Two Weeks Into CamperForce

I’m now finished with my second week of Amazon’s program for work campers, so far I’m enjoying myself. Since many readers are asking for another update, here it is.

Disclaimer: Again, this isn’t official information. It may not work like this at other sites. It may not work like this at this site next year, or even next week. This is just what I’ve experienced.

I’ve been in Stowing the whole time, one of the five jobs Amazon lists as available to CamperForce people. This job is part of the Inbound team, which handles product coming in from distributors and in the case of Coffeyville, other Amazon facilities since this is the largest warehouse and the only one located in the central US.

Once the product arrives, dock workers take it from the trucks and most of the time, out of the shipping boxes and into totes or carts. From there, it gets hauled using PIT (can’t remember what the acronym stands for, basically person operated machinery) equipment to the are of the warehouse where it’ll get stowed.

The warehouse is broken into different sections (called mods) differentiated by letters (A, B, C, etc) and then floors using numbers. So 3-E for instance is E mod, 3rd floor. At Coffeyville, all of the mods seem to have a P or a R in front of them, I’m not exactly sure why but it seems like P mods have multiple floors and R ones don’t. So when you’re looking at the handy little map card they give you to stick on the lanyard with your badge, 3-E is listed as P-3-E on it.

Knowing where the mods are is pretty important to a Stower, because when you come in at the beginning of your shift you’ll attend stand up (the little pow-wow thing I mentioned in my last CamperForce post) and there you’ll see a board with the different mods listed and little tags with people’s name stuck with velcro under them. Basically you’re assigned to start in a certain area, and after stand up is over you’re responsible for getting yourself to the right area. Early on just figure out who else is going to the same area and follow them. While you’re in training your Ambassador will make sure you know where to go.

Once you get to the mod, you’ll find the drop zone, that’s where the product will be on carts/in totes waiting to be put away. A Problem Solver will be in the area with a computer, and they’ll let you know which isles in the mod are open for stowing. Several stowers will be working on the product at the same time, so everyone gets their own isle to stow stuff in so you aren’t getting into each other’s way.

After that you log into your scanner, and start stowing. The process is pretty simple: get a cart of stuff and go to your isle. Scan the cart or totes and then your badge to assign them to yourself. Then scan the cart or tote you’re starting with. Each item in the tote/cart needs to have it’s upc barcode (called an ASIN) scanned, and the product info will come up on the scanner. Verify that the information is indeed correct for the product in your hand, then pick a shelf in your isle with enough room to hold it. Scan the barcode on the shelf, and then it officially becomes available on the website for people to buy.

If you’re stowing totes you’ll scan the barcode on each new tote you stow. When you run out of stuff, you’ll scan the tote/cart once more to ‘close’ it out, then your badge again. Then you take your empty cart back to the drop zone and either fill it up with new totes or grab a full cart and start again.

If you run out of room in your isle, there will be a marker that lets you know which isle you should go to next. Some mods also have more than one drop zone and you may bounce between product at a couple different ones. When the product is all stowed, the problem solver will direct you to the next mod to go to. Sometimes I’m in one mod the whole night, sometimes I bounce around to five or more.

The problem solver is there to handle issues that may come up. Like a ASIN that won’t scan, when the information on the scanner doesn’t match the product, or when you have more items than the scanner thinks you should in the tote. They also keep track of which aisles are full so that they can direct people to ones with room.

But they also keep track of your accuracy and speed since you log into everything you stow with your unique badge. When the product was unloaded from the truck and put into totes/on carts it was scanned into the system so if what you stow is different than what the dock workers put down, a little flag will come up on their computer and the problem solver will have to go check to see who was correct. If the mistake was yours, they’ll come to you with a sheet of paper stating the error and you’ll have to sign it. Likewise if your numbers are low they’ll come ask you if there was a problem.

That’s the gist of it, hope that clears up what a Stower actually does, if I get cross-trained into something else I’ll try to get a little guide up for that too.

It’s pretty monotonous work, but there’s something kind of nice about letting my body do the work while my mind is free to think about other things, or nothing at all. It’d likely get old if I had to do it year-round, but I don’t. You get into a rhythm after a while, it’s kind of zen-like.

Before, when I had free time at work to think I’d get frazzled sometimes by thoughts of the things in my life I didn’t like, but now that I’m on the road like I use to only dream about I rarely get that feeling anymore. That feeling like I really ought to be doing something else, like I’m missing something.

I also entertain myself by looking at the wide variety of stuff that comes into the warehouse. If you can think of it, I’ve probably stowed it or at least seen it around – unless what you’re thinking of is hazardous or in an aerosol can, nothing like that should be coming into the facility.

