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. 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 


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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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First Time at Amazon: Day 0 – Day 3

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 0 (That’s what Amazon calls Orientation Day)

Our orientation day was on Monday morning at 12:00pm.  We arrived about 20 minutes early and were the second ones to arrive and met our trainer who was handing out our badges.  I was pleasantly surprised that my badge and picture were ready and everyone in our group had their badges in place when we arrived.  We waited until noon in a large, well lit foyer area that had lots of cool information on the walls, and then we walked through security (testing our badges) and into the break room. The best part was right at noon we saw two smiling faces through the security window, and Bill and Linda were waving at us on their way to their lunch break.  So sweet!

The break room was awesome.  20 plus microwaves, large coolers for lunches, and free coffee or hot chocolate. There is also a semi enclosed smoking area with picnic tables and some heaters available for us outside of security. To get into the break room you have to badge through some metal turnstiles and when you are leaving you have to go through a metal detector. Honestly it was all a little confusing at first, but eventually we understood it.

Upon entering the breakroom an employee was waiting to take a picture of our ID.  Despite what we read that stated we needed two forms, they accepted just our passports, and quickly took a picture of those.  Then we talked to our trainer for a moment and were led into a training room in the warehouse.  The warehouse was really cool.  Extremely neat, great lighting, and lots of signage.  One of my first jobs was working security in a warehouse so I had some basis of comparison, and again was pleasantly surprised.

After coming in to the training room we watched a series of videos.  Our trainer was funny and kept things moving along but it was a bit confusing in parts because what was on the slides didn’t apply to us at all.  Some modules, like safety training, were for everyone, but many of the benefit options didn’t apply.  We also went over the attendance policy numerous times and it was VERY clear they take it seriously.  There is a point system for being late, leaving early, or missing work and a clear write-up policy that goes along with the points. That didn’t really bother me, because I like clear and well defined rules, but Lee was definitely getting a little antsy. It was all a bit heavy handed, but then again they take this stuff very seriously, and we certainly got that.

Personally, I liked a lot of what I saw.  As a certified Six Sigma Black Belt it made me happy to see so many of those tools actually being used and I loved their 360 feedback approach and the Voice of Associate comment boards they had throughout the warehouse.  I also really appreciated a video that we saw on Workplace Violence.  The video was produced by Homeland Security in Houston and I think it has value for everyone to see.  I have linked a version of it here if you are interested.

I will say towards the end things did feel very rushed.  We had 8 minutes for questions and he cut them off at exactly 8 minutes and then took us out through security and to our lockers.  We had an 11 point sheet with information about our lockers on it, but it didn’t tell us how to open a combination lock.  Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t remember how to open one, but thankfully this very nice couple walked us through it.  It’s been years since I have used one, but was pretty embarrassed that I couldn’t remember how, and I wasn’t the only one ion the group.

I think as a general comment that was the major problem with the training.  It took for granted that you knew certain things and those of us who were first timers were a little lost.  I am equally sure that most of it was very boring for returning employees, so I am not sure it served either population very well.  We were also told the the training used to be 5 hours long, but the time had been reduced to 3.5 hours.  This really showed as we rushed through several sections and didn’t cover the work place harassment or ethics videos at all.

All in all I got what I needed from it, but Lee just endured it.   There were some technical difficulties with the videos, which drove him crazy, and there were several specific questions that were asked that couldn’t be answered. Let me give you a quick example.  We needed to know about Voluntary Overtime (which you sign up for) and Mandatory Overtime (which you are required to do),  We were initially told we could get text messages sent to us via a web portal regarding both, but when I asked a follow-up question were told Mandatory overtime wasn’t on the Hub yet.  Later in the class I asked exactly how we would find out about mandatory overtime and was told there were message boards in the warehouse, but I was a little fuzzy on the colors that were being used.  I was also told, after asking, that we would know if we had mandatory overtime by lunch time on Thursdays because our mandatory OT day is Sunday. The reason I asked so much about this is three different people have told me they missed their first mandatory overtime day because they weren’t notified.  They not only missed making money, but they also received points for missing a shift.  Eventually the points were removed, but they had to go to HR to have that done.  I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen to us and asked the question.

