Monday, December 22, 2014

We are OUTTA here!!

We finished up our "tour of duty" so to speak, at Amazon. It was a long 7 weeks. We are headed to Arizona and then onto San Diego to be with our kids and grandkids for a few weeks.

We continued in the inbound area stowing and Sean waterspidering until the last week. We were then moved to outbound gift wrapping. I am a terrible wrapper and literally paid my daughter, Meghan, to gift wrap for me from about the age of seven. I even had her wrap her own Christmas gifts after I put them into plain boxes and taped them shut. So when I saw the work list and my name under gift wrapping, I panicked! I went to the supervisor and said if you think I am lousy at stowing, wait until you see my gift wrapping! I even explained how I had paid my daughter for years to do it for me. In typical Amazon style, they didn't really care but they did think it was funny. Ha ha. Fortunately, a coworker took me under her wing and said she would wrap and I could put the ribbon on and the gift tag. Sean was still stowing at this point but he found it VERY humorous that I was gift wrapping...until they sent him the next night. After one night of ribbons and tags I felt like I could handle the actual wrapping. And, like most things, after you do it 5000 times you get pretty good at it. Meghan would be proud! I actually ended up really liking gift wrapping for two reasons. One, they had music! You don't realize how wonderful having music is when you do repetitive boring things for 10 hours. When your stowing the only sound you hear is the whirring of the conveyor belts moving customers purchases from the shelves to shipping. And two, it was very well lit. The rest of the warehouse is on the darker side and my old eyes didn't appreciate the dimness. The bad thing about gift wrapping is that you stand in one place for 10 hours at tables that are too short for me and incredibly too short for Sean. Standing is very hard on our backs. Both of us have bad backs though we can walk all day, we cannot stand for long without feeling great pain. But for Sean it went from uncomfortable to painful. I told the supervisor he was a great waterspider but his exceptional reputation hadn't reached shipping yet. At this point Sean did have one of the taller tables but it was only minimally helpful. Half way through his first shift they asked us to move further up the line to some empty stations. Sean just looked at her and said "absolutely not". He explained that this table was a little taller and he couldn't move to a shorter table. She then said how about if you waterspidered? He happily accepted! Within a few hours his prowess as a waterspider was made apparent and he happily remained in that position for most of the rest of the week. At the end of his first shift waterspidering in gift wrap, an older lady said, "look at that water monkey boy go! He never stops moving and keeps up on everything"!  The next night when he was assigned to waterspider, a group of older ladies cheered! Goodness, the guy is hard enough to live with anyway and now I have old women cheering for him! I will never hear the end of this!!  My claim to fame is by the last night I wrapped approximately 125 gifts in my 10 hour shift. I understand there is a utube where a real full time Amazon guy wraps a gift in 17 seconds....obviously I have a long way to go. 

We had the rig mostly ready to go and so we came home, slept a few hours and hit the road. We spent the night for the very first time in a Wal Mart in Elk City, Oklahoma. For you non Rv folk, Wal Mart happily allows overnighting in their parking lots as long as there is room. We have hesitated to try it out but many people do it and we only wanted to sleep and move on, which we did. We were asleep by 9:00 p.m. and woke up at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. We are now happily day people again!

Our stint at Amazon was many things..... Painful, mind numbingly boring, cold, wet and very busy. It was also briefly interesting, monetarily positive and we met some great people! Will we do it again... Maybe if they have some openings in warmer climates. Rv rigs, no matter how expensive, are not meant to be in pro longed freezing temps. It isn't good for them and it is hard on their owners! Personally, I would rather be financially able to just go and do whatever we want whenever we want but that is not possible financially for us until we win the lottery. And, we really get to know people when we have these types of jobs. You get to know them and hear their stories. We have made some great friends that we will hopefully meet up with again as we all head on down the highway!

    Watching the Broncos at the local dive bar, the Zone

    Went to dinner with our new friends Kathy and Bob. This me and Kathy doing a selfie

    My delicious dinner out....shrimp, chicken, and
    pineapple, served in a pineapple

    51st birthday margarita

      Our Amazon id's and tshirt

    What good is a blog update without a photo of Remi? Here he is 
    in the truck glad to be out of Coffeyville and on the road!

    We pulled into our Rv park in Albuquerque right 
    when the hail hit

Monday, December 1, 2014

Amazon Adventures

We have completed four weeks at Amazon and three of those weeks were five days with 10 hour days. Phew....makes me tired just thinking about it!

The first week was spent in what Amazon refers to as "hardening". I guess that basically means getting you ready for the long days and even longer weeks. Mostly we spent it training, doing paperwork and being bored out of our minds. This hardening first period was four days at 5 hours per day for a whopping 20 hours. The next week we went right into overtime. Normally you work four days a week, 10 hours per day. But, since the holidays were looming near, we went straight to 50 hour work weeks. 

Amazon is divided into two sections - inbound and outbound. We work inbound as "stowers". That means we take merchandise off of carts, scan the UPC code and put them on shelves and bins. Then we scan the bin which has a tag that is alpha and number coordinated.  All of this goes into a very large data base and then once an order is placed, a "picker" (who is a part of the outbound side of the operation) gets the order and is told on their scanner where each item the "stower" put the item. They go to the bin, pick out the item, scan it and then put it in a tote that goes on a conveyor belt to the folks who put the order in boxes. Then someone addresses the package and off it goes!  There are other jobs of course. There is the guys who take the merchandise off the trucks and the people who take the items out of the boxes that were shipped to Amazon and puts them on the carts that go to the stowers. And there are gift wrap people and then all the other folks who assist us in different ways. One of these assisting jobs is called "water spider". They take the carts that have been loaded with merchandise off of the pallets and push them to the spot where the stowers get them and do our part. Water spiders sometimes have to move very fast unloading the carts and loading up the empty carts for the "pit" driver (not sure what pit stands for) has hoisted up onto the many levels. It also can be physically exhausting because the carts can be quite heavy.

