Monday, December 24, 2018

Amazon debrief......

7:37 am - Monday - December 24th - Nashville, TN - 31º F, humidity 84%, wind 2 mph out of the south by southeast......heavy fog with a forecast high today of 48º F......sunny later in the morning.  It is Christmas Eve and we will be boarding a plane this afternoon to fly home to SoCal to spend Christmas with our kids, grand kids and great grand kids.

It rained most the the night Saturday night, and continued raining until mid afternoon Sunday.  Accompanying the rain was a cold, blustery wind which only served to keep us pinned inside most of the day.  I went outside twice....once to hook up to city water so TLE could do a wash (ran a gray water hose back into the bushes behind our site), and second time to retrieve our one piece of luggage in preparation for packing Monday morning for our plane trip late afternoon back to SoCal.

We entertained ourselves by watching no less than 3 English Premier Soccer matches with the 3rd being Tottenham Hotspurs vs. Everton FC.  Everton scored the first goal, but then the Hotspurs came back with 3 of their own to lead at halftime 3-1.  Both teams matched their individual first half scoring output in the second half making the final score an unlikely 6-2 in favor of the Hotspurs.  It was a great game if you were a Hotspur fan....😊

The rest of the day was filled with one Hallmark Christmas movie after another, and that was pretty much the rest of our Sunday, which concluded about 9 pm when I began to doze in my recliner....time to get to bed!

It's probably time to debrief you on our latest Amazon experience.  You will recall that we had requested to work the night shift, and 'stowing' as our job, but instead we got day shift picking.  It is always a roll of the dice with Amazon, because they assign shifts and jobs based on their current needs the week when you begin working.  Had we come a week earlier, as our friends Ed and Suzanne did, we could have gotten the night shift, but may have been assigned to 'packing'.  All that being said we understood coming in that we might not get that for which we asked, so we just adjusted our thinking and got behind our new assignment.  

Our first time at Amazon was back in October of 2012 in Campbellsville.  We worked the night shift that time and were pickers.  I really did not like picking that time, in fact I loathed it.  On the other hand I loved 'stowing' when we worked at Amazon in Fernley, NV.  I determined at the outset that I would give 'picking' a fresh look and make an effort to not loath it this time.  As it turned out after 8 weeks of doing picking I did not mind it much.  Maybe it was the familiarity with the requirements of the job that made it seem easier this time, I do not know.  In the end most of the jobs at Amazon are repetitive task jobs, and are all boring.  It is the nature of the repetitive task world.  For me it really just came down to a predetermined mindset on my part to be positive and to enjoy the experience as much as I could.  We made good friends, as we always do, and it is those new friends that is the takeaway from the whole experience.

We spent most of our off days resting and recovering for the next week of work.  In all we worked five 5 day weeks, and three 4 day weeks.  We never worked more than 10 hours in any shift.  We could have, if we wished, worked a 6th day some weeks, but we chose not to do that, because when you work six days at Amazon it begins to feel like you are never leaving the building, and I did not want to deal with that feeling.  

When we applied to Amazon this time the hourly wage was only $10/hour, but as the entire world knows now, Jeff Bezos decided to raise the minimum wage at Amazon to $15/hour.  Had we worked no overtime we would have made the same amount of money had we been paid $10/hour and worked tons of overtime.  With the $15/hour wage working overtime put us up to $22.50/hour!  We ended up making more money than we expected, and at this writing we still have one paycheck to go for our last three days, plus our $1/hour for every non-overtime hour worked, plus $1.50/hour for every overtime hour worked.  TLE and I both agree that 7-8 weeks of the Amazon experience is all we can take.  Our first time at Amazon back in 2012 we worked 11 weeks, and that was way too long.

To work at Amazon as a stower, picker, or even a packer you have to be in decent physical shape.  It is not an easy job.  There is a lot of bending over, crouching, kneeling at times, and lifting.  Some totes can get to almost 30 pounds.  You will be handling up to 120+ totes in a 10 hour shift.  There is no way to prepare for standing and walking on cold concrete for 10 hours a day except actually doing it.  To somewhat prepare TLE and I do lots of hiking, and try to stay as fit as possible.  When we hike we always use hiking poles so that our upper body and arms get used.  We both think this is good preparation for the rigors of Amazon, and so far it has worked for us.  The thing you cannot prepare for is how tired your feet get, and for some, how much they can hurt for the first few weeks.  Our first time here we had to soak our feet in epsom salts every morning after returning home from our night shift.  This time we may have soaked them 3, or 4 times at the beginning, but not a all the last 5 weeks.  My biggest physical issue this time were my quadriceps (thigh muscles) from all of the crouching to get into the A and B bins.  I spent my off time doing a lot of deep knee bends and that helped a lot, and as a result the last 5 weeks were pretty tolerable.  

There is really no way to prepare for the job mentally.  It is mind numbingly boring, and unless you wish to spend hours watching butter, or ice melt (of course you do not) in preparation for working at Amazon you just have to figure out how to do your job competently and day dream at the same time.  The time of day is displayed on your Motorola scanner, but I only allowed myself to check the time after I had filled, and dropped off three totes to the conveyor.  It usually took 15-20 minutes for that task.  Sometimes I would get into a rhythm and not check the time for 30, or 40 minutes at a time.  It just helps create the feeling that time is passing at a reasonable rate when you are not checking the time every 3-4 minutes.

Another piece of advice that worked for me.....at breaks and lunch do NOT talk about what you picked, or anything about your job.  Talk about anything else to give your mind a small vacation from the job and its attendant boredom.  After each break, and lunch you will feel much better about returning to work.  At first you will find yourself wanting to talk about your job, but you have to get past that urge.  Get to know your co-workers instead.

As far as footwear for Amazon....well, everyone has their own preference for the type of shoes they will wear, but one universal rule is whatever shoes you buy get them 1/2 size bigger than you would usually wear, because your feet will grown in size from walking 10+ miles per shift.  If your shoes are too tight your feet will hurt at lot!  Personally I wear my Keen hiking shoes when working at Amazon and that has worked well for me.  I saw a lot of people wearing hiking type shoes, but also many who wore some name brand running shoes, or tennis shoes.  Another thing to do (I don't personally do this) is to rub Preparation H on your feet each day prior to your shift to keep the swelling in your feet at a minimum.  TLE does this and swears by it.

Most people who work at Amazon wear shorts and a t-shirt while working.  It is quite warm most of the time inside, but some also carry a long sleeved shirt in case they get into an area of the 1,000,000 square foot building where it is cold, and there are few places like that.  The point is to be as comfortable as you can while working.  I have always worn shorts and a t-shirt at Amazon, and rarely wish I had anything more (long sleeved shirt).  If you can avoid thinking about your clothing, or shoes while you work you have won half the mental battle.

Will we do Amazon again?  Hmmmmm, I'm not sure I know, but probably.  Not for a year, or two for sure, but we will probably do it again, especially if they open up some Camperforce opportunities out west.  Amazon is not for everyone, but if you can take 7-8 weeks of boredom it is a quick money earning opportunity.

Thanks for stopping by!


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