Changing from costumes to ugly sweaters

Only 54 more days until Christmas!!!

Week five, with mandatory overtime is done!  The cardboard drawers full of costumes have already switched over to ‘ugly’ Christmas sweaters and ‘naughty’ Christmas sweaters.  What makes a ‘naughty’ sweater?  The carrot used for Mr. Snowman’s nose is in a different  spot, and Mrs. Snowman is ‘very happy’!  And those reindeer are playing some interesting games!!

We have also noticed some new LED sweaters, with red/blue/green  LED lights knitted into the sweater.  I love shaking the drawers to get them to ‘light up’ as I go down the aisles.  (it helps pass the time!)  It must be getting cold in some areas, because we have picked a lot of thermal underwear, gloves and winter coats this week.  Amazon sells a lot of Columbia, North Face and Carhart apparel.

By the end of the week, work had slowed down a bit, and they offered voluntary time off for an afternoon.  The regular full-time employees were excited about this, and rushed to take advantage of taking some unpaid time-off.  Since orders were slow, they moved some of us around, and I was moved to the Packing department, to do vendor returns for an afternoon.  If merchandise does not sell after a certain amount of time, Amazon sends it back to the manufacturer, or liquidates it.  I really did not like doing this, as you stand in one spot all afternoon.  I like to be moving.

ALL HANDS ON DECK

We attended the monthly ‘all hands on deck’ meeting last week, where the senior management went over their expectations for peak season.  Since it coincided with the employee Halloween costume contest, the senior management was all dressed as Star Wars characters.  It was the first time I have attended a meeting run by Darth Vadar, Princess Leia and a Storm Trooper!

The meeting was very informative, and they stated this years Peak should be better than last years.  They said last year, staffing was 50% full-time Amazon employees, and 50% temporary agency staff.  This year, they are projecting 84% Amazon employees, and only 16% temporary employees.  That should alleviate a lot of the craziness that we saw last December when we came up to this facility.

They also announced we will again be switching to 11 hour days, starting on Black Friday.  Our start time will be 6:30am – 6:00pm (currently 7:30am to 6).  Camperforce is not required to do the 11 hour days.  But it is an easy way to get an extra 5 hours of overtime a week, so we will do the longer days.

And since they are not anticipating staffing problems this year, they do not anticipate needing to go to 59 1/2 hour weeks, like they did last year.  We are happy to hear that, as we like having 2 full days off.  55 hours is enough for us!

Quote for the day:  “All I want for Christmas is a really ugly sweater, said no one ever.” – unknown

Churchill Downs and week 4 is in the books

Amazon Update

Week four is in the books, another 50 hour week, with voluntary overtime.  This week, they have called mandatory overtime for all shifts, as they are experiencing higher than expected volume for Halloween.  On a typical day, we are both picking 800 – 1000 items per day.  This week, at least 50% of the items were costumes or accessories.

At the beginning of each shift, and after lunch, we have “stand up”, where everyone is required to do stretching, and the managers will update us on the volume of the orders.  This week our manager stated 80% of all apparel that is ordered from Amazon is shipped out of our Fulfillment Center.  It is no wonder that this place is bursting at the seams with apparel everywhere.

Superman and Batman are running neck and neck in popularity this year, and Spiderman….what happened to you?  I have not picked many Spiderman costumes.  Anna is beating out Elsa,  for top honors with the Disney Frozen costumes. Star Wars and Star Trek are very hot this year.  And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to be very popular as well.

Time is going fast for us, which is surprising.  I remember our first year, it seemed to take a long time until our fourth week.  Personally, I think you need to commit to at least four weeks, before deciding to quit.  It seems everything seems to fall in place after the fourth week, and you realize “I can do this.”  We have had 3 Camperforce people quit so far.  One was due to a death in the family, another had a medical condition that made the job too difficult, and the other person said she just wanted to see what Amazon was like, but said it was more work than what she was interested in.  She quit in the 2nd week.

