First Time at Amazon Day 22 – Day 24

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 22 – Cyber Monday

Our morning started off pretty much like any other day, but they did have something new and interesting about an hour after we started.  We got a message on our picker that said a “power hour” was scheduled between 1pm -2pm and since I had never heard of that before I found someone who had been around for a while and asked them what it was.  For one hour they monitor the picks and folks who have the highest number of them when a prize. This was the first time I had seen any prizes based on productivity, but since I like any sort of competition (and it was early in my shift) I thought it would be fun to try.

There is certainly an amount of luck involved in winning this, along with hard work, because certain types of routes just are easier and have higher volume.  Still, it seemed fun and I was interested in how many items I could pick in an hour if I was super focused, but 20 minutes into it my scanner got a “fatal error” and booted me out to the main screen.  That was really a bummer, because I not only lost my count up until that moment, but it also sent me to another floor and there was a delay in getting the screen back and starting again, so needless to say I didn’t win.

I was talking to my friend Bill about it and he just looked at me and quietly said we were working too hard.  This is Bill’s second year as a picker and he really seems to have found his stride.  He picks at a speed that always puts him right around 100% productivity, but also doesn’t stress his body too much.  He’s never taken an Advil, and never had any kind of a major pain issue, so that’s definitely working for him.  And since no one I have talked to has ever heard of a Camperforce person being let go (I am sure it has happened, but I am equally certain the offenses to merit it were major), so his approach makes a ton of sense.  Plus, it’s not like there is anything extra in it for us seasonal folks to have higher rates, and I know that because Lee was once again over 140% productivity with 100% quality this week, and all that earned him was $1 in Cambellsville cash.

The Cambellsville cash program is an account where supervisors can put money in your account and you can buy Amazon branded items.  I am sure the money adds up over time (I have $5 for example, and Lee has $7), but you aren’t always sure why you got the money.  It’s a nice idea, and a great way for someone to see you did something positive and give you a little something for it, but there isn’t always a note explaining why. They really should put a note every single time, to reinforce the behavior.  Anyway, as much as they focus on quality, the fact that Lee has been mistake free for four weeks running seems to merit something more than $1.  He does show up on a report every week for the high quality numbers, and gets a visit from our supervisor to thank him, but it seems a bit perfunctory, which takes me back to Bill’s original point, and it’s an important one:  You don’t have to work this hard to meet expectations here during peak, especially if you are Camperforce.  Our required rates are 80% of the regular employees and there is nothing wrong with just meeting those expectations and nothing more.

The afternoon was much more interesting than the morning as they had tons of staff to handle Cyber Monday orders.  Despite the fact that we were getting over 12K orders an hour, nothing felt rushed or hurried.  We had plenty of carts and plenty of totes and our routes were actually a little on the long side.  This was my first day ever only picking clothing and although I appreciated the fact that I was in the nice and pretty E mods all day, I did miss spending time picking non-clothing items for the variety.  No one is sure why, but you seem to be in a particular area for a few days in a row and then suddenly you are moved to a new area.  It’s hard to tell exactly how complex this routing algorithm is, but man would I love to get a look at the code.  It would be cool to find out how many things we do every day are intentional versus accidental.  Overall it was another very nice day and an excellent job by the managers.  Curious what will happen now that the peak is over, but they handled the 4 peak days beautifully. Quick note: It was the busiest Cyber Monday in Amazon history. 

Tracy:  26,535 (11.1 miles)
Items Picked: 781

Lee:     25,152 ( 11.11 miles)
Items Picked:   1,019 His second highest picking day

Interesting Item Picked: I only had clothes to pick from today, but really stopped and admired a Satin Lined Smoking Jacket.  I know several men who would rock this look (Stevie M I am talking about you!) and had a smile picturing the guys wearing these.  Perfect gift for the guy that has absolutely everything lol.

Day 23

Once again Lee and I were in E mods, and the volume of orders still seemed pretty high.  Lots of people were working and the night shift was once again on a twelve hour shift.  Our mid shift wasn’t required to work any extra hours (not even the full time employees), but nights have been working some pretty long days.  As Camperforce we wouldn’t have been required to work longer than ten hours anyway, but if we wanted to work longer we probably could have.  I did talk to one Camperforce person who have been working Amazon for 5 years and she said that she was working the 12 hours.  I was pretty amazed by this, because I couldn’t imagine having an extra two hours in me, but she explained that she stopped eating all sugar this year and has found she has a ton more energy than in previous years.   It was one of those interesting “mini-conversations” I have in the aisles throughout the day and I thought I would mention it because the physical experience of this job seems to vary widely from person to person, with returning campers doing much better than us newbies.

