Amazon – has it been 4 weeks already??!!

Wow, we can’t believe we have just finished our fourth week at Amazon.  What a difference a year makes!

Last year, our first at Amazon, was so frustrating at the beginning.  The physical part of walking all day was not so much a problem.  But the confusion of learning where everything was in the building, as well as the mind-numbing tedious nature to our jobs made for a difficult first month.  This year was truly a ‘piece of cake’!

The two hardest parts of Picking is learning the buildings, as you will be all over the place, and you must do so in a very timely manner.  The second part is just accepting the fact that Picking is a very, very boring job.  You will spend most of the day talking to yourself, as that is who you will be working with!  Breaks and lunch are the only time you really have to talk with anyone, other than a quick ‘hi’ when you are passing people in the building.

You can prepare for the physical nature of the job, but the mental part was truly an adjustment.  This year, knowing full well what we were getting into, made for a much easier transition.  You have to give yourself 4 weeks to not only condition your body, but your mind as well.  Most of the folks who quit, usually do so before their fourth week.  But if you can stick it out, you will meet a lot of nice people, learn about good/bad places to work, and get in shape as well.

Heartland Campground

This year we decided to stay at the campground that is technically across the street from Amazon in Campbellsville, KY, Heartland Campground.  Most people here refer to it as the ‘rockpile’, as it is really nothing more than a gravel parking lot, with white paint outlining your site.  But it has 50 amp, water and sewer, and Amazon pays 100% of the cost.  Although the Green River State Park where we stayed last year is beautiful, we decided to save time and gas money by walking to work.  The parking lot at Amazon gets very congested after Thanksgiving, and we spent a lot of time waiting in long lines.

Heartland Camground

Heartland Campground

If you look closely at the right center of the picture, you can see Amazon.  Not exactly ‘across the street’.  From our door to Amazon, it takes us 8 minutes to walk (a little quicker on those 45 degree mornings!)

Amazon in the distance

Amazon in the distance

Here is a zoomed in photograph of Amazon from the roof of our fifth wheel.



This campground has space for 100 RV’s, of all sizes and shapes.  We opted for the farthest row from Amazon, as it overlooks some green space.  We chose our spot so Makena would be looking into trees, and not other people. It also is a good area to walk Makena and play some football (it’s always about the pets, you know!)

view out back window

view out back window

Amazon Updates

This week we attended the ‘all hands on deck’ meeting for the month of October.  It is the last all staff meeting for the year.  The first thing the general manager emphasized, was that this facility was not going to close.  Last month, it was announced the center in Coffeysville, Kansas will be closing in February.  (this is one of four sites they hire workcampers at).  All the employees at that location can transfer to any facility of their choosing.  Apparently since that announcement, the rumors were flying that this location would be next.  The GM emphasized they have just signed a new long-term lease here, and they were making many improvements to the facility, including the repaving of the parking lot, which has already begun.  That seemed to make a lot of people happy.

They also talked about the projections for peak season, as well as overtime.  It looks like we will be able to get the same amount of overtime as last year, for outbound (picking and packing).  Inbound (stowing and receiving), will have even more overtime opportunities.  They will be hiring another 1500 people for the peak season, so the building will be getting pretty full, as it was last year.

The employees celebrating their 15 years at this location were also announced to the group.  The GM said this location has the most employees with the longest tenure at Amazon.  In  addition to receiving an additional grant of $2000.00 in stock options, they received a $100 Visa gift card, and a nice jacket.  One of the gals wore an orange shirt with the words “15 years of hard time” on the back!  That got a laugh out of the group.  She said in 4 years she will be ‘paroled’!

The GM also talked about the bonus for the regular employees for October.  Apparently, every month that you have perfect attendance at Amazon, you get a 4% bonus.  During the months of October thru December, it is doubled.  And if the facility meets their production goal, there is a 6% bonus for the employees.  The GM said they are on track to meeting the production bonus, which means the employees with perfect attendance will receive a bonus of 14% for the month, based on their base pay.  That made a lot of people happy.

We haven’t been doing too much on our days off.  Just resting and getting caught up on some things we neglected this summer.

Quote for the day:  “All things are difficult, before they are easy.” – Thomas Fuller




Amazon, our 12 week fitness program


We started our fall work camping job, at Amazon, in Campbellsville, KY on September 30.  This is our 2nd year at Amazon (you can search through our September – December 2013 blogs if you want to read more on our first year, or on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail).  This year they changed the first week format a little, as we started on a Tuesday, with orientation and safety school.  We worked 5 hour shifts Wednesday thru Friday, in your assigned department. Saturday was an off day for everyone that started that week.  Week two you go to your regular work days, but only 5 hour shifts again, for “work hardening”.

We are group number 6 (they start a new group each week, until November 14th) and had about 35 people in our group, only 3 of us assigned to first shift picking.  Here is a  photo of our group:

Group #6

Group #6

We asked for, and received, the same shift/department as last year.  “A” shift, which is Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, from 6:30am – 5:00pm, with a 30 minute lunch break.  We will be Pickers again.