Churchill Downs

As with our last blog on Louisville Slugger, I am going back to 2012 when we visited Churchill Downs, and toured their excellent museum.   Churchill Downs opened in 1875 thanks to the efforts of Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. the grandson of William Clark (of the famous Lewis and Clark explorers).  He leased the land from his uncles, Henry and John Churchill, which is where the name Churchill Downs came from.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

Twenty years later, the grandstand, with the famous twin spires, was completed.  The finish line is the white post on the left side of the track on the photo below.

grandstand

grandstand

The age of the park shows when you walk around under the grandstands of the general seating area.

betting area under stands

betting area under stands

On the day of our visit, there were many trainers and jockeys out on the track with their horses.  It is easy to distinguish a trainer from a jockey, as jockeys must meet specific weight requirements (no more than 126 pounds, with equipment for the Kentucky Derby).

trainer with horse

trainer with horse

jockey with horse

jockey with horse

finish line in back

finish line in back

Churchill Downs has the Kentucky Derby Walk of Champions, where several past Derby winners are buried.  Usually, when a horse dies, only the head, heart and hooves are buried.  The head represents the will to win, the heart represents courage, and the hooves represent speed.  There are exceptions when the entire horse is buried, usually it is for distinguished champions, such as Secretariat.

past champions burial grounds

past champions burial grounds

The museum has a wonderful display of various memorabilia.  They have a large display on hats and outfits, donated from past patrons.

its all about hats

it’s all about hats

There is a display on the silks that jockeys wear, along with their other equipment they use.  The colors represent the horse and the rider.  The origins of the silks can be traced back to ancient Rome, when the chariot drivers wore specific colors so the crowds could identify them.

jockey silks

jockey silks

jockey accessories

jockey accessories

The museum also has a display honoring the current Kentucky Derby winner, showing them in the winners circle.  Anyone remember the 2012 winner?

2012 Winner

2012 Winner – I’ll Have Another

There is a large display listing the winners (and all the horses) of every Derby going back to 1875.

every winner displayed

every winner displayed

The first winner was Aristides.  The winning horse took home $2,850.00!  Compare that to this years winner, American Pharaoh, which took home $1,240,000.00.

The first Derby winner

The first Derby winner

And what would a visit to the museum be without trying my luck at racing?  They have a fun racing simulator that you can try out.  I had a lot of fun with this!

go, go, go!

go, go, go!

If you are ever in the Louisville area, this is a ‘must do’, in our opinion.  We had a great day visiting Churchill Downs and the Museum.

Quote for the Day:  “Until you go to the Kentucky Derby with your own eyes, behold the Derby, you ain’t never been nowhere and you ain’t never seen nothing.” – Irvin S. Cobb

Louisville Slugger Museum and Amazon update

Amazon Update

Week three at Amazon is in the books.  We have again signed up for voluntary overtime on Tuesday.  As such, we have not been doing too much on our off days, besides resting, laundry, grocery shopping and planning out the weeks meals (my crock pot is getting a good workout).  The work has been pretty steady, with more Halloween costumes, as well as winter coats, mittens and thermal underwear this week.

In talking with some full-time employees, they are anticipating a better “peak season” than last year at this center.  When we arrived last year, it was crazy busy and chaotic.  We have not seen that yet this year.  Last year they started their peak in August, and the employees had mandatory overtime from August through December.  It is mostly voluntary overtime at this time. This year they are expecting peak season to start in mid-November.  And as of now, they may not need to work the 11 hour shifts like they did last year.  Some employees are happy about that, others wanted the overtime (more money).  We shall see.  Ultimately, the customer drives the business.

Louisville Slugger Museum

In June of 2012, a year before we went full-time, we attended the Good Sam’s Rally in Louisville, Kentucky.  We were able to look at hundreds of RV’s, attend seminars, and talk with many full-time RVer’s.  Many of them made the same comment:  if I could do it all over again, I would have started sooner.

During the seminar, we took some time to explore the Louisville area, including a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum, right in downtown Louisville.  The museum is part of the factory, where they still make over 8,000 different models of bats for both professional and amateur players.  The museum and factory have a distinctive 120 foot tall bat located outside.  It is made of steel, and painted to look like wood.  It is a replica of Babe Ruth’s bat.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Louisville Slugger Museum

The museum has on display bats from many players, including this Babe Ruth bat from 1927, the year that Ruth hit 60 home runs.

The Babe

The Babe

They do allow you to hold several bats used from several hall of fame players (after you put on some protective batting gloves).  I was able to take a few practice swings with a bat used by Mickey Mantle.

swinging away

swinging away

They have a tribute to the women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (remember that Tom Hanks/Madonna movie?).

There's no crying in baseball!

There’s no crying in baseball!

