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.

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7 thoughts on “First Time at Amazon Day 17 – Day 19

  1. Changing the schedule to a 4 hour day, with less than 24 hours notice, is BS.

    With that said, it seems that you have a problem with every job you post about, at every place you work at. It really seems that work camping isn’t for you. You are taking temp jobs, as a worker, not a manger, supervisor, or owner. Beets, Christmas tree’s, gate guarding, cleaning toilets, and now Amazon. SMDH!!!

    Many people don’t care for Amazon work policies.Those are their policies, either take the job, or don’t. Taking a paycheck and complaining about the company online is quite childish.

    • Hey Ken,

      Sorry my posts come across that way too you. My intention is to provide as balanced a report as I possibly can on the experience. I know I do lean into being a little whiney on occasion but it’s an accurate representation of how I feel at the time. Many people just do the job, hate it, and quietly never do it again. I appreciate that approach, but have chosen to share my experience in the hopes that other people will be better informed prior to making a similar decision. You can disagree with that approach, many people in my life don’t get it, but characterizing it as childish is a bit harsh.

      Writing these posts is a lot of work and my intent had always been to write the blog I wish I could have read. I don’t always adequately communicate my point but I at least try to be as honest as I can stand to be.

    • Ken are you not doing the same thing as what you’re accusing Tracy of doing? Only difference is you’re reading it and complaining. You have the option to not read it.

      With that said, Tracy I’ve been silently stalking your posts for months. Sorry that my first post is in response to something negative. I enjoy reading your posts. I have a Highland Ridge 293RLS and have been following your adventures. Someday I would like to be a full-timer. Your posts bring to light both positives and negatives that I would not otherwise have thought about. Thank you for taking the time to write all the posts!

      • Thanks Ellie I appreciate you taking the time to reach out and I am glad you are enjoying the posts! It’s always nice to hear from someone for the first time. My blog is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok because there are lots of blogs out there that focus on the positives. Nothing wrong with that at all, and I enjoy reading some of them, but I’ve always tried to present all the sides for folks who are thinking about the lifestyle. Thanks again for reading and taking the time to send positive thoughts my way. I really appreciate it!

  2. Tracy, I really enjoy your perspective concerning ALL your experiences while full timing. The RV related subjects are not only enlightning but entertaining as are your work kamping reviews.
    My wife and I are not full timers and probably never will be so we really enjoy hearing why we have chosen to be part timers now and when I get to retire. I’m still running a company and about 55 years ago I decided that when I owned my own business I wanted to treat my employees the way I wanted to be treated when I was an employee. This concept worked for me throughout the military, retail, education, contracting, and presently wholesaling & distributing work experiences. Sure, there is the occasional jerk that takes advantage but they are usually readily identifyable due to their arrogance, selfishness, and general sleaziness. Your informative recounts of your experiences while work kamping enforce my decision to treat people as people and not “Human Capital”.
    I apprieciate this fresh, truthful and informative blog. If I didn’t like it, (Ken), I just wouldn’t read it.
    Oh yeah, Lee, your comments are right on also.
    Thank you both,

    • Thanks Penn and good for you! We need more of that in this world. I have also fell on the side that people will do the right thing if you set them up for success and yes I am occasionally disappointed but in my mind it’s much better than taken the alternative approach. Thanks for reading and glad you are enjoying it.

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