Today for the first time though tempers did seem to be getting a little frayed.  Carts were missing in some places and folks were a little testy about it on the radios where you ask for help, plus I was surprised to see everyone out working on the floor.  I passed our HR person pushing a pick cart and heard that the Camperforce coordinator was working in packing.  It’s kind of cool that everyone pitches in when things are busy, but from our perspective things seemed just the same. And that sameness can be a little boring.  Lee would be perfectly content to stay in E mod day after day, because of the good lighting and nice floors, but I like a little more variety.  So I was excited when they did another power hour pick, because I wanted to see how much I could do.

This time I didn’t have any sort of computer issue and better yet had a nice path, with lots of picks close together.  I really focused and ended up picking 157 item in that hour.  Later, I went and talked to the day shift supervisor to get a feel for how close I was and he said that the winner (with an identical type of pick route) had picked over 200 items.  WOW!  I wasn’t even in the ball park.  I understand that there is a certain amount of luck in the path you get, and that the full time employees are much better at this than we are, but not that they were that much better.  It makes sense because they can pluck an item out of a full bin much quicker than we can, which is a skill that only comes from years of practice.  Unfortunately, with that level of disparity I have no intention of participating in the power hours in the future, unless I am in one of the non-apparel mods. It’s a lot of extra work, and if I don’t have even a chance of winning, why play?

Plus it slowed me down for the rest of the day, and I felt extra tired.  Actually both Lee and I have been tired all week, which may be because our days off weren’t back to back. Despite the additional volume our pick routes have been on the long side, and both of us have been doing more walking this week.  The bins are also stuffed very full and my upper body was getting quite the work out leaving me stiff and sore all over.  I wasn’t alone in that, one of the long term employees I am friendly with was feeling the same thing, and the repetitive movement of pulling out heavy bins and pulling them down impacts the shoulders.  That’s one of the nice things about moving to different mods.  Some of those bins are totally open and don’t require pulling anything out.  It’s hard to explain so here’s a pic. The bins are actually cardboard drawers with a partially open front, but they’re stacked up into something like a chest of drawers. The first pic is exactly what the drawers look like and the second is the closest pic we could find on the internet of what they look like as an assembly, the difference being that instead of 6, as shown in the pic, there are 13 that go from the ground up to about 6’5″.

 

 

The apparel bins look sort of like this except there are rows and rows of them and there are smaller ones that are on the higher rows.  Many of them are over my head, so I need to pull them out, then lower them down to set them on the cart.  Most of them are light, but the overstuffed ones can be quite heavy, and in any event the repetitive motion can be tiring.  We have a step stool, but taking it out every single time would really slow the process down, so you just reach up, pull out the bin, bring it down, find your item, put everything back, lift it up, and put it back in.  Over and over again. If you find this description boring, try doing it for ten hours a day lol.

Lee’s Addition, bit not in italics, to make it easier to read:  I’m going to jump in and explain in a little more detail what this place is like physically, for anyone who wants a better mental picture, and for people who are stats/data junkies, it might be interesting. Feel free to skip ahead if you don’t want to know.

Everyone carries a handheld wireless scanner all day (some of us bought a holster so we don’t have to carry it, and also, it’s cool to have a holster.)

When we log into our scanner, it tells us where to go, and once we get there, and grab a cart and a couple of totes, and scan the tote, it starts giving us “addresses” of items to pick, one at a time. The address consists of a level number, a mod letter, an aisle, and a bin. Every address starts with a P, but nobody can tell me why, and you know damn well I have asked more than one person. Here’s a cart, and a tote (ours are yellow, and there are many thousands of them in the building) and each cart has a little step stool on it. Some of the carts have wheels that  squeak, and those are awful.

The building is broken into three sections, and are called A, B, and C building, even though they’re all under one roof. There are areas for unloading trucks, and sorting and packing and shipping, but I’m only going to talk about the picking areas, which are called “mods”. Each mod is a little different, and has it’s own personality. Some are brand new, some are really old, and you can see from one mod to another what they have changed to improve the process. Some have better lighting than others, and some have better airflow than others, and some have better layouts than others. There are 14 of these mods, and I am going to talk about “E mod” in detail, because it’s the easiest to explain, and it’s also the nicest, and the newest.