Let’s just say I was still not 100% confident after I received my answers, but hopefully our full day training tomorrow, will answer most of the remaining questions I have.  It’s a bummer that we have to work 5:30pm -4am tomorrow, but it’s only one day and those of us who are on swing shift got stuck training on nights.  Again, good start for me, not so great for Lee, but we will see how it goes. Oh, and as a starting point my weight is 139 pounds and Lee’s is 189. We will be counting steps and seeing how much weight we lose.

Tracy:  2050 Steps  (approximately .86 miles)
Lee:      (Didn’t count steps today because I didn’t have a pedometer and kept losing track of the count when people talked to me. – Lee)

Day 1 – Safety School & Process School

Because there were only a few of us on swing shift, they had to decide whether to have us training on the day shift or night shift.  We ended up training on nights which was rough because we had to work (for just this one day) from 5:30pm – 4:00am.  I woke up at my regular time was thankfully able to take a nap for a few hours before we went to work.  Lee slept in until 8am and ultimately ended up staying awake until 5am the next morning.  Ultimately I will say we preferred training on the night shift.  It was much quieter for one thing, and when we were turned loose to do our job at the end of the night, there was barely anyone around, which I appreciated.

Which brings me to the size of the warehouse.  It looked on the smallish side on the outside and we eventually learned that Cambellsville is one of the very first 5 Amazon warehouse buildings.  Newer facilities are much bigger, but even though it looked small there is a ton of stuff in that building.  It has multiple floors for one thing and everything is so neatly packed it’s amazing how much stuff is in there.  It’s truly mind blowing and I wasn’t surprised when we were told they ship 2-3 million items every week.

We also learned there are some differences between the Camperforce seasonal staff and the regular employees.  First of all the productivity levels are set lower for us, and most importantly we are only expected to work 10 hours of mandatory OT rather then the 20 hours that the full time staff works. We also learned a ton about safety.  Several people told us the safety school was the worst part, but I thought it was great thathey went to so much trouble to properly train us.  We took a tour with our small group and the coolest thing was we each had a headset and our tour guide had a headset and microphone, so even though we were out on the floor we could hear every word.  That was really awesome for Lee since he has trouble hearing in noisy environments, and I just wish they would have used those same headsets when we broke off into smaller training groups later.

We also went through a series of stations and first learned and then tried simple daily activities.  Although there was a bit too much repetition for my taste, I did learn a lot, and I have no doubt the tips we learned will help me physically throughout the season.  The most important thing I learned was to have my nose follow my toes, which means you turn your whole body and avoid twisting.  That’s going to be tough for me, but really important.  After safety school we took a break and then we had Hazmat training.  Of everything we learned this was probably the most poorly done, as it was simply our trainer reading off cards.  Lee and I both initially failed the small test they gave, but were coached and eventually passed it. I did learn that perfume is highly flammable which was interesting.

Finally we were ready to go out on the floor and with a small group of four people were assigned an Ambassador to show us the ropes.  The first part of her tour was much less polished, and without the headsets we really had to listen carefully.  She was a nice person though, and loosened up as the night went on, sharing with us some of the tips of the trade, which I really appreciated.  The training worked for me, as she showed us picking, then let us try and ultimately turned us loose for an hour or so.  Lee and I were both relieved to get started, and since our picking intentionally kept us in a relatively small area we both rocked it.  My rate was 64 items per hour (I picked 4-1/2 tubs worth) and Lee was at a whopping 96 per hour.  A lot of that has to do with where your items are in proximity to each other and how many multiple quantities from one bin you pick, but I was pleased nonetheless by how comfortable I felt.

And at least for me that first night wasn’t boring.  We will see how that plays out as we go along, but I found I needed to pay pretty close attention.  The worst part for Lee was the smoking.  It’s been over 20 years since he had a job where he couldn’t smoke whenever he wanted and depending on the break schedule, we can go as long as 3 hours without a cigarette.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well I did with that, but for Lee it will take some adjustment. The good news for me is multiple people said we did NOT have to go to the bathroom on our breaks.  I have read some complaints about that in other blogs, but this year at least it is a complete non issue.

