The Everything Store…Amazon

This may seem like an unusual topic for an RVer to be focused upon, but give me a few moments to share a little background and it will all start to come together, if some of you haven’t already figured it out.  Also be forewarned, no pretty pictures to be found in this post. 😦

Logotype is a curved arrow leading from A-Z, with the arrow shaped like a smile.
Logotype is a curved arrow leading from A-Z, with the arrow shaped like a smile.   Photo credit:  hollywoodreporter.com

“The Everything Store” is what Amazon.com has been dubbed and for those who are very organized and have begun their holiday shopping, you may have already placed an order or two here with the largest e-commerce company in the world. And Terry and I  may have helped to fulfill some of those orders. Yes, we have jumped into the Amazon.com pool (drunk their koolaid), like so many other RVers.  The big question is, what do we think and would we do it again?  I will keep you in suspense for a few minutes as I give a little background on the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos.  This CEO grants few interviews, so much mystique is swirling around him, with many questions being answered by former employees or those who have survived the “Amazon culture”.

Visionary Jeff Bezos
Visionary Jeff Bezos – Photo credit:  geekwire.com

If you have worked at one of the many Amazon centers across the country, no matter your experience, you cannot help but be intrigued.  I have read a few excerpts and a lengthy article written by author Brad Stone, of the recently published book The Everything Store:  Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, which is getting a lot of press.

“Amazon’s culture is notoriously confrontational and it begins with Bezos, who believes that truth shakes out when ideas and perspective are banged against each other.”  ~  Brad Stone, Senior Writer, Bloomberg Businessweek.

Bird's eye view of a distribution center
Bird’s eye view of a distribution center – Photo credit:  bizbeatblog.dallasnews.com

With humble beginnings in a garage in Bellevue, WA in 1994, Jeff Bezos launched what was to become Amazon.com, named after one of the largest rivers in the world, and a name beginning with the letter ‘A’ to appear early in an online search.  Even at this early stage, he envisioned his brainchild to one day be the largest online retailer in the world, and this visionary has accomplished just that. What started as an online bookstore is now a website where you can buy anything, and I do mean anything, based on what we have seen in its KY warehouse.

Jeff Bezos, former Wall Street employee, joins the elite ranks of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and his intensity seems to fit perfectly with these other tech CEO’s.  His corporate culture has been said to be one of secrecy and relentless ambition, and those who do well working at Amazon thrive in an adversarial environment with almost constant friction, not exactly a healthy way to live IMHO.

From receiving department to doorstep.
From receiving department to doorstep.  Photo credit:  webstore.amazon.com

For those of you with experience in the corporate world, and I shuddered when I read this article as it brought back some less than pleasant memories, one positive thing to be said for this CEO is that he takes customer complaints seriously, reading what his shoppers have to say through his public email address.  Those emails that particularly peak his interest  are forwarded on to his executive team, with only a one-character change in the subject, a question mark. It is said that a “question mark” email from Jeff Bezos is like a ticking time bomb, as you have only a few hours to solve whatever issue is being addressed before you receive a visit from the chief.

Today, nearing its 20th anniversary and approaching $75 billion in annual sales, with stock price soaring, we find ourselves working a seasonal gig as an Amazon workamper in the Campbellsville, KY warehouse, with a title of ‘picker’ and working the night shift no less.  Shortly after we arrived in Ohio this past summer and felt the need to hover in this part of the country to see if other assistance would be needed with Terry’s folks, we applied with Amazon thinking it was a way to stay in the area, make a few bucks and get some exercise in the process.  This decision was made prior to lots of hard work at the folks’ home and Terry’s cancer diagnosis.  I must admit I wanted to pass on this opportunity after the summer we had but Terry was given the green light by his doc so we honored our commitment.

Conveyor belts, like Amazonian snakes, wind through the centers.
Conveyor belts, like Amazonian snakes, wind through the centers.  Photo credit:  articles.mcall.com

You could speak to hundreds of other workampers and all would hold different views of their work experience, given the position and shift.  But one thing would not be denied by many, it is hard work.  I think we both came into this feeling that, given how fit we are, this would not be too difficult.  But unless you are accustomed to walking briskly on concrete for several hours throughout a 770,000 square foot maze, doing repetitive movements with a hand-held scanner, and doing lots of lifting and squatting each work day, you are not prepared for the Amazon experience.  Our position as picker is that of a 4-day work week, 10 hours daily, with mandatory OT during the last 4 weeks, Black Friday until December 23rd.  I wear a pedometer and have averaged 12 miles per day, topping out at 14 miles one night.  Is this sounding fun to any of you yet? 😉

