Back to Amazon and a Change of Tactics

Sparks Marina RV Park has an outdoor hot tub that is open all winter.  Win win situation.

Sparks Marina RV Park has an outdoor hot tub that is open all winter. Win win situation.

Happy Halloween everyone!

So. Julie, Chance, and I have now been living in the Reno area for nearly three weeks. All in all, things are going well and I’m enjoying our new home base, more details on Sparks Marina to come. We’ve made one trip out to Lake Tahoe already and hopefully will be doing another this weekend (canceled on account of snow, can you believe it?).

But before getting into all of that, I feel a report on why we’re here in the first place is in order: working at Amazon. I get a lot of questions from curious RVers about what CamperForce is really like, so I do my best to keep this blog a good resource for those who are contemplating working here themselves.

Like last year, I’m going to focus on the differences between this and previous years and how Fernley is different from Coffeyville where I worked the last two years. For those of you just joining the program who have no idea what I’m talking about, the link to my main article about Amazon’s CamperForce can be found here. At that bottom of that page are links to every other post I’ve written about it, and the link for this article will be joining it shortly.

For starters, I mentioned this in a previous post a month or two ago, but I think this is worth bringing up again since I have new info. Since CamperForce’s start there have been three main sites that RVers could choose to work at: Campbellsville in Kentucky, Coffeyville in Kansas, and Fernley in Nevada. This season, Amazon added a fourth one: Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This coming February, the Coffeyville site is being shut down, which brings CamperForce back down to three sites. And the Fernley site is moving to Reno.

From what we were told during orientation, CamperForce will have a presence at the new Reno location, but there has been no estimate on the number of RVers who will be hired. What we do know, is that in order to work at the new Reno location, you’ll be required to learn how to drive PIT equipment (powered industrial trucks). All the picking and stowing is going to be done using PIT (so it’ll be all pallets maybe?). It sounds like Amazon will train and certify willing people, and you do not need to have certification or experience with PIT in order to be hired – but as always I’m not an official Amazon spokesperson and all information I provide here could change at any time. We’ll see what the playing field looks like after the move to Reno is made early next year.

Now on to the differences between Fernley and Coffeyville:

  • Last year, Coffeyville moved to a system whereby all overtime was voluntary for CamperForce, and I can only assumed that remained true this year. It sounds like Fernley still holds to the system where overtime becomes mandatory for CamperForce as peak approaches.
  • Fernley has already talked about moving all of it’s employees to mandatory 11 hour days for peek, something that only happened for Outbound in Coffeyville.
  • Fernley’s hours are a bit different. Outbound and Inbound start at the same time, which is 7 am to 5:30 pm for the day shift, and 6 pm to 4:30 am for the night shift. Coffeyville ran a half-hour earlier for Inbound, one hour earlier for Outbound.
  • Oh, and two big things that are the same. Fernley was reported (from what I heard from other campers) to have the most strict policy about breaks and lunches. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s actually no different that Coffeyville. The overall treatment I receive from managers and other employees is also comparable.

And differences between this year and last year:

  • Weekly paychecks instead of bi-weekly
  • There is no 10% discount on up to $1000 of purchases this year for CamperForce. Instead we get:
  • Heath Care enrollment and
  • Paid Time Off, which can be used after 21 days of employment, can be used during peak time (it’d have to be, since we’re only there for peek, heh), and is lost if not used by the end of our contract time.

For many campers who have lots of family to do Christmas shopping for, the loss of the 10% discount is unfortunate. It doesn’t bother me too much, I never was a big online shopper.

The health care enrollment is kind of a pain. Nine and a half weeks isn’t enough time to use it to go see a doctor for preventative care (especially on a night schedule and with so much overtime) so I don’t really get anything out of it. If they do it next year there’s a possibility I’ll be enrolled in a ACA plan, and getting coverage from a job may make me ineligible for the ACA plan, so it may turn out to be a negative for me and other younger full-timers who pay for their own health insurance.

