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. To start at the beginning of our Amazon experience, click here for the first Amazon post.
We weren’t sure what we were doing today, but since it was the end of another 50 hour week, we were both glad to be in pack again. Our Thursdays are the start of the shifts for what they call back half and we had different managers and mostly different employees we were working with. One of the benefits of our mid shift is we get to see all the shifts at some point in our week. One of the bad parts, is all the managers are a bit different and aside from our personal manager (who is spread a little thin covering a small group of packers and pickers) we don’t get to know people as well. That’s why I was so pleased at the end of the night when the second half night manager came to our area and made it a point to introduce herself. She took the time to find out a little about us and then sincerely said, “We are happy to have you.” Those little moments really matter to me, and the Amazon management team does a really nice job of that, especially with us Camperforce folks.
But despite the consistency at the manager level, there is definitely a different “vibe” on the different shifts. Night shift tends to feel a little looser in my opinion and consequently runs a little less like a well-oiled machine. Unlike picking, where we see only our small piece of the puzzle, you get a more complete view of what is happening while in pack and I find that a little distracting. That being said the people are almost always very helpful and last night I had several instances where I needed assistance and it was promptly offered, and in a friendly manner. I also picked up a couple “tricks of the trade” from one helper in particular and those short-cuts will definitely come in handy if we get placed on pack again.
Once again we ran out of work, around 7:30pm, but after break things picked up again and there was plenty to do. I find apparel the easiest to pack by far, but if I do apparel for too long I start getting some back pain. The non-apparel items almost always require boxes and for some reason that doesn’t hurt, probably because each box is a different size and requires different muscle movement. Speaking of which, the magic box size appears to be a 1A9. When in doubt, I always try that (based on Lee’s recommendation) and 8 out of 10 times it works. The screen does provide solid recommendations, but on occasion it comes up with Unknown. That always seems to happen with NFL gear for some reason, and I guess that is because the system doesn’t have the dimensions.
Tracy: 8,273 steps ( 3.48 miles)
Items Packed: We received our weekly report and I packed 3,070 items this week at a rate of 152% productivity which our supervisor said was a great number even for non-camperforce. Only one person on our shift beat me that week. Guess who that was!
Items Packed: 3270 with a rate of 183% productivity. We don’t call him the Packmaster for nothing!
Interesting Item Packed: The thing that really caught my interest were two boxes of Trojan Ultra Thin condoms. If you are a person who needs these, going ultra thin just seems like a bad idea lol. I stopped and showed them to Lee and he made a joke about their slogan should be “living life on the edge” and we shared a laugh. My real pick though today were these really cute Jon Snow tree ornaments. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones the likeness is amazing and I love how they said “Let it Snow.” I liked the double meaning plus the actor is a cutie.
We had lots of stuff going on during our days off, but before I start on that I wanted to talk a little about healthcare. This is a significant challenge on the road for many people, but despite all the ups and downs and concerns, we have signed up for an ACA program out of Florida for 2018. Our premiums are actually less than last year with the subsidy, and we are going with it although I am still pretty nervous about the whole thing. We feel really lucky we chose to domicile in Florida, because we have several Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans available, but our friends who are domiciling in North Dakota or Texas are not so lucky. And in the interest of sharing as much information as possible on the subject, I wanted to pass along a recent post by some friends of ours.
Les and Sue have been full timing longer than us, and we have seen them along our travels in Quartzsite and Texas. Like us, they work pretty frequently and are not 65, so healthcare is a major concern. They decided to join one of the faith-based health groups that sprung up in Texas and had reason to use that insurance when Les (who is a very healthy guy) had an unexpected heart attack. The post details that experience, along with how they were treated by the health care professionals, and is absolutely worth the read.
OK, so our days off. You may have seen on the comments on one of our blog posts that we were contacted by a show called On The Money on the Canadian Broadcasting network to do an interview. Since they wanted to do the interview live, we needed to push it until Friday, and then I spent some time pre-interviewing with the producer. It’s interesting how much mis-information there is out there about our lifestyle, so I spent some time talking to her about the way things were on the road. I also made it very clear that there is a ton of diversity in the lifestyle, and I couldn’t speak for all of us, but just my own experience. I hope I at least broadened her perspective, but we will see how that translates to the actual interviewer. Willing to give it a shot though and we will be skyping with them today, so will let you know how it goes. It’s pretty hard to sum up our story in a 2-3 minute interview.