Tracy:  12,010 steps
Lee:      13,204 steps

Day 2 – On The Job Training

Today was a 5 hour day, which was nice because it gave our bodies time to acclimate and allowed us some time to get back on our regular sleep schedule.  We came in at 5:30pm and started the night at a quick start up meeting.  These meetings are at the beginning of the shift and after lunch, and involve the managers talking about production levels (which I really don’t understand at this point) and the team doing stretches.  One of the biggest complaints I have heard from people about Amazon is these daily stretches, but honestly I don’t understand what the big deal is.  Any of us who have played sports know how important stretching is, and yes, it is kind of goofy doing it with a bunch of other people, but it’s not like a military exercise or anything.  It’s pretty informal and attendance isn’t exactly taken, plus it is literally 5-7 minutes of your day. (Not to mention that it actually works. – Lee)

After the stand up meeting they broke us newbies out and put us in two small groups.  Lee and I were split up this time and we both got different trainers from yesterday.  This was a nice touch, in my opinion, because I learned different things than the day before.  We spent some time going through a series of exercises on what to do in “special circumstances” (missing product, defective product etc) and then they sent us out on the floor. (I do not so much enjoy the constant repetition in training, particularly if I’ve started the process of doing the thing. The “real world” is rarely the same as the training, and so it’s difficult to pay attention to something I’m told over and over that I already know from experience to be inaccurate. For example, if every day someone tells me a bus will arrive at noon sharp, and I see with my own eyes that bus actually always arrives at 12:07, and after a week of that I am given a test wherein I am asked what time the bus arrives, the answer would be 12:07.  Also, I’ve just never felt that vocal repetition is an effective method. Hearing something doesn’t connect it to anything in my brain. You can tell me a phone number 1,000 times and I will never remember it, but if I dial it two or three times it will be permanently embedded in my memory. I still remember phone numbers from when I was 12. If I’ve already heard something, my brain just ignores it the second time around, and anything new they might add gets missed. And there’s ALWAYS something new. Rote learning sort of works for certain things, but rarely for processes, and never when the process varies from the training. In that case only active learning works. YMMV. – Lee)

Amazon has a concept of standard work, and the expectation that quality will be 100% from day 1.  Standard work basically means doing the same thing the same way every time and although they go to great pains to allow you a learning curve on how fast things take, they do want high quality from Day 1.  Taking my friend Bill’s advice I found a pace that worked for me and gradually built on it.  They seemed to like this approach as I was largely left alone during the training period.  They stopped by and checked on me a couple of times, but aside from a few questions I felt good.

I did want to check if my pace was OK and managed to get them to tell me the target rates.  They were hesitant to say, but eventually I found out that the regular employees are expected to pick 85 an hour (although the really important number is productivity percentage which takes into account how far away you have to walk for each pick).  Seasonal employees only have to make 80% of that (about 68 per hour) and since I was pacing at 74 picks an hour I was doing just fine.

Lee, on the other hand, was getting lots of attention from the trainers, and not the good kind.  He was pacing at 96 picks an hour immediately, and since he was an outlier they kept coming over and watching his process.  They made lots of corrections to how he was doing things, which he largely found annoying.  In all fairness he is a lefty and has always found different ways to complete tasks to accommodate that.  Plus he has really strong wrists (so he didn’t want to put the scanner down every time), moves very quickly, and he just thinks about things in a different way.  Put all that together and he wasn’t following their standard process, although his results seemed pretty good.  Hence tons of attention. (We’ll see how this goes. I’ve never been a big believer in doing something in a certain way just because someone says it’s the best way. It usually isn’t, and if I can do something better (faster/safer/more efficiently) it’s hard to let that go. I could talk about this all day, but suffice it to say that I don’t thrive in this sort of environment, for a whole mess of reasons, so it’s nice to know if I have to do a substandard job because “that’s the way it is”, I will, to get the money, but it will make me a little sad and annoyed. I’m very curious to see what the accuracy numbers are. – Lee)

I enjoyed being left alone and actually found the job to be relaxing, but he was frustrated by the extra attention and corrections.  We will see how that all plays out over time, but if you are a person like me who just wants to come in and fly under the radar I suggest not going overboard right off the bat.  Pick a speed that works for you and build your pace gradually.  Focus on learning your way around the building (a huge challenge for me)  and learning the ins and outs of the way things work, especially in the first few days.

