2018 Camperforce Season

Our 2018 Amazon Camperforce Timeline

January 13 – Application submitted (Basic questions, a brief personality survey, and the opportunity to upload your resume)

January 18 – Application Approved

February 18 – Application Approved by preferred facility and preliminary offer paperwork received. Now able to select preferred shift, department, start date, etc…

March 27 – List of Campgrounds released, now able to make reservations based on your preferred start date

August 20 – Drug Test and Background Test Ordered

August 31 – Drug Test and Background Check Approved

September 27 – Received Official Start Date of 10/15

October 13 – Arrived at “Amazon Campground” (Amazon will allow you to pull in 2 nights prior to your start date)

October 15 – 4 Hour New Hire Orientation (Shift and Department Revealed)

October 16 – 10 Hour Shift

October 17 – 5 Hour Shift

October 18 – 5 Hour Shift (After this condensed work week you will begin your regular shift)

October-December – See below for hours worked and pay details

December 22 – Last Day Worked, Whoo hoo!

 

How much we worked and what we got paid…

Overall we were offered several overtime opportunities. While they did offer VTO quite often, you are not required to take it. They did, however, cancel 2 MET days, and just didn’t schedule us for one of our overtime days. So that’s lost money, but I feel like our take-home pay was about what I anticipated. What I did not account for was the Boone County Tax, and I felt like the KY state tax was quite high. I kept playing with my W-4, but it didn’t seem to do much. At Married and 2 they were still withholding about 19% total for federal, state, and county. As of 2018 Amazon can only require Camperforce associates to work a maximum of 50 Hours/Week and OT Hours can only be on your scheduled OT day. Camperforce associates do not qualify for holiday pay. And while Amazon cannot force you to work more than 50 hours if the OT is available you can work a maximum of 59 hours per week. Plus during our 10 weeks we accrued 5 hours of Paid Time Off, we only found this out 2 days prior to our departure, so on our last day we did a half day and used our 5 hours of PTO paid at regular time. This will not impact your bonus, take or lose it!

Week 1: 10/15-10/18 24 Regular Hours Worked Gross Pay $276

Week 2 10/23-10/27 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $677 (This was before the big $15 min)

Week 3 10/31-11/3 40 Regular Hours Worked Gross Pay $582

Week 4 11/6-11/10 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $825

Week 5 11/13-11/17 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $825

Week 6 11/21-11/24 30 Regular Hours and 5 Holiday OT Worked Gross Pay $563

Week 7 11/26-12/1 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $825

Week 8 12/4-12/8 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $825

Week 9 12/12-12/15 40 Regular Hours and 5 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $696

Week 10 12/17-12/22 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked and 5 Hours of PTO Gross Pay $900

Season End Bonus Gross $480

Gift Cards Won $185 (It was pretty exciting to go to the local grocery and pay for most of Christmas Dinner, Thanks Amazon!)

What did we take home? $6000 Each! Not bad for 10 weeks of work

 

What about Amazon with kiddos?

This is the first time that our kiddos haven’t had either mom or dad the majority of the day. They are 14 and 12 and just about the best kiddos you could ever ask for. When I go to work in the winter, Dad is home, and when we work over the summer, the kiddos are either in tow or left to their own devices for short periods. This work adventure was tough for me to wrap my head around, I hate leaving my babies, even when I work the tax office. But we decided as a family that this is what we all wanted to do, well unless we were going sell body parts for cash or something. So off we went.

We discussed the possibilities of Hubby and I both working nights and decided that we would not put our family in that situation. If for some reason we both got put on nights one of us would just bow out and go find a gig at Target or something, they pay $12.00 minimum, and we would still get our campsite, etc… paid for with only one of us working Amazon. Fortunately, we both got put on days. I do feel like this was the best scenario for our family. If we had worked opposite shifts, we would almost never see each other, and for those of you who know us, that’s like a totally big deal. And as I write this, I am already thinking about next year because, that’s the one thing I don’t like about the whole Amazon thing, you just don’t know your shift until you get here, and that’s kind of a burden when you have kiddos. Although, I feel like the facility was very accommodating to all of our Camperforce team, and I have high hopes that we could find something that worked for everyone. Anyways…

