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Monday, December 15, 2014

Last Weekend and Some End of Season Thoughts

Location: Louisville, KY (High 54 , Low 49)

We are sitting here this morning enjoying a cup of coffee and happy to be having our last weekend of this Amazon peak season. We are going to start getting our stuff packed up and ready to pull out on Sunday morning. From the weather report, it also looks like we may get to “enjoy” a little last minute snow on Saturday before we start on our journey south. (Really, Mother Nature, you didn’t have to give us a going away present!)

I was thinking yesterday about what a different season it’s been this year. Coming to Jeffersonville in the middle of peak was definitely an unexpected turn of events. The two facilities are very different, but it’s hard to make a straight comparison since we were not working in the same department in each one.

When we started in Receiving back in September, there was basically no transition time needed. We were doing the same job that we were last year, and we fell back into the swing of things like we had never been gone. The work was hard and physically demanding, but we were not quite as sore as we had been last year. Heartland CampgroundWe loved staying at Heartland Campground right across the street. It was so nice to just walk out in the morning and walk right over to work. We also discovered that we really enjoyed eating at the local college in town and ate there at least twice a week most of the season.

Expo CtrThen came the move to Jeffersonville on November 22nd. We are parked in the Expo Center which really wasn’t a huge transition from Heartland. haha  (We went from gravel to concrete.)


The facility move was a transition though. It was like moving from a small country high school to a big urban college.  If we had started at Jeffersonville (SDF8) without ever having been to Campbellsville (SDF1), we probably wouldn’t have thought anything of it. Everything at SDF1 is so small and personal. The managers know who you are and make small talk, etc. Training is done differently, assignments are done by name. It’s just smaller. At SDF8, it is so huge and there are so many people, that we are just one of many. We don’t even know what our manager looks like, and as far as we know, we haven’t talked to him.

Is it horrible? No. It is just more impersonal than we are used to. Are we sorry we came? No. It has been good to see how things are done in another facility, and of course the extra money doesn’t hurt either. Open-mouthed smile Would we come back? (It has been said that they are going to have a camperforce program here in the future.) Well, with that ol’ caveat “never say never”…no, at this time, we would not want to come back here to work for a season. Although some people do like it here and have stated that they would come back. Some people like the urban setting. Some like that the facility is newer and cleaner. Some like that the product lines of clothing and jewelry make the work less physically taxing. We like all of those things, but the bottom line for us is that we like the smaller rural area/atmosphere of Campbellsville better.

For those who are interested, I will do another post in a few weeks with all of the financial/numbers “stuff”. Our last paycheck won’t be until January so it will be after that.

Six days until departure day!!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Starting to Wrap Up

Location: Louisville, KY (High 43, Low 31)

After almost sixteen weeks this season working at Amazon, we are starting to feel like we are finally heading down the final stretch. The work load seems to have decreased a bit, and they have actually offered VTO (voluntary time off) to people in outbound over the past couple of days. We didn’t take them up on VTO, but we did enjoy some time off of another kind. One of the changes for camperforce this year was the opportunity to accrue paid time off – five hours for each 320 hours worked. We checked our accrued time a couple days ago and were excited to see that we had worked enough hours to earn ten paid hours of personal time. Today was the first day we used any paid time off. (It was also great because we were able to carpool with our friends and next door neighbors, Dave and Kathy, who started at Amazon the same time we did.) Walking outside today at 1 pm, I felt like I was participating in a jail break! And even better, we still have six hours to use in the next few days.

Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am, we will be heading to a short meeting with the rest of the camperforce to find out the details of this year’s release from the program. We still expect to be getting done a week from tomorrow, but tomorrow morning we will know for sure. We are very VERY ready!!!

IMG_3728And in other news, today marks our two year anniversary of living on the road full-time! It was that day that we moved our fifth wheel from our driveway to Brookside Campground in Catskill NY. It’s been a great two years on the road and we hope to celebrate many more! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Busy Week Two at Jeffersonville

Location: Louisville, KY (High 52, Low 36)

It has been a busy busy week, there’s no other way to put it. Last Wednesday we headed in for the beginning of our first full round of 11 hour days. At least getting up in the morning was not anything different as we left at the same time as we have been heading to work all season. The only difference in the morning is the 30 minute bus ride into work. Getting home later is the big difference.

On Wednesday Harry and I both worked in gift wrap again. Harry stayed pretty busy working in slam, but up front it was a much slower pace. I spent a lot of time hanging around waiting for work and it made the day seem very long. I learned how to rebin, which meant compiling orders with multiple items out of a number of totes.

When we headed in to work on Thursday, the first thing announced at the morning meeting was that anyone trained in packing should move to the other side of the second floor to the packing section. There are 8 packing lines with about two dozen packing stations on each one. They don’t assign a station so you just walk around and find an empty one. Harry and I found two empty ones next to each other and got busy packing. There was a lot of work and the day went by so fast. We were in packing the rest of the work week. The days are still long but at least they go by faster.

That’s been about the extent of our week. Every day we have gotten home about 7 pm. We have a bowl of soup or some other easily warmed up meal and watch the news, and then head to bed.

