Day One (Round 2) at Amazon

Today was our first day at Amazon SDF-8 in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  Each fulfillment center is identified by the closest airport, which is SDF in Louisville.  There are 8 centers associated with this airport, including the original, SDF-1, in Campbellsville, KY.  This facility is so big, I was unable to get it all in the photo.



This center was opened in 2012, and is the first facility dedicated to apparel.  According to the General Manager that spoke to our group today, apparel is Amazon’s fastest growing segment in their company.  This facility has doubled production every year, which is one reason they are short-staffed.  They simply have not been able to keep up with customer demand as they process 4 million items per week. SDF-8 has over 2,000 regular full-time employees, and is expected to have close to 5,000 employees during these next 4 weeks.  In just the last 10 days, they have added 1400 new seasonal workers.

When Amazon requested 100 Camperforce associates from Campbellsville, it was expected that 90 would be assigned to Picking, and 10 to Packing.  That changed this morning, when they announced only 40 of us would be going to picking, and the rest to packing.  That brought a few cheers, and a few ‘other words’ from our group!  They only wanted those of us that have been picking, to work in that area.  The management at SDF-8 stated, with only four weeks to go, there would not be enough time to properly train anyone in Picking.

After our orientation meeting, we divided into groups of 5 and went out into the two picking areas.  They are separated on the east side of the building, and the west side.  And the picking mods are very simple, compared to SDF-1.  Since this is a brand new building, everything goes in alphabetical and numeric order.  The east side has pick mod A, and the west side has pick mod B, C, D.  The mods cover four floors, just like we are used to.  But, according to our trainer, we won’t be bounced around from pick mod to pick mod, like we did in Campbellsville.

Also, the expectations are lower here.  The trainer stated a full-time associate should be picking 50 units per hour.  In Campbellsville, they were expected to average at least 120 UPH.  In some areas, it was 180 UPH.  As Camperforce associates, we are expected to do 85% of what the full-time employees do.  At first we were surprised by the low numbers needed, but you do spend a great deal of time digging through cardboard “drawers” to find the right item!  They can have a drawer full of black t-shirts, for instance, and you need to pick through all the sizes to get the correct one.  And these bins are over stuffed. (just like Campbellsville)!

The warehouse is clean, well light, and has windows.  It is also climate controlled, although it did get pretty warm when we were up on the 3rd floor, so we will probably continue wearing shorts at work.

Tomorrow we will have our first 10 hour day, so it will give us a good sense of how the next 4 weeks will pan out.  They are hoping to have a Camperforce program at this facility next year, if our ‘trial’ group works out.  They are also having a Thanksgiving meal for us as well.  We do have to work on Thanksgiving, but only from 7:30am to 3:00pm, and it will be time and a half!!  Starting Black Friday, we have the option of working 11 hour days, which we will try.

Last night we had an impromptu ‘meet and greet’ dinner at a nearby hotel, and got to meet many other workcampers that we had never seen before (they were either on nights, or in different departments).

Our campground is small (or shall I say “cozy”), but has free cable television, and decent wi-fi, which is unusual for campgrounds.  And we did find a dog sitter for Makena.  Today was her first day, and we received a good report card!

Quote for the day:  “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn

Taking the last train to Clarksville…..

…..Indiana, that is.  Yes we are heading north.  No, we are not quitting Amazon.  I have held off posting a blog for awhile, as Amazon made an unexpected offer to the Camperforce team here in Campbellsville, KY.

Original Offer

About 2 weeks ago, all 400 plus Camperforce associates (what Amazon calls their workcampers, separate from the hundreds of seasonal/temporary employees they hire as well) here received an e-mail with an offer to help out the Amazon facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  It is located about 90 miles north of Campbellsville right across the bridge from Louisville.  The facility opened in 2012 and it is one of only a few centers that specialize in apparel.  The facility has been overwhelmed with orders, and needs more people to help out during peak season.  They have been transferring a lot of clothing (socks, underwear, shirts, jackets) to our facility to help fulfill orders.  We have seen more than our fair share of “ugly sweaters” which are apparently quite popular…not sure why!