So the kiddos. I am so proud to report that no one was injured, the house is still standing, I mean as good it can for a home made of cardboard šŸ™‚ and the kiddos didn’t kill each other. I do NOT think this is for kiddos who are NOT uber responsible. They are forced to handle the daily grind, school, chores, etc… All while in a strange place, without mommy and daddy to keep them company. Now for our kids, this just kind of is. It’s no hostel in the middle of Honduras that’s for sure! So to them, I think it was just another 10 weeks of mom and dad’s shenanigans that they were forced to go along with. And that’s why they are going to be absolutely awesome adults!!

They managed the daily chores, keeping us stocked with clean dishes and clean laundry all while managing their busy school schedules. The key for us was keeping them tasked. We take opportunities like this to focus entirely on school. That way we can go at it a little easier when we’re having fun! They stayed up late, got up late, and just barely had enough time to get all the things done before we got home from work. This worked well for us. They also got a cool babysitting gig which occupied their time, and brought in some good cash!

They did start to wear down over the last couple of weeks, I think we all did, but they pushed through, and I think they feel a sense of accomplishment. Again, this is not for the children who push boundaries and make you worry. It’s probably not right for your family if you have little ones or kids who need their time micromanaged. But if you have kiddos that can stick to a schedule, and take pride in doing a good job, and getting their work done, then I highly recommend it.

So would they do it again?

The answer is an overwhelming yes, but only if they get to hang at Disney for a couple of months. I can’t say I blame them!

 

Would we do it again?

More than likely yes. I can’t reiterate enough how good the money is. You will not find winter work that pays quite like Amazon, especially after that significant bump to $15/hour. We both agree that it would be easier now that we know what to expect. And hopefully, we wouldn’t be dealing with so much personal baggage.

Would we go back to the same facility?

This one comes with a few qualifiers.

Leadership – If the same management was in place then I think we would strongly consider heading back to the same facility. I think we built a good rapport with leadership and I feel like we were rewarded for doing a good job. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be picking the majority of the time, but again now that we know what to expect we can hang.

Type of Facility – This building handles apparel, I enjoy small items that are easy to handle. No one’s going to ask me to move a fridge or a flat screen. There won’t be any spills, and you don’t really have to worry about hazard stickers, etc.

Hours Available – This is one thing that concerns me with CVG1 in particular. All we kept hearing is that year after year at this facility peak was getting smaller and smaller. And there was quite a bit of VTO. So I’m not even sure this facility will be around next season due to the lack of work. This is not something that can be predicted, but I would hope that they would only offer Camperforce in areas that will still provide plenty of OT, as that is where the money is.

Weather – It seems like every Camperforce facility is in a cold weather climate. With a little preparation, you can get your RV to a state that will withstand the cold…to an extent! Since my mom is hanging around for peak returns, I will be able to keep up with her and how the weather is doing. We did ok until December. We froze up one time early on when the temp dropped below average during a cold snap, but we made some alterations to our heat tape, and then we did just fine. I feel like weather is changing all over the place, and it’s just getting colder. But really the only facility that’s available right now that would be any better would most likely be Murfreesboro, TN. And even there it can still get quite cold. So until they set up Camperforce in the middle of Costa Rica, I think it’s a crap shoot.

Campground – This probably plays in a little more when you have kids. I really liked our campground. I felt safe. The kids felt safe. And the facilities were clean and maintained. There were no problems with the water freezing up, and the electric was OK. I can only speak to the campgrounds in Murfreesboro, TN, but they did not appear nearly as nice or convenient for the commute.

I do feel like the Camperforce program as a whole could use some improvement. There is a severe lack of communication. And with a few minor changes, I think they could really offer an outstanding program. It does appear, based on conversations and correspondence, that they are trying to grow the program. Of course, I had my own lengthy email that I sent off with some alterations that would make the experience so much smoother. All in all I value the Camperforce program tremendously. Without it winter work, at least for us, would be very difficult to find due to our current obligations. I highly recommend doing a season, even if just out of curiosity. We met some good people. And it felt good to see through a commitment. And too, I am all about perspective. It might not have been a seedy city in some Central American country, but it sure taught me a lot.