I also had my final interview with last summer’s employer to discuss the Lead position for next year, which I have been waiting for. The interview went well, and I will find out next week if I was selected, but I do know there was a lot of interest in the job, so I won’t be surprised whatever happens. I have less direct campground management experience than other candidates, but am hoping that my other work skills and the fact that I did a good job this summer will work to my advantage. Either way I have a Plan B if it doesn’t work out, and in some respects I feel as if whatever happens is meant to be. Definitely at a crossroads here and I always feel it’s best to pay attention to the signposts in that situation.
Right after the interview we worked out the technical details with the producer of the show. She wanted to use Skype instead of Facetime, so it took us awhile to get that connection working. I looked really tired in the phone camera, but being married to a former TV director has it’s perks. He put a super bright light on me, which helped with the dark shadows under my eyes and at the end of the day hopefully it is something I can live with. Afterwards, Kelly and Bill are coming over for a pot roast I fixed and I am definitely indulging in a glass of wine!
The interview started with a technical glitch which threw me, but we managed to fix it in time. Interviewing with someone you can’t see is challenging, but he did a nice job of leading me through it. He definitely had some things he wanted me to say though and his questions were very leading, but I was prepared for that and think I did pretty well. I certainly don’t speak for all of us to do seasonal work and I needed to be very careful I didn’t speak for Amazon employees, but hopefully I told my truth without over generalizing. Lee was absolutely pleased by the way it went so that was good and if nothing else the interviewer mentioned the blog a couple of times, so maybe a few more people will learn about us. If you are interested in watching it for yourself, you can find the video here.
Afterwards, it was back to normal life and we had Kelly and Bill over and ate some pot roast, and as always, conversation flowed. We talked about Amazon, our kids, life on the road, politics, you name it. We can cover a lot of topics very quickly. Usually they host, because I was not crazy about how my RV was laid out for entertaining, but with the new couch and having 4 nice chairs for our dining room table it worked out pretty well. They were my hosting test bunnies and I think it worked! I know that sounds strange, but one of the downsides of our front living room model is we have three levels in our RV, which works great when it’s just us, but not as great when people come over. It’s funny because when we bought this model we talked about it, but since we thought people would rarely be in it we didn’t worry about that so much. Little did we know how many friends we would have and how often we would need an inside place to entertain. Yes, we prefer being outside when we can, but there are lots of times when the weather doesn’t cooperate. I can’t tell you how many meals I have cooked and taken into Kelly/Bill, Deb/Steve, or Cori/Greg’s RV’s because I didn’t like our layout. With the changes we have made it still doesn’t work for six or more, but I think we definitely made 4 people work. You probably think I am making too much of this but let me show you.
So as you can see, it’s tight, but we can make dinner for 4 work OK, which makes me very happy! Our preference will still be eating outside, but this is nice for those bad weather days. Speaking of which, the temps here finally got below 32 degrees at night and since our furnace isn’t working consistently Lee came up with an interim solution. He bought a small ceramic heater, plugged it into the open 30 amp socket at the post, ran the cable through a storage compartment door, and then taped the door shut to the basement. As much as I don’t like having an electric heater in the basement, it is way better than the alternative of having our pipes freeze up, and it is working well, keeping the underbelly at around 50 degrees. He also got a wireless remote thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. (This is a decent temporary solution, with the added bonus of once the furnace is fixed, we have an additional spare heater, and that remote temperature sensor will come in handy as well. It doesn’t take much, and the heater is probably overkill, but I always say if you’re going to kill something, you might as well overkill it. – Lee) Again not a permanent solution, but it will work in a pinch and help us muddle through until we make it to a warmer climate. I say that, but I am not sure where a warmer climate is this year. It snowed in Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas this week and several of our friends are dealing with that in their travels. We may get a sprinkling ourselves later this week, so I’ll let you know how that goes.