My two BFFs are Martie, my masseuse, and Dr. Sam, my chiropractor.  Having never had back problems in my life, I seem to have developed something called piriformis syndrome, where the piriformis muscle, located deep in the thigh, becomes inflamed and presses on the sciatic nerve, which presents like sciatica, with running pain and muscle spasms.   So for me, having pain in my butt (hehe), I am taking it a day at a time.  Terry, who has nursed a bit of a knee strain himself, believes I am a pain in the butt (just kidding of course), as I continually remind him that “I will never do this again” and I seriously doubt if he wants to either.  Some things in life just do not have to be repeated. 😉

Speaks for itself!
Speaks for itself!  Photo credit:  blogs.reuters.com Eric Auchard
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91 thoughts on “The Everything Store…Amazon

  • OMG!! We met some other RVers in CA last year who worked for Amazon at Christmas. They’ve done it several years, they too work the night shift. They said it was hard work & lots of walking. I give you guys credit for trying it. I wouldn’t do it.

  • Oh, dear, reading this and looking at the date makes my heart ache for you two. I guess there are quite a few RVers there working. Ten hours a day on concrete floors will make anyone’s knees and back ache. You will really need those three days off just to sit with your feet up to prepare for the next four days.

    Good luck! Keep stretching:) Thinking of you. I agree, LuAnn, never again!

    • Pretty much the way it is, except with a 4-day work week we still feel like seeing some sights on one of our days off, but the last thing we want to do is hike, for obvious reasons. 😉

  • Oh! LuAnn!! We have heard the same story told from other RV’ers who have taken their “stint” at Amazon. We thank you two for the honest assessment of the work and only wish we had a good solution for a quick exit for you two before Dec 23rd….that’s 6 weeks away! UGH…..

    • We can always make a quick exit if need be. Some folks come back year after year, and for those who need to work, it is definitely one of the best ways to make some seasonal money. We feel blessed that this is not something we would need to do year after year.

  • LuAnn – A good yoga teacher will teach you how to keep sciatica at bay – no expensive chiropractors, masseurs or drugs! I think Ralph’s comment is most unkind! I guess he knows you well. lol

    • Thanks for the tips. I do yoga and it has been helping. I originally went to Dr. Sam because I wanted to rule out disc involvement. Dr. Sam is wonderful and very inexpensive and Martie gives the best massages I have ever had. As for Ralph’s comment, I do know him well and love his sense of humor. 🙂

  • I had to smile because I remember saying those very words “we are never doing this again” and I should know never to say never because next year we may just do it again. I think the first 2-3weeks are the worst as your feet adjust to those concrete floors. I remember laying in bed and they would just throb but by the end that was fine but I was exhausted from all the hours worked. I did loose 12 lbs while I was there so that and the paychecks made it worth while. Hang in there, its definitely an education.

    • We think of you two often during this time. Hopefully we can catch up this winter, have a few brews, and share some Amazon stories. I think for us it was this coming on the heels of our challenges this summer that has intensified the experience. I have lost 4 pounds, and if not for the muscle spasms, I believe I could more easily deal with the little aches and pains. One day at a time!

    • After reading a few of your posts and finally being able to subscribe to your blog (gotta love my internet connection right now) I think I should check out Topricin. 🙂

  • LuAnn you do paint a picture…! I do hope you can get help of some kind for the pain that you are having though. I did hear that it was HARD work. You told that well!

    Kent and I now are facing a different challenge and aren’t sure how it will turn out. His folks were in a significant car accident on Thursday this week.They are not as bad as it could have been. But Mom R is in ICU and having tons of pain with of broken ribs and lung issues as well as soft tissue damage. Dad has a broken sternum but is in a regular hospital room. The family has decision to make. We are trusting God for this too as you are doing. Hang in there!!!

  • I think it is time to remind your husband that you are RETIRED and have already done your “wearing of the hair shirt” for this lifetime! I think I can arrange for a massage or three from my dear wife if you ever head out this way, but I’ll bet she’ll make “no more 10 hour days working for the Man” a condition of receiving!

    All the best to you both!