 

What our first week was like at CVG1 as Pickers…

We arrived at the Amazon Hiring Center promptly at 8am on Monday. I believe the orientations are held on Mondays so I would urge you to choose a start date that aligns with that schedule. We were the first group to arrive at the hiring center. We received our 2018 Camperforce shirt, lanyards, and a few extra goodies. We completed our I-9 on the laptops provided and then headed to the orientation area. There we handed over our ID’s, watched a couple of hours of new hire videos, and received our shift and department assignments.

Tuesday we arrived at the fulfillment center and received our badges. Once we were through the turnstiles, we got a very brief tour of the employee facilities, such as bathrooms, the breakroom, HR, time clocks, etc… In the “classroom” we reviewed break times, for inbound it’s 9:15am and 2:30pm, with lunch at 11:35am. And tons and tons of safety training, safety is very important to them. We did lots of on the floor training, just learning how to navigate the fulfillment center, and how to do your job as a picker. By lunchtime, we were pulling real orders.

After lunch it was Hubby’s turn, I went off and did my thing. Primarily as a picker, it’s your job to pull items from the bins and fill your totes. And BTW it’s very important to remember the difference between a tote and a bin, HA! It’s kind of funny how much this is drilled into your head. Anyways, once you are ready to work, you activate your scanner, and it tells you exactly where to go in the fulfillment center. I’m still learning my way around, but our first week was spent on the 3rd floor in North MOD, I know that tells you a lot, HA! So you grab a cart full of totes and head to the area on your scanner. The scanner will NOT let you mess up. Scan the bin, scan the item, place tote on the conveyor, rinse and repeat. In a nutshell that’s what you do for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. I just got a pedometer, so I am so curious to see how much we really walk in a day, but I’m guessing at least 5 miles a day. Pretty impressive that Bezos is paying us $15 an hour to get a little healthier HA!

By the end of the day Tuesday, we were beat. Although all of our Disney training proved helpful, we were pretty used to tired feet. Same deal for Wednesday and Thursday, but only 5-hour shifts. And by then, we were both pretty happy to have a long weekend.

All in all, it’s super easy work. A little mundane, and I have to admit at times I contemplated whether this was better than the tax office HA! But not having to work with the general public is always excellent. You’re pretty much on your own. Except when I might steal a passing kiss from hubby in an aisle šŸ™‚

We start our regular shift this week. A full 50 hours. The money is great! And anytime I feel a bit tired I think about all the benefits my body is getting, along with the fact that anyone can do anything for 10 weeks! I’ll keep you posted.

Week 3 Update…

Well, we’ve completed three weeks at Amazon, and wow, are we tired! I know a lot of people speak poorly about the Amazon Camperforce Program due in part to the extreme physical demand it puts on your body, and I can honestly say that I was not prepared for how I would feel physically. That’s not to say that Amazon didn’t warn us. In fact, I still have yet to walk the 10+ miles per day that is listed under the job description. We average about 7 miles per day. I just don’t think you can wrap your head around how your body will feel, but again no fault of Amazon. Then you have to consider your actual duties. I can only speak to picking, but I have to say that it is the worst job I have ever had. It is boring. Mundane. And gives you way too much time to think. Pair that with your severely exhausted and sore body, and well, it’s easy to say that Amazon is a horrible employer who exploits its workers as if we’ve gone back to the dark ages.

So, if it’s so awful why are we doing it?

$$$MONEY$$$ It’s that simple!

Especially with the new wage increase, it is going to be tough to beat Bezos’ Camperforce deal.

Consider this…

$15/Hour

A Free place to live

Free Utilities

Over time at $22.50/Hour

A season End Bonus of $1.00-$1.50/Hour Worked

And the ability to work as little as a few weeks or several months and be welcomed back year after year…

Anyone can do anything for a couple of months. And if this allows us to pursue our passions, then without a doubt it is worth it. And so doable. I can’t imagine doing this full time though, ever! Of course, those of you who know me, know that I can’t really commit to anything for a long time, HA!