Think of each mod as a “neighborhood”, and some mods have multiple floors, so the first part of the address is the floor number, and then the mod letter. So, we go to “P-1-E“, the 1 being first floor of E Mod. Inside the mod there are parallel aisles (streets), and “E” has 57 of them, each numbered, in this case . Each aisle is wide enough for two cars to fit side by side, and just wide enough to spin a cart around to change direction if you need to.

Each of the 57 aisles consists of 276 rows of stacked heavy duty cardboard chests of drawers, stacked up in towers, like buildings, with floors. Each tower consists of a stack of drawers, and in E mod each tower is 13 drawers high, labelled from the ground up from A to M, and as you go down the aisle, they are numbered from 1 to 276. So there’s an A-1 through A-276, etc. Each aisle is broken up into sections of about 20 or so rows, so there are “cross streets” that allow you to take shortcuts to get from aisle to aisle, just like a city street grid. And in the main middle cross street is the conveyor belt, so once your tote is full, you have to go to the conveyor from wherever you are to drop it off. In the case of E mod there is a conveyor that comes in from another mod on the ground floor, goes about 1/3 of the way across the mod, then goes up to the second floor, then comes back down, then back up again, so there’s a little piece of it twice on the ground floor and the second floor. Another belt does the same thing on floor 3 and 4, and there’s a great story I’ll tell you about that, another day.

So, once you get to the mod, your first item might be P-1-E-3-A14. So you push the cart to the 3rd aisle, row 14, and drawer A, which is the drawer at the bottom. You open it, find the item that is described on the scanner screen, scan the bar code, and then it gives you another address. Maybe P-1-E-3-D18. So you move down 4 rows in that aisle, and up 3 drawers to D, and repeat. Doing a lot of them that are close together like that, just working your way up and down the aisle, and from one aisle to the next is called a “tight pick” and it’s pretty rare. Mostly it’s moving from that first one at P-1-E-3-A14, to P-1-E-48-D265. That’s all the way from aisle 3 to aisle 48 (about 300 feet) and up from row 14 to row 48, about 220 feet. Now, imagine you’ve done that walk, and the next item after that is P-1-E-5-B10. That’s right. All the way back to where you started, for the next item. Over, and over, and over, and over. And over. And that’s how you end up walking 12 miles and only picking 700 or 800 items. I’ve had tight picks for 30 minutes where I pick over 100 items and don’t feel tired at all, then 90 minutes of “loose” picks where I cover 5 times the distance and pick well under 100 items. It can get to you after several weeks of 10 hours of that. Sometimes I get mad, and look at the scanner and say, out loud, “NO.” and log out and go to the bathroom, whether I need to or not, just to teach it a lesson. It’s not a fast learner.

Soooo, all of this brings me to what I truly love, which is hard data. Although there are two different sizes of drawers throughout the mod, the large ones are exactly twice the size of the small ones, (width only, the depth and height of all drawers are the same) any time there is a double wide drawer, they skip a row number, so the numbers work out in the end. Going back to the numbers, there are:

57 aisles of
276 rows of
13 drawers, totaling:

204,516 drawers.

Let that sink in. 204,516 drawers on the first floor of E mod. And there are 4 floors of E mod, so that’s 818,064 drawers in E mod alone. There might be some slight variation, because there are small areas that don’t have drawers to make room for stairs, and there might be one more or less stack on one floor or another, but when the numbers get that big I can round down a little and the differences are statistically insignificant. I was going to go floor by floor and actually get an accurate count, but then I didn’t, because I’m crazy but I’m not insane. Anyway, just for fun I calculated the average drawer has an average of around 20 items in it. So each floor in E mod has about 4 million items in it. For more fun I measured a drawer to get volume capacity, and each drawer has a volume of 900 cubic inches, or just under one half cubic foot. Per floor, that’s 102,000 cubic feet. To give you an idea of how big that is, if you imagine an RV that’s 9 feet wide and 12 feet high, this RV would be 925 feet long. Or, 25 40′ fifth wheels all lined up in a row. That’s one floor of E mod. And remember, there are 14 mods, although not all of them are that big, and not all of them have 4 floors. But it’s a crap ton (cubed) of stuff. And here’s the kicker: Every day we pick, and every day stowers come in and put stuff back in the drawers. The turnover is astounding. And it’s at this point that I start thinking about how all of this stuff is in little plastic bags, and there’s 70 of these fulfillment centers globally, and that those bags have to go somewhere, and the scale of it starts to get a little distressing, and I have to stop, because the obvious message at the end is one we all already know, but largely ignore, and has to do with sustainability. If you don’t have a data problem, and you have 20 minutes later in the day, watch this video, it’s very well made and interesting.

