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Old 12-26-2012, 10:29 AM   #1
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AMAZON....Post Mortum

Well...the wife and I finished at Amazon Dec 23rd....survived "Peak"....whew!! It'll take a week or so to decompress, but I can say it was an interesting experience. We bailed out now and are spending Xmas in Las Vegas. As you know by my "Amazon Army" post sevewral weeks back, we were at the Fernley location. If we do it again, it will be from mid- Oct, not mid- Sept like this year. One of the most physically demanding jobs I've ever worked....particularly during "Peak" in Dec. LOTS of manditory overtime, i.e. 11 hour days and 5 days a week as opposed to 4 days. Liked that payday tho. To Amazon's credit, they tell you from the beginning what you are in for....no secrets, and they try to make it as entertaining as possible, but make no mistake, you will work your butt off. LOTS of walking, lifting, bending, etc. Breaks and lunch go by quick, and they track your production closely. Not a job for sherkers or lazy folks. I was surprised at the number of work-campers who started whining about how hard it was as we got into Dec. It's not like they didn't know what they were getting into. Another thing I couldn't unstand is how many people bailed out within only several days of qualifying for theirs bonus, just because they were fed up with the work....foolish. It's quite the ah...mix of humanity who work there...some very unusal folks, some friendly, some not, but you are so busy you don't interact with most of them anyway. My wife and I were lucky as we got trained to do several different jobs, so we didn't have to do the same thing day after day as with some. There is not much to do in Fernley. Couple small casinos and a Wal-Mart. Gotta drive to Sparks/Reno (30 mi) for any entertainment. Weather turned way cold in late Nov/Dec anywhere from 10-15 degrees f in the early hours. Some snow but didn't stick. Although Amazon pays your rent, you'll still pony up for propane and elect when it turns cold. All in all is was profitable for us, and we will probably do it again. I recommend it to folks who are looking to make extra money and dont' mind working hard in a reptitave factory environment for a short time, but not necessarily as a career move. You can see my other post for other information. Maybe we'll see you there next year...just be ready.
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Old 12-26-2012, 10:35 AM   #2
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This is a nice informative post- thanks for sharing and I hope you had a good Christmas.
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Old 12-26-2012, 05:40 PM   #3
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Questions

I read both your posts and they were very informative. I have a few questions if you don't mind.
How was the bonus calculated?
Did both of you have to work to get the camping paid for?
Would you work at Fernley again?
what were the work hours?

I am retired and the physical requirements concern me. I have always done physical work, but step climbing might be tougher now. How did you manage to cross train on different jobs? Was that your choice or did they pick you for that? Several different jobs might be good for me rather than doing the climbing all the time.

Thanks for the good info and I hope you had a Merry Christmas in Vegas and didn't lose all your Amazon money!
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Old 12-27-2012, 08:38 AM   #4
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Reply to "Questions"