I’d say books are the most dangerous to stow. Sometimes I’ll verify the title and get distracted by the cover or topic of the book, it sounds interesting so I’ll want to read the blurb at the back to figure out what it’s about. This takes time and brings down my numbers so I shouldn’t, but it’s hard to resist. I know of a few people who bring a little notebook in with them to write down books or movies that sound interesting while stowing so they can look them up later, perhaps I should do that.

What I like best about the job though? The lack of stress. Yes, they keep track of metrics and want you to meet goals, so far I haven’t had any issue meeting mine, but it’s less stressful in a different way.

Back when I was living stationary, I always had to be thinking about my future with any job I had. How do I make myself look good so I don’t get let go if things go south, how can I improve so that I get good marks on my next review and a possible raise? That pressure doesn’t exist doing this temporary gig. Who cares if I’m the best employee, I’m only going to be here 10 weeks and if I get fired it’s no biggie, my house has wheels now and I have the whole of the country to search for something else to do.

* * *

I’ve managed to get a few more videos up on YouTube but I’m going to wait until I have another whole segment before putting them up on the site. Thanks for reading everyone and have a great week!

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25 Responses to Two Weeks Into CamperForce

  1. ES Miller October 22, 2012 at 4:37 am #

    Very informative! Keep up the good bloging!

    • Becky October 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

      Thanks ES.

  2. Evelyn October 22, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Hi Becky:

    I’m always amazed what a small world this is. We are also working 8 shift in picking. Hope to meet you soon. Maybe at the Octoberfest event on Wednesday.
    Evelyn recently posted..Variety GaloreMy Profile

    • Becky October 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

      Heya Evelyn. Picking is Outbound and runs 1/2 hour before Inbound so we won’t be seeing each other at breaks or lunch but on the floor at some point, probably.

      Not sure yet if I’ll be going to Octoberfest, have some other stuff to take care of that day but I’ll try getting it done early so I can go for at least a little while.

      Thanks for reading and I hope you have fun at Amazon!

  3. Carol K October 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Good to find your blog! Kim and Jerry mentioned you and I’ve been searching! We’re on 6th shift, so maybe I’ll run into you while I’m Picking…

    • Becky October 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      Ayup! Like I was telling Evelyn our breaks and lunch won’t sync up but we’ll probably see each other on the floor on occasion, you Pickers move all over the place. 😛

      I’m glad you’re enjoying IO, thanks for reading!

  4. Kevin October 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    Hi Becky, Thanks for the good info, I look to be doing the Camperforce at Amazon next year (except at Fernley) so your Blog is answering some of my questions. But I have a few:

    Are you allowed to wear ear buds and listen to music and such while you work?

    Is there a certain brand of shoe that people find more comfortable to wear than others?

    • Becky October 23, 2012 at 6:01 am #

      Hey Kevin, good questions.

      While I’ve never asked or heard anything about it, I’ve never seen people listening to music on the production floor and I’m going to say most likely not. Safety would probably be one reason they give since there is equipment and stuff being driven around and you need to be able to hear when they honk their horns.

      Also, there’s the problem of theft. It’d be too easy for someone to bring their own old ipod in, grab a new one off the floor, and switch it out and walk off the floor with it.

      A lot of people I’ve talked to have been favoring New Balance, that’s the brand I’ve always gone with. When I was going to college I worked part time at a department store and was the active wear shoe specialist – New Balance was less money than the other name brands and still a great product. That being said I’ve seen all kinds being worn, many people still opt to get gel inserts too to further increase comfort, I haven’t found that necessary for what I do.

      If anyone else has questions fire away!

  5. Sherry October 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Well Becky I’m not on any shift so we won’t be meeting up unless it’s somewhere not at Amazon. 🙂 BUT this is a really fine description of the work. It gave me a really clear picture of what you do. I found it very interesting. Thanks for the details. Hope you continue to find it interesting.

    Amazon probably would fire me since I’d be trying to read every interesting book that came by.
    Sherry recently posted..And What Else??My Profile

    • Becky October 23, 2012 at 6:05 am #

      Glad you liked it Sherry. I wasn’t sure how much detail to go into, didn’t want to bore the people who have no interest in Amazon but wanted to give a good idea what it’s like to the people who are.

      Books are so hard to stow! It happened again tonight when I was putting them away once or twice, oops.

  6. Marvin October 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm #


    Thank you for the details on Amazon/Camper Force .
    Oct,Nov,Dec work seems to fit a lot of travel plans , and the
    extra cash is always a plus .