And some time in the next week or so I will tell you the exciting tale of the conveyor belt, and how you maintain a level of 100% error free, even when you make a huge mistake.

racy:  25,046 ( 10.46 miles)
Items Picked: 838

Lee:  26,767   (11.82 miles)
Items Picked:   876

Interesting Item Picked: Not much of interest today, but I did get a couple of picks in hanging clothes and saw this absolutely beautiful Belle Badgley Mischka camel colored winter coat. I have absolutely no need for a winter coat, thankfully, but it was beautifully made and for a moment I just stopped and looked at it.  I never was much of a clothes person, but I do appreciate a well made item and this was really pretty in person, much better than the picture on the website.

I continue to enjoy the never ending collection of Ugly Christmas sweaters, and this one I saw for the first time today. It lights up! – Lee

Day 24

I had written down lots of notes on things I might write about this morning, but I have to start with the fact that I hurt everywhere.  It’s not just me either, Lee is very sore as well and we are both really surprised by it.  I intentionally slowed my pace yesterday, which resulted in an under 10 mile day (which is usually a good sign) and we were in E mod again with the nicer floors.  The routes were mostly fine, really everything was OK, so I am not sure why I feel so beat up.  We are guessing that it is just a cumulative effect from working so many days, but if that is the case it doesn’t bode well for finishing this out. Then again, maybe we are just hitting a plateau of some kind and will push through this and feel better on the other side, I hope so.

They even had another Power Hour yesterday, but I didn’t participate.  I just walked my normal pace and instead of the 157 items in that hour the day before I only did 100.  Which got me thinking about the program and what could be done to improve participation.  I had some thoughts I thought I might share with the day time supervisor, so I’ll share them here first.  It seems to me that if they set a target goal that most people could reasonably reach if they pushed a bit (maybe 20% above the average) and then put those people in a random drawing, the overall participation would be higher, which would drive up the number of picks overall.  Yes, you wouldn’t have the crazy high spikes from a few people, but the totals would be higher overall, because many more people would be playing.  Plus it might help morale overall, because everyone would have a chance to play.  Anyway, just some things rattling around in my head, and if the day manager seems receptive I will pass it along.  The company states frequently that they are interested in feedback, so I will test that out. (I also didn’t participate in the power hour. I think it would be a much better solution to have two separate categories, regular employees and Camperforce/Temps. There’s just no point in trying to compete when you’re so completely outclassed. I also noticed that a LOT of the regular employees were breaking rules to bump up their numbers. We’re only allowed to have two totes on the cart at one time, and I saw quite a few with 4, 5, and one even had 6. And I almost got knocked over coming around corners several times. The plan needs tweaking. – Lee) 

Speaking of feedback, I keep meaning to mention the surveys.  Almost every day we get a question or two on our scanner, and although our answer choices are limited, it’s interesting the types of things they poll us about.  And we know these surveys matter, because the supervisors mention them in our start up meetings on a semi-regular basis.  Those scores must be part of the way they are being judged, which gives the employees some level of power (at least as a group) in the relationship.  I like the concept, and really like how easy it is to participate, but as Lee pointed out the limited answer choices can sometimes lead to incorrect conclusions.  There definitely could be some improvement there, but again great concept. (I don’t like the polls because my answers rarely match my three choices, and there is no way to opt out. So I am forced to give an inaccurate answer. What’s the point of that? – Lee) 

On a completely different subject, it was Kelly’s birthday yesterday and I got to see her on our first break.  Her team had all signed a card for her and sang Happy Birthday to her at start-up which was really nice.  Then they offered VTO and she got to go home the second half of the day which makes for a nice birthday.  With us being on second shift and her being on first, we haven’t gotten to see as much of them as we thought we would, so I was glad to squeeze in a quick hug for her birthday.  We are all getting together Saturday to celebrate, but it was a nice bonus getting to see her on the day itself, even if it was only for a few minutes.