At this point, without finishing out the season, and reviewing opportunities for next year, I have to say that this is the best way to earn good cash, in a shortish amount of time as an RV’er. With that said, I will absolutely be looking for other opportunities next year, as well as evaluating our season net, measured in both time/effort and actual paper dollars.

So what about the fulltime/long term employees and the wage increase?

It’s been a little disconcerting talking to some of the fulltime employees. It’s hard to get the facts, but the consensus is that the employees feel betrayed, and they are actually making less money now. It’s well known that the stock options and performance-based incentives have been withdrawn. With that said, I am not sure to what extent or how far up the ladder these items have been affected. Morale seems mediocre at best. On the floor, it feels like a very us against them mentality. Anytime I ask someone how they feel about the wage change; the answer is always the same bleak outlook. And every time we get a message on our scanners to “move quickly because we have to ship out the items” I think to myself how irritated the employees must be knowing that the only bonus they receive for working a little harder is the fact that they’ll get to keep their job.

HOWEVER! It sure worked out for us!!!! And every new employee to come

I’d like to think that it truly is for the benefit of the masses. Amazon sure has done a lot for the consumer. And I can’t help but think how many thousands of jobs have been created, especially in these smaller towns.

My Amazon musings…because there’s not much else to do while picking for 10 hours a day other than think!

PERHAPS…MAYBE…POSSIBLY…AMAZON IS…

  • WEEDING OUT THE OLD EMPLOYEES
  • PLANNING FOR A MORE SEASONAL WORKFORCE
  • ENCOURAGING EMPLOYEES TO PURSUE OTHER CAREER PATHS
  • GEARING UP FOR THE FUTURE BY CREATING LIVE/WORK/PLAY SITES
  • EDGING OUT THE COMPETITION BY BUMPING MINIMUM WAGE ACROSS THE BOARD
  • SCREWING OVER LONGTERM EMPLOYEES JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN
  • GROWING A TOP DOWN BOTTOM UP LIVING WAGE ENVIRONMENT
  • TAKING OVER THE WORLD ONE FULFILLMENT CENTER AT A TIME

So, in my opinion, it’s still too early to tell for the fulltime employee. But as for the Camperforce program, I strongly encourage people to take a step back and realize all of the benefits before passing judgment. For our family, it was a way out….of Alaska that is šŸ™‚ And I think that as the wave of “nomads/wanderlust/full-timers/whatever you want to call yourself” continues to grow programs like this are going to be vital.

Week X Update Oh Wait, Shit I did it again, got too tired and just bailed on the blog HA! Seasons Over Peeps…

Well, guys, we did it!!!!!! We officially had our last day at Amazon. What an incredible journey. And even as I write this, I still can’t quite believe it’s over. It has seriously been quite the rollercoaster of events. Let’s backtrack a bit so I can fill you in on all the details.

For the most part, the days wore on about the same. Just picking items and filling totes. And then it was the big event we were all waiting for, Peak was finally here. It all starts a few days before Thanksgiving and runs through December 23. Amazon’s busiest time of year. So as the week of Thanksgiving arrived schedules were changing, and there was a lot of energy in the air. The word on the street was that Black Friday was big and Cyber Monday was even bigger. So it was all hands on deck. Now here is where I feel this staffing need is extremely site-specific. At CVG1 we primarily do apparel, and generally speaking Black Friday, and Cyber Monday deals are all about the toys and electronics. Sure enough, we come in for Cyber Monday, and we learn that we will be training in ICQA. What does this mean? Well, it means that there wasn’t nearly enough work for all of the employees that they had staffed for, so they needed to push bodies into other departments. Now, you certainly won’t hear me complain. We got paid some serious overtime to train in ICQA, and it’s another department we are now “certified” in. It was just kind of comical. As is the way a lot of the time at Amazon. This is where our personal gripes start to build, with their lack of transparency. Why build this whole thing up, even though all of your long-time employees have seen “true peaks” and know what numbers should be getting called for. It was the same story over and over, every year “peak” at this facility gets a lot less busy, yet they keep staffing for maximum production and then call a shit ton of “VTO” voluntary time off.

