly as much.    He is the sorest he has been in a while though.

Speaking of which, our supervisor walked up to Lee and gave him some Kudos.  He said Lee was running 178% of goal and had 100% quality.  Obviously this is pretty unusual, but Lee’s response was classic for him when he shrugged and said, “You tell me what to pick and where to pick it, so that’s what I do.”  Too funny.  I also got kudos for 100% quality, but nothing was said about my speed.  I think I am doing fine there, but not setting any records, which is perfectly fine with me!

And finally they gave us a free Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  They gave us an extra 15 minutes (paid) to eat which was nice, but the food was a mixed bag.  I know it’s hard to feed that many people, but most of it had a slightly institutional feel and with the entrees they definitely could have done better.  Still free food is good and I loved the extra 15 minutes.

Tracy: 24,310 ( 10.14 miles)

Items Picked:  718

Lee:   28,907 steps ( 12.77 miles)
Items Picked: 925

Interesting Item Picked:  Despite being all over the place I didn’t see many things that caught my fancy.  Probably too tired. Early in the shift I did see a few foldable bamboo hats which caught my attention.  They are both a a fan and a hat and I think they are a really cool idea.  Check out the picture and see what they look like.  Neat concept and they fold up pretty small so would fit in most purses. 

Day 14

One of our readers said it was tough to get a feel for the jobs without pictures, and since we are not allowed cameras inside I went and found some photos used in various news articles.  Generally I am not a fan of using other people’s photos, but in this case I feel it is called for and I have credited the various publications.  These are all from Cambellsville “style” warehouses and do a good job of representing the environment we are working in. I know it looks very industrialized but in all fairness it feels smaller when your are down on the floor.  You do see other people, and although conversations are short there is always time for a wave and a smile. It just feels way more personal than these pictures communicate, but yes, you are part of a big machine.

Bird’s eye view of a section of Cambellsville from The Lane Report

We are the person with the tote and although many sections are smaller some are this big.  Courtesy of Business Insider

Close up of the cart with totes, which absolutely makes the job easier. Unfortunately we have to find a new cart in every section we go to and that can take time thriveafterfifty.com

We have a standup meeting and stretch at the start of the day and after lunch. I actually think these are handled pretty well.  Picture from Workkamper.com

 

We were also asked if there are other jobs, and yes, there are.  There is packing, about which you can read a first hand account from my friend Kelly’s blog. And stowing, which is going into an area and putting items in bins.  Those involve much less walking, but do have you standing on concrete for long stretches of time, which I actually find worse than walking, in some ways.  The important thing is there are no guarantees about which job you will get.  You can ask for preferences, but ultimately “business needs decide” and you should know that going in.

A representation of packing From Biz Journal

Hope that helps.  OK, let’s talk about last night.  Well, we went in and the back log was really low.  The back log is the amount of orders that need to be filled. What that means as pickers is we were in for a rough day.  The computer likes to keep you moving, so when the orders are low, it creates much longer routes.  This means much more walking, and I ended up walking 13 miles and Lee walked over 14 miles in the shift.  Yikes!!  And as you can see, despite the extra walking, we actually picked less items than we usually do.  Lee found it “demoralizing” because less was accomplished and I was just annoyed by the “fake productivity.”  Let me explain.  Obviously we were overstaffed, but instead of allowing employees down time or an extra break, they kept us walking, which makes it look like we were productive.  To be clear, I have no idea how Amazon defines productive time, but I imagine that because there is walking time in a normal day that walk is included in productivity.  The stats we are shown even take walking time into account, and the metrics include the time it takes to get from A to B.  That’s fine and makes sense to me, except in a situation like last night, the routes were ridiculously inefficient so it’s not reality.  I’ll give you an example.  I was on the fourth floor of K mod, walked down to second floor K mod to pick 2 items (and there was someone on that floor already) then walked back up to the fourth floor. I may have looked 100% productive during that entire time, but I definitely wasn’t efficient.

(I would say, hands down, this is the one thing I absolutely hate. I mean, I really, really hate it. A computer sends the scanner a “batch” of items to pick, and a “pick path”, which is basically the order in which things are supposed to be picked. When there’s plenty of “work” (orders needing picked) it presents the items on a logical pick path. You travel down an aisle and pick things from bins or drawers as you go. So at the end of a single aisle you might have filled, one, two or even three totes. When there isn’t enough work, the path is scattered. You might start at drawer/bin #1 in an aisle, pick an item, then walk all the way to the end of that aisle to drawer/bin #256 to get the next item. Then all the way back to drawer/bin #5 for the next item. And sometimes it runs you diagonally from aisle 1 to aisle 100 and then back to aisle 3. This is incredibly stupid, and wasteful, and inefficient, and no way to treat human beings. Especially when you consider that a typical aisle is the length of a football field or more. And you can do that twenty or more times in a batch, which really adds up. You wouldn’t use a machine this way, because you are putting unnecessary extra wear and tear on a piece of equipment with a limited lifespan, and an actual replacement cost. And all for no reason other than to make people appear busy. It would be much more logical to always use the most efficient pick path, and if there’s down time, then there’s down time. “Chaosing” the pick path to create the illusion of having work to do doesn’t actually do anything at all, and I would imagine it pisses off anyone with half a brain. It certainly pisses me off. So far, this would be the number one reason I wouldn’t want to return to this gig, that’s how much it bothers me. – Lee)

And yes, I understand it is what it is to some extent, and when there is enough work in the queue I found the routes to be very efficient, but this walking around to keep busy can be a bit like Chinese water torture, especially at the end of the night.  On the plus side, I finally got to visit the fourth floor of E section (which is new) and wow, that was nice.  The floors are wood, but cushioned, and there is plenty of light, carts, and totes.  It was beautiful up there and I understood why people had said “You are in for a treat.” It’s all relative after all, and the little things matter in a 10 hour day.

Tracy: 31,454 steps( 13.11 miles)  Yikes!

Items Picked:  721

Lee:   33,440 steps (14.77 miles)
Items Picked: 808

Interesting Item Picked:  I saw this really cool banana slicer.  I have no idea if it works or not, but I’ve never seen one before and if you like sliced bananas, this might be the tool for you. (Trace has accidentally stumbled onto one of the most famous gems on the internet. Years ago someone wrote a very funny review of this item, and it went viral, and then other people starting piling on with their own funny reviews, and the rest is internet history. There’s a great Buzzfeed story about the phenomenon, and there’s even a published paperback BOOK on Amazon, which is a collection of the best reviews. – Lee) And I also want to take a minute and talk about Adult Content, so fair warning: you should skip the next bit if that will bother you. 

I pick probably one adult item a day and although the items are in black bags or boxes the descriptions are pretty detailed.  It can be a bit jarring to be picking common every day items and then run across a sex toy, but that’s part of the job, and I wanted to be transparent about that for those who might not want to pick those items.  And I thought I would share a funny story.  I ran across a “snake headed dildo” last night, and that really made me stop dead in the aisle.  The mental image was really weird, and I gingerly picked up the black bag and put it in my cart.  Being a curious person, when I got home, I decided to google what the heck that looked like (can’t wait to see what my suggested purchases look like after that) and it turns out that it didn’t have an actual snake head, but instead was shaped roughly  like a snake.  Shows what I know lol! Anyway, normally these items are just one more thing to put in the cart, but it can be a little strange.  Just wanted to throw it out there. 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

 

 

Third Year – The Emotional Arc

The third year started off pretty rough for us.  We were in the midst of our worst work kamping job to date, selling Christmas Trees, and I at least was seriously wondering about the balance in our lives. It was clear at this point that work kamping jobs were much harder than we originally expected and we had to face the reality that our lives were not going to be the fantasy that we had built up in our heads.

