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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