I think this is where the full-time employees start to get a little upset. They are being called in for 55 and 60 hour weeks, and then there’s very little work to be done, so you are now offered the VTO. And typically the earliest it gets called is when you are driving into work. Well, I don’t know about you, but at this point, I’m probably going to stick it out. Maybe the upper management really can’t make the call any sooner, but I still don’t understand why they don’t stick to their regular system of overtime, which is called VET, voluntary extra time. This is where they have a signup for all the people who actually want to come in and work, and as far as I understand it, if they get enough volunteers, they don’t have to call mandatory, if they don’t, they do. So to me, it seems like they will pull in the employees who really want to be there, and then maybe on the rare occasion that you do need more bodies you have the ability to call MET, mandatory overtime. But who’s to say what it looks like from the upper management view. Perhaps they can’t make that call that far in advance, maybe they’ve tried this system and it just doesn’t work. Like I’ve said before, you have plenty of time to think as a picker, and I’d rather focus on all of Amazon’s grief than my own, HA! Well, clearly I’ve gotten off on a tangent, as I tend to do, but I think that overall employee morale really affects your time as a Camperforce associate, so I just want to give an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to do this.

So let’s continue…I will say that the number of items needing to be pulled “the bucket” did increase as we got closer to Christmas, not a crazy amount though. And there was still plenty of VTO being offered, almost daily. We even had a couple of mandatory overtime days canceled. Which really sucks as Camperforce, because you’re kind of there just to make money. And again, it would always get called in the afternoon the day before your shift, so you didn’t have time to even think about making a long weekend of it. Anyways, not the end of the world, but from a low-level employees perspective, it seems like they could be more considerate of your time.

So let’s talk about the facility and management a bit. Around that week of Thanksgiving, there was a little miscommunication about holiday pay for Camperforce. The details aren’t necessary but do know that as of 2018 Cmaperforce does not receive holiday pay. So, it was just kind of par for course, yet another Amazon mixup. It baffles me, that a company that is so “customer-centric” so “customer-obsessed” that what seem like simple personnel tasks are greatly screwed up. So when HR approached us about clarifying the holiday pay, I kind of let it all out. I explained that the miscommunications, lack of leadership, and a poorly maintained facility were going to be the demise of the Camperforce program at this particular site. I simply said that we are a small community and I would be shocked if they could get Camperforce to come back to this facility.

And then the craziest thing happened. We were called to an impromptu “roundtable” with the site leader amongst others.

It definitely felt like being called into the principal’s office, and no one gave us any indication of why we were there. In a nutshell, the site leader explained that they like to do these roundtables to get a feel for what the employees have on their minds, what Amazon is doing well and what they can do better. Now here’s where I may be a little narcissistic, but I thought it was quite funny that within 24 hours of me making a comment about Camperforce not returning to this site, here we were sitting with the site leader, again it’s that lack of transparency, but hey we got our sounding board and you know I absolutely got everything out there, of course in a most tactful way. Plus I felt like we had an opportunity to take some of the concerns that we had heard from full-time employees and bring them directly to the rockstar of CVG1, you can’t let an opportunity like that get away. If you can just impart a little change, it’s a step in the right direction.

And then things got even crazier…I feel like they actually listened. At that moment my whole experience with Amazon changed. And honestly, we even saw a real change in the mods as the weeks went on. They said all the right things, did all the right things and followed up. The site leader was seen walking the mods, managers engaged with us on a more frequent, personal basis. We even got the greatest tour of the facility, with one of my favorite managers. I don’t know, I guess I drank the Koolaid, but I sure enjoyed the rest of my time there! HA! Plus, Hubby and I got trained in gift wrap, which is like the coolest thing in the whole entire Amazon world. I can’t thank my manager enough for bringing us into the mix. Being on the floor is such a different experience than being up in the mods. You have such a different outlook on the whole Amazon flow. You feel important. You feel valued. You certainly don’t have all that time to think. It’s pretty awesome.