    • Kevin, I think I have reminded the poor man enough already and he is also ready to say never again. When you have suffered a setback like he did this summer and you are as physical a man as he has been most of his life, I think there was a part of him that wanted to feel that he could still do this, that he was ok. The good news is we have learned a few things about ourselves during this process, met some wonderful folks, one a massage therapist (also a workamper) who does a lot of trigger point therapy, which has helped me tremendously, and are making some money in the process. The work at his folks’ house this summer was not without its expenses so it has been nice to recoup those funds. He has been the first one to tell me to call it quits if my body does not like it, and we may still do just that and move on to a Plan B. Hope you are enjoying your travels. I really need to get in touch with the two of you and give you some of our thoughts on southern AZ. Take care!

  • Hi LuAnn and Terry! Good to read your post. I may be weird/masochistic, but the job sounds kind of ‘fun’… getting paid to get in great shape. The cement floor, though, hmmm… wonder what shoes would help with that? I hope you are both well, and stay well through your Amazon term. I hope Terry’s parents are well, also. Best to you both.

    • You are kind of masochistic girlfriend. 🙂 The PCT sounds much more inviting than walking on cement floors. We went to Roadrunner Sports before we came here; had our feet computer analyzed and custom inserts made for our “computer recommended” shoes, and still I have a pain in my butt! Gotta find the humor in it. Hope all is well in YNP. We would love to get back out there. 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing with all of us. I am not afraid to say I would NEVER do that. Thanks for the warning. PLEASE take care of yourself and get that back well.

  • Thanks for bringing us all up to date. I’ve been so so curious . I know Al and I could not do it physically….prior back issues….. your post confirms. And the night shift to boot? The word masochist comes to mind.
    Hang in there…..the shores of FL will be waiting for you. Oh, and love the header photo 🙂

    • Ingrid, I would definitely not recommend this to anyone who has back issues. There may be positions here not so demanding, as in not so many miles put in daily/nightly, but I still contend that if you are on concrete most of that time, it is a very unforgiving surface. This of course is just one gal’s opinion. There are many that come back year after year, and we have met many great people, both part-time and full-time RVers, who are doing just that. We will not be two of those, or Terry knows that if he changes his mind, I will be lying on some warm, sunny beach somewhere waiting for him to finish his tour of duty. 😉

      • Had to laugh at that last line. Nothing you have said surprises me. How’s Terry holding up? Does he share your sentiments? Ah, a sunny beach sure does sound good with a drink and pink umbrella 🙂

      • You know, given what he has had to deal with this past summer, his body is faring better than mine! I think, given what he has dealt with, there is a part of him that just needed to know he was capable of doing this. His body is really quite resilient, obviously more than mine. 🙂 He just had his first PSA test post-radiation and the surgeon called him a super star, saying his results were twice as good at this point than they expected them to be. We are so very relieved! 🙂

  • OMG what have you done to yourself! and Terry? Well thanks to you we will not do it. We met a few RVrs doing stint at Amazon but not much details.
    The good news is you will be losing a lot of weight. Hope Yoga helps you in relaxation and calming yourself.
    Just think, beach beach beach!

    • OMG is right! When we meet on the beach we can share with you both more stories. The beach may be our plan B earlier than we planned if this gig doesn’t work out! I know a lot of people who work here believe it is a good source of exercise but, being here, I for one think that it is not the kind of exercise that is particularly good for body or spirit (IMHO). However, Kentucky does offer a lot in the way of sightseeing, just no hiking for us right now. 😉

  • That’s quite an adventure that you’ve taken on for this holiday season. Please keep us posted as the season continues. If it gets to be too much – then – well – you know…
    Take care & try to take it easy on your days off.
    {Hard work hugs}

    • I know, I know! We are planning to see this part of the country before our rig is pointed back out in your direction because once it’s out in the west, it will not want to come back east. 😉

    • Thanks for the comment Wanda and Rich. We should have spent less time working and more time visiting this past summer. Hope all is well with the two of you. 🙂

  • We have friends that have done this for four years. They have been at three of the warehouses. This is there last year. They have been promoted to a job with just too much responsibility. They said it is less physical but too stressful. They love the money, but their bodies are falling apart.

    I am with you….once would be enough.

    • When I think about all the hiking we still want to do and all the places we still want to explore, it is not worth risking permanent damage to your body. I suspect there is a part of Terry, knowing him as I do, that needed to know he was capable of doing this after the summer he has had. Although I was worried for him doing it for the same reason, so soon after radiation, his body has fared better than mine. He just got his first PSA test result since radiation and his surgeon called him a “super star”. His score was twice as good as the doctor thought it would be at this point. Yeah!!!