I know I am all over the place with this section, by the way, but I write them in the mornings while Lee is taking his shower and I am sore enough today that my mind is all over the place.  I write a small page full of notes throughout the shift and then whatever sticks in the morning is generally what makes it here.  I try not to take to much time up as we only have a few hours to shower, pack lunches, handle daily business, etc, so I end up condensing my thoughts as best I can.  Some days that works better than others.  On last thing I should definitely mention and then one cute story.  The weather here has been really great the last few days.  Sunny and in the 60’s, which is really awesome.  I’ve talked to enough locals to know this is unusually nice weather and I am grateful for it as that little bit of extra sunshine in the morning is really nice.  OK, here’s my sort of funny story.

I had about 20 minutes left in the shift and was in F mod, which has some very high bins that require a step stool for me, when I got a multiple item pick.  I generally like those, because I get multiple items in one place except this time it was six Rubie’s Flannel Santa Suits.  I was wondering why anyone would need so many Santa Suits when I pulled one from the highest bin and the entire stack rained down on me.  It didn’t hurt or anything, and it was kind of funny as it was raining Santa suits, but I was also like…”Seriously!”  I picked them all up and then it sent me to another floor and up some stairs where I picked one Mrs. Santa Suit. At this point the mental image of one Mrs. Santa with six Santa’s was a bit much (I get pretty loopy towards the end of the night) and thankfully that was the end of my shift.  Hopefully my thoughts will be in a little more coherent next time, but thanks for following along.

Tracy: 23,880  ( 9.97 miles)
Items Picked: 838  Update:  I checked my stats the next day and even with a more reasonable pace I was still at 131% productivity.  So that’s good. 

Lee:    28,220 (12.47 miles)
Items Picked:   883

Interesting Item Picked:  One thing I wanted to mention was there are some pretty strange clothing choices out there, and no I am not talking about the sexy stuff.  There are clothing items with logos and sayings that I can’t imagine ever wearing.  I think I found the worst one ever though yesterday when I picked an Ugly Christmas Sweater that had a picture of Santa and an Elf and said “When I think of you I touch my Elf.”  Seriously?  In today’s climate I can’t imagine anyone wearing one of these, but I actually picked two of them yesterday.  And one of the picks had me also picking a Creepy Bunny mask directly after. So all I could picture was someone in the creepy sweater with the scary mask on.  Yikes, what kind of Christmas parties is this guy going to???  Needless to say, neither of these was my favorite pic, but I did find a really interesting T-Shirt that had My Spirit Animal on it and then had a really cool charcoal drawing of a sloth.  It made me chuckle, so it won my pick of the day. 

(I haven’t had a lot of interesting stuff lately, either, but this one caught my eye yesterday. It would go great with the Santa Tuxedo. – Lee) 


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First Time at Amazon Day 20 – Day 21

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.

Thanksgiving

It was nice having Thanksgiving off, and our friend Kelly (who recently wrote another great description of her packing job you can find here) gathered a group of full timers together to eat at a local restaurant called Creek Side. They had a wonderful buffet for only $10.99 which included turkey, ham, homemade mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, stuffing and desert.  It was really good and I ate two platefuls, and had a wonderful conversation with people we knew, and met some folks that were new to us. All of the local campgrounds here also offered a potluck Thanksgiving dinner, so no one went without some sort of community on the holiday, which was great.  A couple I met, Andy and Sandy, (who have been coming back for several years) also volunteered at a local church and they served over 600 meals to the local community.  I must say I really like Cambellsville as a small town. Folks definitely seem to look out for each other, and people are very welcoming to us outsiders who come in every year. A great example of that is when we were at the restaurant the other night and Lee and I both had a drink.  I said to Lee in front of the waitress that one of us had to drive home, and when he asked if they had Uber in Cambellsville she said , “I don’t know about that, but we’ll find someone to drive you home.”  Gotta love small towns!

Good home cooking and reasonably priced!

 

Day 20 – Black Friday 

The next day our schedule was slightly different because the regular employees all worked an 11 hour shift.  As Camperforce we were given the option to stay or leave after 10 hours, which was nice, because I wasn’t sure if I could do 11.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and it turned out to be a really great day.  We had lots of people in the morning (over 200 pickers), but it didn’t feel crowded at all.  That was a major concern of mine, people tripping over each other, but aside from occasionally having difficulty finding a cart, it really wasn’t that different from other days.  And more importantly there was enough work so the pick routes didn’t have us running all over the place.  I got on some great runs and picked my all time highs (358 or 199/hr first quarter and 391 or 143/hr the second quarter) which, for me, was a lot of fun.