We learned about this lifestyle reading blogs and talking to lots of people, but most of our initial role models had access to savings or other income streams that we simply did not.  We don’t resent that; I am happy for people who have lots of money in the bank or multiple retirement sources, but that is not our reality.  And I think we both had to come to grips with the fact that comparing our lives to our perception of theirs was a losing proposition.  If we had a slogan for year three, it would have been “That’s Not Our Reality,” as we had to keep reminding ourselves things were different for us.  And that actually became easier throughout the year when we met more and more people who were in financial situations similar to us and were still finding a way to make it work.

Gate Guarding was our first experience with that and thank heavens we got that job.  It not only was the first job we had done to date that we both really liked, but also gave us the opportunity to connect with other full time RVers that needed to work.  Let me make a distinction here.  Most of the RVers we know  supplement their income (either with work kamping or volunteering), but needing to work is different from that.  There is a huge difference in mindset when you have “Screw you” money in the bank and quitting a job means you will need to dip into savings versus needing a paycheck to pay your bills.

We had an opportunity in our third year to meet many more people who were closer to the edge financially and our own savings dwindled, moved more into that category emotionally as well.  For us, working these jobs and the full time lifestyle is still better than our previous lives.  The pressure is much less than having a mortgage, kids in college, or years invested in a job you need retirement from.  But it is not the life we imagined with months of traveling and a few work gigs in between.  Rather the opposite is true.  We worked 10 months out of 12 this year, and are trending to barely break even.  Lee in particular had to makes peace with that reality and found it very frustrating since he envisioned more of a 50/50 split in work time/play time. I wrote a post about living a full year with no corporate money that sums up the financial realizations we finally came to.

On the plus side we really started talking about the importance of the jobs we selected. Initially we said we can “do anything” for a few months, but when that few months became 10 months the conversation had to change,   Gate Guarding was a great example of this because at first glance it was a crappy deal.  Working 24/7 in the middle of a dusty oil field with no days off for $125 a day sounds pretty unpleasant, but we really made the most of it.  The job also has minimal supervision and tons of free time (especially later in the assignment) and we both made the most of it.  Lee edited some 20 years worth of home videos and posted them online for our kids to see and I finally finished the recipe book I had started back in Alaska.

Becoming a published author was a very big deal to me and the time to create was priceless.  I had no illusions that my cookbook would become a best seller, but the experience meant something to me and the response I have received from our readers was wonderful. And despite the low wages we were able to put some money back in our bank account because our costs were the lowest they have ever been. And when we left that job we were able to cram a ton of experiences into the 5 weeks we had between jobs, meeting with friends, seeing new things, and Lee got to spend a week with our youngest daughter in Las Vegas, which was something we had committed to prior to ever starting the lifestyle.

I do want to take a moment here and say how grateful I am to our friends for going to some trouble to see us despite our work schedules.  We realized this year that our travel had to be largely dictated by where the work was, and were worried that this meant we wouldn’t be able to see our friends.  But many of our fellow dreamers made a significant effort to to see us and  Cori/Greg, Steve/Deb, Kat/Bert, Jim/Diana, and Rick Raab  saw us multiple times throughout the year in more than one state.  Those moments spent with our fellow RV-Dreamers kept us connected to why we started living this lifestyle and gave us important perspective on our overall goals in year three.

This year we also got serious about health care on the road.  The last couple of years healthcare took a back seat to other priorities, but this year we were able to get physicals, dental work, and I even got my first colonoscopy. Although not glamorous, this was a very important step for us as being able to receive medical care on the road is a very big deal for long-term sustainability.  Thankfully Oregon is a very friendly state when it comes to health care and all of our experiences with health care providers were good ones.

We also found ourselves wanting to return to a job for the first time this summer.  We absolutely loved Oregon and the people we worked for were really great.  I didn’t like the specific job we did very much at all, but working for a large company allowed us to talk about coming back in different roles.  I also came to the realization that I am not willing to clean toilets all day every day.  That may sound like a no-brainer, but it was an important step for me, because we were still living in the mindset that we could “do anything” for short periods of time as long as it kept us on the road. Some time this summer I hit my limit, and finally said out loud that I simply not willing to “do anything”.

It’s not because I think I am to good to clean a toilet.  I’m not, and don’t even mind if that is a part of our job.  But I need more in these temporary positions than that, and I came to the realization that’s it’s OK that I feel that way.  After talking to Lee about that realization we approached the problem in two ways.  First, we decided to apply for a lead role for next season with the company we were working for, and I simultaneously started looking for consulting work.  In the back of my head the timer for working in my field has been ticking, and I started looking with the hopes I could find a 3-4 month job somewhere in the south over the winter. We had signed up for Amazon back in January, but my hope was that I could find something that both paid more and was more rewarding.

Unfortunately this search was much more frustrating than I originally expected. There were far fewer short-term contracts than I expected and most of the interesting ones were 6+ months.  Since I was keeping May open for the possibility of us going back to Oregon I really couldn’t accept anything longer than six.  And the timing was weird.  Most of these jobs expect you to be onsite in no less than two weeks, but the interview/hiring process generally takes at least a month.  Compare this to work kamping jobs that you often set up a year in advance and I was trying to full in gaps in an existing work schedule, which simply did not work well.

Couple the timing issues with the fact I had to be in a warm area for the winter and wanted to be on the east coast to be near family and the selection of open jobs was much smaller.  I also was hoping that recruiters would help me with the search, but ran into some issues early on with my home location.  Linked In requires a home state in your profile and my home are is Jacksonville Florida because that is where my mailing address is.  Despite updating my resume with language like “Ability to relocate at own expense” the only recruiters I heard from were in the Florida area.  At one point I tried to change my location to San Antonio to show up in different recruiter searches, but then  I was concerned about what other potential employers in Florida might think.

And no, you can’t leave it blank either on Linked In or Indeed.  There is definitely an employer bias on location for short-term positions which I understand because they don’t want to pay for relocation for a short-term employee.  Yes, there are companies that specialize in consultants and I looked at those, but you are essentially working for them and they largely get to decide when and where you work.  The entire process was extremely frustrating and felt like I was trying to shove the square peg of my full-timing life into a round hole.

I haven’t talked about it much, because I kept hoping I would land on the “secret formula” but at least in Year Three I haven’t figured it out yet. At this point I am actually thinking I would be better off getting a Virtual position.  Initially I wanted to work in an office and in person, but going the virtual route will bypass a lot of these issue with explaining where I live.  Most of those jobs I have seen are full time positions and I would prefer not to start there.  I like our summer work kamping jobs and in a perfect world would consult in the winter and work kamp in the summer, so at least for now that is what I am going to keep striving for.  Eventually I might need to bite the bullet and get a “real job”, if for no other reason than we need health care.

Speaking of healthcare,  in 2017 we were on ACA or ObamaCare and it worked well for us.  201 was a crazy roller coaster ride with health care, but as of this writing we are on a subsidized plan out of Florida for 2018. We have no idea of what this looks like long-term for us, and are making these decisions one year at a time.  We can do this because we feel we are in very good health, but of course that could change at any time.  That’s one of the reasons why I feel it is so important to keep my options open with my previous career.  Very few of these seasonal jobs offer healthcare and even the ones that do have pretty expensive COBRA plans to bridge the gap between jobs.  We would have a difficult time absorbing $1K a month in healthcare premiums within our existing budget and for us at least it would require compromises we would not be willing to make. We could always roll the dice of course and go without coverage of just get a catastrophic plan and both of those choices are on the table. For right now we are trying to keep it in perspective and not make it the deciding factor in either our job or lifestyle decisions. Update:  Turns out that our healthcare costs for 2018 will actually be $200 a month lower than in 2017.  Yes premiums went up, but so did subsidies and I was pleasantly surprised that with the same estimated revenue costs were so much left.  We even had enough money to add dental this year, which hopefully will help cover some of my periodontal disease costs. Again, I am taking this year by year but we appear to be  fine for 2018 which is a great thing. 