Tracy:  8,054 steps
Lee:     10,675 steps

Interesting Item Picked: Peace of Mind Planner    This is a hardback book that has details on your end of life wishes, financials etc.  Seemed like a cool thing to have filled out just in case, but I wondered if it would send a weird message to buy one for our parents 🙂

Day 3 – On The Job Training

I woke up this morning a little sore, but overall feeling OK.  My shoulder blade muscles on my left side are pretty achy, probably because I am taking their advice and trying to use my left hand and arm more.  I also had a little soreness in my right hip, but again, nothing too serious.  I tend to be super sensitive to my body when we work these physical jobs though, because a minor issue can become a major one with repetitive activities.  I have found that the best way to stop this from happening is to catch it early and as much as possible change how I do things slightly to put less pressure on that area of the body.  Essentially if I am sore all over that’s  OK, but if one area becomes over stressed that’s generally not a good thing for me. (I feel great. – Lee)

Since Kelly and Bill were off we asked if they wanted to try lunch at the college and we ended up buying a 10-punch card for $61.  Initially I thought that we each had to buy a punch card and with our schedule I wasn’t sure we would use it enough, but multiple people can share the punches and I am sure we will go at least 5 times. The food was decent and there was lots of variety, plus I liked the vibe,  It was a mix of students, teachers, and work kampers like us.  Afterwards we drove out of town a little bit and went to the Taste Like Home Country Market. They had lots of dried good, jams, preserves, a small deli and bakery. Most of their product comes from from a factory in Pennsylvania, but the prices were decent and the quality was pretty good.

The best part of the lunch (despite hanging with Kelly and Bill of course) was picking Bill’s brain on training versus reality in the picker job.  Overall the job is pretty close to how we were trained, but one item we discussed was whether or not to hold the scanner in the hand after scanning a bin, while taking  out the bin  to  pull things out. Bins  are drawers that start at the floor and go up to about 7 feet, and although some of them are at a level that they can be pulled out halfway, about a third have to be taken out completely and set on the cart while you poke through them looking for  an item. Lee and Bill have nice strong wrists and longer fingers, and the scanner never leaves their hands. (Setting the scanner down  is awkward and clumsy and wastes time. There’s a hole in the cart where people put the scanner handle, but then it’s awkward and clumsy to take out again. The people who put the items INTO the bins (stowers) have a different cart, so they have a holster mounted on the cart. THAT’S what I need. One of those on my belt would allow me to quickly and efficiently access the scanner. I  asked around to see if I could get one, but was told that they don’t distribute them because the carts already have holes. You know who has them? Amazon. $26 is a very reasonable. I figure if I will be using it around 1000 times per day, for 35 days (that’s 5 days per week for 7 weeks) I’m spending a number per use that is so small my calculator won’t tell me what it is. So I’ll go with an hourly rate instead. If we work 10 hours a day, 5 days a week for 7 weeks, that’s 350 hours. So  this thing will cost me about $ .07 per hour. That’s a decent value. – Lee)


My wrists have always been a problem area for me, so I am putting the scanner down each time as we were trained.  This costs some extra time, but I am still doing fine overall. But to really set speed records shaving those few seconds off matters. (Maybe I should get her a holster, too. – Lee)

Speaking of speed records, Lee was picking 118 items per hour at one point today.  Now to be fair this was when he was in one small area and we didn’t have to walk steps in training.  Still it must have been somewhat unusual because numerous supervisors came over and spent some time watching him.  He did fine with only a couple minor corrections in his process, but even he admits that pace is not sustainable when you are working 10 hour shifts/50 hour weeks.  It was largely a mental challenge for him to see how fast he could safely go in the process, which if nothing else kept him entertained. (That kind of rate is completely unsustainable. In order to hit that I was sweating profusely and too focused. Think of it like driving far too fast on an unfamiliar road. You can do it for a while, but after a bit you start to get frazzled and tired and you’re much more likely to make a mistake. I ended up the day with about 97 units per hour, but I don’t even think that’s sustainable for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. It’s like a puzzle. The process is incredibly repetitive, so I enjoy breaking the entire chain down into individual steps and then changing one step in a tiny way to see what  effect that change has on the entire process. Doing the same thing over and over again several hundred times allows to do that and see pretty fast results. The data nerd in me is in heaven. The worst part is that we aren’t allowed any kind of electronics and taking written notes is way too time consuming, so I have to remember whatever data I can for comparison. The problem with that is that is uses a lot of short term memory, and short term memory is used a lot in this process, to be efficient. I’m  seriously geeking out, so it doesn’t even feel like work. It’s like I’m getting paid to play, and get exercise. – Lee)

