Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Amazon Camperforce - It's All About Attitude! (And Comfy Shoes)

We worked at Amazon in Coffeyville, Kansas, from late September to December 23rd. "Work Hard, Have Fun and Make History!"

Coffeyville is a great little town that had pretty much everything we needed - Walmart, gas stations, laundry, and wine stores. :)  Unfortunately, the second day we worked they announced that this Amazon facility would be closing. We were shocked and felt so bad for all the employees and the town. It will definitely make an impact. We stayed at a very nice city park that included water, sewer, and electric. Our campsite was provided by Amazon along with an hourly wage including overtime. Also in town was a large oil refinery. When we would leave work at 4 in the morning it would be all lit up and looked like a very large city from the outskirts of town. Sometimes they would have a fire burning with a big flume that would be at least 20 feet in the air. As our new friend, Jack would say - It looks like we are entering Oz! (Because we were in Kansas, right!) I  tried on several occasions to get a good picture of it but apparently I don't have the proper equipment, but still I was very fascinated with all the lights!

This turned out kind of shaky but I still think it looks pretty cool!

Our shift at Amazon was the "donut" shift working Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We had Wednesday, Saturday and Sundays off. It was nice to have the Wednesday break after 10 hour days! The night shift was 5:30 p.m. to 4:00  a.m. We weren't really too worried about working nights as we are both more night people than morning people. We couldn't imagine trying to be up and at work at 6:30 a.m! The first week we worked 5 hours a day to get trained and get used to the hours. We worked in Inbound and were trained as stowers putting product in the bins. It isn't such a physical job as picking. Basically you find an empty bin, scan it, scan the product and put it in the bin. Easy right - unless there isn't room in the bins - then it gets frustrating! About 6 weeks into stowing they also trained us in receiving - opening boxes and putting the products on carts so they are ready to stow. However, we only did this job a few days.

Approximately the last month we were moved to Outbound to be "pickers." There was soon to be more product going out than coming in with Black Friday coming soon! This job was a nice change at the beginning. It didn't seem quite as difficult as stowing in that the scanner told you which bin to go to and which product to pick. However, after walking 10 to 14 miles a day it really starts to take a toll after a while! This is where building up your stamina comes into play.

One of the things that really helps is the breaks - two 15 minute breaks and a half hour lunch break. In my previous jobs before workamping, there were many times that I really didn't get to take the 15 minute breaks, mainly we just had a lunch break. We were usually too busy with meetings, deadlines, etc. Sometimes I felt a little bitter about this and thought I deserved a break. Not! Now this job you definitely need a break! Stopping for just 15 minutes really makes a difference to be able to sit down and relax your body for a bit. When the shift begins and after the lunch break they have what they call "stand up." It is short meeting to let you know where you will be working, etc. This also includes stretching exercises and this definitely helps also!

Walter Johnson Campground at Sunset

Tips for surviving Amazon Camperforce!  
Depending on the job you do at Amazon you could be walking 10 to 15 miles every day you work!  So you need to plan ahead and train to do such a physical job. Both of our sons run marathons! Yeah - I know - you are wondering where they got that from because their Dad and I are definitely not runners, nor have we ever been into any kind of sports, unless we are watching football from the couch! Go Huskers! 

My point is they plan months ahead to run a half or a full marathon. A half marathon is 13.1 miles! So basically you are walking part of a half marathon every day! The job we had previous to our Amazon job was very physical - cleaning hotel rooms - so we felt we were in very good shape going in. If you are not working a physical job, I suggest you start 6 months before and get on a walking program every day.  It would also help to build up your strength, maybe calisthenics or weight lifting? Also while you are there you definitely need to make sure you eat healthy foods and sleep well to keep your energy up. Caffeine and comfy shoes help too! Investing in a great pair of shoes or insoles is well worth the money. It's all about taking care of yourself!

At first it appears to be all physical - just keep in shape and you will be fine.  However, I believe in order to survive the final stretch it is also mental and emotional. Sure there are always things to complain about - as in every job. But if you can adopt the "go with the flow" attitude and find the silver lining in every day issues, you will do much better. Our silver lining was definitely the people that you meet every day! There will always be changes and things that you cannot control. You need to let that go and remember why you are doing this job. If you are like most people, its all about the money! We wanted to work hard for a few months so that we could take several months off and relax at the beach!

One of the best boosts for me mentally was a Thanksgiving potluck that was coordinated by some of the workampers. It was spectacular! Lots of great food, karaoke along with a western singer direct from New Zealand, new friends, and a little wine made for a memorable afternoon! It was really great to be able to sit down and discover the hopes and dreams of some of our fellow workampers. Particularly, the entertainment was superb!

About the first week of December I felt like I was missing Christmas! I love Christmas and all that goes with it! Decorating with sparkly lights, baking my kids' favorites, finding the perfect gift or making the perfect gift, Christmas parties and Cathedral concerts, making plans to get together with family. We were working so much that basically all we were doing was eating, sleeping and working - and missing all the fun! I remember one day specifically going to WalMart for groceries and there was Christmas music playing, lights and decorations. Oh ya - its Christmas! I was like a little kid in awe of everything! After I left the store I felt a little let down and that this Christmas was going to pass me by. I really didn't have any energy left after working 50 hours to do the fun stuff. I was wishing I would have planned ahead and had my lights up already, some baking supplies on hand, and shopping done. But then I went to church and realized I wasn't missing Christmas at all! It was right there in front of me. We were preparing for Jesus to be born. Of course, the reason for the season! That is what I really needed - to be present in church, singing Christmas hymns, and thanking God for all the gifts in our lives.  Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm.

Next time! Yeah, I'm still not sure about that - someone said working there is kind of like having a baby! Going through labor is so difficult but it is so worth it after the baby comes! I am already starting to feel that way as we sit on the beach, go out for lunch, and visit out son. All in all we met some great people and participated in the excitement of the Amazon experience. But, if there is a next time, I will definitely plan ahead:

~ Get in shape as far as walking and strengthening exercises. Get ready for the marathon!

~ Plan healthy meals ahead including fruits and veggies.

~ Have baking supplies on hand (with more exercise you can eat more!)

~ Plan gifts ahead - shop Amazon!

~ Put up Christmas lights in September!

~ Thank God for all our blessings!

It looks like next year they are also offering Amazon jobs in Texas.....Hmmm maybe a little warmer climate would help? Or I hear the other 3 facilities are also great locations to work. Check out Amazon Camperforce! Guess we will see, I think I need to have another margarita and soak my toes in the sand a little longer before I can make a firm decision!

Work Hard, Have Fun and Make History! A good motto every day of our lives!

1 comment:

  1. Sue, we are waiting to do our interviews at the Haslet, TX facility this winter! Thanks so much for all the information & advice - fantastic info. And it would be so great if we worked together there!!


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