A little history about Amazon and Campbellsville, KY

The warehouse, or Fulfillment Facility as Amazon calls the building, is one of the 5 oldest facilities.  It was originally a Fruit of the Loom factory, and when they relocated to another country, it caused massive unemployment in this small community.  Amazon bought the facility in 1999, and just celebrated 15 years in this location.  Many of the employees that started with them, are still here.

And if you think back to 1999, how many of you were ordering items from Amazon?  They were mostly selling books back then, and now they sell just about everything.  As Amazon has grown, they have used all the space in this building, which makes for some challenges when picking items.  Things do not go in alphabetical or numeric order, like they would in a newer facility.  And even this year, they have added even more shelves in some areas.

Work camper positions at Amazon

Amazon divides up their positions into Inbound and Outbound areas. Inbound is Receiving and Stowing, outbound is Picking and Packing.  There is also ICQA, which is the quality control department. There are other jobs in these areas that they may transfer you to when needed.  Dan and I both did ICQA a few days last year (very hard on the knees), and Dan was in transship in the mornings a few times, which he enjoyed.  I was in gift wrap for one afternoon, which was horrible!  Amazon has very high standards for how a package should be wrapped, and no matter how hard I tried, my packages looked rumpled.   No matter where you are, the jobs are physical.  They run two shifts, 10 hours each.

In simple terms, Receiving unloads trucks and puts the merchandise on carts.  Stowers take the carts of merchandise and put it on the shelves.  There is no pattern to where the items go.

Pickers have a cart and a scanner, and go pick the items off the shelf, put them in a tote, and on to a conveyor belt.  The totes go to the various Packing departments, where they are sorted, boxed up, and sent on to be loaded on to the trucks.  Everything is bar-coded, and no customer information is ever displayed.

When you interview with Amazon, they make no secret of how strenuous the positions are.  Many  workcampers have said this is the hardest job they have ever done.  We both agree with that, and add that Picking is also the most boring job we have ever had.  But here we are for our 2nd year!  Why?

As the title of our blog implies, this is our 12 week fitness program.  Last year Dan lost 28 pounds and I lost 8 pounds, in 12 weeks, even with greatly increasing the amount of food we consumed.  Some people pay to join a gym, we have Amazon pay us to walk, and walk, and walk.

We enjoy Picking because you are left on your own to work.  It’s just you and your scanner (which we occasionally yell at!).  On average, you can walk about 10 miles plus a day in Picking.  There are 4 floors (Pick mods) in three buildings so you will be walking up and down the stairs as well.  Items are in bins, and your scanner will tell you where to go, what item is needed, and the quantity.  Some days you will spend an hour or two in the same area (pick mod), and other times you will be moving all over between the buildings.

All workcampers have to meet production standards.  They expect the workcampers to perform at 85% of what the regular full time employees do.  In Picking, this means if an employee should be picking 100 items per hour, we need to be picking 85 items.  All workcampers are expected to be at 100% for quality.  If a customer orders a red, medium shirt, you need to pick a red, medium shirt.  If you don’t, your scanner will beep at you.  Quality is very important, as every customer service is very important to Amazon.


Quote of the day:  “There’ll always be serendipity involved in discovery.” – Jeff Bezos (founder of

A Giant Scavenger Hunt

Today was our first day in our specific job assignment at Amazon.  We are assigned to Picking, which is the most mobile of all the jobs.  Today was just a five-hour workday, and the first half was going to “Picking School”.  We had 2 excellent and patient trainers that worked with our group of 10 Workampers.  In very simple terms, you have a scanner, and it tells you where to go in the building, what aisle, and what shelf and bin.  The hardest part is just figuring out where to go, as there are 3 buildings in the warehouse, all connected. I felt like we were on a scavenger hunt all afternoon.

After our 15 minute break, they let us loose, and we started to pick actual customer orders.  There are no names or anything associated with the scanner.  Everything is done by bar codes.  And there is no rhyme or reason about what is on the shelves.  The Stowers (people who put the merchandise away to be picked), just put the merchandise wherever they find an opening.  So you can pick 5 items from one shelf, and then 5 more of the same item in another aisle.  And the variety of items is amazing.  It’s very fast paced, but not very difficult.

And yes, I decided I better start wearing my glasses, so I can read the tiny little print on some of these items!

Tomorrow we have another 5 hour shift, and they will probably give us orders in another building.  Today we just stayed in one building.  I am going to try to find my pedometer, and see how much walking I am doing.  They have coolers of bottled water all over the buildings, and free Gatorade and coffee in the break room.  Of course the safety lady stopped and reminded me to keep 2 hands on my cart when I am going down the aisles.  They are very safety oriented at Amazon.

Makena was very excited to see us when we got home, and we went for a long walk around the park.  They are starting to decorate for Halloween here at the State Park as they have a big Halloween Party in a few weeks.  The park is also starting to fill back up, and there are lots of kids, which was a bit puzzling. Kentucky has no standard start date for their schools.  The schools around here start in early August, and they are now on a Fall break for the week.  And they are done in May.  The schools in the northern part of Kentucky are on a different schedule.

Quote for the day:  If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito – Dali Lama