So that’s where we are for the year and as I write this we are working at Amazon.  In Year 2 I decided I wanted to try all the major types of work kamping and Amazon is the last one on my list.  After this experience, I will definitely feel we have learned enough to make decisions about employment going forward, and are seriously talking about repeating jobs and developing a “route.”  Most people we have met who need to work follow a pattern of travel that allows them to keep their costs down and have assured income throughout the year.  It also helps with maintaining a relationship with health care providers and depending on the route allows people to routinely see family.

For us the last is a challenge.  We love the west, but our family is all back east and this year in particular really brought home to me how difficult seeing family and being there for important events would be.  I wrote a blog post about it.  One thing we know for sure is we can no longer afford to keep criss crossing the United States if we rely solely on revenue from work kamping jobs.  Our choices are to develop a route in the east, find other sources of revenue, or be resigned to seeing our families less.  Not great choices, especially since I got into to this lifestyle primarily to see new and interesting places.  It’s clear though that some compromises will need to be made and I expect Year 4 will be the start of that.

The last thing I want to say is despite this being a year of change we still saw a lot of really cool stuff.  At the end of the day I still heavily weigh the people and places we get to see when judging the quality of my life and this year we managed to do an amazing amount with the free time we had.  So I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite pictures for the year and the hope that you will continue to follow our journey in Year 4.  As always thank you for your support, because it truly does matter to us.

We saw some beautiful sunsets while gate guarding

And had a lot of fun watching our resident road runner

The cover for my cookbook!! Very exciting stuff

Hanging out in the desert with Kat, Bert, Steve, Cori, Greg,  and Deb

Seeing Lee’s sister and brother-in-law Lisa and Dave

Driving Perkinsville Rd was pretty intense

Hanging out on Route 66

Stopping and seeing our good friend Sherry who made Lee ribeye and pie!

Seeing the giant crater was cooler than I expected

And we stumbled across these cool ice caves near Flagstaff

I spent a wonderful week with my mom in Las Vegas

And Lee got to celebrate Kay’s 21st birthday with here in Vegas just like he did with the other two girls

We worked along a beautiful scenic road all summer

And had numerous opportunities to see white water rafters

We saw Sue and Jonathon twice

And visited the Oregon coast several times connecting with Jim, Diana, and Rick along the way

And we saw lots and lots of Mount Hood, which is definitely my favorite mountain we have seen yet in all of our travels

Plus we spent the summer watching a nest of baby ospreys grow into adulthood. That was an amazing opportunity for any bird watcher

We saw Mt. St. Helen’s with Jim and Diana

Reconnected with Lee’s good friend from high school

Saw lots of lighthouses

And bought a tent which we used to camp right on the ocean

We boondocked in Colorado with a wonderful group of friends

Explored Madison County with Deb and Steve

Saw Bridget and Pat while we got a Mor-Ryde upgrade and a new couch

And I finally got to visit the RVMA Hall of Fame

And spent tons of time with friends and family

Mom and my brother at my nephews birthday party

Got to see My nephew Lex in Ohio

And my nephew Abram in South Carolina

Dede and Denny planned two very special day trips for us

We got to see our long time friends  Larry, Cory, and Ted

So excited to see my cousins Lori, Mike, Mark, and me

Loved seeing my Aunt Cathy who has been very supportive

And of course a wonderful time spent with Jeremy and Kyrston

Topped off by a visit with Bill and Nancy

And we finally met up with Linda, Steve, Bill, and Kelly at Amazon

A wonderful year of seeing friends and family and amazing experiences.  Plus of course you really can’t beat our views.

Colorado

Iowa

Washington

Oregon

Nevada

Arizona

and Texas


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

Third Year – By The Numbers

November 14th is our “road-a-versary” and since the format I used the past two years worked for me, I decided to go ahead and keep it. There will be a separate post with our emotional arc for the year and a third one on our financials.  Since I track our budget on the calendar year, that summary will be out sometime January. This post is all about the other numbers and gives a broad overview of our travels. So let’s start with what it looked like:

Travel Information

Finally, we got to cross in the middle of the country.  I felt really bad for those middle states the last couple of years and was happy that our route took us through the middle.  We also earned four new state stickers this year, which were Oregon, Colorado, Iowa, and Kentucky. We have pretty specific rules on earning a new state sticker (we have to spend the night in the RV and do something specific to the state) and four new stickers wasn’t that bad. Despite our desire to stop criss-crossing the country, as you can see we did exactly that starting in Texas and ending in Kentucky, with the intent to travel back to Texas when we are done at Amazon.

Travel Miles – The trailer traveled 7,215 miles in Year Three with a lifetime total of 33,902 miles. The truck traveled 20,123 with a lifetime total of 78,866 miles.  And for those who are keeping track (Bill!) the truck engine has 54,038 miles. The reason we keep track separately is the truck engine was replaced at 24,828 miles, but our warranties go by the truck mileage, not the engine mileage.

Travel PatternThis year our travel pattern was largely driven by our work schedule.  We did have the opportunity to do some exploring between jobs in April and October, but mostly travel was dictated by where we went to work.  Well, that’s not exactly fair, we certainly had some say in what jobs we selected, but getting from job to job placed restrictions on where we could explore and for how long. This is what the year looked like. 

  • November – December Selling Christmas Trees in New Braunfels, TX
  • January – March Gate Guarding in Dilley, TX
  • April – Time off in Phoenix, Sedona, and Flagstaff, AZ, and Las Vegas, NV
  • May – September – Working for a utility company parks department in Estacada, Oregon
  • October –  Visiting with friends in CO and IA , Mor-Ryde Installation in Elkhart, IN, Visiting family in Columbus and Charleston, SC
  • November- December  – Working in Amazon Distribution Center, Cambellsville, KY

One of the major benefits of work kamping is our campsite is free and we only paid for campgrounds 37 days this year.  This year for the first time we truly traveled with no reservations.  We went from Texas to Oregon with no reservations, and then again from Oregon to Ohio the same way.  Traveling in the shoulder season gave us a higher level of comfort that we could find a spot and we are just more comfortable in general with finding campsites on the fly.

Truck and RV Repairs and Upgrades

I would have to say at this point I don’t really see a pattern with truck or RV repairs.  It is true that several of our friends had some pretty major issues in year three, but I didn’t feel for us it was any worse than any other year.  It might even have been better because we are much better at living with/working around issues rather than letting them derail us.  Case in point; we were without a working furnace for the entire year.  It obviously isn’t optimal, but we did prove to ourselves that we can manage.  Some repairs though, like our refrigerator slide being broken, absolutely have to be fixed quickly, and in those cases we were lucky enough to be able to schedule the repairs during our non-working time.  Here’s what the year looked like:

December – First attempt to fix the furnace.  The mobile tech who worked on the issue was in a motorcycle accident and was unable to finish the repair before we moved on to our next job.

January – We attempted to have the furnace, axle, and front left jack fixed.  This was a fiasco from start to finish.  The warranty company refused to fix the axle despite their independent adjuster telling them it was needed, Camping World said they fixed the furnace but we later learned they didn’t even reassemble it, and we didn’t have enough time for the front jack repair. We did spend $592 on two new front tires and an alignment for the truck this month.

October – We got the furnace fixed and our refrigerator slide which was stuck in the “in position”.  We also got a Mor-Ryde suspension upgrade and new disc brakes which you can read about here.