The paid time off.. I’m not sure yet. It’ll be handy if campers can use those days when they’re feeling tired and don’t want to work mandatory overtime or if they’re not feeling well. I’m wondering if using that time in place of a standard work day would keep me from getting overtime pay if overtime was called later in the week. We’ll just have to see.

Other than that, Fernley and Coffeyville are startlingly similar. I wouldn’t rate one as better than the other, although there is more to do in the Reno area. Oh, and for those wondering what we’re doing, Julie and I are in Stowing this year, that’s the job I did my first year at Amazon.

And that’s a wrap on Amazon for now. The earning potential is looking promising for this season. I already had overtime this week, which has made updating a challenge. Which brings me to the second part of the title for this post.

Living in Sparks and driving to Fernley for work is a 45 minute ordeal twice a day. Add that to a ten hour work day and eight hours for sleep, and there is honestly very little time on week days to work on writing posts. Especially since I also really want to get the eguide out before the end of the year. I started writing this post on Tuesday, and didn’t finish it until today. Once peak gets closer and we’re moved to 11 or 12 hour days, there will be even less time.

So, I’m going to try something new.

Last time when I found myself short on free time to update IO twice a week, I just posted once a week. But I didn’t like that solution. I love sharing and chatting with all of you, and I feel disconnected when I can’t update regularly. This is what I love to do, and if having to work didn’t interfere and I could write more often I would.

So what I’m going to try is writing one regular post a week, and then once or twice during my work week posting a picture. I’ll try to keep them interesting and relevant to RVing, and will include a caption or perhaps a motivational quote. We’ll call this a trial run and see how you all like it. I’m hoping doing it this way will allow me more time to keep up with comments and respond to e-mails and keep to a more regular posting schedule during my time here at Amazon.

Let me know what you think! In the meantime, no Halloween night is complete without watching at least one scary movie, so Julie and I are off to do that now. Have a great weekend all!

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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…

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Finding Temp/Contract Jobs for RVers

January 18, 2013 | 32

Well, this hasn’t exactly been my most thrilling week as a full-time RVer. There’s been an awful lot of job searching going on, and not a whole lot else. So when it came time to write today’s blog post, I figured what better topic than finding temporary jobs for RVers, since hey, it’s been on…

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Haslet CamperForce Orientation

October 15, 2015 | 28

Yesterday was my first day of work, orientation day at the new Amazon fulfillment center in Haslet, TX, near Fort Worth. Actually this facility isn’t new per-say, but it is new to the CamperForce program this year. As always with my Amazon coverage, I’m going to focus on what’s different this fall from previous falls.…

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Becky

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.

51 Comments

  1. Teri Rostberg on July 14, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    I have reservations at Finish Line. No showers there but can put up with my aisle shower if I need to. Does Amazon have any showers in their facility for employees.



    • Becky on July 14, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Nope they do not Teri.



  2. Teri Rostberg on July 11, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Do you know anything about the RV campgrounds near Haslet? I see a list I received with Alta Vista the closest, Ranch of Rhome next, then Boyd and the others about 30 min away



    • Becky on July 11, 2016 at 6:53 pm

      Amazon has not released the Haslet campground list for 2016 yet Teri, we’re all waiting with baited breath for it, haha. The list you have must be for last year, but I imagine it’ll be pretty similar.



      • Teri on July 12, 2016 at 4:47 pm

        I just received the list via email from them and a couple of updates. I am wondering if the Finish Line RV is the one that is closest to the warehouse. In today’s email they mentioned 2 are full already.



        • Becky on July 13, 2016 at 5:51 pm

          Yep the list just came out Teri, I think later on the day that I replied to you actually, haha. Amazon has put the mileage from the warehouse next to each site in that e-mail so it should be easy to see which are closer and which are farther away. I do believe Finish Line is the closest.



