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.
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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!