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.
It was nice having Thanksgiving off, and our friend Kelly (who recently wrote another great description of her packing job you can find here) gathered a group of full timers together to eat at a local restaurant called Creek Side. They had a wonderful buffet for only $10.99 which included turkey, ham, homemade mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, stuffing and desert. It was really good and I ate two platefuls, and had a wonderful conversation with people we knew, and met some folks that were new to us. All of the local campgrounds here also offered a potluck Thanksgiving dinner, so no one went without some sort of community on the holiday, which was great. A couple I met, Andy and Sandy, (who have been coming back for several years) also volunteered at a local church and they served over 600 meals to the local community. I must say I really like Cambellsville as a small town. Folks definitely seem to look out for each other, and people are very welcoming to us outsiders who come in every year. A great example of that is when we were at the restaurant the other night and Lee and I both had a drink. I said to Lee in front of the waitress that one of us had to drive home, and when he asked if they had Uber in Cambellsville she said , “I don’t know about that, but we’ll find someone to drive you home.” Gotta love small towns!
Day 20 – Black Friday
The next day our schedule was slightly different because the regular employees all worked an 11 hour shift. As Camperforce we were given the option to stay or leave after 10 hours, which was nice, because I wasn’t sure if I could do 11. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and it turned out to be a really great day. We had lots of people in the morning (over 200 pickers), but it didn’t feel crowded at all. That was a major concern of mine, people tripping over each other, but aside from occasionally having difficulty finding a cart, it really wasn’t that different from other days. And more importantly there was enough work so the pick routes didn’t have us running all over the place. I got on some great runs and picked my all time highs (358 or 199/hr first quarter and 391 or 143/hr the second quarter) which, for me, was a lot of fun.
I like those pick paths where you pick huge quantities of items that are really close together because I really feel like I am accomplishing something and my numbers are high with less steps. Win/Win. The only unusual part of the morning was I got a Frakke order (which is an item that is being returned to the vendor) and ended up picking 168 bags of potato chips. Since I could only fit 9 bags in a tote, this took me awhile, and ultimately I ended up opening 14 boxes of the chips and sending them down the conveyor belt. What was odd to me about that scenario was since they were already boxed and on a pallet, I wasn’t sure what the benefit was to opening them, just so they could go down and be re-boxed and shipped out, but since I don’t understand that part of the process very well, there may have been a good reason for it.
It was also great packing potato chips because they were so light. I can definitely feel the difference in my arms and shoulders with light versus heavier items, and between the potato chips and over 100 small boxes of facial cream I picked, I had awesome numbers with minimal heavy lifting. Not that many of the items are really heavy in this distribution center. That’s one of the major advantages of working in a place that is mostly clothes, because no individual item is too heavy.
The managers and assistants were also very high energy and had lots of presence. There was a guy in a banana suit giving out free fruit on the breaks and another assistant dressed as a turkey walking around and handing out Jolly Ranchers. Really sweet, and added a little something to the day. My favorite part though was that all the managers formed a gauntlet at the front entrance when second shift arrived and they welcomed everyone to Black Friday and gave out lots of high fives. I know it sounds a little hokey, but their energy was infectious and I thought it was really a great way for people to start the shift. And it all really worked, as the first shift picked over 100,000 items and from my view the labor planning seemed about perfect, which is no small thing.
They also are starting the free giveaways during the peak season and we all got a free T-Shirt along with drawings (for anyone that clocks in on time) for other items including $100 gift cards, Kindles, and even a couple free TV’s. During my fourth period, I got a message on my computer to come to the pick desk for a “special treat” and walked down to discover I had won a $10 gift card. That was a nice surprise and I had the choice of Kroger, Subway, Papa John’s etc, and I picked the Dunkin Donuts gift card because I thought Lee would like that. It was definitely the best day I have personally had so far and I really appreciated all the trouble the managers went to. Plus I only had to walk 9 miles to pick 1165 items which is definitely my kind of day! And isn’t it funny I said that 9 miles was a good day. We are both impressed by how we have acclimated to these long walking days. And speaking of that, I have lost 3 pounds and Lee has lost 11 pounds so far!! If nothing else this job is a great paid workout plan, and it’s definitely having a positive impact on our health.
Tracy: 22,035 (9.19 miles)
Items Picked: 1165
Lee: 27,439(12.12 miles)
Items Picked: 966
Interesting Item Picked: I picked a ton of vinyl throughout the day (at least 20 records of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) but the coolest thing I saw were these slippers that had shoestrings on them. They were funny overstuffed slippers and come in a variety of sports teams (including Ohio State!) and are made by Comfy Feet. I thought they were really cute and was surprised I have never seen them before. They got my attention because they looked like slippers a guy might wear and seemed very well made.
