We have arrived at our destination…

…for the summer in the Grand Tetons.  After several months of relaxing, it is time to get back to work!  We are both ready to go for the summer.  Before I get into our summer jobs, I will do a little catching up, since it has been 2 months since I last posted.  Now that we are back to work, I promise to update the blog more.

We left Florida at the end of March, when it had started to get hot and humid, and made a bee-line to Elkhart, Indiana to have some routine maintenance work done on the fifth wheel.  Tiara RV was able to squeeze us in, and we would recommend them for service on fifth wheels and travel trailers if you are ever in the area.

Our next stop was “Camp Meyer” (Dan’s sister and brother-in-laws house).  It’s Makena’s favorite “campground” and once again she was very excited when we let her out of the truck.   We parked there for about 5 weeks, while visiting friends/family and taking care of routine medical/dental visits and truck maintenance.  As usual, there is never enough time to visit with everyone, and we hope to see those we missed this fall.

Several trips were made to Oconto Falls, to visit Dan’s parents.  His dad has made remarkable progress in his recovery from guillain-barré syndrome.  Dan was able to take him out golfing, and Makena convinced the ‘grandparents’ that she needed to walk and play multiple times every day.  Grandparents are such easy targets!  We also played many games of ‘hand and foot’, and provided some iPad ‘tech support’.

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Dan’s parents

We had a few nice visits down in the Milwaukee area with friends and family, in between our appointments.  Our good friends Dave and Angie had us over for an excellent BBQ, and Mike and Karlyn took us out for a fun night on the town. We also had a delicious Cinco de Mayo dinner with college friends Robin and Mary  (forgot to bring the camera).

My brother Brian, and sister-in-law Annette had us over for a visit, and we were able to take advantage of some nice weather to get in a short hike in the Kettle Moraine Forest, along with a climb to the top of the fire tower.

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Brian, Dan and Annette

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We stayed at my sister Margie and brother-in-law Greg’s house for a few days, and had a nice time catching up with them, as they are temporary ’empty nesters’ with my nieces both away at college.  Dan and Greg snuck out for a local beer tasting, and seemed to have a good time!

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Cheers from Greg!

I was also able to get together for my annual “patio beer” with a former co-worker, Amy.

Patio Beers!It’s always nice to catch up with family and friends, but we had only a limited amount of time, before beginning our journey west.  First stop: Des Moines, Iowa.  We were able to attend the Drake University College of Pharmacy Hooding Ceremony.  After 6 years, Jasmine received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, along with about 105 other students in the program.  During the ceremony, her father Gary (Dan’s brother) leaned over towards me and said “We now have a Dr. J in the family!”  I think he’s been waiting 6 years to say that!!  I’m not sure what he was happier about:  the fact Jasmine is now a doctor, or the fact that he no longer has anymore college tuition to pay for, as all three daughters are finished with school!

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Congrats Dr. J

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No More Tuition!

While we were in Des Moines, we were able to meet up with fellow RV’er Linda Clayton for dinner.  She will be workcamping for the summer at a campground in northern Wisconsin.  It was nice to catch up with a fellow Amazonian!  I don’t take selfies, so the picture is not very good!  When Linda and I were both Picking together at Amazon, people insisted we were sisters.imageWe left Iowa and continued West through Nebraska and up into Wyoming towards Grand Teton National Park. We will be spending the summer at Luton’s Teton Cabins in Moran, WY.  I will do a separate post in a week or two on our specific jobs and perks. If you want to see what the cabins look like, or follow along on a live web cam of the Grand Tetons, you can click on the link above.

We found this job courtesy of our friends Karen and Al, whom we will be working with this summer.  We have not been doing too much exploring yet, as I have been battling a bad cold, and the weather has been a bit chilly (27 degrees this morning!).  Today it alternated between sunshine and snow flurries which is typical Spring weather for Wyoming!

Our drive into the Tetons was interesting.  Nothing like a snowstorm in late May!

I did manage to plant some basil, cilantro and a container tomato plant.  They were outside for 2 days, and have been sitting inside the RV the past couple of days.  It should warm up next week, so hopefully they will start perking up a bit with some sunshine.

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My summer garden

The big pot was a gift from our former neighbors, The Kierzek’s.  They have four wonderful kids, and they used their thumb and finger prints to create designs on the pot.  Thanks again Adam, Faith, Josh and Ben!!  (and Kyle and Jolie too!)  Hopefully with all the love that went into the pot, it will help produce some good tomatoes this summer!