I, on the other hand, had a rough night stats wise.  During our shift we were frequently interrupted to answer pop quiz questions and I found it difficult to find my rhythm again after each interruption.  Definitely using a different part of my brain for this job. Plus the computer kept moving me from section (called a Mod) to section and each time I was moved I had to leave my cart, find the place, orient myself, and then find a new cart.  To be clear the stats take all of the into account from a productivity perspective, but the numbers per hour and total picked do suffer.  And I want to be super clear that no one training us really cares about how we are doing at this point.  The numbers are only available to us in one place on a paper copy, and they disappear after one day.  In order to even get the numbers for today’s post Lee went in and looked at it (I told him he was crazy to go in on our day off but he wanted to know), so it’s going to be hit and miss how often I report out on it. (We’re literally one minute away from the building. Last night I had on the wrong shoes and I really started to hurt, so at my 8:00 15 minute break I jumped in the truck and drove home to change them. I was back with enough time to smoke a cigarette. So popping over there to get these stats is no big deal, and without the data I will be miserable. – Lee) 

It actually surprises me to be honest that these numbers are not readily available, but there are some significant downsides to people “chasing numbers.”  Folks start cutting corners, focusing on the wrong things, etc and the overall greater mission can suffer.  Still there have to be other people who are curious, so maybe I’ll ask next week if they can print me a weekly report.  You know that information is somewhere.

Anyway, my feet did hurt after the five hour shift (I soaked them in cold water and it really helped.  Thanks Denny for giving us that square collapsible bowl Lee said we would never use!!! It was perfect!) and I am a little nervous about next week. Our voluntary 10 hours of overtime on Sunday has turned into Mandatory 10 hours and even though we were going to work anyway that bugged me since we just started. Our trainers also get to decide whether to unlock us for multiple buildings (I still can’t find my way around easily without asking for help) and of course we are adding stairs which is going to stress our knees.  Speaking of knees, I mentally groan every time we get a pick that is in bin A or bin B.  Those are always on the bottom and you have to kneel down to pick from them. I had 6 A’s in a row last night and kneeling down, and then getting up was rough. (They do offer very nice industrial knee pads you can wear through your shift, for free, which is nice. – Lee) 

Speaking of help, I will say almost every person I have asked for assistance has been really nice.  I always start with an apology and “I’m new” and people are happy to stop what they are doing and point me in the right direction.  I appreciate that, because these folks do this year round and it must be annoying to have all of us descend on them once a year.  But politeness goes a long way and letting my hometown accent out doesn’t hurt either, since I grew up in a small town less than 4 hours from here.  Going forward I expect these daily posts to be shorter as we fall into a routine, but for now I am finding all of this pretty fascinating.

(UPDATE:  I popped over to the building today to take a look at the report so I could include units picked in this post, but I have some questions about the format of the report and I couldn’t find anyone to answer them, and didn’t want to be a pain in anyone’s butt. I will be a pain in someone’s butt when we start our new week on Sunday. For now, the information below is listed in the report as week cumulative, but what I don’t know is which days are included. We picked for an hour or so on Day 1, and at least four hours each on Day 2 and 3. Yesterday was by far the most we did, and it’s hard to believe that in all the hours we worked we only picked those amounts, but for now, this is all I have. – Lee)

Tracy: 13,261 steps
Items picked: 563

Lee: ?????? steps (My $4 Wal Mart pedometer says I walked 2,000 steps today, no way that’s true. I got a better one so starting Sunday I’ll have real data. – Lee)
Items picked: 706

Interesting Item PickedAt one point I picked a Islamic Prayer shawl and it did give me pause.  It seemed wrong somehow to just throw it into a tote and I made sure I carefully placed it and then closed out that tote so nothing would go on top of it.  It made me think about how strange it was something like that went through Amazon Fulfillment Center and when I mentioned it to Lee he said he found a Jewish prayer shawl in a bin among thigh high fishnet stockings and other sexy clothing.  Yes, the shawls were completely covered in plastic, but since they are religious items that seemed wrong somehow.  That’s the reality of the world we are living in though, and somewhere in this warehouse I am sure there are Jewish shawls and Islamic shawls sitting side by side. Made me think. 