Bonus is a flat rate, a buck an hour for every hour you work IF you stay all the way until the end. We were at Fernley and I'd work there again. Only one of you has to work to get the RV site paid for. There is both a day shift (0700 -1730) and a night shift (1800 - 0430). It's a 4/10 schedule but that changes during "Peak" (after Black Friday), a 5/11. Days off can be three in a row, or split depending on what department you're in. Amazon tries to be flexible and put you where you want to be, but as with any company, if they need you somewhere, they put you there. Different jobs, require different types of physical activity. These are the main jobs that CamperForce people do. On the inbound side, "Recieving" is mostly standing on a rubber pad, lifting boxes up to 40lbs of product off the inbound conveyor, dumping it on your scanning table, scanning it all in, then putting the product on carts to be stowed.Gotta be quick. "Prep" is the same, except you are prepping some of the product, i.e. wrapping it in plastic or bubble wrap, etc, before it gets to the stowers. "Stowing" (what we did mostly) is a lot of walking (5-8 miles a day), climbing stairs between floors, bending, lifiting of the product off of the carts to stow it in bins for the pickers. On the "outbound" side, it's all about getting the product from the bins to the customers. "Picking" is one of the more difficult. IT IS A LOT OF FAST WALKING (10-20 miles a day), a lot of climbing stairs between floors, pulling product from bins and getting it on the conveyors to shipping (lifting totes full of the product you just pulled). Shipping/Crisp Plant is mostly standing and lifting, taping, labeling and moving it on down the line to the UPS pick up point. Gotta be quick with your hands. "ICQA" (inventory control) is a lot of walking, climbing stairs, bending, squatting, kneeling as you check the inventory in the bins. "Water Spider" is about the same as stowing physical activity wise, maybe less stair climbing....you are moving supplies and carts to the recievers and prep. Amazon will ask you what your preference is but again, they will put you where they need you if it comes down to that, but we found them to be very accomidating when it came to physical limitations. They realize we are not 30 anymore. Other jobs that you might get a shot at as we did (we got asked if we wanted to), were me getting to oeprate a Power Industrial Truck or "PIT" (small forklift kind of things) pulling products from reserve pallets (can't be afraid of heights for this one), or being a runner for the Problemn Solvers. My wife really liked this. One last thing. Amazion was very appreciative of the work that the CamperForce folks, at least those of us who hung in to the end, did. They realize that we are a dependable, competent hard working work force, and pay attention to what we are supposed to be doing. All in all, even though it was a tough three months, we enjoyed it. Don't know if you've ever hiked or backpacked, but It's almost like one of those harsh hikes where you say to yourself when your doing it..."holy crap", but a coulple week later when you're home, you think..."that was pretty cool that I did it".....if that makes any sense.
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Old 01-04-2013, 08:06 PM   #5
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Our Amazon Experience at Fernley Nevada

We originally had applied for the very first Workamping Program held in Fernley Nevada back in 2010. Those job openings filled up quickly so we were not picked as an Amazon Associate for that year. Since we were back on the west side of the country in 2012, we had applied once again while staying in Alaska this past summertime. Later, we had a telephone interview while in Anchorage and we were offered the job at the end of the interview. We both accepted.

I made RV Park reservations at Sparks Marina RV Park in Sparks Nevada as that was one of five places that Amazon would pay for our site except for any electric and all of the other locations were already booked up. The electric was $100 for 28 days.

We checked into Sparks RV Park on October 19th as Amazon would pay for two days prior to starting work and one day after finishing the seasonal term. Our work week started on October 21st even though we did not have to report to Amazon for our Orientation & Training meeting until October 24th.

On the 24th, we had a full day, 8.5 hours of orientation and training. We were issued our badges, watched many videos and had numerous people talk about company policies, had some training on different pieces of equipment, procedures, etc. We were both scheduled for Shift 7 which was Friday through Monday, four days, 7 am Ė 5:30 pm, 10 hours each day with a 30 minute lunch break. There was also one 15 minute break in the morning and one in the afternoon. Our first day of work was Friday, October 26th.

We were both assigned to the Outbound Shipping Department.

Amazon basically has two main departments with sub departments under each one. The main ones are Inbound and Outbound. Then under inbound, you have Receiverís who are sorting all products coming into the warehouse by trucks. Next you have Prep People who prep products for sale & Stowerís who are stowing the products on shelves at different locations. Now for out-bound, there are Pickerís who walk around the warehouse Picking itemís to fill customer orders and placing the itemís into a large yellow plastic Tote. Once the tote is either full or complete, they will travel around the warehouse on conveyors to their specific destination depending on how they are classified for packaging. You have one department called Crisplant where multiple items are packaged into one box and sent out to the customer. You have another department called Shipping where there are multiple conveyor lines which the totes will travel down and eventually stack up along packing lines. These packaging lines are called TEKOH and another one called VDF Flats. TEKOH lines will have 12 different size boxes to choose from, dunnage (air bubble machine) and a tape dispenser. The one VDF Flat packaging line has two different sizes of bubble envelopes and two different sizes of variable size fold-able boxes available for packing the items into for shipment.

TEKOH is an acronym which stands for Toyís, Electronics, Kitchen, (I forgot what the O stands for), and Home products which are packaged at those production lines called TEKOH. VDF is an acronym for Variable Dimensional Folders. Those are the foldable boxes which are used to package many sizes of books, CDís, DVDís, along with smaller household products, small toys and many other small items.

M wife & I were assigned to all different TEKOH and VDF production lines depending on the orders received and the amount of product that needed to be packaged and shipped out that day.