The furnace and refrigerator repairs were covered by our extended warranty, but the new tires and Mor-Ryde suspension were out of pocket expenses.

Patterns I am Seeing

I wasn’t really sure where to add this and it’s important to note this definitely is not based on comprehensive data, but I wanted to share some trends we are seeing with folks in our little community who are hitting their third or fourth year.  This is definitely based on a limited sample size, but I do think it is interesting and wanted to pass it along.  I’ve gotten some heat in the past for over generalizing, so please understand that this is really just a little slice of a pretty huge RVing pie and these thoughts are presented in that context.

  • Everyone has sold their house.  The longest anyone took selling their house was three years compared to the the shortest of 3 days.  Eventually though everyone’s house sold.
  • At least 1/3 of the people I know have changed RV’s. Some upgraded to newer/larger models and others changed from Fifth wheels to Class A’s or vice versa.
  • Repairs, repairs, and more repairs.  The first couple of years the RV’s seem to hold up pretty well, but around year 3 and definitely year 4 stuff starts to break. Almost everyone I know has had their travel detoured or delayed by the need to stop and make a repair.
  • Family emergencies.  Unfortunately these also have occurred, and at least 1/2 of the people I know have had their travel interrupted by either a health issue or a death in the family. This is real life after all and I wrote about how challenging these situations can be while on the road in this post.
  • Some people have settled on a home base of sort.  After traveling for 3-4 years many people start to think about developing routes or establishing a home base. Partly this is to help keep costs down, but it’s also to have consistent medical care or be able to see family on a semi-regular basis.  Folks are either staying on family land, buying a small piece of land, or returning to a job they liked.  This trend is of particular interest to us because we definitely see it in most of the folks we have met who have been full time RVing 7 years or longer. At this point we are not opposed to developing a route (a major change for me) just haven’t figured out the right one.  For us this is going to depend primarily on our job situation, but we are definitely open to settling into a routine that works for us, which is again a major change from how we started.
  • Almost everyone we know has volunteered or work kamped at least once.  Partially this is done to help supplement or generate income, but it is also done for the experience.  It’s nice to stay in one place for awhile and really get to know an area and community. And we know several people who have continued to keep their old jobs despite being on the road three years.  I don’t regret giving up my old job, for a variety of reasons, but it’s nice to see folks continuing to travel and work full time in a corporate environment.
  • Finally, we only know two couples who have left the full timing lifestyle.  That really surprises me, but most folks remain deeply committed to this lifestyle, despite it’s challenges.  Not to say people don’t talk about eventually getting off the road, but the general consensus seems to be, we aren’t ready yet.  There is still more we want to see, still places to explore, and in general this life is better overall than the old lives we had.  We talk about this stuff around campfires and dinners, but for most of us the end-game is not well defined.  That isn’t because we don’t know how to transition back, but because we have learned to live a life with more ambiguity.  For me at least, that is huge personal growth and something I will be grateful for no matter how long this lasts.

So again, this is my attempt to pass along some patterns I am seeing, and I am sure they are greatly impacted by my own personal experience.  My reason for sharing them at all is to show that Lee and I are not an anomalous couple, but part of a larger group of people that are experiencing similar things.  When I was researching the lifestyle and reading blogs, I was very skeptical and thought that the people who managed to do this successfully were one-offs, and that is not the case. We have met lots of people who are very happy and fulfilled in their full timing lifestyle and that has not changed even after three years of travel.  And it’s easy to see why.  Ask any full timer to rattle off their favorite experiences and they are all things that they probably never would have done on a traditional vacation.  There are very special moments that people usually stumble across in their travels that simply would never have happened in our old real lives.  A picture is worth 1,000 words though, so let me share some of ours for year three.

Top 10 Things We Saw

This is always my favorite part of the By-The-Numbers post and this year, despite working so much we saw many wonderful things.

  1. Of course number 1 is a waterfall..and what an amazing one it was. Lee read about Grand Falls when he was researching the area, but even he didn’t expect what we found.  The falls are taller than Niagara and very, very wide. It was a special experience and I highly recommend making the trip if you are ever in the Flagstaff area.
  2. Lee’s favorite experience of the year was when we went to Hecata Head Lighthouse at night.  We were with good friends Jim/Diana and Rick which added to how special it was and neither one of us have ever seen anything quite like it.
  3. Seeing Crater Lake checked off a big bucket list item of mine and experiencing it with our friends Kat and Bert made it really special.
  4.  More waterfalls of course and sharing all of the waterfalls in Columbia Gorge with Lee was really special.  I had seen them before on a work trip, but loved showing them to him and thankfully we did this early in the season as a large wild fire burned most of this area later in the summer.
  5. What a wonderful surprise Walnut Canyon was.  I absolutely loved it and when you combine it with Sunset Crater and Wupatki it’s sister locations it makes for an amazing day.
  6. I loved, loved our visit to Winslow, Arizona.  Yes, it is super cheesy, but getting to “stand on the corner,” was very special for me and I was giddy most of the day.
  7. Ahhh Sedona.   We had a frustrating experience in Sedona but the views were absolutely amazing.  Definitely a place we want to go back to.
  8. Being in the Path of Totality during the Eclipse made this list to my complete surprise.  I really thought it would be much ado about nothing and it was only sheer dumb luck that put me in the path, but obviously it was meant to be because I truly loved it.
  9. The Petrified Forest was very special for me because it was a place I have wanted to see since I was a little kid.  Sometimes those places disappoint, but this time it did not.
  10. We stayed at Lost Dutchman State Park and had spectacular views of the Superstition Mountains.  I really liked the park, although it wasn’t one of Lee’s favorites, but either way those mountains are truly something special. Plus we got to hang out with Deb/Steve and Cori/Greg and that always is a fun time no matter where we are.

There were many more special views this year but those were the ones from a pure picture taking perspective that really stood out. We really did see some very special things, despite the fact we worked most of the year.  I wasn’t completely sure that would be possible to be honest, but picking Oregon for our summer job really helped make it possible.  But I’ll be talking more about all of that in the next post.  


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

 

First Time at Amazon: Day 7 – Day 11

Disclaimer:  We  are not spokespersons or officially affiliated with Amazon in any way. This account is of our personal experience as seasonal employees in the Cambellsville, KY distribution center in 2017.  I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part and are not intentional.

Wearing this shirt was my attempt to remind myself to not get agitated about the goofy stuff. On the plus side I never ever would have worn this in my corporate life. The sentiment would have been frowned upon lol.  Thanks Denny for getting me the shirt!

Day 7

I was thinking as I walked into work yesterday that my calves were holding up pretty well, so it should come as no surprise that it was all about pain the calves last night.  Note to self: don’t borrow trouble. The first half of the shift I actually felt really good, but after lunch the work slowed down, the routes got longer, and my feet started acting up again.  I am going to try and take the inserts our tonight, to maybe help with arch support and if that doesn’t work I have a pair of Skechers I can try. Lee was in a ton of pain.  The last couple of hours we were bumped between modules (Q to F to E to F to Q) and except for one brief stint where I was picking multiple items per bin it was rough. For me at least when I get in a rhythm it hurts less, but the more time between picks the more I think about how much my feet hurt.

Speaking of that I wanted to share  my picking process.  I walk at a pretty slow pace to get from bin to bin, but when I get there I try to be as efficient as possible.  For me that means grabbing the first item I see with the color on the computer and then scanning it.  Most of the time, it’s the right one and this means I avoid digging through the bin. In those cases where it is the wrong one it costs me a little extra time, but that is more than made up by how often it’s right.  Lee does something similar but he doesn’t even look at color.  Since his numbers are still better than me, his method may work even better than mine although I know he is walking faster than me from place to place.

