CamperForce: What to Expect the First Few Days

For new readers to IO, you can click here for an explanation of the CamperForce program.

Amazon will pay for your campsite up to two days before your first day of orientation, so with a start date of 10/4 I arrived on 10/2 to make full use of this. Expecting to be drop dead tired my first week of work due to what I’ve read and heard from others, I used those two days to get caught up on cleaning, and cooked up two chicken breasts so that I could reheat it and throw it in salad for some easy meals.

Orientation is a two day affair, about 4 hours each day. Traditionally it’s done in the morning from 8 until noon, but there were so many of us work campers starting this week that we needed to be split into two classes, the second ran from 1-5 pm. Up until recently, it was held weekly on Sunday and Monday, but one week before I was due to start I got a call saying the the days had been changed and orientation now happens on Thursday and Friday – hence my start date getting pushed back a bit.

The first day, we were instructed to bring either our driver’s license and Social Security card, or our passport for filling out our W-4 forms (for tax withholding, Kansas does have a state income tax). You don’t need to bring anything else with you – in fact as I’ve said before phones and stuff aren’t allowed inside, but wear something nice because this is also the day you’ll get your photo taken for your ID. Food was provided both days.

The fellow who use to be in charge of CamperForce at the Coffeyville site, Paul, was no longer around as of the day before we started, were were not given any details. He’s usually the one who does orientation and the ladies who were doing it instead weren’t very well organized.

Most of what we went over was safety, harassment, and other standard common sense stuff, some of it was videos. The drug testing also happened this day, it’s a swab you put in your mouth, so not too bad. They also passed out our CamperForce tee-shirts for this year (they’re red) and some other swag.

The reps also let you know what department/shift your in on this first day, which caused quite a ruckus among my group. Several people didn’t get what they’d asked for, this seems to happen from year to year pretty regularly. Months ago though, when you took the phone interview, the interviewer asked you what you wanted but told you your final assignment depends on the needs of the company, so it really shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise to anyone.

Some of the mix up may have been because of the changeover in management, and the new guy, Steve, did manage to re-arrange things so everyone was mostly satisfied. I had asked for Picking and nights, and I was told I was going to be Crisplant (shipping I think? Still don’t know exactly what this means) and nights.

Day two was more of the same. It included some basic training stuff that applies to all positions and more videos. We got our ID badges passed out to us too. The ID badge hangs on a lanyard and must be visible at all times while working. It has a bar code on it that you scan to clock in and out, and also gets scanned to log into a hand held scanner if your job uses one.

We also got an official sheet of paper with the job offer on it. With all of the re-arranging I ended up on Inbound and 8th shift. At the Coffeyville site, 8th shift is the overnight donut shift: M, Tu, Th, F. Works for me. Inbound starts ½ hour after Outbound, so I’ll be working 5:30 pm to 4 am.

Near the end, some fellow from HR who started at Amazon in Camperforce came and apologized for the mix ups and general disorganization and asked us for opinions how how things could be improved for next year. After that, it was time to go.

Our first real day didn’t start until the first day of our regular work week. Which for me was easy, the last day of orientation was a Friday and my work week started on Monday, no biggie. For people who started later in the week though, like Wednesday or Thursday, they then had several more days off before starting, which caused some grumbling.

On our first day, we were told to report in to the main break room and wait for our ambassadors to come pick us up. Ambassadors are the Amazon equivalent of trainers. There are 15 of us in my group, some 6th shift (which also starts on Monday) and some 8th shift, 5 of us are work campers and the other 10 are not. We were walked through how to punch in, given a quick tour of the facility, and then spent the next four hours in training exercises. The first few were related to general safety and how-to, later ones were for Stowing, which is apparently where all new Inbound hires start.

The ambassador to newbie ratio is suppose to be 1 to 5, so for our group of 15 there were three of them. The two in charge of it were new, it was their first time as ambassadors and it showed. The third girl had done it before, but she was suppose to be assisting the other two and not take over. Training was suppose to take us up until ‘lunch’ time at 10:30, but we finished a good hour early so were put to work. I’ll be writing a more about how stowing works later.

There is a group pow-wow at the start of every shift and right after lunch that all warehouse associates are required to attend, Outbound and Inbound do them separately because of the ½ hour difference in start time. We’d missed the first one because of training. The Inbound manager went over our numbers and did a headcount (there were 79 of us) and we did group stretches. After that it was back to work.

I can’t say for sure this is how it works in other departments, but for the first week in Inbound we’re expected to hit 75% of our individual goal. How exactly our goal is determined I have yet to find out. Week two is 85%, week three is 90%, and week four is 100%. Every couple hours or so while we worked one of the ambassadors would come around to us individually and give us our numbers, all but once so far I’ve been over the 75% mark.

Physically, I’ve been just fine. My thighs hurt a little after the second night from all of the squatting, and every now and then when I turned funny while stowing my back would twinge, but it wasn’t lasting at all. Then again I’ve always worked jobs where I’m on my feet all day, so take that for what it’s worth. Maybe it’ll get worse the faster or longer I do it, we’ll see.