I have to say our schedule for this peak weekend was just about perfect. We had Thanksgiving off, worked Black Friday, then had Saturday off. This special schedule for us, is similar to the regular “donut shift” that our friends Linda and Steve, are on. They work two days, have a day off and then work two more days, which they like very much. It definitely has benefits as it gives your body time to recover mid-week. That fifth day in a row can be rough, and I think splitting days off really helps with that. I’m just mentioning it, because there are lots of work kampers here working lots of different shifts. We are two of only six work kampers on mid shift this year (we got really, really lucky) but work kampers are working days, nights, and weekends and all have different preferences.
Saturday was our normal day off though, and the only one we have with Bill, Kelly, Steve, and Linda so Linda decided she wanted to cook dinner for everyone. That was incredibly nice of her, and we spent the morning just relaxing and lazing around. Bill did stop by and gave Lee some special Long Island Ice Tea mix he had made for Lee though which was so sweet and Kelly and I went to the grocery store together.
Around 4:30pm we went to Linda and Steve’s and I was really excited to see the inside of their rig. We have been with them several times, but always somewhere else and I had never taken the tour of their rig. They bought the Class A used, but it had only been used previously by another full timer and had lots of special touches that made it into a really nice home. Plus it’s obviously well cared for and I really enjoyed taking the tour. Their rig shows less wear and tear than mine does after only three years!
It was really a fun night and so generous of them to host. Next week we are celebrating Kelly and Steve’s birthday’s and I am hoping to return the favor, although she set the bar pretty high 🙂 We called it an early night though, because the four of them are on day shift and needed to get up early and tomorrow it’s back to our regular schedule. Interested to see what the rest of this weekend holds.
Day 21 – Sunday
After the excitement of Black Friday, coming in Sunday was a little anti-climatic. The morning was just a regular day shift and I think everyone was a little tired. Things did perk up when the evening shift came in. They were working a twelve hour shift (because that shift spilled into Cyber Monday) and the workload did pick up a little bit. I actually had a near perfect third quarter as the system sent me to Q (which is one of my favorites), then M, and finally I got to go back to E. It had been over a week since I worked in E and that’s the newest section with great lighting and nice wooden floors so that was fun. Plus the temperature was nice and cool up there. It was pretty hot earlier in the day and the stuffiness made me feel more tired. Temps cooled down in the second half and the energy level was much higher which is kind of contagious.
We also found out that the fulfillment center set a Black Friday record, with hundreds of thousands of customer smiles processes. That’s how they talk about the individual items in the meetings and it’s important to remember that is totally true. Our friend Jim is working a temp job for UPS and he talked in his latest blog post about delivering these packages and the looks on people’s faces. Since he worked at Amazon last year he has a unique perspective now on the end-to-end process and it was an important reminder that we are helping people get something special. Oh, and Adidas must have had a sale or something this weekend, because I picked a ton of Adidas shorts and shirts. I did think about all the kids playing soccer in those as I was picking them, which made me think of my nephews and made me smile. It’s a long day and your mind does tend to wander.
Towards the very end of the night though they offered VTO (voluntary time off) and I was tired enough I decided to go see how I could take it. I walked up to the picking desk and talked to one of the night shift managers, and she explained how it worked. I had received a message on my scanner, and I could actually take the VTO right from there. That was pretty cool. I did ask her about how to get a hold of Lee though, because he was my ride and I had no idea where he was. She said she was happy to send him a message on his scanner and right on the spot sent him a note to come down to the pick desk. When he came down, I asked if he minded and he said that was fine, so we both went through the process and left about 45 minutes early. It’s tempting to take VTO, especially at the end of the night, and as we found out it is really easy, but we really need the money so we are trying to be good about it. Still, I am glad we did it at least once and was again impressed by how streamlined the process was. There is a lot of stuff Amazon does right and this was a great example of that. Next up is Cyber Monday, but I will be saving that for the next blog post.
Tracy: 20,575 (8.58 miles)
Items Picked: 867
Lee: 27,446 (12.12 miles)
Items Picked: 791
Interesting Item Picked: Lots of interesting stuff today, so it is hard to pick just one. One thing that really made me stop and look were Conductive Gloves. They caught my attention because they had wires coming from them and I didn’t understand why. Turns out that they are used for arthritis for tens machines. But the gloves I actually liked were called Sili Safehands Gloves. I’m not a big fan of pot holders, mainly because when I start cooking I move very fast and have burned myself many times when they slip. The big mitts are OK, but I don’t have much dexterity in them, and eventually they all seem to get holes in them or burn. These gloves were cool, because they are like regular gloves, heat resistant, and you get all five fingers. Seemed like I would like them for cooking or barbecuing.
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