I’m also going to the bathroom on a semi-regular basis and I do this by stopping when I have a pick near one.  They told us to empty our bins before going into a bathroom during shift, but I found this wasted time and cost a ton of extra steps.  I just leave my cart near the restroom and pop in and out.  In all fairness though I am lucky that there is a small restroom in a corner of the area we are picking in.  Once we add stairs this may become much harder.  Still, despite the comments I have read/heard from several people, everyone says they go to the bathroom “on their time.” And thus far at least, the short stops haven’t hurt my numbers significantly overall.

Which takes me to the environment.  For many, many people working in a place where they have to actually worry about whether or not or when they could go to the bathroom would be a deal breaker.  The whole environment is particularly tough for Lee since he is an independent and creative person.  Largely I find this atmosphere much easier than many other jobs we have had.  There is minimal personality drama for one thing. You see people briefly in the aisles, smile and give them a wave, but there is little time for chit chat.  Other jobs, like packing, involve folks having actual conversations, but as Bill says, us pickers tend to have a conversation in 90 second clips over the course of several chance meetings. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there is drama going on somewhere, but I am largely blissfully ignorant of it and so far it has in no way impacted my ability to do my jobs.  This is in direct contradiction to most camp hosting jobs, for example, where managing personalities is a big part of being successful.  To me that is a huge advantage of picking and I enjoy my success or failure being about my own personal accomplishment.

It does leave quite a bit of time for personal thoughts though, so if you are a person who doesn’t want to spend a ton of time in their own head this may not be the job for you.  If you are more social, you might want to try packing.  It’s a shame really that a work kampers we don’t get to try out all the positions before choosing one.  It’s seems pretty obvious that the stowers are having a hard time keeping up and I would love to jump over and stow or pack for awhile when things are slow. That’s what I see many of the senior regular staff doing during the shift, but I get why it doesn’t make a ton of sense to have temporaries learn all the jobs.  That being said, many people come back year after year and it would be good if they found a way to allow the returning work force “float jobs” in a season.  Once you are locked into a position it practically takes an Act of God to be moved to another role, and some jobs just aren’t a good fit.  That doesn’t mean the person couldn’t contribute in other ways, but for us first-timers in particular how could we possibly know what worked until we tried it.  Personally, I feel very lucky we got assigned to picking.  Although the physical toll is rough, I am really enjoying the solitude and still find the whole thing pretty mentally relaxing.

Tracy: 24,269 steps ( 10.10 miles)

 

Lee:  29,418 (13 miles)

 

Interesting Item Picked:  The absolute winner for tonight is a product called Shoe-Purri. It is made by the company who make Poo-Purri which is a bathroom deodorizer that many RVers swear by.  I had no idea they also made a shoe deodorizer, but am very excited to try it.  RV’s are small spaces and as such strong smells tend to permeate everywhere and unlike a house there are limited places to stow stinky stuff. So anything that really works in that area is a big hit. 

Day 8  

Pain is a relative thing.  Once I removed my gel inserts, the searing pain in my arches went away and although my feet hurt in multiple places, it was definitely manageable.  That being said it must have hurt somewhat, because when I woke up in the morning I saw I had this.

Rash on my left calf above the ankle

The jeans I was wearing are a little short and it appears that they rode up and the cuff was rubbing against my lower calf.  I honestly had no idea it was happening and trust me I am pretty sensitive normally to this sort of thing.  But as I said, pain is relative and in the grand scheme of things this didn’t even register.  All that being said I feel pretty good for having completed five 10-hour shifts and walked nearly 50 miles.  That’s gotta be a record for me, and I feel pretty good about it.  Lee also was much better last night as well.  It still hurts, but the pain is manageable.

Oh and I keep forgetting to mention that they have these cool vending machines that have gloves (you can get a pair once a week) and ibuprofen or cold medicine (these you can get based on the recommended dosage/time frame.  As much as I appreciate the free medicine though I didn’t find it very helpful and instead am carrying a small baggie of Advil. Gotta have the good stuff.  Hopefully next week they will open us up a little bit so we are in different sections.  As much as I am not looking forward to adding stairs, I am getting a little tired of being in the same couple of areas every day.  I have discovered though that I like hanging clothes.  There are a few sections with hanging suits and dresses and I seem to have a knack for finding the items quickly.  Plus I enjoy pulling down the beautiful dresses and suits and make sure I pack them lightly in totes so they aren’t smooshed by other clothes.  Lee hates this section because it does slow you down but anything that provides a little variety is a good thing.

Tracy: 25,284 steps ( 10.55 miles)
Items picked: 

Lee:  22,621 ( 9.99 miles)
Items picked: 

Interesting Item Picked: All three of my girls are reading the Amazon posts, and they have lots of interest and questions about what the job is like.  They asked me if only Dad was getting the sexy items, because I haven’t mentioned them so I thought I would talk about that here. From day 1, actually hour 1 I have seen lots of adult items.  Makes sense really because most people would want to buy that stuff online and as a person who is live and let live (as long as both people are adults and it is consensual) most of it doesn’t really phase me.  I should say though that if you are a person who is really bothered by that sort of thing this is probably not the job for you.  Lots of the items have half naked women on the outside packaging, but in this environment I usually just think about how their parents feel lol.  And as non-judgmental as I try to be, some of it I just don’t get.  There are lots of adult sized animal costumes, and of course all kinds of kinky lingerie.  Corsets are super popular and since most seem to be made in China I do have the occasional thought on what the women working in the Chinese factories must think about them. They probably think we westerners are nuts.  The most unusual (for me), and again trying not to judge here are the adult sized baby costumes.  Those just make me shake my head.

So to answer the question,  yes I do see this stuff and pretty frequently,  but it is unlikely those items will ultimately end up here.  I usually have 4-5 items a day I jot down and the best ends up in this section.  The sexy stuff usually doesn’t make me smile, wonder, or laugh probably because it’s not a very sexy place to work lol.   The item that did make me smile on this particular night was a Man’s grey T-Shirt with Groot printed on the pocket.  I loved Guardians of the Galaxy and thought this was a very clever way to allow men to individualize the simple grey T-Shirt. Super cute.

 

 

 

Day 9 and 10

Lee and I both decided to work half days and to give each other a little personal space he worked Friday and I worked Saturday.  On of the problems with signing up for these shifts in advance is you are locked in and if you decide to not work at the last minute then you take attendance points.  You can wait until the last minute to sign up, but you run the risk the shift will no longer be available.  In any event I think we both decided that 50 hours and 5 days was enough.  That may change as our bodies toughen up but for right now it seems like too much.  While Lee was working Friday Kelly and I went to lunch at the college.  It was nice hanging out just the two of us and we went to the pharmacy and shoe store to see what I could do about my feet.  Amazon offers a 30% sketcher shoe program, but since I can’t buy shoes online without trying them on I went to a local store.  Wow I am glad I did, because nothing on their list was remotely comfortable.

Afterwards I did some research on plantar facciitis, because so many people mentioned it in the comments and despite the scary sounding name it’s not that complicated.  Basically there is one ligament between your heel and toes and if this gets strained or inflammed any place on the foot can hurt.  I was happy to see Advil can help with this, but it’s also really important that you have the right shoes.  Since so many people mentioned nurses, I reached out to my sister (who is a labor and delivery nurse) and asked about her shoes and she raved about her Asics. After talking to here I also Googled best shoes for walking on concrete, and the Asics showed up as number one in multiple locations.  The second choice, by the way, were New Balance 608’s which coincidentally Bill wears and absolutely loves.  So I did more research and saw they have a sports store here in town and plan on heading there after my five hour shift today. Personally, I think it’s important to try on shoes when your feet hurt.  Basically if you feel “ahhhh” when you try them on that’s good, and if you feel “urrrrg”, that’s bad. We will see how it goes.

