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Amazon Confidential – Week Two, The Hardening Process

“Anonymous” survived week one working as a stower at an Amazon fulfillment center and in today’s installment, describes how merchandise makes its way from receiving into the warehouse. See Part One of Amazon Confidential: Confessions of a Warehouse Worker.

Sunday, one of my two days off, and I’ve survived Week One of my Amazon “Camperforce” experience. I’ve learned about VOT (voluntary overtime) and VTO (voluntary time off); I’ve learned that rumors to the contrary, these three big distribution centers are not being closed down, though three new, smaller ones have opened up recently in other states.

I’ve learned despite hours of safety training, some of the workampers in my class must not have been listening. We’ve had cuts, bruises, at least one person falling UP a flight of stairs (I can hear my instructor telling us “one hand on the railing at all times”.)

There’s been strained backs (never pick up a tote by yourself if it’s too heavy; never pick up anything weighing 50 lbs without another person assisting you) and aching shoulders (never try to pull something down from a top shelf over your head; use a ladder). “Nose to toes” is the theme. Never twist at your waist. But I feel pretty good so far, like I might be getting the hang of it.

Wed. mid-week: The past few days have been a somewhat humbling experience. I’ve learned I’m not as fast as I thought I would be. It is also taking me much longer to adjust to working the night shift (5pm-3am) than I thought it would.

Sleeping during the day in my RV with a cat and a dog has become a challenge. And as our instructors had warned us, walking all these hours on concrete floors does take a toll on your body.

I’ve learned there is no rhyme or reason as to where merchandise is stored here. It’s the “Where It Fits” philosophy. To my mind, it would make more sense to have specified areas of the building where categories of merchandise would be located. Automotive; household; office supplies, etc. They do have such areas for books and records.

I work as a stower, ie, taking merchandise in plastic totes from receiving and placing that merchandise after recording the part #’s using a scanner into metal bins that have also been recorded by location.

I work in a particular area in any given night and basically I’m simply expected to find bins where I can “stow” the merchandise from my totes. So I find automatic rifle clips mixed in with throwing knives and Play Station games. In another bin I find a plastic wrapped tray of cat food along with CD’s and automotive water pumps. Add to the mix blankets, towels, sheets; teeshirts, hats, Halloween outfits; ipad covers, computer chips, complete computer towers. Yes, some of the bins are quite large, and others tiny into which we place collectibles related to sports like cups, cards, rings, paperweights, etc. In all, I’ve learned you can truly buy almost anything on Amazon.

This week I will work four 10 hr/shifts, unless I get VOT. By Thanksgiving we will be in the MOT mode (mandatory over time) where you are expected, as part of the job, to work 50 hr weeks, and eventually 60. No one is allowed to work more than 60 hrs a week.

That’s one of the reasons I’m here. You can rack up a lot of OT at time and a half, which will go a long ways towards getting my RV fixed. Indeed, I hope to spend a couple of months recuperating someplace warm after the Holidays.

Coming up in our next installment: The Amazon Weight Loss Program.