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 – Getting Hired and Arriving

We’ve made it safely to Amazon and are tucked into our campsite, but before we start working on Monday I wanted to take a step back and explain how we got here.   When we talk about work kamping jobs (those are jobs that are commonly done by people who live in their RV’s either part-time or full-time), Amazon is one of the best known.  Partly that is because their program has been in place for many years, and also because they spend money advertising on the job site Workamper News. 

Every year they hire hundreds of people for their holiday peak season (October – December) and they start that process in January.  We knew about Amazon from our research and other work kampers we had met, and our good friends Kelly and Bill had done a season two years ago.  Consequently it has always been on my list of things to try.  But because we knew we wanted to do it in Cambellsville, Kentucky we needed to work going to that area into our route.  And it’s important that you have a general idea of your route, because they start hiring the January before and since it is a popular job the best way to make sure they have an opening is to apply at the beginning of the year.

So that’s what we did.  Back in January of 2017 we applied for the position online, honestly I can’t remember exactly how we applied except our friend Kelly kept an eye out for us and told us when the position was posted.  They had an online portal and multiple step application process if I remember correctly, but I just don’t recall all of the specifics. Part of the reason I don’t remember is simultaneously we were getting set up for our gate guarding job and interviewing for our summer position.  January is a very busy month for work kampers when setting up jobs because many of the best jobs get posted and are interviewed for during the December/January time frame.   In any event, my first email from Amazon came on January 12th and said our application was under review and “Due to the large number of applications we receive, you may experience a delay in a response from our team. We appreciate your patience through this process.”  Since I had lots of other things going on that was OK with me.

The next email I have shows them contacting me March 22, 2017.  This email said “thanks for your interest” and talked about the locations that would be available and asked us to select one.  Each year there are different Amazon locations that have this program and that is a deciding factor for many workampers.  It costs money to drive to a location, and then drive to your winter place afterwards,  and so this year when they eliminated the Texas location from the mix, several people we knew decided not to “do Amazon this year.”  The company doesn’t share why some locations offer the Camperforce program and others don’t, but the locations do change.  Part of the reason we chose Cambellsville is they are consistently on the list year after year and we wanted to be with our friends Bill and Kelly, and it put us reasonably near Columbus for Christmas.

On March 24th we received a conditional job offer.  We both were expecting an interview of some kind, but that never happened.  Instead we were asked to select our department and shift.  This is where it got tough.  We had minimal information at this point and relied heavily on the experiences of our friends to make a decision.  Lee and I are both in pretty good health, but these are physical jobs and everyone has areas of concern.  We watched a video that talked in detail about the physical requirements of each job and then verified it with anecdotal evidence from people we knew.

Ultimately we selected our first and second choice (Stowing and Picking) and then our shifts (we asked for L shift at the prompting of our friends, which wasn’t in the list of choices but we knew existed and then weekends as our second choice).  L shift is a mid-shift and pays a 75 cent differential, as does the weekend shift.  Since we didn’t care what our days off were, we wanted to maximize how much money we made.  And by the way, we were doing all this in tandem.  You must have a unique email address for both people in the couple and every step had to be coordinated so we gave the same answers and did the steps together.  I will say Amazon did a great job of keeping our accounts “linked” and despite concerns I had ultimately scheduled us in the same place, with the same shift, and same days off. Pretty soon after we made our selections, we received confirmation of our location although we were told it would be a while before we knew what our job or shift would be.

The next communication was in May when we had to decide on our campground.  This is also a big decision as there were several to choose from.  They all had pluses and minuses, and once again we relied heavily on our friends who had been here to ultimately select one that was close by, but had a lot of separation between spaces.  We absolutely needed 50 amp for heating our rig with electric heaters instead of a propane furnace, and although the state park was tempting and offered a honey wagon to help with tank management we both decided we absolutely wanted full hookups.  The most popular campground is Heartland RV, which is within walking distance to the distribution center, but it is first-come first serve and since our start date was late October we assumed it would already be full.  So we selected a campground and then contacted them to make a reservation. That process was a little nerve wracking, because we wanted to get a decent spot but eventually we were able to lock in. Once we were locked in we sent a message to our Amazon contact to let them know the campsite was all set.