We toured the factory (no photos allowed inside) and watched several bats being produced.  They used to hand carve the bats using a lathe, but now can produce several bats in just minutes on a machine.  In the museum, there is one window that looks into the factory.  The blue machine is what is used today to manufacture bats.

inside the factory

inside the factory

They have a boring machine that is used to extract billets from a log.  The billets are then placed into the machine and carved into the bats.

billets in a log

billets in a log

It’s a very interesting tour, and everyone receives a souvenir mini bat when you leave.

hanging with the Babe

hanging with the Babe

Quote for the day:  “Baseball is ninety percent mental, and the other half physical.” – Yogi Berra

Final thoughts on Amazon

Now that the dust has settled, and our final checks have been received, including the retention bonus, I will have one last post on our fall work camping jobs with Amazon.  If you want to read more posts on our time at Amazon, you can go to our home page and click on tabs for Amazon.

This was an unusual year for us, as we began our 12 weeks at the center in Campbellsville, KY, where we worked in 2013 as well.  Our second year was going well, and we renewed old friendships, and made new ones as well.  Our final 4 weeks were spent at the center in Jeffersonville, IN (SDF-8).  I have previously blogged about how we ended up there.

Overall, we had a good time up in Jeffersonville, IN.  It was very crazy when we started, as they had just hired on 1400 temporary employees over the last 10 days before we started.  Clearly, management had too many people to watch over, and it was a bit entertaining, and frustrating, watching so many people stand around and not work.  But over the next 10 days, management seemed to catch up, and many of the temps were no longer employed.  Amazon does not tolerate people who have no desire to work.

As far as the work, we enjoyed picking apparel, jewelry and watches compared to some of the heavier items we picked in Campbellsville.  SDF-8 is clean, climate-controlled, and well-organized for picking.  Our managers were very pleased with the performance on the Camperforce team.  Several of them commented that our “numbers” (production) were equal to or even better than their veteran full-timers were doing.  They were hoping that our work ethic would rub off on the “younger” employees!  Over and over we heard how they want to have a full Camperforce team next year, because they would not have to hire so many temporary employees.

HOW MUCH CAN YOU MAKE IN A SEASON?

The center in Kentucky (SDF-1) pays $10.00/hour and includes your campground.  If you work 2nd shift, or the weekend day shift, you will receive an additional $0.60/hour as a shift differential.  If you complete your season, you will receive an additional $1.00/hour for every hour that you work.  In addition, you receive time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in a week.   SDF-1 hires about 500 Camperforce, starting at the end of August, going through the middle of November.  We like working 12 weeks, so we start at the end of September.  The pay rate in Indiana was $10.75/hour.  We have not heard what the pay rate will be for this fall.

Our total gross pay for the 12 weeks at KY/IN was $12,983.61.  This amount does not include the additional bonus money that we received for going to Indiana.  Amazon paid us $1,000.00 each (net) for going up to IN.  This was a one-time deal.  We also each made additional money in gift cards for working there.  Indiana was very generous with gift cards.

For working 59 1/2 hours, we each received a $100.00 VISA gift card (we did this for 2 weeks), and we received another $100.00 in gift cards from Target, Subway, Panera Bread, Applebee’s, and Texas Roadhouse for various contests they held for picking.  Another workcamper won over $400.00 in gift cards for these contests.  From talking with other Camperforce, the IN facility was the most generous facility in perks.  We also had three free pizza lunches, cupcakes, fruit, Panera treats, and several Krispy Crème donut days in Indiana.

WILL WE GO BACK? 

Yes, we will go back for our 3rd peak season!  Amazon is not an easy job, but it pays well for a workcamping job, provides a free campsite, has some nice perks (gift cards), and gets us in good shape!  But the best part of the job, is all the wonderful people that we meet.  There is something about making it through a season that brings people together.  Your co-workers become an extended family, and you can make some wonderful friendships if you want.

Amazon is also a great place to work if you are a single, or have a spouse that does not want or need to work at Amazon.  They just want people who are willing to show up and work for the season.  As long as you realize you are just there to work, and not change the culture of how Amazon does things, you will do just fine.

Also, Amazon is a great way to network about other work camping jobs.  All of our other jobs have come from talking with co-workers about jobs.  In addition, the KY location has an annual job fair in December that is well attended by employers.

WHAT LOCATIONS ARE AVAILABLE?

The program will be changing this year, as the centers in Coffeysville, Kansas and Fernley, Nevada have closed (Amazon has opened newer centers near those locations).  According to Amazon’s Camperforce website, they will have programs in place in KY, TN, IN and Haslet, TX (which is a new site).  The site does state to check after January 15, 2015 for more details.

We have not heard any details on what the pay or campgrounds will be for IN.  We would consider going back to KY or IN, depending on the terms.  We will wait to decide on the location until we have more details.

