My experience with Amazon Camperforce
I have had a lot of people ask me about my experience in an Amazon warehouse. Mostly they were wondering why I, a nature-loving semi-extroverted photographer, would choose to work in a warehouse. I did it to take a break from Customer Service, to get to the East Coast for potential job opportunities for the following season, and to save some money. Working for Amazon Camperforce seems a bit like a rite of passage for full-time RV-ers. We have to try it at least once, and I can see why. So here is a rundown of my experience.
- There are 3 main roles: Pick, pack, stow. I was in Pick. I liked being able to move around but it seemed to have the lowest interaction with other workers
- Pick is essentially a treasure hunt. I averaged 12-15 miles each night walking across the massive warehouse to find the one bin, housing the one item my scanner told me to find. It is very tedious, and you can go hours between seeing another person. Fighting with overfilled apparel bins is frustrating and trying to understand the vague descriptions can be a challenge. I really enjoyed being able to move around instead of some other positions which are more stationary. However, being alone with my thoughts for 10-12 hours a night was not always ideal.
- Pack is prepping items to be shipped out to customers. You are in one spot for the duration of your shift which can be more physically tiring than walking. But, you are generally stationed closer to other people, so you may actually be able to carry on a conversation. Pack seemed to be the most often trained in another department so it possibly had a higher potential for variation.
- Stow is placing items into bins for Pickers to find later. You generally are in a few aisles trying to get lots of product into small spaces. While Pickers rush around you trying to find the items they need. There are generally multiple Stowers in one area so again, a little more human interaction, but you have to cram lots of product into limited space.
- It is basically starting a new workout regime. Every Picker I spoke with lost at least 5 pounds in their first few weeks. Some people lost as much as 30 pounds in 3 months. If you want to start your workout early, try this:
- Walk 12 miles on cement or concrete. Every 1 minute stand in place for 10 seconds, every 2 minutes do one deep squat or kneel to the ground, and do one push up. Do not speak to anyone and do not listen to music. After 2 hours, take a 15-minute break. At 5 hours, take a half hour lunch. At 8 hours, take another 15-minute break. The whole process should take you approximately 10 hours. Repeat for 5 days a week.
- Comfortable clothes and shoes are key. Luckily the dress code is pretty lenient, most people wear jeans or workout clothing. If your shoes don’t offer sufficient support and cushion on an unforgiving surface, you will be facing some sore nights.
- Create your own motivation. There is actually very little incentive to perform well. Especially as campers. It is quite easy to meet rate but there really is no reason to perform above the expected rate. When Peak is in full swing they will try to encourage Pickers to work quicker with a Power Hour. However, luck is much more important than effort during this hour. If you are in an area where your picks are spread out and hard to access, you just cannot compete with someone who is on a path picking 400 gift cards that hour. You can always work hard and compete but you only have a small chance of winning a (taxable) $5 gift card to local eateries.
- Understand your Voluntary Time Off and Voluntary Extra time options. I went into this expecting to work hard, have very little free time, and rack up overtime. I maxed out at 58.5 hours each week in December. I signed up for Voluntary Extra Time, on top of the mandatory 50 hour weeks. Many people opted for Voluntary Time Off which can be offered at any time before or during your shift. The scheduling can actually be quite flexible, I recommend talking to a seasoned employee when you arrive to get all the details early on.
- Cross-train if you want hours. If you are a Picker and they offer Voluntary Time Off and you want to go home, you can claim it and go home. If you are a Picker, and you are trained in Pack, they could call you to Pack and then offer the time off to the rest of your department. I wish I had been cross-trained because I rarely opted for time off. However, some full-time associates do not want to cross train so they can take advantage of time off.
- If you have bad knees, bad back, bad shoulders, bad allergies to dust, this may not be the right job for you. I think of my self as being in pretty good shape, but I managed to pull my shoulder muscle twice and my hamstring. Luckily, they have medical care onsite where you can get Tylenol and as much Biofreeze as you want.
- You will become part of the family. And, even with the tedious, long, painful hours, you will still be sad to leave. And you will meet people you care about, you will have moments wonderful fun, you will experience a new place, and you have the potential to make really good money.
All in all, I am quite glad I came. Now that my body has rested a bit and the sore muscles have subsided, I can reflect on my time here and know that it was mostly positive. It can be a really wonderful experience, just know what to expect. I am open to the possibility of returning next year but that is what is wonderful but this life. We have so many possibilities open to us at all times. In a few days, I am off to another warehouse to work the return season peak. Stay tuned for more on that.
Have you worked with Amazon? What was your experience? I would love to hear about it!
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