I like those pick paths where you pick huge quantities of items that are really close together because I really feel like I am accomplishing something and my numbers are high with less steps.  Win/Win.  The only unusual part of the morning was I got a Frakke order (which is an item that is being returned to the vendor) and ended up picking 168 bags of potato chips.  Since I could only fit 9 bags in a tote, this took me awhile, and ultimately I ended up opening 14 boxes of the chips and sending them down the conveyor belt.  What was odd to me about that scenario was since they were already boxed and on a pallet, I wasn’t sure what the benefit was to opening them, just so they could go down and be re-boxed and shipped out, but since I don’t understand that part of the process very well, there may have been a good reason for it.

It was also great packing potato chips because they were so light.  I can definitely feel the difference in my arms and shoulders with light versus heavier items, and between the potato chips and over 100 small boxes of facial cream I picked, I had awesome numbers with minimal heavy lifting.  Not that many of the items are really heavy in this distribution center.  That’s one of the major advantages of working in a place that is mostly clothes, because no individual item is too heavy.

The managers and assistants were also very high energy and had lots of presence.  There was a guy in a banana suit giving out free fruit on the breaks and another assistant dressed as a turkey walking around and handing out Jolly Ranchers.  Really sweet, and added a little something to the day.  My favorite part though was that all the managers formed a gauntlet at the front entrance when second shift arrived and they welcomed everyone to Black Friday and gave out lots of high fives.  I know it sounds a little hokey, but their energy was infectious and I thought it was really a great way for people to start the shift. And it all really worked, as the first shift picked over 100,000 items and from my view the labor planning seemed about perfect, which is no small thing.

They also are starting the free giveaways during the peak season and we all got a free T-Shirt along with drawings (for anyone that clocks in on time) for other items including $100 gift cards, Kindles, and even a couple free TV’s.  During my fourth period, I got a message on my computer to come to the pick desk for a “special treat” and walked down to discover I had won a $10 gift card.  That was a nice surprise and I had the choice of Kroger, Subway, Papa John’s etc, and I picked the Dunkin Donuts gift card because I thought Lee would like that.  It was definitely the best day I have personally had so far and I really appreciated all the trouble the managers went to.  Plus I only had to walk 9 miles to pick 1165 items which is definitely my kind of day! And isn’t it funny I said that 9 miles was a good day.  We are both impressed by how we have acclimated to these long walking days.  And speaking of that, I have lost 3 pounds and Lee has lost 11 pounds so far!! If nothing else this job is a great paid workout plan, and it’s definitely having a positive impact on our health.

And we had a beautiful sunset that night

Tracy:  22,035 (9.19 miles)
Items Picked: 1165

Lee:     27,439(12.12 miles)
Items Picked: 966

Interesting Item Picked:  I picked a ton of vinyl throughout the day (at least 20 records of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) but the coolest thing I saw were these slippers that had shoestrings on them.  They were funny overstuffed slippers and come in a variety of sports teams (including Ohio State!) and are made by Comfy Feet. I thought they were really cute and was surprised I have never seen them before. They got my attention because they looked like slippers a guy might wear and seemed very well made. 

Saturday

I have to say our schedule for this peak weekend was just about perfect.  We had Thanksgiving off, worked Black Friday, then had Saturday off.  This special schedule for us, is similar to the regular “donut shift” that our friends Linda and Steve, are on.  They work two days,  have a day off and then work two more days, which they like very much.  It definitely has benefits as it gives your body time to recover mid-week.  That fifth day in a row can be rough, and I think splitting days off really helps with that.  I’m just mentioning it, because there are lots of work kampers here working lots of different shifts.  We are two of only six work kampers on mid shift this year (we got really, really lucky) but work kampers are working days, nights, and weekends and all have different preferences.

Saturday was our normal day off though, and the only one we have with Bill, Kelly, Steve, and Linda so Linda decided she wanted to cook dinner for everyone.  That was incredibly nice of her, and we spent the morning just relaxing and lazing around. Bill did stop by and gave Lee some special Long Island Ice Tea mix he had made for Lee though which was so sweet and Kelly and I went to the grocery store together.

So nice being with our own personal bartender!!

