So, the lowdown on CamperForce this year. As my older readers know, this is my second peak season here at Coffeyville, KS in Amazon’s CamperForce program. For those of you who weren’t reading IO last year at this time, I did a little compilation post about six weeks ago that had links to essentially every post I wrote about Amazon last year, it can be found here. Repeating it all as I go through it again this fall would be repetitive, so I’m only going to focus on the things that are different from last year.
I arrived on Tuesday, moved into my site at Big Chief (A2 – first row, second site over) which as expected already had one RV in it, a Class A owned by Lynda and Lee, my new site-mates. My biggest concern with sharing a site was the noise level, but I need not have worried. I do not think I could have picked a better couple to stay next to. They’re friendly and we have a lot in common, it’s too bad we’re working completely opposite shifts. **EDIT 4/8/14** Big Chief’s contract with Amazon was not renewed this year due to this doubling up on sites issue and a few others. So Big Chief is not an option for Coffeyville campers this year unless you want to pay for the site yourself!
Wednesday was a day off, then Thursday and yesterday was orientation. Like last year it ran from about 8 am to 12:30 pm both days, unlike last year it ran a lot smoother. This year, Amazon called us campers about a week before we showed up to give us our shift and department, so there was no arguing during orientation about who wanted what shift. Michael Cross is the name of the guy running the program at this site, he did our orientation and he knew what he was talking about and was able to answer all our questions. Last year the old guy Paul had left just the day before orientation, the HR ladies who stepped in to do orientation last minute (it hadn’t been a planned away) didn’t know what they were doing and it showed.
This year, 48% of the CamperForce folks have returned from a previous year. That’s up significantly from last year. I could tell from orientation that Michael really seems to care about the RVers, and having been a work camper himself who went through the program before staying on as a full time worker and eventually getting promoted to where he is now, it shows. He can relate to the position we’re in, and the CamperForce team looked at feedback we gave him last seasoned and implemented some changes to make things go more smoothly.
One of those changes is overtime. Coffeyville is being a guinea pig year, and campers at this site only do not have mandatory overtime this season, that’s huge. The Kentucky and Nevada sites are still doing up to 50 hour mandatory work weeks for campers this year when volume requires it, but if things go well here in Kansas this season the policy will probably be put into effect for them eventually.
The people running the program are figuring that because campers drive all this way to work, that we’ll still take the overtime (voluntarily) and end up with roughly the same number of hours as if the overtime had been mandatory. But this puts more control in the individual camper’s hands, and if they’re feeling sore and tired on one of their potential overtime days and don’t want overtime they don’t have to take it, but maybe on another day off that week they’ll be feeling up to the challenging and wanting the extra pay. No body knows for sure how it’ll work out, but I know I’ll still be trying to pick up extra shifts when I can for the money.
I’m not sure if this is new this year, or if I just failed to hear about it last year, but CamperForce people are only expected to meet 85% of the individual productivity goal for their department, and I think this for all three sites. The reason why this is done isn’t because campers tend to be older, or because Amazon is showing favoritism, it’s because campers have a higher attendance rate, so the numbers end up looking the same if you average out units per week.
Another big difference so far, this year Amazon opted to have us campers get drug testing off site before we showed up. For me, it was a bit of a hassle because I needed to drive 75 miles to Rapid for the drug test when I was at the Badlands, for those RVers who were in less rural areas it was less inconvenient. When we asked why they’d changed it, Michael said that that way people who failed the drug test didn’t waste gas driving hundreds of miles out here just to be turned away. A good question to that came up: Wouldn’t those who were going to fail the drug test know it was going to happen? Michael said that you’d be surprised, how many people just think the rules don’t apply to them and they won’t get caught.
This morning, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with another blog reader, Pamela. Pamela is the Program Manager for CamperForce nationwide, and like Michael, a pretty awesome person who really gets where RVers are coming from. She’s been traveling to the three sites, doing short interviews of campers in the program and getting pictures of them, their rigs, and the campgrounds to put together new promotional material for CamperForce that actually has RVers in it. She’s also been asking for perks we’d like to see in the program or things that could be changed in improved. Lynda, Lee, and the two of us talked for two hours, it was a productive morning.
I also discovered today that Coffeyville does have a hiking trail or two. After lunch with Lynda and Lee the three of us went out hiking for a couple hours, there’s this old road about a mile long that was made in the 1930’s along a scenic hillside. The road is very narrow and not open to vehicle traffic anymore, but it makes a great place to go hiking. I’m sad that I didn’t have my phone with me for pictures, I’ll have to go back in the next week with my phone while the fall colors are still around.