And that’s a wrap. I hope this will give other people who are jumping into CamperForce an idea of what to expect.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Danielle on October 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Thanks for the great information about working for Amazon. I have a free website for seasonal workers at and wonder if you would like to write a guest blog about your experiences for my readers. I would be happy to link back to your blog.

    • Becky on October 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      Hello Danielle and welcome to IO.

      Time is a bit hard to come by right now working at Amazon and keeping up with everything else. How long of an article are you thinking and when would it be due by?

  2. Craig on October 14, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    HI Becky..My wife and I will be starting at Coffeyville on nov 11th..Also staying at Big Chief.Also working the night shift. hope to run into you..Any ideas on how to keep the water hose from freezing at night?

    • Becky on October 14, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      Heya Craig, welcome to IO and thanks for commenting. 🙂

      If you’re working Inbound I probably will be running into you at Amazon but if you’re Outbound it’s not very likely since their breaks and lunches are 1/2 hour earlier. Even if we don’t meet at work though I’ll be seeing you around the campground probably, my Casita kind of stands out among all these 5th wheels and Class A’s. Just look for me by the bath/laundry house.

      I’ve read online that heat tape and insulating wrap is the best way to keep the water hose from freezing but I haven’t done anything with mine yet since temps are staying up. I’ll be talking to other folks in the park who’ve been here before and getting advice from them too. I’m seriously contemplating just winterizing and not using the plumbing at all, I don’t use my bathroom as it is so the only thing I’d be missing out on is the convenience of running water for dishes. My tanks are exposed on the bottom so I have to worry about those freezing too if it gets cold enough.

  3. Ron on October 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Hi Becky,

    Glad to hear that you have gotten started with the Amazon Camperforce. I know you can make it until Dec 24 standing on your head if necessary. I hope you are getting the proper instruction in lifting objects in your inbound job. I get a newsletter put out by Harvard Medical School on varying topics and just received this one today after having read your latest blog. I am coping part of the article which I thought you might find helpful.

    Take care,

    Follow these basic steps whenever you need to lift something:
    • Face the object and position yourself close to it.
    • Bend at your knees, not your waist, and squat down as far as you comfortably can.
    • As you prepare to lift, tighten your stomach and keep your buttocks tucked in.
    • Lift with your legs, not your back muscles.
    • Don’t try to lift the object too high — don’t raise a heavy load higher than your waist; keep a light load below shoulder level.
    • Keep the object close to you as you lift it.
    • If you need to turn to set something down, don’t twist your upper body. Instead, turn your entire body, moving your shoulders, hips, and feet at the same time.
    • Ask for help lifting anything that’s too heavy.

    For more on ways to heal your aching back, check out Low Back Pain by Harvard Medical School.

    • Becky on October 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Heya Ron. Yep, part of the safety school was how to properly lift something, it follows those steps you listed quite closely but thanks for posting it.

  4. Fireman Steve on October 11, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Whew. Don’t forget to take a breath every once in a while. 🙂

    • Becky on October 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      Hee, but there’s so much to do!

  5. jim on October 11, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I thought that since you are a SD resident that no state with holding would occur? Sort of like being in the military and having your home of record determine what state your are “officially” a resident of. I’d question why they would take out withholding for an out of state resident?

    • Misty on October 11, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I’m pretty sure there are special tax rules for people who live in one state and work in another? It could be that she’ll get a refund at the end of the year, though. I’m curious to know the answer, too!
      Misty recently posted..Campground Review: Gentile’s Campground, ConnecticutMy Profile

    • Becky on October 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      Sadly it’s not like the military.

      Because I’m making the money in Kansas they get some of it, no ifs ands or buts. Not having state income tax in SD means I won’t need to worry about SD trying to take some too. This is true for any state I work that has state income tax, the more places I work the more complicated taxes will get. Many workampers make use of tax consultants who have experience working with full-time RVers because it’s a unique situation. Ask around in RVing forums for advice on who to talk to.

      When I get my W-2 from Amazon in January I’ll need to fill out a tax form for Kansas, since I’m not a state resident I’ll be able to get a decent chunk of the money back (another blog I follow said they got about $200 back when they worked here at the Coffeyville site for 6 weeks) but not all of it.

  6. Kevin on October 11, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Thanks for the great information your Amason experience so far, but I am curious on what the average age of the people in your group was?

    • Becky on October 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      My fellow CamperForce people? Many are 50’s-60’s I’d guess but I haven’t really asked. There are some younger than that.

      If you’re talking about the other Amazon temp employees, they tend to be younger.

  7. Sara on October 11, 2012 at 2:09 am

    Wow…thanks so much for all those details. I am hoping to do this next year. Really looking forward to reading your entries. Interested in your campsite also. Is it close to your worksite?
    Wondering how the temperatures are going to be. How do you handle eating during work?

    • Becky on October 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      Hello Sara. Yes, I’m at Big Chief RV Park which is right across the street.

      The temps will get below freezing at night the second half of the season at all three sites, that post I linked to at the top of the article has a temperature chart in it for more details.

      I bring a sandwich and snacks. There are microwaves to warm up food too but often there is a line at them we only get a half-hour as it it.

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