They needed 100 campers to join their team during peak, in Picking and Packing only.  The offer stated everyone would be on the same shift, with the same benefits we currently receive (full paid campsite and end of season completion bonus).  The difference was a higher hourly pay ($10.75 vs. $10.00 per hour) and an additional bonus of $500.00 per person, after taxes.

The “campground” they chose was the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville, which is basically a parking lot with hook-ups.  It is located about 17 miles from the new Amazon facility.

We talked about it, weighed the pros and cons, but decided an additional $1000.00 in our pocket was not enough of an incentive to move for 4 weeks especially with the extra cost in daily gas and a long commute.  Because we work the weekend shift, we already receive an additional 60 cents per hour, so we would only be making 15 cents more in Indiana, and we would have to file income taxes in two states.  We like it here in Campbellsville, and this year has been going very well for us.

In addition, having to drive through road construction and rush hour every day was a big turn off for us. We have enjoyed walking to work and since we arrived seven weeks ago we have not needed to add any extra diesel fuel.

Revised Offer

About 2 days after the original offer, Amazon amended their offer to include other campgrounds in the area (that were still open, as some had shut their water off for winter).  In addition, they would provide a shuttle bus to and from the Expo Center, so people did not have to drive.  This new offer was enough incentive for 31 people to sign up.  Most of those folks cited wanting to see what it was like at a new facility as their main incentive to go.

The Sparkly Carrot

Since they only had 31 folks signed up, Amazon upped the ante again.  This time they increased the bonus to $1,000.00 per person, if nineteen more people would sign up.  Now they wanted 50 total (so it was the same original budgeted pool of bonus money).  They would gross up the bonus so you would net the $1,000.00, after taxes.  Next thing you know, everyone seemed to be jumping on board.  Between the addition of campgrounds in Indiana only 5 – 8 miles away (and not having to cross the I-65 bridge every day during rush hour and road construction), and the increased bonus, we decided to put our names on the list as well.

We were also intrigued by working in a new facility, that was specifically designed and built for the Amazon apparel division.  And, since we would only be there for 4 weeks, we figured it was time to throw caution to the wind again.  After all, that is what this lifestyle is all about.  We called one of the campgrounds, and told the owner we signed up, but have not received official word if we were selected.  She told us to call back.  Later that day we noticed on the Amazon Camperforce Facebook account, that many people were signing up at the various campgrounds.  So we called back, only to find all the campgrounds booked already (except the Expo Center).  We did not want to stay there, so we figured “oh well, it was not meant to be.”

Several days later, Amazon decided to take 100 Camperforce associates, and keep the increased bonus of $1,000.00 per person.  And we were one of those chosen, although we still had no campsite.  So we had to wait, and wait, until people who did not make the list, started cancelling their reservations.  Then Amazon announced that 90% of the positions would be in Picking, and the remaining in Packing.  A lot of people dropped out after that, because they did not want to go into Picking, even though Amazon made it clear this was going to happen.  So finally, after a week of trying to get a campsite, we did get a call back that enough people had cancelled their reservations, that they could provide a spot for us at a campground about 8 miles from the facility. The KOA campground we will be staying at is in Clarksville, IN.

What’s Next?

We just finished a 5 day/50 hour week (overtime, yea!) and will spend the next 3 days resting, cleaning and getting our stuff put away.  I checked the Walmart, Target and Kroger apps, and we will have all that and more, right near us in Clarksville.

Saturday will be our final day of work here in Campbellsville.  Sunday we will hitch up the truck to the 5th wheel, and join the caravan of others heading north.  We start work on Tuesday, with a half day of orientation. Then our regular workdays will be Wednesday thru Saturday, with Sunday as our mandatory overtime day.  They have been working overtime for over 12 weeks at that facility, so I am sure the workers will be happy to have some more help.