Each morning you report to your departments Stand-up area for any announcements from the manager and stretching exercises. After lunch you report again to the Stand-up area for the same routine. You were also required to wear comfortable Amazon approved footwear and clothes. For the first couple of weeks, I wore my sneakers however, with my right foot and lower leg problems that I have, it was too restrictive and uncomfortable. I later switched to my set of Crocs which only lasted about 5-7 more days before a safety person noticed and told me I had to change my shoes. I told them I had a medical condition that required me to wear Crocs. That wasnít an answer that they wanted to hear. They then informed me to leave the building and that I would need to fill out a RMI (Request for Medical Information) form and have my doctor fill in his section describing any restrictions that I may have. While that form was being obtained from my doctor in LA, I purchased a pair of oversize sneakers and removed the laces on the right foot only. I was told by HR that if safety noticed the missing laces they would tell me to put them back. Nothing was said to me for the remaining time I was working there. Also, because of my standing restriction noted by my doctor that stated I could only stand 75% of the time while working, I was permanently assigned to the VDF packaging line where I could work while sitting on a stool that they provided to me for part of the day. As it turns out there were three other people with similar medical restrictions working that same production line.

So now comes the good part. The week of the Thanksgiving holiday which included Black Friday, they announced that there will be a mandatory overtime day added to the work schedule. Our OT day was scheduled for Tuesday as our regular shift was Friday Ė Monday. At the same time they announced that the shift hours were being changed from our normal 7 am Ė 5:30 pm to the new hours of 6 am Ė 6 pm everyday for both the regular shift days and for the mandatory OT day too. That meant we would be working 57.5 hours every week. OMG - UGH!

We could have handled the four 10 hour days or even possibly the five 10 hour days but the 6am Ė 6pm 5 days a week were absolutely horrendous. We had no life whatsoever. We would leave the RV at 5 am and would return at 6:45 pm or so. Only time enough to eat and then off to bed so we could wake up sometime between 3 & 4 am to leave at 5 am. The two days off were used to rest on one day by sleeping most of the day and then the second day was doing errant's, wash, food shopping, banking, etc. That schedule went on until late in the week of our last work week, December 21st & 22nd. They reduced the hours for those two days as the PEAK rush was dwindling.

On our last day, December 22nd, at 2:30 pm, we had a Camperís meeting in the conference room which was our exit interview. We then filled out a questionnaire and they also gave us two parting gifts, a small bag of Ghirardelli Chocolates and an Amazon key ring. They provided some statistics on what the facility had shipped during the PEAK season and also had some department managers speak about the successes of the plant. They did state that on December 19th, the facility holds about 1.2 million items and that they had shipped 2.5 million items on that day. That meant that the people working in the facility that day had stowed and picked twice their total capacity during that day. Luckily, that was one of our days off. We both filled out the questionnaire and where it stated if I would come back next year, I checked NO. my wife checked YES. I stated the reasons why I wouldnít come back due to the very long hours also the lack of communication and proper management for all employees. The people working there were not friendly at all. Some would not follow the rules and procedures which made it difficult for the ones that did. Many campers who I had a chance to talk with stated that they would not be coming back next year either.

At the Fernley Nevada facility, they had hired about 300 Workampers to fill in for the extra help needed during the PEAK season. They also hired about 700-800 Integrity people which is the local temp agency that provides people during the PEAK season. The other two facilities where they hire Workampers are Campbellsville, Kentucky and Coffeyville, Kansas.

For those that would like to read more about the Amazon experience, here are a few links to articles that I had searched out once we got back to California for some rest.

Inside Amazon's Warehouse - mcall.com

The Secret Lives of Amazon's Elves

The link below has many additional links to information about Amazon.

Business & Technology | Behind the Amazon.com smile: About this series | Seattle Times Newspaper

I will NOT be working for Amazon again, however, if they decide to hire Nong back again, I will go depending on where we happen to be and what we are doing at the time. However, my job will be taking care of peopleís pets while they are away from their RVís working at the Amazon Sweat Shop. Or I will find something else to keep me occupied for the 2-3 months we will spend there.

Happy New year to all and we hope that 2013 brings good health and prosperity throughout the entire year.

Dr4Film ----- Richard
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