THE BIGGEST LOSER!

And a drum roll please…..the one thing our families have been waiting for! The final weight loss numbers from our 12 week fitness program. For the first time since the 1980’s Dan weighs under 200 lbs. He lost 14 1/2  pounds this year after losing 27 last year, as well as 5% body fat.  I lost 6 pounds (too many dinners out!) but 6% body fat!

If you have any questions regarding Amazon, please let us know.

Quote for the day:  “I used to work at a movie theater and sold hams at Honey Baked Hams during the holidays.  I sold a ton of hams and they offered me a regular job there, which I turned down.  I feel like anything you do, just do it 100% because then that work ethic will bleed through when it’s time to work on your dreams.”  – Tika Sumpter

 

 

 

50 Shades of Grey

Week #1 of our new adventure at Amazon in Jeffersonville, Indiana is under our belts (or should I say clear plastic fanny packs, as that is what security will allow you to wear?!).  Three more weeks left to get your shopping done, and we will be off to warm (hopefully) and sunny Florida.  This first week has flown by, and went relatively well for the 40 of us sent to Picking.  The 60 folks sent to the Packing department had a few bumpy days, until the management figured out what to do with all of them.  Part of the problem was due to having 1400 people start in 10 days.  Just too many bodies for the staff to keep track of.

Picking apparel has been both easy and challenging.  The easy part is not having to lift anything heavy, with the exception of some giant Ivanka Trump handbags that must have been a Black Friday special.  You could knock a person out with one of those!

The challenging part comes from trying to figure out all the different words the manufacturers use to describe a specific color.  Out is blue, red, green, purple.  In is viridian, amaranth, harlequin and eminence.   So when my scanner is telling me to pick a women’s sweater, medium, in cinereous, I just stare at the different grey sweaters for a while, looking for a medium.  Each item has a bar code on it, and if it is the wrong shade of grey, the scanner will beep at you to let you know you are wrong.

When it comes to fashion, I would describe myself as “fashion illiterate”.  I am a jeans and t-shirt person, but even t-shirts are not just “t-shirts”.  There are ruched long sleeve shirts, princess shirts, popper hem shirts, open shoulder, off shoulder, etc.  And then there are the purses!  Clutches, shoulder bags, cross body bags, top-handle bags, etc.  Fortunately, there are usually only two styles in one bin, so I can figure that one out pretty quickly.  One of our fellow Camperforce associates, an older gentleman, stopped me to say he thought he had a missing item in the bin.  His scanner told him to pick a “clutch”, and he did not see any automobile parts in the bin.  So he started to scan all items, as required if you think the item is missing, and discovered a purse is also a clutch!  He said he never heard that term used before.

This year, all Camperforce associates in all four facilities were given a purple t-shirt, which we have all been wearing at SDF-8.

2014 Camperforce shirt

2014 Camperforce shirt

I have been stopped multiple times by the regular full-time employees at SDF-8.  They are very thankful we are here to help, and ask if we have any questions.  Many are curious about our lifestyle, and think it is great that we are able to do this.  One gal said this has been the worst she has ever seen it since the plant opened in 2012.  She said it is not normally so chaotic, but they just cannot keep up with the demand, and have to hire anyone that comes through the door.

We have been enjoying picking at this facility.  It is very well-organized, but huge.  The pick mods start at aisle 100, and go up to 250.  The bins (start of the row) begin at 20 and end at 980.  Each floor is divided into three sections.  To put that into perspective at Campbellsville, the biggest section (Q) would start at row 1 up to row 102.  Each row would have bins 1 – 95.

Starting with Black Friday, we are now on 11 hour days.  It is not mandatory for the Camperforce to do 11 hours, but we decided to try it, and was pleasantly surprised at how fast the time went by.  We are just not as tired at this facility.  The floors are not plywood, so the feet do not get as tired.  And since the pick areas are so big, we do not have to walk up and down the stairs as often.  Most of the people who have pedometers said they are walking about the same or less as they did in Campbellsville.  We were laughing on break that if we don’t walk more than 10 miles in a day, it just doesn’t feel like we have been working very hard!  Your body really does adapt to the walking after a few weeks.

so true!

so true!

Makena has been doing well.  Her dog walker likes to jog, so she has been jogging in the park across the street with her.  Every day we get a report card on how she is doing, and we really look forward to that.  So far, she is “exceeding expectations”!!

Quote for the day:  “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” – Ann Landers