  • I still can’t quite believe you guys are doing this. Back issues?! Knee issues?! Oh my! I think you should ditch Amazon and fly over to spa with me. Of course that’s just being terribly selfish of me 🙂 hope you take a well deserved vacation after this.
    Nina

    • I can’t believe we are doing this either. We are both taking it one day at a time so you may still see me on your doorstep yet. I think there was a part of Terry that needed to do this to see that he was ok after his summer. I personally think climbing a big mountain would have worked just as well! We are both in agreement that this is a one-time event and it is still day by day for me. We go back to work tonight so we will see how it goes. I did not even want to do this post but many have been wondering why we are spending so much time in KY, a lovely state but not one to spend so much time in late in the year. 😉

  • Gayl and I are in agreement with the idea that you two have a “stick to it until it’s done” outlook on life. For that fact alone, we will always admire you. It is really admirable that Terry is doing so well. I’m sure this does give him a positive outlook on life and his continued ability to do a good job. Of course we also admire your partnership in this endeavor LuLu, but sure hope you get physically better as time goes on. As I mentioned before, this Amazon job can really be hard on your bodies, so please be cautious as you proceed in this temporary assignment. We will be sending positive thoughts your way each day. We want you two to have a very Merry Christmas.
    Rog and Gayl

    • Rog and Gayl, Thanks so much for the comment. Terry has been telling me for awhile that if I want to I can quit anytime. Knowing me like I do, this is something that is difficult for me to do, especially when he is working with the kind of year he has had. I can handle a little discomfort, but the muscle spasms have been the worst for me. These are improving and I am listening to my body because I want this ole gal to last for many more years! Must admit, this is nothing like volunteering at San Elijo! Hope you two have a wonderful Christmas as well.

  • Wow, LuAnn, just wow. A fascinating read about Amazon in general, and the life of a warehouse worker in particular. I will admit the walking part sounds good to me, but not the bending and lifting part. I’m actually intrigued to hear the back stories of some of your co-workers, and hope you’ll consider sharing some of them as you feel appropriate going forward.

    And the very nicest part of this post is reading about Terry being so brawny and active again. 🙂

    • He is simply amazing and very resilient. I have never had any back issues so was surprised when I started having back spasms. The upper floors of the warehouse have a different surface than the first floor so I find that when I am sent upstairs my back likes it much more. The miles of walking themselves I don’t believe is the problem, more the unforgiving surface we walk on so often. As for the Amazon culture, makes you want to jump back into the corporate waters, doesn’t it? 😉

  • Blimey that seems a bit epic…a day at a time is probably the only way to keep sane. Once again the atlas comes out so I can get my head around the states and as usual I was wrong about its location. I like a post that gives me something to learn. I wish you every success and calm rest days.

    • If you knew my hubby Ste J, he loves being physical (in a good way hehe), so he saw this as a bit of a challenge. I look to stay fit as well but not up for doing this again. 🙂

  • I’m still gobsmacked … you two are utterly amazing! What a challenge – that you’re obviously rising to. James and I have been talking about it all day, using phrases like, “Can you imagine?” So here’s to you … I bet Christmas can’t come soon enough for you! All the best, Terri and James

    • Amazing or crazy, not sure which it is, but I believe there is a part of Terry that needed to know he could do this after the year he has had. This is also the reason I wanted to step back from it, because of the year he has had. I am counting the days until Christmas! 🙂

  • Ahhhh so that’s the reason for the comment… 😉
    For the job that I do where I’m like a pingpong bouncing to different locations, Amazon is my bestfriend. One time, I called and told them that my package is taking sooooo long to get to me. They sent me again! what I ordered. I got what I ordered. Then just slightly few days later the first one, I received the same order again! I had intention to bring it back but was considering the money I have to pay or shipping. I’m ashamed to say I kept both.