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Stay tuned, more frequent blog posts to follow!  And as always, thank you for following along on our adventures!

Quote for the Day:  “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

Amazon – season wrap-up

Happy New Year!!

Our final checks from Amazon have been deposited, so it is time for our final post for the season!  Our 12 week fitness plan turned into 13 weeks, as we worked right up until 5:00pm on December 23rd.  This was the latest we worked for Amazon in our three years.  We really did not mind putting in an additional 30 hours.  Our goal of “fatter wallet, slimmer waist” was definitely accomplished this year at SDF-8 in Jeffersonville, IN.

FATTER WALLET

Amazon pays Camperforce employees $10.75/hour, plus your campsite (including electric) in full.  Our total gross pay this season was $15,771.29 for the two of us, which includes our end of season bonus.  This year, we received $1.00/hour for every regular hour and $1.50/hour for every overtime hour that we worked.  We worked every overtime day that was available, except one.

In addition to the pay, we also received $600.00 in Visa gift cards for working three 59 1/2  weeks.  We ended up with $30 in Vendor Bucks, which we cashed out for quarters for laundry.  This will cover a months worth of laundry for us.

We each earned 5 points from “fast starts”, which we used to obtain $5 Applebees gift cards.  They were awarding weekly points if you made your first pick within one minute of when break ended, and within 10 minutes after start up in the morning and after lunch.

I was able to win a $50 Amazon gift card from a picking contest, and a Kindle FireHD 6 for a weekly perfect attendance drawing.  So overall, the extra perks this year were pretty nice for us.

END OF SEASON PARTY

We were pleasantly surprised when our end of season wrap up meeting turned into a little party.  They had provided us with a catered meal from Qdoba, and raffled off three Kindle Fire HD 6 for our group.  The party was on Tuesday the 22nd, and several people were hoping they would release us after the party.  But we did have to go back to work, and work a full 10 hour day on the 23rd.  The general manager was present, and said they will spend some time in the off-season re-evaluating the Camperforce program in Jeffersonville.  He stated they will not have it next year, but maybe in the future.  We would go back to Jeffersonville if they did offer the program again at their center.

SLIMMER WAIST

This year I used a Fitbit Flex, which is the model that clips on to your waist.  I ended up walking a total of 659.30 miles during the 13 weeks of work, averaging about 11 miles per day.   Some days we would have a good pick path, and “only” walk about 8 miles a day.  Dan lost a total of 11 pounds (and is down over 40 pounds since we first started Amazon three years ago), and I ended up losing 12 1/2 pounds.  The hard part now, is keeping that weight off!

WHAT NEXT?

We are currently in Mims, Florida for the next three months.  Our first 5 days of overtime paid for our site, and the gift cards will pay for our groceries.  We hope to hook up with some friends in the area, and make a couple of trips to Walt Disney World before our Florida resident passes expire at the end of the month.  We are not planning on renewing the passes this year, as we want to visit some other attractions.

Quote for the day:  “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.  You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself.  Make New Mistakes.  Make glorious, amazing mistakes.  Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before.  Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is:  art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do It.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” – Neil Gaiman

 

Amazon – 3 days to go!!!

We received our official notice that Wednesday, December 23rd will be our last day at Amazon. At first we thought we would be done on Tuesday, because they are having a party for us Tuesday afternoon.  But then our Camperforce HR person said she is off Wednesday, and that is why our party is the day before.   As such, we did sign up for voluntary work on Monday, so we will have three 10 hour days this week.  We decided against doing the 11 hour days, since we would not be getting any overtime.  And it is nice to see daylight when we leave work, instead of arriving in the dark, and leaving in the dark.  Makena also likes it because she gets a chance to play football outside while it is still light out!

We are actually happy to go all the way to the 23rd, as this continues our goal of ‘fatter wallet, slimmer waist’!  Tuesday December 22 is the last day for guaranteed 2 day delivery, so we expect Wednesday to be very busy.

MAKING HISTORY…AGAIN

The center has been super busy, continuing to set records this past week.  Once again, we set a new all-time picking record on our shift, picking 387,000 units!  And we had back-to-back days where both first and second shift picked over 700,000 units.  Seems like a lot of people will be getting flannel pajamas, bathrobes, socks and underwear for Christmas!

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MORE PERKS

We continue to earn ‘vendor bucks’ and have received $27.00 so far, which we promptly cashed out in quarters (free laundry!).  I am glad they removed the metal detectors, so I don’t have to empty my pockets!

We have also completed all three 59 1/2 hour weeks, so we have earned a total of $600.00 in Visa gift cards!  It was a long stretch, not sure if we would do that again.