The five hour shift was pretty good.  It was quiet for one thing, and I was kept busy in the section with non-clothing items which is my favorite. I put some heel gel cushions in my Merrill’s which definitely helped, but I was excited about checking out shoes after work.  When I got off at five I drove over to the local sporting goods store and they had a small selection.  They did have one type of ASIC GTO 2000’s and actually had my size.  Plus, they were on sale for $59.99, which was an incredible price since they are usually $120+ dollars.  I tried them on and although my feet didn’t go “aaaaaah”, they also didn’t go “urrrrrgh”, and since it was such a good deal I decided to go ahead and buy them.  Did you know that shoes only last for 6 months with heavy use?  I didn’t know that they needed to be replaced that often, but then again since high school I haven’t been much for heavy physical activity.  (We’ve been told shoes should be replaced after 500-600 miles. – Lee) Looking forward to trying these and hope they work.  I can feel discomfort in my feet most of the time now, and it’s even woken me up a time or two when I have been sleeping. Hopefully I caught this in time and have avoided serious damage.

Yes they are god awful ugly but who cares if they work

Tracy: 11,623 steps (  4.88 miles)
Items picked 11/8 -11/10:  
I got these numbers from the weekly report.  I picked 1565 items and was 125% of goal and 147% to curve, both of which are pretty great. To be clear I am not busting my butt here, but going at a reasonable pace (for me) and focusing on being as efficient as possible. 

Lee:  9,878 steps (4.36 miles)
Items picked 11/8 – 11/10:  
Lee is totally crushing it with 2199 items picked, 138% to goal and 162% to curve.  I think these numbers are getting some attention because he has supervisors and safety people stopping in to check on him all the time and one of the area managers even found him on the floor because he “wanted to meet him.”  Not sure what they think is going on here, for all we know they are taking bets on when he flames out, but if that is what they think will happen, they don’t know my husband. 
(I would like a piece of that action. – Lee)Of course we haven’t added stairs yet so not sure what that will do to either of our numbers. 

Interesting Item Picked: I saw this  Zonman Water Proof Camera Bag and it immediately got my attention. I like to take pictures around waterfalls and the ocean but spray is definitely an issue.  I wasn’t sure if it would actually work though, so checked with my resident camera expert Lee. (First of all, any time you do anything with a camera that’s outside the “norm”, there’s a risk of damagin it. Getting it near water (even a light mist can accumulate dangerous amounts of moisture), snow, sand, smoke, hanging out of an airplane, whatever. So, you know, caveat emptor. On the other hand, it’s only money, and some shots are worth the risk. Having said that, this is a pretty reasonable amount of money to significantly mitigate that risk, especially for anyone who wants to be able to take those once in a lifetime shots no matter what the weather is doing. I’ve had waterproof bags with this kind of seal before, and they’re usually pretty trustworthy, so I would definitely use this. – Lee)

Day 11

Well the new shoes helped.  I still had pain, but it was manageable and when I woke up in the morning my feet were much better.  The only problem was the heels were being broke in and started to rub me, but I visited the medical facility onsite and got 2 big band-aids which helped.  It’s a nice feature that they have a medical facility and it is staffed by EMT’s and nurses.  They have limits on what they are allowed to help with before referring you to a doctor, but are pretty well stocked with first-aid stuff and it appeared they would be able to assist if someone was in cardiac distress.  In retrospect I should have bought new shoes prior to coming into the job and spent some time “breaking them in” in advance, but hopefully I have caught it in time.  We were both pretty tired though, despite the half days and a full day off so after working we both fell into a really deep sleep. That is one of the great things about working this swing shift is we can both sleep in if we feel we need to.  I am routinely sleeping until 8:30 which is very unusual for me, but my body obviously needs it and I am paying attention to that.

And really the job is going OK.  The only part I really hate is when the volume of picks is low and our routes take us all over the place.  I was talking to one of the regular employees (you can tell because their badges are solid blue versus camperforce has white with a blue trim) and he said that once peak season is over it is always like that…yuck.  Plus he said that they get “a lot pickier” during non peak which is hard for me to imagine.  They seem pretty picky now.  Anyway,  late last night I had a run of A’s and B’s (which require kneeling down) and several K’s (which require getting on a step stool) and those are rough when you are already tired.  At one point I was shuffling along like a zombie and completely lost track of time until the new chime system let me know it was the end of my shift.  They have been talking about installing these chimes since we got here and they are finally live, but instead of bell notes of some sort they are playing short sound clips that are unique to each shift.  One of the shifts gets a sound from Super Mario, which is kind of cute, but others sound like some weird yelling thing.  Seriously, not sure who picked it, but it’s a jarring noise and definitely would not be my first pick although it definitely gets you attention. I have mixed reactions to the chime since I have never worked a job that has a “whistle”. (I hate the new chimes. I don’t like the “dog whistle concept” to begin with, I find it demeaning. We’re all adults, we all know how to tell time, and everyone has a scanner with a clock on it that’s synced to the master clock. And I can’t imagine there a lot of people in this environment that forget to take a break or lunch. – Lee)

Tracy: 25,470 ( 10.62 miles)

Lee:  26,288 steps (11.61 miles)
Items Picked: 1,033

Interesting Item Picked: Tough to pick my favorite today, but I am settling on Go Pong Lotion Hidden Flasks.  They have a line of products that look like sunscreen or lotion that you can sneak alcohol into places with and they looked really realistic.  I’m not a huge drinker, but I am also not a big fan of being forced to spend ridiculous amount of money on drinks in public venues, so I liked the idea.  Yes, it seems like something you would do in college, but as full timers on a budget I could definitely see the benefit, plus they are pretty cheap at under $10.

 

 

 

 

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full-time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time at Amazon: Day 4 – Day 6

Disclaimer:  We  are not spokespersons or officially affiliated with Amazon in any way. This account is of our personal experience as seasonal employees in the Cambellsville, KY distribution center in 2017.  I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part and are not intentional.  

We had some time this weekend to explore the area, but I found myself just wanting to relax.  It’s been such a long time since we had a weekend off and I really wanted to just enjoy it.  We did make a Sam’s Club run with Bill and Kelly, and bought a bunch of different snacks for the next couple of months.  Small packs of peanuts, Slim Jims, and crackers will all fit in our clear fanny packs and are perfect for a little protein kick mid-shift.  We also stopped and tried out a new Chinese buffet, which was OK but nothing that special.  The company was great though, and we really enjoyed catching up with our friends.

Saturday, Kelly had set up am RVillage event for Camperforce people at Green River State Park, and we drove over to check that out.  The state park is really beautiful, right on a gorgeous lake, and we reconnected with Harry and Vicky, and met some new people, which was nice before we started our full shifts.  You do “meet” people in the aisles when you are working on occasion, and the more friendly faces the better, I think.  Despite the beauty of the campground we are glad we chose our current RV park.  The state park only has 30 amp and a honey wagon for grey/black water tank dumps, and although it really was beautiful, having strong 50 amp and full hookups was worth giving up the nature for us.  Everyone is different though, and it is nice that the State Park is an option for the Camperforce folks.   It adds about 14 minutes to the drive to/from work, but for many the setting would totally be worth it.

The lake was huge, curving around the campground and there were lots of boaters on the water on Saturday

The fall colors were really pretty, this picture doesn’t do them justice

Harry, Lee and Bill chatting

Oh, and on a side note, our RV friends Sue and Jonathan are back in Korea, and met up with my daughter Kay. She had a great time on her “play date” as she called it, and they all really enjoyed each other’s company. How cool is that? RV friends are the absolute best!

