Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What it's like to work at - Dianne's View

Hi all -- Dianne here.   I'm trying to think of something quiet to do not to wake Roger up, so I thought I'd write a blog on just what in the heck it is that we're doing here in Kansas.   We found this job through Workamper magazine.   For our non-camping buddies, this is a magazine devoted to finding part-time or seasonal work for people like us who live and travel in their RVs.  Most of the jobs are at campgrounds or state and national parks, jobs like checking people in, trail maintenance, campground hosts, bird counting, etc.   Many of the jobs are volunteer positions, and you are compensated by a free camp site for the duration of the job.   A lot of that work is easy, part-time work, only about 20 hours a week.   Many RV'ers who do this only work a month here or there. 

I was intrigued by the ad for seasonal work at, because I have shopped there for YEARS.   My friends know that I am not a girlie-girl shopper.  The only browsing I like to do is in hardware stores  or at Costco!   Everything else is either purchased at the grocery store or on line from Amazon, if they carry it.   I have always been impressed that my orders are  always correct and always fast delivery.   I often wondered what it would be like to work at a place like that.   

This blog will be a little different, because, of course, we are not allowed to take pictures in the facility.   We are not even allowed to take our cell phones into the building.   They take great care in security, because it's a giant place chock full of brand-new goodies, especially hot items and best sellers.    If they sell it there, you're not allowed to bring it onto the floor.   Unless I take a water bottle to work, everything I take fits into my jeans pockets.  That's a weird feeling and I always feel like I MUST be forgetting something.   I  just take a little chap stick in my pocket and put my car keys on my belt loop.

We've already discussed how we asked for separate shifts on purpose, because the hours at Amazon are long, and closer to Christmas there is mandatory overtime.  We didn't think it would be fair to the dogs to cage them up that long, even if someone walked them in the middle of the shift.   Right now we're working four 10-hour days (Fri-Mon) with three days off.  Lots of people work either Sun-Wed or Wed-Sat.  

 The Coffeyville, Kansas location is a HUGE fulfillment center, with everything from books/DVDs/CDs to apparel to electronics and lots of "other stuff."   It is highly automated.   Roger and I are what are called each-to-bin "stowers" on "inbound."   (The peak season for receiving merchandise is right now; later the peak will go to "outbound" where they process the orders and ship them out.)

Trucks arrive at the facility with shipments of merchandise.   The "receivers" then unload the shipment and put up to 23 pounds of whatever-it-is into tote boxes on pallets, which are stacked, wrapped, and delivered by fork lifts to the various work areas.   What Roger and I (and hundreds of others) do is take four totes at a time, put them on a cart, and wheel them to find empty spots in little "bins" for each item.  Each item is meticulously tracked on hand-held scanners, from the time it is unloaded until it leaves the building.   

From there, "pickers" roam around these bins, and load up items that have been ordered to take to shipping.   Their scanners tell them what bin to go to to find the items.   The outbound process takes place in another building, so I can't speak much to that, other than this place is FULL of miles of conveyor belts.   A lot of the shipping process is computerized.   It even checks to make sure the box weighs what it is supposed to weigh.   If it doesn't, it gets kicked out and re-checked to make sure all the ordered items are present in the box.

Some jobs require standing in one spot all day.   Some require walking 10-15 miles per day (pickers).   I can tell you that "stowing" is a total-body workout.  It's like being paid to go to the gym!   Roger and I will probably be in better physical shape than we've ever been by the end of our jobs (December 23).   I may even acquire some arm muscles; something I've never had before!   I worried about carrying the scanner around all day and scanning items with my bad arm (residual pain is something I've dealt with since two surgeries 20 years ago on my right arm from a repetitive-strain injury that occurred while I worked as a court reporter).   I have been pleasantly surprised that the job is varied enough that it is not making my arm flare up and I am able to do the work.

Roger says he's not too sore (we leave notes for each other since we don't see each other on our work days).   You stow different merchandise each day or even different parts of each day, depending upon what is being received off the trucks that morning.  On night shift he has mainly been doing apparel and miscellaneous electronics, toys, and other stuff.  

I, on the other hand, am VERY sore, especially my quadriceps muscles.   I have spent most of my week stowing books, including huge medical and reference volumes.   The book area bins are various sizes.   You have to find a space that each item will fit into.   Some bins on shelves are high (we have little step stools that we cart around with us).  Some are right on the ground, so that we have to actually kneel or sit to see what we're doing.   Using the stool for the upper shelves is like a step aerobics workout!   I made the mistake my first day of squatting to do the lower shelves.   I am still paying for it with extremely sore quadriceps muscles from getting up and down from that position.

The temp agency who we actually work through has an excellent video on the web that   shows a visual representation of the different jobs, if you want to learn more.   It can be seen at

This will be good, quick money for us to then take to South Texas and play for two months.   If our house hadn't taken 16 months to sell we might not have needed to do this, but I am glad we are.   We might do it again next year and use that good money for a cruise or overseas trip or something, even if we don't need the money for expenses!   

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