I will say our contact was VERY good about answering emails promptly.  We didn’t always understand the answers, but that was more about us being first-timers than anything else.  Again, asking our friends really helped with this process, and eventually we got comfortable with the process. We also attended a live Webinar in May where we were given an overview and allowed to ask questions.  We weren’t alone in having some confusion, but our main contact did a great job of fielding questions.  Our only question at that point was about smoking.  We knew we would work 10 hour shifts with only 2 breaks and a lunch and had heard that you “lost” part of your break walking to the break room.  As smokers we need to spend part of our 15 minutes smoking and if we couldn’t easily get outside that would be an ongoing issue for us.  We were relieved to hear that there were “fenced in” smoking areas attached to doors around the building that were inside of security, allowing smokers to smoke without going all the way to the entrance and through security. That made us both feel better and the entire webinar made us feel more grounded in the job. Update: We toured the building from the outside when we arrived and there are only two smoking stations, and neither is attached to the building via fencing.  Not sure yet how that will play out, but it definitely didn’t match our mental picture from the webinar discussion.

Our next communication was in August. We were told they would not have as much flexibility with job assignments and shifts as in the past and although they would try to accommodate our preferences, ultimately they would put us where they needed us.  For us that was not such a big deal, it was all new to us, but I imagine for folks who had very specific preferences this was more of a concern. Either way we received multiple communications stressing that point, although I don’t know yet how many returning people didn’t get their first choice. We were also told that some Camperforce employees had already started working and there was a need for folks to start early in Shepardsville, KY.  We were in Oregon at that point, but it was good to know an early start was possible at least this year.

One of our biggest concerns regarding Amazon was the lack of overtime.  Some of our friends were hired in 2016 and made relatively little money because the centers were overstaffed.  The pay is reasonable ($10.75 an hour), but the real money comes from OT.  In 2015, Bill and Kelly made what I considered good money, but in 2016 many folks walked away with just standard pay. We really hoped that 2017 would be a “good OT” year, but also understood that we would just have to take it on faith.

On Labor Day we were asked to take a badge picture and upload it to the portal.  We have had to do this for several jobs and although I get how this helps an employer, the process for us is a pain.  You have to find a piece of white wall for one thing, and in our camper we don’t have that.  Consequently, we have taken them in front of Cori and Greg’s front window shade, in my daughter’s apartment, inside a campground rec room, all kinds of places, but it always ends up being a pain in the butt.  Plus add to that the first picture is never, and I mean never, accepted and it’s twice as painful. Amazon was no exception. We did it twice and then received another email saying they would be taking badge pictures during our orientation, so I am not sure why that was even necessary.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.  I know it’s a little thing, but little things can be annoying and it’s worth noting that all of this is unpaid time.

The next communications were at the end of September and were around background checks and drug tests.  We’ve had logistical issues with this in the past, but in this case everything went pretty good.  We didn’t notice that the order for the drug test was only good for one week though and when we missed it by one day had to go back to the third party company who handles this and get another order.  They were awesome, getting us new orders the same day and we were able to get the drug test done on our day off which was a good thing.  The testing facility was an hour away from our location, but we combined the test with a Costco run. We drove an hour to the nearest center, took the tests, and got the results within a couple of days which was great. Once we passed the drug test and background check on September 15th we received our official offer.

Keep in mind that was 9 months from when we first started the process, and although I understand the need to schedule background and drug screening close to the start date, it was a long process to get to this point. Our start date was finalized on September 30th, (we needed to move ours and it was no big deal), and then on October 25th we received instructions to read all of our pre-hire paperwork.

There was a ton of it and if you don’t bother to read it all it’s not that big of a deal.  Just go online, open the doc, hit accept, repeat until all are done. Because this happened while most people would be traveling to get there, you did need solid internet, but if not (according to the email) the Cambellsville library has computers and will help people. I didn’t read every single word, but I did skim everything and it took me over an hour.  This is a large company and many of these documents seemed to apply more to full-time employees.  I did read every word of their confidentiality agreement though, because as a blogger I need to be careful there.  So you will be seeing the following statement on all my posts about Amazon.

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.  

After reading all the documents as prompted, we closed out of the portal but then received an email from our friend Kelly telling us our work assignments should be posted. Honestly I have no idea if this document was up there all the time or was added later, but I can tell you we were never prompted to go there and look at it.  The document was called Terms of Employment and although we were prompted to review the 18 other documents (I counted them) never received a prompt to look at this one.  In any event, this had our shift and supervisor.  They don’t, however, tell you the job, so what everyone does is ask around on Facebook groups or friends to see what their job will be.  Goofy really, not sure why they wait so long to tell you that. Anyway, we found out we were L shift and were going to be pickers about 4 days before we were supposed to start working.

