Note: This is a personal blog post and in no way represents the opinions, interests, or intentions of Amazon.com. This is solely my opinion which may change at any time.
During my 6+ months of research into the full-time RVing lifestyle, I read others’ blogs about seasonal and location independent jobs including working at Amazon CamperForce in one of four fulfillment centers in TX, TN, IN and KY. A little nervous about my ability to earn enough money to support myself while on the road, I applied to work for CamperForce a few days before I even bought Gypsy! In addition, I maintain a part-time freelance job in online communications and workcamp whenever possible.
The Haslet, TX location was already filled up by June, so my second choice was Murfreesboro, TN, near Nashville. I did not even consider the possible snowy locales in Indiana or Kentucky, so was happy to hear I’d been accepted to work here. My first day of work was scheduled for mid-September, which was communicated in August. A background check and drug screening were required, so I made the 200 mile round trip from where I was parked to Quest Diagnostics in Colorado Springs and explored the area while I was there.
At the first day of orientation, my 30 or so fellow CamperForce workers were assigned to our tasks and shifts. Everyone who wanted day shift got it, and most of us got our first pick of assignments. Mine was Packer (packing boxes on the assembly line) and others were assigned to Picker (picking items to go into the boxes, which according to one Fitbit registered up to 16 miles of walking per day), and ICQ (inventory control and quality assurance). After we spent half a day in Safety School, learning how to properly lift, tote, and keep ourselves safe at work, we were ready to start working, with our Coach nearby to answer questions.
Amazon assigns a quota to each task, and Packers had to pack approximately 675 single items per day. This would be considered 100% of rate, but CamperForce workers are only required to reach 85% of the standard rate and are given four weeks to reach that degree of competency. While some struggled to reach this rate and were coached along the way, I hit my highest mark that first afternoon at 144%. As the season went on, I averaged between 120 and 130% and am proud to say I was the fastest CamperForce Packer there. Our managers were excellent at rewarding folks with positive feedback, prizes and cash bonuses. I learned an important fact about myself – that camaraderie and human interactions are much more important to me than the actual task at hand.
This post is entitled All About Amazon because that was my mantra during my 100 or so days here. My clothing was All About Amazon, especially my footwear, because we were on our feet for 10 hours a day, and I felt much better wearing sneakers enhanced with gel Work Insoles. At a thrift store I found several long-sleeved cotton shirts for a few bucks and rotated through them. A headband kept long bangs out of eyes during the growing-out stage. We were given a T-shirt at the start and end of the season, and used a vending machine to access free work gloves, earplugs, and other safety equipment.
Everything I cooked and ate was All About Amazon, as I felt like I was preparing for an Olympic event. An occasional Snickers bar from the vending machine snuck in there, but mostly I ate nutritious food five times a day, having fruit, nuts, or vegi’s for snacks. Cramps in my hands and legs were alleviated by adding Gatorade, bananas, coconut water and avocados.
My sleep and exercise routines were All About Amazon, and I battled every night insomnia (common in women going through menopause) with HRT, Benadryl, melatonin, and other night-time sleep aids. Nothing really worked for me until the last week when I had a cold and basically passed out each night. My carpool friends and I joked that none of us could stay up past 8:30. At night after dinner I would put up feet up against the footboard of my bed and drain my feet and legs, which helped immensely. On days off, my yoga mat came out of storage first thing as I resumed a two decade practice. And I treated myself to a massage every week or two for the duration.
In September and October we worked about 40 per week, with optional overtime hours some weeks, which I always welcomed. During peak season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we were scheduled to work between 50 and 60 hours a week. CamperForce workers are only required to work 50 hours a week, regardless of schedules, but I powered through. At the conclusion of our season, we were paid a completion bonus of $1 for every hour worked. Our fulfillment center ranked as high as #4 in the country for number of shipments, so we were eligible to win extra bonus money.
There were at least 100 of us RVers throughout the building, and I stayed at two campgrounds during my stint and carpooled in three groups before the end. Everyone was there for a different reason – retirees planning a trip to Ireland, young people workcamping across the country together, husbands supporting a family at home, or single women making it up as they go along – like me! Despite our broad range of backgrounds, future plans and lifestyles, we all ended up at the same place at the same time and I have made some lifelong friends as well as many seasonal ones.
In the next two blog posts I will cover how to remain a Yoga Teacher in an assembly line atmosphere, and the many benefits I received from this job. I’ve already signed up to work during the 2016 season, but may try a different location due to logistics. I’d give the experience a 9 out of 10 overall.