In addition, I was shocked when I heard my name announced as one of the three weekly winners of the perfect attendance drawing.  I received a Kindle Fire HD 6 tablet.  I can’t  tell you anything about it, as I have not had time to do anything with it, other than opening up the box and making sure it was not broken.  That will be a project for January.

LAST YEAR FOR CAMPERFORCE AT SDF-8

In addition to telling us about our party and last day, they also advised they will not have another Camperforce program at SDF-8 in Jeffersonville, IN.  The operations manager has stated we are just too small to make that much of an impact at their center.  After 3 years, they have finally been able to hire and retain enough full-time staff to fill their needs, with supplementing temporary staff during Peak.

He did mention another location that would be a better fit for a Camperforce site, as that location is more rural, and has a hard time getting staff.  We hope they look into pursuing this location, as we would certainly consider applying to that location (since nothing is official, I won’t mention the location).  Several full-time Amazon employees that we talked to were disappointed about the cancelling of the program.  They said ‘every one of you works hard’ and ‘you folks make work fun’ is the common comments that I heard.  So even though we don’t make a significant impact with management, we certainly do with the employees.

Five Camperforce employees will be staying on and converting to full-time Amazon employees after our release.  They will continue to live in their RV’s although Amazon will not be paying for their campsite.  Each has their own reasons for doing so, and we wish them well.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Normally, Amazon pays for your campsite one day after your release day.  But for whatever reason, the arrangement here was month to month, based on your start date.  So our campsite is paid up through 12/27.  Since the weather will be in the 60’s this week (the weather has been great all season), we have decided to take advantage of our free site and stay a few extra days, instead of traveling Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We are tired, and plan on resting up a few days, before our 900 mile trip to warm and sunny Florida.

We hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and safe travels if you will be out visiting friends and family over the holidays!

We will miss seeing our family and friends, but perhaps they can come visit or face time/skype us? (hint, hint)

Quote for the day:  “One week at Amazon, is like a month at any other job.” – Jim, a fellow carpooler and Camperforce employee

 

 

 

Amazon – will it ever end?

We are just beginning week 12, and we still do not have an end date yet.  When you sign up for Amazon Camperforce, you agree to work until 12/23.  That is the last date they will keep you working.  The past 2 years, we were out around the 2oth.  This year, we have been speculating that 12/19 will be our last day, since it is the end of the work week (Wed – Saturday).

The motto for Amazon is “Work Hard.  Have Fun.  Make History.”  We have been doing all three here in Jeffersonville, IN.

WORK HARD 

We are on week three of 59 1/2 hour work weeks, and our bodies are tired.  The mindless walking for 11 hour days does take it’s toll on our minds and bodies.  I can only talk to myself for so long!  Sometimes I start to have strange conversations, and ponder such things as:

– Do all these people buying yoga pants, really do yoga?

– Is Calvin Klein related to Ann Klein?

– When did ‘adult’ coloring books become so popular?

Yes, working 18 of 21 days makes the brain turn to mush.  The body and mind are exhausted.  This year, they have added 5 extra minutes to our afternoon break, which may sound trivial, but we appreciate having 5 more minutes to sit and relax.

On Tuesdays, we pick up our $100 Visa gift cards, so that alleviates some of the pain!  And getting 19 1/2 hours of time and a half pay is also nice!

HAVE FUN 

Amazon tries to keep employee moral high during peak, by providing meals, treats, and incentives.  In addition to the Thanksgiving meal, we have had pizza provided for lunch three times, and had mini banana nut bread loaves as a break treat.

They are also having many contests, although it is a bit more stingy than last year.  Instead of having a lot of smaller prizes, they are offering a $500 Visa gift card every day to one person, for perfect attendance.  In addition, they have a weekly attendance drawing for a Kindle Fire HD 6.  One of our fellow Camperforce won this!

They started offering ‘vendor bucks’ as incentives for picking over 200 items per session.  The bucks are like play money, that is used for the vending machine.  At first we were not excited about winning money for the vending machine, until we discovered we can just hit the change button, and receive 4 quarters back!  We do not have a washer/dryer in our unit, so receiving free quarters is a bonus!  To date, we have received $19 in free quarters!  So Amazon is currently paying for our laundry!

They also have $25 and $50 Amazon gift card drawings as prizes, based on the number of items you have picked.  I was fortunate to win a $50 Amazon gift card from one of the drawings.

