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

Week one of our fitness program is done! (Amazon year 3)

We have finished up our first week as Pickers at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  This is our 3rd year as part of the Camperforce team with Amazon.  After 2 years at the Campbellsville, Kentucky center, we decided to work in Indiana this year.

Last November, we were a part of 98 Camperforce employees that transferred to Jeffersonville, to help out with their peak season (from Thanksgiving to Christmas).  We enjoyed our time there, so when they decided to add this location as part of their Camperforce location, we applied here.  You can read about last years events here.

This year Amazon again offered four locations for their Camperforce program.  That is what they call their work campers that they hire.  Campbellsville and Murfeesboro, TN were the returning centers.  New this year is Jeffersonville, and Haslet, TX.  We briefly considered going to the Texas location, but then we found out that facility uses the robots.  With the robots, you stand in one area, and the robot brings the pod containing the merchandise to you.  Then you pick the item you need, and the next bin is brought to you.  We did not want a stationary job, so we ruled out going to Texas.  We enjoy the freedom you have with picking, along with all the exercise.  We often refer to Amazon as our 12 week fitness plan.  They are paying us to exercise!

Amazon pay/benefits

Amazon has standardized their pay for Camperforce.  It is $10.75/hour at all facilities.  You can earn $1.00/hour completion bonus for every hour that you work, if you make it to your release date (no later than 12/23).  In addition, Amazon pays for your full hook-up campsite, including electricity.  The campsites vary as far as amenities.

Amazon has four 10 hour days, and there will be both voluntary and mandatory overtime, which is paid at time and a half.  The mandatory overtime usually comes in November and December.  Another reason we choose Jeffersonville, is the possibility of a lot of overtime, due to the tremendous growth in the apparel business.

Types of Jobs

I have previously written about the various jobs, so I won’t go into too much detail.  If you are interested in learning more about Amazon, type in the word Amazon in the search box on our website, and it should bring up all the prior posts that I have done.

Amazon has two basic types of jobs:  mobile and stationary.  The mobile jobs are Picking (using a hand-held scanner to identify the location and product, you pick the item and place it in a tote). Stowing is also a mobile job, and you take a cart full  of merchandise and place it on the shelves.

The stationary jobs are Receiving (unloading trucks) and Packing (putting the merchandise in boxes for shipping).

Jeffersonville, IN

Jeffersonville specializes in apparel, shoes, jewelry and watches.  Apparel is the fastest growing segment of Amazon’s business.  This center was opened in 2012, and the business continues to grow.  They are expecting orders to be up 30% over last year.  We have noticed there is more merchandise already than last December when we arrived.

We wanted to work here this year, because Picking is easier than Campbellsville.  You do not get bumped around to different buildings and different floors.  The place is so big, that you can work on one floor most of the day.  And clothing is easier to pick than some of  the big, bulky heavy items that Campbellsville currently carries.

Campbellsville is in the process of remodeling over the next several years, and will eventually be mostly apparel as well.

Week One

Our first week consisted of one eight-hour day with orientation, paperwork and safety school.  The next four days were only 5 hours, and involved working in the picking department.  They refer to this as “work hardening”, and it really helps us get used to all the walking.  This year Amazon is allowing employees to wear Fitbit’s and other wearable exercise tracking devices.  So I will be keeping track of my steps again this year.

Week two consists of the four 10 hour days.  We were happy when they announced voluntary overtime, and we signed up for it.  Camperforce employees are only required to do overtime when it is mandatory, so only a handful of us signed up this week.  Nothing like going right into 50 hour work weeks!

On our two days off, after running a lot of errands, we did go down to the riverfront and walk over from Indiana to Louisville, KY on the Big Four Bridge.  Originally, this was built as a railroad bridge across the Ohio river, it was abandoned in 1969, and was redone into a pedestrian/bicycle bridge in 2013.

Big Four Bridge

Big Four Bridge

Big Four

Big Four

In addition, we got together with several of our fellow Camperforce workers for a nice dinner at Boombozz pizza in Jeffersonville.  You don’t have much time for socializing at work, so it was nice to get together with our fellow workers.  We are going to try to do a weekly get together, as we are all working the same shift in Jeffersonville.