Where we work is a very large warehouse. And I mean very large! Some estimates I heard were a million square feet. Amazon calls them fulfillment centers.  I don't know about all of them, but this one is very old and dirty. There are no windows and dust and grime lies on everything. This facility is closing after the holidays because it is just too far away from a large airport and I assume many other reasons. Tulsa is the closest large city and it is over an hour away. This fulfillment center is located in Coffeyville, Kansas. It is a very small, typical mid western town. The houses are old and some actually very quaint but almost all in need of a paint job. The town looks on the verge of fading into memory and probably will get closer to that reality with the closing of Amazon.  I can't say I like is rather depressing.  Below is photo of Coffeyville that I took on a walk and the others are off of the Internet to show you what a fulfillment center looks like. We are not allowed to bring anything into the warehouse that might be misconstrued as stolen property and my iPhone to use as a camera would certainly fall into that category! You have to go through security and metal detectors every time you come off the warehouse floor. There is plenty of high dollar items that many people would love to steal. Especially now that they are soon to be unemployed.

As it turns out, I am not a very good stower. And to be honest, it is a little embarrassing! Usually once a week a young person comes by with a laptop to show me the error of my ways and "counsel" me. They show me on what day I miscounted what object and then ask me "why" that happened. If I could even remember what item you are talking about would be a miracle but then to ask me why I miscounted it? Really? I have no freaking idea and if I did I would stop doing it! What I want to tell them is that I had a 4.0 in grad school but for some darn reason I can't count correctly! Thank god for college as I would have been an incredible failure as a warehouse factory worker. Of course they always assure me that I am not "in trouble" but they just want to help me get better.  Thank goodness as I really, really want to be a better counter. It has always been my dream..... NOT

Now, those of you reading this and know Sean, are probably already thinking that he is probably very good at this job. And he is. His counter is not broken like mine and I think he has only had one or two errors. One of them he told the "counselor" she was wrong and that it was not his error. She double checked and of course, he was right. Because of his great skills they have moved him up and he is now a "water spider" usually half of our shift. And, of course, he is a very good water spider. He is strong and fast so he moves the carts quickly and efficiently. So now he is the "problem solvers" (the guys who are assigned to your area to fix your problems. I.e., things won't scan, are lost, etc.) pet. They tell him how great he is and he even was given a vending buck the other day. Yep, a fake dollar bill to use in the vending machine. Now that is appreciation! Personally, I don't know why he even bothered with college. He could have done this for a career and I bet he would be the head water spider in no time! I would be unemployed.......

We spend 10 hours every day looking at tons of merchandise. It never ceases to amaze me how many things there are in the world to purchase and what a huge consumer of stuff we are! And then I think, and in a few years, this warehouse full of stuff will all be in a landfill.  We are killing our planet with all of these things that we mostly, don't need.  It is really quite shameful when you think of all the people who are just thankful to have food in their bellies let alone 50 different types of pans to cook their dinner in. Here are some of the most incredibly dumb things to buy from Amazon....

There are tons of books on any subject you can imagine. My favorite "Animals with Sharpies". A book of very simplistic animal drawings in black ink and what they might write with a sharpie. I had to flip through this one! My favorite, a mouse writing a note to a cat...."I hate you. You are a shithead. How would you like it if I ate your wife?" Just goes to show you that almost anyone can publish a book!

A cairn. For those of you who don't hike, a cairn is a stack of river rocks stacked up to show you the way on a trail that may not be discernible any other way. So, if you want, you can buy a stack of river rocks with a gift tag explaining what a "cairn" is from Amazon. I guess maybe it has some spiritual aspect? But I am thinking it would be pretty easy to just go to a stream bed and pick up some river rock of various sizes and stack them.....

An electric egg cooker. It is about the size of a toaster. You plug it in and cook your eggs on it. Funny, a frying pan has always worked just fine for me.....

And of course numerous sex toys. Nothing really shocking until I saw a pair of silicone feet. I thought it was a child's toy to paint toenails. You know, like those Barbie heads that you can style the hair over and over again? So I picked it up to check it out and I saw that it is a pair of silicone feet with holes at the ankle. One hole is to replicate an anus and the other a vagina. Talk about having a foot fetish! Yuck!

I could go on and on but these were the top picks for stupid stuff you can buy from Amazon.

As far as the job goes, it is pretty boring spending 10 hours placing items on a shelf. It is not really hard work but you are constantly moving for those 10 hours. Our pedometer estimates we walk around five miles a night. One night of water spidering for Sean was almost 16 miles! Pickers average about 10-12 miles a night. We will probably be moved to pickers in the next few weeks. So, though tiring, it is doable. Working nights is not pleasant but it is also doable. But what we have decided is that combing all of the above with arctic temperatures is just too much. We (mostly Sean) spent every waking hour before work fixing frozen water pipes, leaks and generally preparing for more cold and it's problems when the cold front came through that affected everyone on this side of the country. We survived but it was not fun. And to top it off I had the worst tooth ache of my life. So, unless they have jobs available next holiday season in Arizona, I don't think we will be doing this again. But, never say never!

    And I am complaining?!