MAKE HISTORY 

Our facility has been pretty busy, although compared to last year, it seems like we are slow.  Last year was such a crazy, chaotic time.  This year, management has done a much better job preparing for peak season.  It has gone pretty smooth.  On 12/1, our day shift Picking department set a new record of picking 357,000 units.  They also set a 24 hour record of picking 690,o00 units, and another record of 3,900,000 units in one week.

This week, they are having “crush” week, and they are trying to go over 700,000 units in a day.  We shall see!  Between Black Friday/Cyber Monday, 15% of all Amazon orders world wide were fulfilled by our center.  So we are making history at SDF-8!

ODDS AND ENDS 

We continue to pick a lot of ugly Christmas and ugly Hannakuh sweaters.  Coats, purses, wallets and plush bathrobes are very popular.  Star Wars apparel is also selling like crazy.

We had our ‘last supper’ with our Jeffersonville group tonight.  Having everyone on the same shift has been great!  We have met a lot of wonderful people, and really have been able to spend more time with everyone as a result of carpooling, and working together.

Here are a few pictures from dinner tonight, at Big 4 Burgers in Jeffersonville, IN.

 

 

Hopefully we will find out our end date in a few days.  Once we are done, I will have a wrap-up on our time here at SDF-8.

Quote for the day:  “Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship,  explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it.” – Bill Bradley

Peak Season Is Approaching!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of France.  We simply cannot imagine the fear and horror that their citizens are going through.  Every day that we have, we feel blessed that we are able to do what we are doing.  We never know how much time we have, so enjoy each day.  Always try to remember what is truly important.

AMAZON UPDATE

We have just finished week seven, and are down to “one hand” (5 weeks = 5 fingers)!  Last week, they did not have voluntary overtime available when we finished our week on Saturday.  But by Monday, the orders had picked up, and it was offered. (they have an overtime hotline telephone number that you can call).   Since we had already done 5 weeks in a row of overtime, we decided to rest, and spend more time with our dog Makena (I think she will have something to blog about soon!).  In looking back at last years calendar, we did not have any overtime until November 14, so we are already ahead of last year.

This past week, they announced that Outbound (Pickers, Packers, and Shipping) would not be offered any voluntary overtime, since they wanted everyone to rest up for peak season.   We were a little disappointed, until they announced the return of the $100 gift card incentive!  Last year, they offered an incentive that if you signed up to work 59 1/2 hours, you would receive a $100 VISA gift card. In October, the senior management team stated they might not offer that incentive this year, and said we would probably just work 55 hour weeks (five 11 hour days).

However, orders are already way up over last year in the month of November, so they are again offering this incentive.  It will be for the 3 weeks of December.  We will be able to do this for two weeks, possibly all three depending on our release day.  So we have the opportunity to earn an additional $400 (maybe $600) in addition to all the extra overtime (19 1/2 hours overtime each week, adds up$$).

Starting Black Friday, we will be starting our shift one hour earlier, and going to 11 hour work days (voluntary for the Camperforce, but mandatory for regular and temporary employees).  There are six of us in our carpool, and we all decided to take advantage of all the overtime offered.

Last week they had red and blue frosted sugar cookies for us on Veterans Day.  To all the men and women that have served, and are serving our country, we thank you!!  Especially my brothers Greg and Jerry!!

This week Amazon is providing a catered Thanksgiving meal for all their employees.  We really appreciate this, as we miss out on spending Thanksgiving with our families.  But having a meal with our fellow Camperforce (our current “family”) is something we enjoy.  And speaking of Thanksgiving, I thought we were done picking costumes, but apparently a lot of people will be dressing up as Pilgrims, based on the large number of Pilgrim costumes I have picked this week.

AMAZON PRIME DAY

And finally, you may remember Amazon tried out a new sales event, Prime Day, on July 15.  Many people bashed it when the sale started, stating they did not have enough “good things” on sale.  Amazon has an employee magazine that I was reading, and they had an article on their Prime Day.  As it turned out, it was the single largest sale day ever in the history of Amazon.  34.4 million items were ordered, which equates to a rate of 398 items ordered per second!  As such, Prime Day will return again next year.

In addition to Amazon devices (Fire TV stick, Kindles and Fire Tablet), the following were the top-selling items in each country:

United States:  Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Germany and Australia:  Croc Sandals

Canada:  Huggies Diapers

France:  Monopoly boardgame

Japan:  10 day Green Smoothie Cleanse (yes, really!)

Quote for the day:  “People sure do buy a lot of crap!”  – Mary Lloyd McDonald (who is one of our carpool riders, after her first week of Picking!)