 

Day 4

I’ll be honest, I was pretty nervous when I woke up in the morning.  It wasn’t about my mental ability to do the job, but rather whether I could handle it physically.  We had jumped right in and signed up for Voluntary OT on Sunday, and although they cancelled the mandatory OT our voluntary shift was still a go.  And that was a good thing, frankly.  We are here to make money, and who knows how long OT will be available, so we wanted to take advantage of the opportunities when they came.  We were actually hoping to sign up for an additional 5 hours at the end of the week and Lee and I decided to stagger those shifts so that we would both get some alone time in the RV.  Unfortunately when we went to the portal we got a strange error message so we will need to speak to someone when we go in today. After all the training and talking, I would just like to get it started.  I’m a “rip the band-aid off” kind of girl and the sooner I knew what I was dealing with, the better. It’s also really humid today (85%) and I toyed with the idea of wearing shorts, but it got cooler as the day wore on and ultimately I decided to stick with jeans at least for the first day.  They do provide knee pads, which I might try out today, but I just want to play it safe clothing-wise until I get a better handle on the job.

So overall it went ok.  I really made sure to pay attention to my body and when an area started to fuss a little I would switch hands, do mini-stretches, or try to adjust my stance.  The only are I couldn’t do this for was my feet.  I bought some Gel insoles. which really helped, but my feet were very sore.  The last hour in particular was pretty tough, but I kept plugging along. You may have noticed that my steps were much less than Lee’s and that was because for most of the night I stayed in the E section and did clothing.  I was actually pretty grateful to be moved into other products at the end of the night, because mentally I was getting a bit sluggish.  For me at least that does matter, because I am a bit dyslexic and start to misread the number/letter combinations when I am not paying attention and end up walking in the wrong direction lol.

Overall I felt I did well, and at one point early in the shift was even out picking Lee.  That was largely a factor of where my picks were and I hit a “hot streak” that had me up around 132 picks an hour at one point.  Although he is moving from place to place a lot faster than me, I think I am pretty good at getting the item out of the bin quickly.  I noticed a pattern where usually the needed item was on top of the pile and many times the right item was the first one I put a hand on which saves a ton of time.  If the needed item is “hiding” in the bottom of the bin, that can really slow the process down, especially if there are numerous items that are the same color, but different sizes.  Speaking of which I honestly don’t know how you could do this job if you were color blind.  Technically it could be done, as you could look at brand names and use the scanner when in doubt, but color is often a great short cut and it would definitely make this job a lot harder.

And I should probably mention thank heavens for the scanners.  I can’t tell you how many times I scanned the wrong item or bin and it beeped at me, which showed me at least how often human error came into play.  Not that long ago bar scanners didn’t exist and I imagine the process times and error rates were much higher. The way it works is we scan the bin and then the item and if either of those things is wrong (I am facing the wrong side of the aisle more times than I would like to admit lol) it beeps at you.  And if you absolutely can’t find the item you  every single thing in the box.  I had to do this a few times when there was no discernible difference between products.  I even came across one poor guy scanning over 50 look-a-like items trying to find the “right one” and definitely felt for him.  Thankfully this situation doesn’t occur very often.  Usually there is enough difference in product it is easy to quickly find the right one without the scanner, but it is nice that you can use it as an option in a pinch.

Tracy: 19,730 steps (8.26 ,miles)
Items picked: 770

Lee: 29,918 steps (13.22 miles)
Items picked: 984

Interesting Item Picked:  Since my daughter Kat likes the interesting item section, I thought I would share something I thought was perfect for her husband Micah.  It was a Minecraft Creeper Fleece Robe and it made me smile as I thought of them.  I also picked an OSU hat and a Philadelphia Eagles jersey that made me think of family and friends, but the robe was the overall winner for the day.

(This is my favorite item of the day: The Sasquatch Bikini Ugly Christmas Sweater. Quantities are limited, so be sure and get yours today! This was a close runner up. Also, I picked a LOT of French maid and “schoolgirl” outfits. So some folks are gonna have a very Merry Christmas! – Lee)

Day 5

There definitely is a cumulative effect on the soreness.  Day 5 was my first 10+ mile day and although I did pretty good in the early parts of the shift towards the end it was a struggle.  There is a certain amount of mind over matter involved at that point, and I try to think to myself (as our friends Bill and Nancy suggested) that this is great hiker trainer.  Still there were lots of groans at the end of the night and we both went to bed pretty quickly. One thing that made it worse, was the number of steps between picks was much longer than yesterday.  We were both traveling from one end of the section to another between picks by the end of the night and ultimately we both received messages that we were out of work towards the end of the night. We weren’t 100% sure what to do in this situation, so we logged out and logged back in a couple of times until more work was in our queue and that’s one thing I do find frustrating and want to talk about, but in order to do so I need to make it very clear that this next part is based on supposition and anecdotal evidence and unfortunately I have no idea how the algorithms work.  They didn’t teach us that in training.

It appears that when work becomes sparse the computer intentionally slows you down.  It does this by sending your picks farther and farther away from each other and even in some cases sending you away from and then back to the same bin to get the same item rather than combining the pick. The idea, I suppose, is from a productivity standpoint it is better to keep people moving than allow everyone to take a break, but it’s hard to keep moving when you see this happening and realize all that extra walking is essentially “busy work.”  To be fair, people are definitely monitoring the situation, because so far every time the routes start to lengthen, pretty quickly the computer tells us VTO (voluntary time off) is available.  People start to take advantage of that, which then puts more work for the rest of us, and eventually things seem to settle back into “normal.” I’ve also noticed this seems to happen right around break time.  As folks start to peel off on break, the route gets much more compressed with picks coming in rapid succession and near each other.  Those last few minutes are a great time to boost stats, because I’ve found I can quickly pick multiple items right before break.

All that being said, I’ve never been a big fan of busy work and I am REALLY not a big fan of it when it adds steps to my day.  When you are picking and get lots of items in rapid succession you get into a rhythm and feel like you are accomplishing something.  For me walking to and fro and barely picking anything is both tiring and a little frustrating. I have to keep reminding myself that I get paid the same no matter what I am doing, but towards the end of the shift that doesn’t help much.  It’s also probably worse because we are in training and by design “locked” into a relatively small area.  Since being “opened up” means adding in walking up and down stairs, which I have no idea how my body will respond to, for now it’s best just to leave it alone.  So far my knees are doing OK.  I have to be really careful to switch out hands and arms because I do start to feel overuse in the left side and both of us are struggling with our hip muscles.