Around 4:30pm we went to Linda and Steve’s and I was really excited to see the inside of their rig. We have been with them several times, but always somewhere else and  I had never taken the tour of their rig.  They bought the Class A used, but it had only been used previously by another full timer  and had lots of special touches that made it into a really nice home.  Plus it’s  obviously  well  cared  for  and I  really enjoyed taking  the tour. Their rig shows less wear and tear than mine does after only three years!

Linda had her Christmas decorations up

I loved this spice rack door next to the refrigerator they added.

And she showed us this really Fancy Panz cool serving tray she saw at Amazon and went and bought.   She was Vanna White displaying it for us.

Here’s Kelly trying out a custom cocktail

Bill waiting for his cocktail

And Linda and Steve cooking dinner

They made grilled potatoes and green beans tossed in blue cheese (shown here in the new serving dish)

And an amazing roast. So so tender and yummy

Linda even made Buckeye’s from scratch for us since we are from Columbus and again really really good!

There were even presents to take home at the end of the night. A tin of candies and a calendar of some of their favorite  pictures from last year which I though was a wonderful gift idea.

It was really a fun night and so generous of them to host.  Next week we are celebrating Kelly and Steve’s birthday’s and I am hoping to return the favor, although she set the bar pretty high 🙂 We called it an early night though, because the four of them are on day shift and needed to get up early and tomorrow it’s back to our regular schedule. Interested to see what the rest of this weekend holds.

Day 21 – Sunday

After the excitement of Black Friday, coming in Sunday was a little anti-climatic.  The morning was just a regular day shift and I think everyone was a little tired.  Things did perk up when the evening shift came in.  They were working a twelve hour shift (because that shift spilled into Cyber Monday) and the workload did pick up a little bit.  I actually had a near perfect third quarter as the system sent me to Q (which is one of my favorites), then M, and finally I got to go back to E.  It had been over a week since I worked in E and that’s the newest section with great lighting and nice wooden floors so that was fun.  Plus the temperature was nice and cool up there.  It was pretty hot earlier in the day and the stuffiness made me feel more tired.  Temps cooled down in the second half and the energy level was much higher which is kind of contagious.

We also found out that the fulfillment center set a Black Friday record, with hundreds of thousands of customer smiles processes.   That’s how they talk about the individual items in the meetings and  it’s important to remember that is totally true.  Our friend Jim is working a temp job for UPS and he talked in his latest blog post  about delivering these packages and the looks on people’s faces.  Since he worked at Amazon last year he has a unique perspective now on the end-to-end process and it was an important reminder that we are helping people get something special.  Oh, and Adidas must have had a sale or something this weekend, because I picked a ton of Adidas shorts and shirts.  I did think about all the kids playing soccer in those as I was picking them, which made me think of my nephews and made me smile.  It’s a long day and your mind does tend to wander.

Towards the very end of the night though they offered VTO (voluntary time off) and I was tired enough I decided to go see how I could take it.  I walked up to the picking desk and talked to one of the night shift managers, and she explained how it worked.  I had received a message on my scanner, and I could actually take the VTO right from there.  That was pretty cool.  I did ask her about how to get a hold of Lee though, because he was my ride and I had no idea where he was.  She said she was happy to send him a message on his scanner and right on the spot sent him a note to come down to the pick desk.  When he came down, I asked if he minded and he said that was fine, so we both went through the process and left about 45 minutes early.  It’s tempting to take VTO, especially at the end of the night, and as we found out it is really easy, but we really need the money so we are trying to be good about it.  Still, I am glad we did it at least once and was again impressed by how streamlined  the process was.  There is a lot of stuff Amazon does right and this was a great example of that.  Next up is Cyber Monday, but I will be saving that for the next blog post.

Tracy:  20,575 (8.58 miles)
Items Picked: 867

Lee:    27,446  (12.12 miles)
Items Picked: 791

Interesting Item Picked:  Lots of interesting stuff today, so it is hard to pick just one.  One thing that really made me stop and look were Conductive Gloves. They caught my attention because they had wires coming from them and I didn’t understand why.  Turns out that they are used for arthritis for tens machines.  But the gloves I actually liked were called Sili Safehands Gloves. I’m not a big fan of pot holders, mainly because when I start cooking I move very fast and have burned myself many times when they slip.  The big mitts are OK, but I don’t have much dexterity in them, and eventually they all seem to get holes in them or burn.  These gloves were cool, because they are like regular gloves, heat resistant, and you get all five fingers.  Seemed like I would like them for cooking or barbecuing.  


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.