    • Knowing their philosophy, they would want you to keep both. Given what we hear every night, they pull out all the stops to get orders out as soon as possible. I am shocked at some of the items on the shelves (blush), and my body is shocked by what I am doing to it. Give me a mountain to climb any day! 🙂

      • I actually thought that they just inform stores at nearby areas to where the receiver is. I mean,if someone order like car parts. I thought they would just call a nearby autoshop and see if it’s available somewhere near the area. Or like a Best Buy if someone order an appliance, or a music CD or DVD. I guess they really have their own supply. It sounds insane!
        Lu, if you want to hurt yourself, just let me know and I’ll do it for you. Ahihihi 😀

      • There are distribution centers all over the country and there are some products that do get shipped from other companies besides Amazon. Amazon just places the order. This is an amazing organization, albeit stressful I am sure for full-time employees and not an easy job besides. As for you hurting me, I am certain you are physically capable, but something tells me with that gentle nature of yours, not happenin’! 🙂

  • LuAnn,
    Your story brings back memories of my days in nursing! Long days on your feet on hard surfaces really does a number on the body. Get some physical therapy stretches to relax and strengthen that muscle, especially if you are bound and determined to finish out your contract. I was very surprised to hear of the confrontational nature of the corporate culture there! I’m with you in believing that cannot be good for the spirit. And even though I do not believe in quitting either, I did leave nursing without finishing, but went on to become a BioMed Research Librarian. No shame to move on to something more fitting to your physicality and talents. Happy to know you and Terry still thrive whatever you do or wherever you are!

    • You know Gale, I hadn’t thought to compare this to nursing but I am certain the physical nature is similar and the lifting you did as a nurse probably compares to what we do as well. I still don’t know if we will finish, and if we don’t, I will feel no shame in it. I need my body to last for hopefully many more years. Hope you are well.

  • Finally enough time to read your fascinating article to do it proper justice! Wow LuAnn, as in Wow! Speechless. (I was around the Silicon Valley during the period of his earlier years some of the backstories I could add to this – especially the financial aspects), but you’ve pretty much summed up what it takes to be a megalithic Corporate entity in today’s online technological world of buying and selling! The modern online market!

    As always, so very well written/reported by yourself, but the physical aspects – I am in awe of both of you! Holy Cow. Both of you – take care of you, and, well just wow – okay so I’m blown away by your commitment in view of how I know your late spring, summer and early fall were. Okay I’m going to go read your next blog now, so I can get beyond this one! 🙂 xoxo

    • I will admit I was reluctant to write about this phase, as I wasn’t feeling good about what we were doing and even now am counting the days until it is over. It sounded ok prior to caregiving and Terry’s cancer diagnosis, but after that Terry and I differed greatly on doing this. I wondered how I could write about something I wasn’t feeling good about so I decided to approach it a little differently. Terry got the thumbs-up from his doctor so he was adamant about wanting to go ahead with our original plans. I have come to learn that he felt he needed to do this to prove to himself he was still physically fit. I thought climbing a few mountains was good enough and was really worried about the residual effects of radiation. Terry is doing fine and my back is steadily improving, but we are never doing this again, and thankfully he agrees. 🙂

  • I did a phone interview for an Amazon job but declined the offer. The Amazon employee was trying to “sell” me the job. “What can I do so that you will accept the job?” He asked if I could tolerate a loud environment, I said no. He said ok we will put you in the quieter park of the warehouse. There are other workamping jobs that pay well. I worked for Aramark at a National Park and received $10 an hour. You can work for the Natl Parks for $15 an hour(rv site not always included). The IRS hires for temp jobs at usajobs.gov and pay up to $17 an hour. Certainly better ways to make some money. I love Amazon. Shop with them all the time but don’t want to work there.

    • Not too sure we would fall into the inspiring category where this adventure is concerned. This was something hubby was adamant about wanting to do. I do believe it had a lot to do with wanting to feel he could still be this physical, given what had transpired for him this past summer. He has always been very physically active. As I have said to others, I think climbing a few mountains would have proved that point just fine. 😉

  • I missed this post, LuAnn. I will never be able to order stuff from Amazon again, without thinking of what hard work it is for all their employees. I had no idea! It must be really hectic with Christmas being so near. I take my hat off to you both. xx

    • I think we are insane but I am resigned to seeing it to the end. I have a new appreciation for all those who work in this type of setting. It is a short stint for us but for those who must do this work to pay their bills and put food on the table for their families, I have great empathy.

  • oh my;  while i’ve been out of cyber pocket, you two have been on an amazing experience!  there’s no doubt that your body protested with new tinges of pain!  

    i enjoyed every word of this post! thanks!

    ________________________________

    • Our bodies are recovering and we have both decided not to do anything so foolish again! Hope you had a fabulous Christmas Lisa. I am looking forward to catching up with everyone after the first of the year, from sunny FL. Happy New Year to you! 🙂

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