    Take Care & Be Safe


    • Becky October 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      You’re welcome Marvin.

      The timing really is nice, by October most summer work camping opportunities are over, and yet you also get out just before Christmas so you can be with family over the holidays.

  7. Craig October 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Wow great blog ..Thanks Becky so much for the good info .My wife Lynn and I are going to start in Coffeyville on Nov 8th .We where told we would be working in stowing and on the 8th shift .Again thanks for the great info on what we are getting ourselfs into ..We also are staying at the BIg Chief Campground have contacted them several times and have only heard back once , and have had to change our arrival date . Are there still sites open ?

    • Becky October 24, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      Hiya Craig, welcome to IO. 🙂

      Yep there are still some sites open but the campground is filling up quickly now. Sharon is no longer managing the campground so if you’re trying to get a hold of her directly that might be why there is no response. Have you gotten confirmation from them about the change in date? If not I can walk over to the office and see if the phone number listed on the website is still accurate, I thought it was.

  8. Craig October 26, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    Becky ..Thank you so much for the heads up on the new manager at BIg Chief .Talked to him today, and seems like we might not be staying there..Bummer . Guess the book keeping was not so good..Again Thank you for the info it helped out .

    • Becky October 28, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

      You’re welcome Craig. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out, but hopefully I’ll get to see you at Amazon anyway, let me know where you end up staying!

  9. TuT November 11, 2012 at 4:08 am #

    Hi Becky, I just stumbled onto your blog and have really enjoyed it. I have a question regarding CampForce. Does Amazon give you a 10-99 tax form for the costs associated with your campsite? Normally this would be in the form of non cash compensation and could really affect you when you file your taxes at years end.

    • Becky November 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

      Hello TuT, welcome to IO and thanks for posting.

      If they do I haven’t gotten one of those yet. In orientation you fill out a form for tax deductions and the like. I’ll ask my fellow workcampers who’ve done Amazon before tomorrow when I go in.

  10. Kirsty October 18, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    I just got a confirmation email to start working in Fernley, stowing! I start in a couple weeks time. Your post educated me quickly! Thank you! Enjoy the zen ’til Christmas!

    • Becky October 18, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      Glad to hear this helped Kirsty! Stowing isn’t a bad job all things considered, I’d like that more than one where I have to stand in one spot the whole day. Thanks and have a good time in Fernley! Actually, let us know at the end of the season what you thought of that site, it’s always nice getting first hand info from other sites.

  11. Terri August 25, 2014 at 5:15 am #

    The more I read about Amazon, the more it sounds like a good idea. I would be willing to take on as much overtime as I could, and then save it up for the leaner months or for emergencies. And i like what you say about working a temporary job vs the full time job. When I have downtime at my regular job now, i think about what i want my life to be like in a year or so. No job is perfect, as you say, but it would be nice to know that if a job is not perfect, well, it’s not forever. I find that people I work with that are unhappy, a big part of it comes from the fact that they feel like they are “trapped” there. I keep telling them, just make small changes every day or small moves, and it will help.
    Terri recently posted..I want to do this..wait, no, that…wait, no this!!! (Decisions, decisions)My Profile

    • Becky August 26, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

      People either love CamperForce or hate it. It is hard work, you are treated like a number, and communication has never been good. But it is the most reliable best paying job for RVers out there, I save up so much money so quickly that I can afford to not work the rest of the winter after it, which is priceless in my opinion. It’s exactly like you say: if Amazon was my full-time job, I’d hate it. But it’s not, it’s only 3 or so months, and I can stand about anything for that long.

  12. Terri August 26, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    I probably wouldn’t be able to take time off afterward (just because I’d be paranoid of running out of money), but it’s good to know it’s well paying where workamping jobs are concerned. It could help me to take a lower paying job afterward or to do something more like how I’d want to spend my time. And yes, I could do it for 3 months too if I knew an end was in sight!
    Terri recently posted..I want to do this..wait, no, that…wait, no this!!! (Decisions, decisions)My Profile

  13. Phil August 3, 2016 at 11:15 am #

    I’m going through your blog from the beginning. Very cool. My hat’s off to you for living the dream. Great quote: “Before, when I had free time at work to think I’d get frazzled sometimes by thoughts of the things in my life I didn’t like, but now that I’m on the road like I use to only dream about I rarely get that feeling anymore. That feeling like I really ought to be doing something else, like I’m missing something.”

    Guess that means you’re on the right path.

    • Becky August 4, 2016 at 8:45 pm #

      It sure does Phil. I’m glad you’re enjoying IO and congratulate you on reading from the beginning, that’s not such an easy feat these days, haha.

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