I mention that because if you are a person that will only work one shift or do one job, this might not be for you. Unless of course you are willing to drive to your center and then turn around and leave if you aren’t happy with the assignment.  Perhaps, not  a big deal if you winter on the east coast, but for those of us that winter out west, it could cost several hundred dollars in gas just to get here.  Either way, you need to be open to all possibilities.  We felt really happy though.  Picking was our second choice, but once we learned more about it, thought it might be a better fit for us after all, and the L shift is a really good one. Our friends, who were returning employees and requested the shift, didn’t get it, so I feel pretty lucky.  The extra 75 cents an hour should add up and personally I am thrilled we don’t have to get up at 5am.

Once your shift/job is locked in it’s pretty hard to change it but it does happen.  I have heard of cases where they allowed people to switch jobs with a note from a doctor, but pretty much it seems you are locked in.  That actually makes the most sense to me from a business perspective.  It would be a nightmare of scheduling to allow folks to switch shifts and supervisors and I can completely understand why they would discourage that. All of these “last minute” communications happened while we were traveling to the location, because Amazon will only pay for 2 days of campsite prior to your first work shift.  Some people come in early and are allowed to start early, but since we would be paying out-of-pocket we decided to come in at our scheduled time.

Which takes me to arrival day.  Although we had reservations at another campground, we wanted to check and see if we could get into Heartland Campground, where our friends were staying.  In past years this first-come-first-serve park filled early and we thought we would never get a spot, but this year is different and there were several spaces left when we arrived October 28th. As we were warned, it’s basically a parking lot, but it has strong 50 amp and is within a 5 minute walk of the distribution center.  It also is near our friends and since it is pretty cold here already (32 degrees the first night we were here) we don’t plan on spending a ton of time outside.  Our friend Bill met us at the entrance and then we walked the campground looking at a couple of open spots.  I chose a back-in site on one of the “terraces”, because it was free of standing water and there was only one row of campers on that level. It was a little tricky getting into the spot, because of the terrace, but Lee eventually managed and we are all setup.

Our new home at Heartland Campground

Community room has big screen TV

Laundry facility

Love this table. It’s for people to put extra stuff they don’t want. That’s awesome!!

After some basic setup, Kelly and Bill took us on a tour of Campbellsville.  It’s a nice small town, and has lots of services.  There is a Kroger (which was the grocery store we grew up with) and a huge Walmart and smaller IGA.  It has several restaurants, most of the common fast food places, and even a small movie theater.  It reminded me quite a bit of the small town the beet harvest was in, where local businesses understand the seasonal workforce surge and are used to accommodating those folks.  One of the most interesting things was that the local college allows non-students to buy meal passes.  The meals (which include numerous choices, drinks and deserts) are available for $6.10 each if you buy a punch card for $61.  You can also just pay for one meal which is $7.15.  We actually went inside and checked it our on our tour and will try it at least once. Kelly and Bill (who are on the day shift) eat dinner there frequently so they don’t have to cook at the end of a long day.

The college dining hall

After our tour, we finished our initial setup (tomorrow I am doing a deep clean on the place before we start working) and then had dinner at Kelly’s rig.  We told her they didn’t need to cook, but she insisted on our traditional welcome dinner and we had delicious Kentucky Burgaboo stew.  She also invited Linda and Steve over and we had a great time getting to know them better.  We had met briefly in Alaska over a year ago, but had gotten to know them a little better on Facebook.  Nothing is better than face-to-face for getting to know someone, and we were thrilled by how much we had in common.

From Left: Linda, Steven , Kelly, me, Lee, and Bill in front

We called it an early night because Kelly and Bill were working on Sunday, and headed over to our place, happy to be here and ready to go with minimal fuss.  And we are incredibly grateful that they have guided us through this process.  You certainly can do it without knowing someone who has gone before, but honestly having that additional resource made this entire journey so much more pleasant.  We start working tomorrow, and I will be going back to the Day by Day format, and we will see how it goes.  I’m truly not nervous at all, which is unusual for me starting a new gig.  I think it’s because people we know have done this before and that gives me a level of comfort I wouldn’t necessarily have.


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.