Last night we had a final dinner together with two couples that we met last year.  Tom and Ellen, along with Ruth Ann were all working with us in Picking.  They took us under their wing and helped us “newbies” learn the ropes.  Ruth Ann’s husband Jack was doing his rotation last year in the IT department.  This year, Ruth Ann and Jack are on a different shift and a different department, and Tom and Ellen are also on a different shift, so we don’t get to see them as much.  Tom and Ellen will also be headed north, so we will be working with them.  We had a nice last supper at Brother’s Restaurant in Campbellsville.

Tom, Jack, Ruth Ann, me, Dan and Ellen

Tom, Jack, Ruth Ann, me, Dan and Ellen

Sorry this turned out to be so long!  It has been a crazy couple of weeks, but stay tuned for more on our new adventure.

Quote for the day:  “Change is not merely necessary to life, it is life.” – Alvin Toffler

Amazon – just walking in circles

We are just over the halfway point in our jobs at Amazon.  Which means Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner!  After several weeks of picking Halloween costumes and decorations, the merchandise has switched to all things turkey related.  Tablecloths, roasting pans, turkey injectors and basting brushes seem to be the popular seasonal items now.  I like it when the holidays follow the calendar.


Of course, we are still picking the usual items.  IPhone 6 accessories have been very popular, more so than any other brand of cell phone combined.  The ‘Call of Duty’ video game was released this week, and we picked hundreds of those.  Disney ‘Frozen’ toys are very popular, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Monster dolls continue to be very popular as well.

Overtime has already started for the Inbound shifts (receiving and stowing).  For workcampers, it is mandatory to do 50 hours, and voluntary if you want the 60 hours.  Outbound (picking and packing) is not expected to see any overtime until after Thanksgiving.  This is how the schedule went last year as well.  A few new folks in picking were a little concerned about not getting any overtime, but once they understood we cannot pick what is not on the shelves, they seemed to understand.  And most people wait until December to start their shopping.  That’s when we will be doing the 60 hours (my mind is willing, but my body is still cringing!!).  By Tuesday night (which is our ‘Friday’), we are pretty tired and usually fall asleep watching television around 8pm!  Yes, this RV life can be very glamorous!

The 12th and final group of workcampers will be starting November 11th.  They have also started hiring the seasonal temporary employees as well.  They offer both full-time and weekends only shifts.  We will see a lot of the temp workers in the picking department.  At the end of each shift, we do have to pass through metal detectors.  It usually takes a couple of minutes to get through, but the lines will start to get a lot longer now.  Amazon does provide anyone that wants a clear plastic fanny pack or purse, which does make it easier to go through the lines.


For anyone with pets

Makena’s dog food was starting to get precariously low, so we started looking online for retailers that sell her Innova brand of dog food.  The closest store was 44 miles away (one way).  Amazon is pretty pricey for dog and cat food (although they sell a lot of it), so we decided to try out  We have no affiliation with the website, so if you click on the link, we don’t get any money or anything.  But we are posting this because of our very positive experience with them.  Not only did they have very competitive prices, but free shipping on orders over $49.00.

We placed an order on Wednesday, and about 2 minutes after we submitted it, we received a call from a pleasant customer service rep confirming our shipping address, since our billing address is SD and our shipping address is KY.   About 3 hours later we received an e-mail stating our order was processed and ready for shipping, and they provided the UPS tracking number.  This morning (Friday), I was out walking Makena and saw the UPS man delivering our package to the campground office.  Everything was well packed.  Our package totaled 38 pounds, so we were very pleased we did not have to pay for shipping.  And Makena has a few toys for Christmas (oops, I guess I am one of those that buys Christmas presents before December!!).  The super fast shipping makes it great for any RV’er.

Quote for the day:  “In the world of internet customer service, it’s important to remember your customer is only one mouse click away.” – Doug Warner