Only 11 more weeks to go….but who’s counting?  (I am!)

Quote for the day:  “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”  – Jimmy Johnson

Hiking with Friends (x 2)

Wow, it is hard to believe that our time here in West Yellowstone is almost over! We have only 4 weeks left of work, before we start venturing back east for a few weeks to visit with family and friends, as well as dentists and doctors (for Dan….Makena and I are good!). Then we will be heading down to begin our fall jobs at Amazon in Jeffersonville, IN.

The temperatures here still get in the low 40’s at night, with 70’s during the day. It has been a very pleasant summer. We have been venturing into Yellowstone every week, mostly for just a few hours, as it gets extremely crowded. Towards the end of August, it should get better, as the kids start going back to school.

Since we need to start increasing our walking to get ready for Amazon, we met up with friends for two hikes last week.  Originally, I was going to do both hikes in one blog, but decided to split them up, as it was getting a bit lengthy. So the second part will be posted in a few days.

On Sunday, we met up with Karen and Al at Biscuit Basin in Yellowstone for a short 3 mile hike to Mystic Falls. We started out looking at the various geysers in the area, the most famous of which is the Sapphire Pool. It had biscuit shaped formations surrounding it, but they were all blown off in the 1959 earthquake (our previous blog gave more details about this earthquake). The beautiful sapphire color remains, and it is one of the prettiest geyser (as far as color) that we have seen this summer.

Sapphire Pool

Sapphire Pool

The trail starts out relatively easy, and then the trail splits off. We had been advised to “go left” as it was the easier route to the falls. We discovered later that was very good advice, as it is much easier to go down the steeper climb of 700 feet, then up! The trail winds along the Little Firehole River, and is very scenic.

the easy trail

the easy trail

Even though there were “bear aware” signs, we did not see any wildlife at all, except this little guy.

our 'wildlife'

our ‘wildlife’

After less than a mile, we reached the 70 foot high Mystic Falls.

Mystic Falls

Mystic Falls

Karen and Al

Karen and Al

We had 2 options, go back the way we came, or take the more strenuous and less scenic route. We all opted for the latter! The new route back down began with a steep climb, but did offer a nice overlook to the Upper Geyser Basin which is about 3 miles away.

Old Faithful in distance

Old Faithful in distance

We continued climbing, and commenting that we are supposed to be ‘heading down’. Al has a GPS tracker on his iPhone, and it indicated we had climbed over 650 feet in a very short distance. We were happy much of it was in the shade of the trees. We stopped at the ‘scenic overlook’ which looked over the parking lot and the Biscuit Basin where we began our hike. In the upper right corner of the photo is the Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful is located.

Biscuit Basin overlook

Biscuit Basin overlook

And then we began a rapid descent, going down switchbacks for most of the way. Al’s GPS indicated we were going down a 12% grade. We met a lot of people huffing and puffing their way up, and were glad we chose the “left” option up, and the “right” option down.  Dan is in the center of the photo below.

heading on down

heading on down

Al is the tiny orange dot in the center of this picture.

Hello Al!

Hello Al!

After we made it back down, we decided to go to the Old Faithful Inn for lunch. After lunch, we discovered a tour of the Inn was in progress, so we tagged along on. The tour lasts about 45 minutes, and is very informative, and includes a view of one of the rooms for rent. This room rents for $109.00 night, and you have your own sink (not original) but do share a bathroom with everyone else on the floor. It was quite the deluxe room back in the early 20th Century!

Old House Room

Old House Room

sink is not original

sink is not original

On the second floor of the Inn, there is an overlook into the dining room where we had lunch.

Dining room

Dining room

The flag inside the Inn contains 45 stars, representing the 45 states at the time the Inn was complete in 1904. By 1912 there were three more stars added to the flag, with Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona being added. The remaining two stars were added when Alaska and Hawaii were added to the union in 1959.

45 stars on the flag

45 stars on the flag

We hope to get together with Karen and Al one more time before we leave this area, to do some more hiking.

Quote for the day: “Hiking is just walking where it’s okay to pee.” – Demetri Martin