Saturday was cold and snowy so mostly we stayed inside. I did venture out and got a hair cut and also picked up a pizza for my meals this week for work. Lee went out and grabbed some food at the grocery store and tried to go to AT&T to get our bill resolved. Unfortunately there were 12 people in the store and only one employee working so after 1/2 hour waiting he decided to come back another day. I really don’t understand why we can’t deal with this online or over the phone, but the company does have it’s quirks. While I was out I went to the Dollar store and bought some gel cling ons, which I put on the window. Kelly had some on hers and I liked the way they looked and at $1 a sheet couldn’t beat the price. We also had steak dinner and then watched a movie so it was a nice and cozy day despite the temps outside. They haven’t cancelled our mandatory OT for Sunday yet so we are planning on going into work, which is a good thing.
I was surprised when our Mandatory overtime wasn’t cancelled for Sunday, but since we wanted to work anyway, it actually made things easier. I did want to mention, for those of you who would like to try Amazon but are not interested in working a mandatory 50 hour week, there are ways around it. One easy way is to take advantage of any voluntary time off that they offer to offset the mandatory time. To the best of my memory, they have had voluntary time off every week we have worked so we could have worked Sunday (our mandatory day) and then taken time off on Tuesday or Wednesday. If voluntary time off isn’t offered, the other choice would be to call in and take an attendance point. You can have up to 5 attendance points without losing your position and since we are here for such a short period of time that gives you lots of days off to play with. Each call-in is one attendance point (being late to a shift or back from lunch is half a point), and you could definitely use those. All that being said, you might need to work at least one 50 hour week, depending on their staffing. And if you really want to make some money doing this, working overtime is well mandatory.
The day started off a bit rough, as I strained my left wrist early on and then had to baby it throughout the day. My fitbit also popped out of its holder at some point and despite retracing my steps I couldn’t find it. I have to say I am not a huge fan of the fit bit. It has lots of functionality (none of which I use) and is small enough that, for me at least it is easily lost. Since we only have 9 working days left I am not going to invest in another step counter, but rather estimate my steps based on Lee’s. I looked back and pretty consistently I take around 85% of Lee’s steps in a day (not really sure why that is), so for these last few days my step counts will be 85% of his. I apologize to the data purists out there, but I think I have collected enough information at this point to be able to give solid information on our averages which was really the whole point of tracking it.
I settled back into the routine pretty quickly and actually felt my time as a packer made me a better picker. I found it was easy to pluck the right item out of the drawer and I definitely was having an easier time reading the descriptions. Lee, of course, settled in quickly as well (with 303 picks in the first quarter), but he was not happy. He really liked packing, and wanted to be back doing it, but that’s just not how things work here. It’s important to note that once you are given a job, it’s very difficult to change it. Two years ago my friend Kelly managed to change from picking to packing, but this was with doctor’s visits and doctor’s notes and even that was not easy. As they have said time and again, positions are assigned based on business need and although they do ask for personal preferences up front regarding job and shift we have spoken to many people who are doing something completely different than they wanted. I make this point, because you should know that going in, and because if the job you are assigned to doesn’t work for you, it’s likely you will just need to make the best of it.
All of that being said, this is temporary for us. At the end of the night I passed a young woman who I had seen before but never spoken to, and asked her if she had a cold. She said she wasn’t sick, but rather tired because her baby wasn’t napping. Turns out she has three kids (ages 6,5, and 1) and she works the night shift then goes home, gets the older ones off to school and then takes care of the baby. She sleeps when the baby naps and she hadn’t slept much the last few days. Her story (which was told very matter of factly) reminded me of when our kids were close in that age and I spent a year working nights and doing something very similar. To this day that whole year is a bit of a blur, and just getting through every day was a victory. It gave me instant perspective. As tough as this experience has been for us some days, it has never been close to her experience, and we get to leave this job and move on pretty soon. This is her life, at least until the kids get older or her circumstances change, and if she can handle it with a pleasant attitude we certainly should be able to.
Tracy: 23,212 ( 10.25 miles) (estimated based on 85% of Lee)
Items Picked: 960
Lee: 27,309 steps (12.06 miles)
Items Picked: 901
Interesting Item Picked: It was another day of all clothes, but I did run across an Adult Wolf hat which I thought was pretty weird. It didn’t look very warm and struck me as odd for some reason. I just didn’t get it. My favorite though for the day was a baby bib that said “We both know that isn’t an airplane.” It took me a minute to get it, but then it made me laugh.
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.