And here’s where I need to chime in on our personal issues. Imagine having 10 hours a day to just think. Dwell. Contemplate. Evaluate. Ugh! The job is so mundane that you really are just left alone with your thoughts. And for someone like me, that’s a dangerous little game. So I have to be honest and say that we brought a fuck ton of personal baggage to the job on a daily basis…

– Our new trailer was already having problems, granted I knew this would happen but not like a few weeks in. The water heater died, the furnace went out, the fireplace stopped working, one of the interior walls literally popped off… I mean just one thing after another

– Our “new to us truck” was having serious problems on like day 3, we got it fixed, and still the same issues

– My stupid root canal that I had done days before coming down here was giving me serious troubles, I was in so much pain at work that I was miserable, plus every time I thought about it I was infuriated that I spent so much money to be in so much pain

– The house that we waited all summer to rent, losing much needed income, was now being vacated, well not so much vacated immediately, moreover they just stopped paying rent, utilities and took their time vacating, and now we’re thinking who’s going to rent a house in Alaska in the middle of December? Ugh!

And maybe you’re thinking, yup, that’s life! Well, you’re right, but having 10 hours a day with nothing else to occupy your mind was just too overwhelming for me. I should never be left alone with my thoughts on a good day, HA! Let alone when all the things are going wonky. The last couple of months have felt so defeating. Like everything we have been working for is just giving us the biggest fucking middle finger HA! It’s one thing to bust your ass and know that it’s all a means to an end. Like yes, we do this, and it’s all going to be great! But make plans, and well… You get it!

So where did it all shake out?

Well, I would absolutely come back to this facility. And you’re thinking, man this lady is crazy she is all over the place. But, on one condition, only if the same leadership is there. I really feel like after that meeting they took the time to get to know us, and I feel like that would carry some weight if we came back. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be stuck picking for 10 hours a day most days, but I also feel like if we didn’t have so much personal shit going on, that the whole experience early on would have been a lot better.

There’s also a few other perks to this facility:

– Apparel: They only deal with apparel. It’s easy, doesn’t smell, and it isn’t heavy. Imagine working in a facility that did appliances, perfumes, big screen TV’s, etc…

– Campground: We were set to go to Murfreesboro before this facility, so I scoped out those campgrounds. In my opinion, this campground is far better. It’s safe, clean, and an easy drive.

Our personal life:

– Truck: Well the truck is what it is. We had the truck serviced again, still the same probs. And for the most part,t it runs great. We have a few ideas if it keeps acting up. But for now, we are going to see how it does on the drive from here to TN. That’s our next stop.

– Trailer: Hubby managed to get the electric hot water up and running, the furnace fixed, and the wall put back together. The other items are going to wait until FL where we will drop the rig off for warranty work. That was absolutely anticipated. So all is well there.

– House: We have listed the dumb house. I hate that stupid thing with a passion. It all started when we went to build the loft and then got sucked in because of the shitty septic system. Ugh! Anyways, the one renter is out, our other renter is more amazing than anyone out there, and I feel so bad for him that we have to sell. But so goes… Hopefully, we will get this thing sold and out of our hair! Our Alaska House!

Other than some specifics that I will address in other areas I have to say that I am so glad we had this experience. On our last day, it felt great to see through our commitment. Hubby and I both ended in gift wrap, and it’s a pretty cool feeling knowing that you’re the last one to prep the gifts before they go under the tree. I sure won’t miss punching a clock every day. And my favorite sayings… “You get paid the same no matter what” and “Anyone can do anything for a couple of months” are truly put to the test as an Amazon associate. Especially when other employees are literally sleeping in the aisles, leadership just walks over trash, and accountability is practically non-existent. But I digress. Maybe Amazon needs to take a more site-specific approach. Maybe not every market is driven by the “team building activities”. Maybe in the more metro areas, this type of leadership works, but here in the midwest, I’m not so sure. Like at CVG1 I think they should adopt something like Nebraska’s new tourism campaign…

Maybe something like…

I mean you don’ have to make it something that it’s not right?!?! It is just a job, no one is getting up every day and filling up totes out of the kindness of their hearts, it’s all about the paper dollars!

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