Although eleven hour work days seem more intense than six ten hour work days, I am very glad today since it means that we now have two days off ahead of us. In a few minutes we’re heading over to Cracker Barrel to enjoy a nice breakfast and then we will be ready to enjoy a nice relaxing day off.

We have been very lucky that the weather has stayed warm. One of our biggest concerns in coming to the Expo was the fact that they turn the water off when the weather gets below freezing. So we have been very very happy as we got into December and the weather stayed warm enough that it was a non issue. At this point we can see from the weather forecast of the next ten days that we should make it through the whole time with water.

We have unofficially heard that our release date is going to be at end of shift on the 20th of December. It is of course subject to change but we are supposed to get the official and final word on Saturday. If we do get released that day, it means we have NINE more working days until SWEET FREEDOM!! We are both VERY ready!!

Edit to add photo…

Here we are at Cracker Barrel…do we look ready to get done or what?? Smile

Breakfast at Cracker Barrel

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Three Weeks Left

Location: Louisville, KY (High 45, Low 39)

We have now made it through Black Friday and Cyber Monday! Black Friday seemed pretty low key to me. Over in gift wrap where we were, the work was coming in very slowly, and by midday they shut down the line that Harry and I were both working on and moved us over to packing for the rest of the day.

Yesterday was the opposite. The work trickled in kind of slowly throughout the morning and after lunch, it was like someone flipped a switch and all of a sudden the gift wrap orders started flooding in. It was great to be busy. The day went by SO fast. Working in packing is very different from receiving. To me, there is more of a connection with the customer. I like the idea that I am sending out gifts for people, and it is a very different feeling to me than just stocking random merchandise. On a related note, I never realized how many people just write “enjoy your gift” for their gift message.

I think probably my biggest dislike about this work schedule is that our body clocks have been so messed up. Even on days off, I’ve been waking up at 3:30 or 4 am. So I didn’t have much hope for a good night’s sleep when we headed to bed last night. I was pleasantly surprised though. I did wake up at 4, but I put the news on, and fell back asleep until about 6:30. Oh so nice. I feel very refreshed this morning.

We have today to rest up and then tomorrow we start our first five days in a row of 11 hour days. We are heading down the marathon home stretch! Three weeks from today is the 23rd and our official “no matter what” release date! We are almost there.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Jeffersonville Week One

Location: Louisville, KY (High 59, Low 32)

Wow, it’s been quite the week. Harry and I have found this facility to be quite different from what we are used to in Campbellsville. We knew it would be, but knowing, and adjusting to the difference, are two different things. I think we have settled in though and are now enjoying the experience more than we were the beginning of the week.

Some of the differences here are just because of its size and location. I was thinking yesterday that coming to this facility is like moving from a small town high school or small private college to one in a urban area. Just because of the numbers, some of the personal touch is lost. At the start up meetings in Campbellsville, there’s one big circle. (Well what I thought was big until we got here.) Even at our largest, right before we left to come to Jeffersonville, in the morning meeting, you could look around and see everyone. Here, there are SO many people. At the startup meetings, most people can’t even hear what the manager or PA (like an assistant manager) is saying. In Campbellsville, there is a list with everyone’s assignment. Here there is a board with assignments, but there are only a fraction of the people listed. No one who is new is on there, and here there are a LOT of new people. So basically in the morning, everyone goes and finds a job. Most days you just go where you were the day before and start doing whatever you were doing.

The first couple of days were very strange. Mostly because of the point I just made. Being new to the place, we didn’t have a job we’d been doing the day before. And they didn’t seem to know what to do with us (the whole group of us, not just Harry and me). So a lot of us spent most of Wednesday and all of Thursday making gift boxes. That was interesting.

Then on Friday morning, we seemed to settle in a bit and things started to fall into place. First good thing on Friday was that the PA was back who had moved us to doing the one job we’d had other than gift box making for a couple hours on Wednesday afternoon. So Friday I spent all day doing a task called “scan verify”, putting future gifts into shipping boxes and sending them down the line to be wrapped. I really enjoyed that job. I also finally got “permissions” for the computer as well, so I could sign in on my own rather than working under someone else’s login. Harry worked in “slam”, which meant he scanned a bar code to print a shipping label for the boxes coming off the gift wrap line to send them to the truck.

Yesterday morning when we went in, we employed the “do whatever you were doing” method, and trotted ourselves right back to the same place and got busy. It was awesome. It was the first day since we arrived that I could just walk in, sign in and get to work. I spent all morning doing the same job as the day before. Then the work for gift wrap ran out and we were moved over to packing. I wasn’t trained for it here, but we did it last year for a couple weeks at Campbellsville, so I just signed in at a station and got going. It wasn’t that different. Took me a few minutes to get acclimated, but luckily the computer gives enough prompts that it wasn’t really that hard to remember the process. We were both packing for the rest of the day.