Lee definitely had the worst of it, because for some reason the computer kept sending him back to the same bin where he couldn’t scan the barcode.  There was one bin with Superman underwear that had faded bar codes and he marked it as such, like you are supposed to.  But when we were low on work, it sent him back multiple times and the problem solver hadn’t yet been out to fix the problem. Ultimately he got frustrated because the system wasn’t working the way it was supposed to, so instead he marked the item as “missing”, and then dumped the entire contents of the bin in the “damaged” bin at the end of the aisle.  Afterwards when the scanner sent him to that bin he just ignored it. This story, by the way, had me laughing so hard when he told it to me (gallows humor), especially when he explained the interaction with the nice young girl who was the problem solver.  Eventually she explained to him that when things are rejected a message is sent to the problem solver team who then solve the problem. At one point, she put new bar codes on the items and restored them to the bin, but she couldn’t explain why it kept sending him back to the same bin before the new bar codes were attached. Can I just say every. single. day. he is getting some kind of “special attention”, whereas I barely think they know I exist lol. (I also got yet another long visit from a safety person, who followed me around for about 15 minutes to watch me and asked me a few questions. Like, “Where do you go if there’s a fire?”. I told her I would quickly and calmly leave the building using the nearest exist. When she asked me where the nearest exit was, I told her I had no idea, because there was no signage, but in the event of a fire I would be motivated to find one. I think she made notes that I thought the exit signage was inadequate. She also asked me where I would go in the event of a tornado. I told her I would go to a tornado shelter area. She asked me where they were, and I told her they were under the tornado shelter area signs. She asked me where the nearest one was, so I told her I had no clue, and we walked around a little bit until I saw a sign and pointed to it. I pretty much always feel like I’m in an episode of candid camera. She said I was doing a good job, which was nice, since I’m 200% to goal. But it’s only day 5, and we haven’t started using stairs yet. I fully expect someone to watch me go up and down the stairs to make sure I’m doing that right as well. I’ll make an educated guess and say that they want us to always use the handrails, and hardly ever want us to slide down the banisters. – Lee)

Tracy: 25,552 steps (10.66 miles)
Items picked: 782

Lee: 25,364 (11.2 miles)
Items picked: 837

Interesting Item Picked: It is true you start to zone out and  hardly register what you are picking, but once in a while an item really stands out and actually makes me stop.  Today it was a Chemo Beanie which was a really cute and stylish head wrap for someone who has lost their hair to chemo.  The reason it caught my attention was initially I thought it was just a cool head wrap, and was thrilled when I looked closer to see they were specifically designed for chemo patients and came in all kinds of colors and chic patterns.  The company was founded by a woman who was trying to help two of her aunts who had breast cancer feel better about how they looked and  it’s a wonderful example of  value-based entrepreneurship.  I didn’t know any of that, by the way, until I got home and researched it, but as I said the quality and uniqueness of the product really stood out and made me want to learn more about it.

(Today I picked several Family Holiday Survival Kits. Those made me chuckle.  Also, something in a plain brown box with a title that was so graphic and shocking to see in print on the scanner screen that I actually gasped when I read it. I am not going to link it here, you’ll have to use your imagination. – Lee)

Day 6

Yes, the effects are cumulative, but I’ve also noticed I am having different problem areas every day.  Overall this is a good thing, because as Lee said “pain is weakness leaving the body,” but today’s problem area were the arches of my feet and that was brutal.  If the problem area is muscular there are things you can do…change your stance, use icy hot, more Advil etc., but the pain in the feet to some extent is what it is and the arches in particular were rough. What it feels like is I am changing my stance automatically to accommodate problem areas, which then leads to pain in other areas. I have also started wearing gloves, not because of concern about dirt but to help with potential cuts, scrapes and blisters.  The ones they provide for free seemed to help pretty well.  (Almost all of the bins are these ingenious cardboard box modules with cardboard drawers, and the edges of the drawers can be pretty sharp.  – Lee) I am hoping that eventually I will run through all the areas of the body and “toughen up” all over, but that remains to be seen. On the plus side an employee came up and told me I had passed the safety check with flying colors.  That was strange because I didn’t even know she was watching me, but at least I got the feedback.  I get why people talked about the “big brother” atmosphere now, but I have decided, for the moment at least to not let it bother me.

Oh, and you may notice that I don’t have the number of items picked down below.  Because we are on swing shift, there is no daily report for us, and we have to manually ask someone everyday to look it up.  Frankly this has been a major pain in the butt and since I don’t know what value it provides, I’ll throw it in on the days I can easily get the information, but for my sanity I have to let it go.  I like working swing shift very much, but since there are so few of us, it’s had some negative points.  They have a portal where we can sign up for voluntary overtime, but none of us appear to be set up properly in the system.  That means we need to manually have an HR person put in our requests for OT and when we worked Sunday it’s not showing up in the portal as worked.

They have a manned HR desk open most of the time in the warehouse, but I have not found this to be helpful.  We are always talking to a different person, it appears their knowledge is pretty limited, and since you are not talking to one person the core issue was not being resolved.  Finally I found our Area Manager (my first conversation with him) and laid the situation out.  There is a line between line supervisors and HR and since the portal was on the HR side, initially he was moving me in that direction.  I was having none of that.  I firmly explained I needed someone to take ownership of the problem, and eventually he agreed to call HR.  So far that appears to be the biggest issue with their processes.  The processes all work pretty good, but anytime something falls out of the norm, it appears supervisors/leads have a hard time problem solving.  Admittedly this is my impression from my limited view, but the few times we have had issues because of our shift they have been very difficult to resolve.

If I felt I could stand around while they were fixing it, I would probably care less, but that timer is always in the background.  No one put you in non-productive time while you stop and talk to someone (I did hear that the health clinic, AmCare, does, but haven’t personally seen that) so every minute you are talking to safety or a supervisor counts against you.  And yes, I understand that we are new and no one appears to be even looking at these numbers, but as a metrics driven person that bugs me. In a perfect world every time I went to HR or talked to a lead person they would scan me out and when we were done would scan me back in.  The reason it bugs me is because it sort of pushes a person towards doing work related things in their off time so their metrics aren’t affected and I am not 100% sure that isn’t intentional.  Let me give you an example;

They have this nice portal that we can use to look up tons of info, but every time we logged in from home it made us change our password.  Because of my IT background, I determined pretty quickly that this was happening because we weren’t on their internal network.  The solution (which none of the supervisors was aware of) was to log in just once on their internal computer and change the password there.  It’s a silly little thing, but in order to do that we were referred to a bank of computers in one small corner of the building and the initial setup of our desktop and changing the password took about 7 minutes. (The system uses each computer as a separate desktop, so if you log in to any “new” machine, it goes through the entire process of creating you as a new user on that machine, and setting up a desktop. And it’s slooooooow. – Lee) I decided to do this coming back from lunch, knowing full well that my metrics would show a “late start” back from break.  I also knew that I would need to push it a little bit to make up that 7 minutes. (I take a completely different approach to this entire problem: I just don’t care.  I’ve never been a fan of “the clock”. Once I clock in, I am working, and anything that I need to do that is work related is on their time. If they choose not to use labor tracking for anything “off task” that’s completely up to them. If they don’t want my time wasted dealing with administrative stuff, then they should fix their administrative stuff. At the moment I am consistently between 178 and 200% of goal, so I’m happy to discuss how I manage my time with anyone that would like to bring it up. – Lee)

And sure, I get it, these are seasonal jobs and they don’t really care that much about our metrics as long as we show up on time, but I can’t help but think about the folks that work there full time.  In all fairness I am sure they know how to “get around” the computer system but the whole energy and dynamic of the place is kind of weird.  I’ll see some permanent employees standing and chatting in an aisle while picking and then someone will say, “I better pick something before I get into trouble.” and the little group breaks apart. So I know it’s not just me who feels this internal clock/pressure, I just don’t understand the limits and rules yet. As a rule follower, that’s a little frustrating, but trust me I am not making myself totally crazy…there’s just a ton of time to think on this job.

Tracy: 23,711 steps (9.91 miles)
Lee:   26,251 (11.6 miles)

Interesting Item Picked: Today the item that made me stop in the aisle was a 3D printing pen.  I am not 100% sure how it works, but you draw things and with filaments(?) created a three-dimensional item.  Pretty cool for a kid who has an imagination and is artistic, but no idea if it actually works in practice.  Never seen anything quite like that before though so wanted to pass it along.

(Today the item I picked more than any other,  is the Stocking Flask, the use of which would make the dancing Santa hat seem less ridiculous. I also picked some Enema Coffee. Um, ick. I’ll stick with pumpkin spice flavor, myself. Something else that caught my eye was the girl’s first birthday outfit, available in size 18 months. Must be metric. – Lee)

 


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