The days are long. We get on the bus at 5:30 in the morning for a 6:30 start. (I really like the bus rides. There’s camaraderie with the other campers (there are 30 of us riding the bus) and it’s so great not to have to think about traffic or warming up the truck in the morning.) We are working 11 hour days here so we work from 6:30 until 6 with a 30 minute lunch at 11:15. Then we get on the bus for the ride home. By the time everyone gets on the bus it is anywhere from ten after to quarter after six. So we have been getting home a little before 7 pm. Like I said, a long day. But it’s only for 3 more weeks!!

Five work days down, 16 or 17 to go!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

First Day Down

Location: Louisville, KY (High 63, Low 41)

Today was our first day at the facility in Jeffersonville, IN. We got to sleep in a little later than a normal workday with our alarm set to go off at 4:30 am. The bus was supposed to leave at 6:30 so we wanted to leave ourselves plenty of time to get everything together.The coach pulled in about ten after six, which actually surprised us and we both jumped to look at the clock, thinking that we might be running late. But nope, he was just early.

The ride to the facility went pretty smoothly. We had a few stop and go moments on the highway, but it’s amazing how stress free those times are when we’re sitting in the seats of a bus as opposed to driving our own vehicle. We arrived at the fulfillment center in around 35 minutes. In hindsight, that was the fastest part of the day…it reminded me of that saying, hurry up and wait!

So for the rest of the day…the positives…our badges worked after they adjusted something in the system. There were some people whose badges still weren’t working when we were trying to head out through the turnstiles at the end of the day, so we were two of the lucky ones. We also got lockers first thing in the morning, so that was a pleasant surprise.

The biggest thing that wasn’t a positive for me personally was finding out that we weren’t going to be in picking after all. I’m trying to look at the bright side of that, but I really was looking forward to getting some walking in. The “powers that be” changed their minds yesterday and decided that the only people they wanted to put in picking were the campers who had picked in Campbellsville. That was announced right after they passed out all the locker assignments. (The lockers are about the same size as the one we had, but we each have one so we have twice the room.)

So after sitting around some more, in first one, and then a second, break room for about an hour or more, we were divided up into teams for a tour of the facility. The building is really huge. There are two downstairs break rooms and at least one other upstairs near the packing department. They are all full size break rooms with microwaves, vending machines, refrigerators, etc.

We stopped in the upstairs break room to drop off our lunches and then headed into the packing department. We were given a little overview of each part of the floor. Some of the stations seemed familiar, but many of the processes looked new. It sounds like we will be moved around the different jobs much like we were in receiving, so I will report more on the various duties as I work them. Today we worked on the jewelry prep line. That entailed taking a tote, which might have a couple or up to fifteen, twenty different pieces of jewelry in little plastic bags. For each piece of jewelry, we would take the earrings or bracelet or whatever and place it in a black jewelry box and then replace it in the tote. After boxing each piece, the totes are placed back on a cart and eventually taken off to a packer.

That was the extent of our work today. If we worked, by which I mean actually had our hands on the product, for a solid hour, that was it. At 2 pm we met with the leadership teams and had the opportunity to ask questions. We also found out our schedule for the rest of the week. And then we headed out to catch our bus back to the Expo.

First work day down! Twenty or so to go!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A New View

Location: Louisville, KY (High 65, Low 32)

Ready to pull out of Heartland Campground...

Yesterday was moving day. After three months in Campbellsville, we hooked up and headed out for Louisville and our new job. We had one little glitch when our stabilizers didn’t come up, but luckily Harry knew how to bring them up by cranking them in manually. (More experience from our year plus of driveway camping before we started fulltiming.)

Sunshine on the road...

It started out as a dark and dreary day, but happily as we traveled along we drove out of the cloud cover into a bright blue sun shiny day. We were following our friends and Heartland neighbors Dave and Kathy.


View from our rig at the fairgrounds...It was an extremely quick trip of only 80 miles and very soon we were pulling into our new digs. We had been told that with an event finishing up on Friday there might still be people pulling out and packing up, but the place was pretty empty.

The attendant came out and explained how the hookups work here. They have central yellow boxes with the electric hookups throughout the parking area. Each box has four 50 amp and four 30 amp hookups, Our rigs parked at the Expo Center...and the rigs park around that box. We were glad that we had friends to park on the other side of us. Behind and between us is the electric hookup. Right now we still have water but at some point that will be turned off. The rv attendant told us that with warm days forecast for the next ten days we should have at least that long before they turn the water off.

We also had a great and happy surprise when our stabilizers came back down on their own without any issues. We had not been looking forward to having to do another repair.

The sign at the entrance to Amazon...


After we got settled in, we took a ride to check out the Amazon facility. It was HUGE.

Profile shot of the Amazon facility...



The pictures really don’t do it justice, but it makes the Campbellsville facility look small.


Getting ready to enjoy our frozen treat...


On our way back to the fairgrounds, we stopped at Culver’s for a new experience for Harry and I – frozen custard. Wow. Yum. SO good.

Oreo volcano smash!!






Sunset over Louisville...


And on our way home we were treated to a beautiful sunset as we drove back to the expo center.


We have another two days off, so nice. We start work at the new facility on Tuesday.