  3. Sharon O on January 1, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Very interesting information, as I have been considering a change in my life and would like to work seasonally and travel more. I like your straight forward writing of the Amazon work experience. I willing be reading more on your future travels.



    • Becky on January 1, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Welcome to IO Sharon and I’m glad to hear you’ve found this helpful.

      Amazon is one of the most lucrative seasonal work opportunities available for RVers, you might want to also look into gate guarding (easiest if you’re a couple) and the sugar beet harvest. Less lucrative but more fun is working at national parks for a concessionaire, it’s usually not much more than minimum wage, but the location makes it very enjoyable if you like the great outdoors.

      Best of luck to you!



  4. Lance G. on December 9, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Hi Becky.

    This Supreme Court ruling was issued today.

    http://news.kron4.com/news/amazon-workers-dont-have-to-be-paid-to-pass-through-security-supreme-court-rules/

    In your experience, was there really very long waits to pass through Amazon Security to and from work? In your opinion, were the wait times unreasonable or excessively long?

    It’s interesting to note that the ruling was unanimous — so it wasn’t a case of liberals vs conservatives.

    Lance



    • Becky on December 10, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Heya Lance,

      Neither Coffeyville nor Fernley have had long wait times for security, it hasn’t been an issue here at all. Every facility is set up different I think.



      • Lance G. on December 10, 2014 at 4:35 pm

        Good.. Glad to hear you haven’t had to waste time checking in and out of work. It does seem unfair if one has to wait for a prolong period of time to get into and out of work due to security.



  5. mratlas on November 20, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Sounds like Amazon is changing things up.

    http://online.wsj.com/articles/amazon-deploys-robots-to-speed-delivery-1416433198

    This link may go dead after a few days but here’s some of the article:

    Amazon Robots Get Ready for Christmas
    The Squat, Wheeled Machines Move Stocked Shelves to Workers

    Amazon.com Inc. ‘s robot army is finally falling into place.

    The Seattle online retailer has outfitted several U.S. warehouses with squat, orange, wheeled robots that move stocked shelves to workers, instead of having employees seek items amid long aisles of merchandise, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Now, “pickers” at the facility stand in one place and wait for robots to bring four-foot-by-six-foot shelving units to them, sparing them what amounted to as much as 20 miles a day of walking through the warehouse. Employees at some robot-equipped warehouses are expected to pick and scan at least 300 items an hour, compared with 100 under the old system, current and former workers said.

    At the heart of the robot rollout is Amazon’s relentless drive to compete with the immediacy of shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers by improving the efficiency of its logistics. If Amazon can shrink the time it takes to sort and pack goods at its roughly 80 U.S. warehouses, it can guarantee same-day or overnight delivery for more products to more customers.

    The robots could also help Amazon save $400 million to $900 million a year in so-called fulfillment costs by reducing the number of times a product is “touched,” said Janney Capital Markets analyst Shawn Milne. He estimated the robots may pare 20% to 40% from the average $3.50-to-$3.75 cost of sorting, picking and boxing an order.

    At the robot-equipped warehouses, 20 or more shelf-toting robots may be lined up in front of a picker, these people said. Employees remove items from the robot-enabled shelves and place them in bins, which are whisked away on conveyor belts to other workers who box the goods, label the boxes and place them on trucks for delivery.

    :



    • Becky on November 22, 2014 at 11:52 pm

      Yeah Amazon is always changing things up, trying to find ways to do things quicker and with less costs. As I suggested in a earlier comment, I’m pretty sure this is why Coffeyville and Fernley sites are going away – outdated and manpower costs more than automated systems in the long run.



  6. Doug on November 12, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for the super informative writeup Becky! I don’t think I would mind being on my feet for ten hours a day—but I would absolutely hate that hour+ commute every day. So with the whole operation moving to Reno next year, major improvement in that respect.



    • Becky on November 12, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      It’s all depends on what you’re use to Doug. I did 45 minute commutes at the two “real” jobs I had before hitting the road, so doing it now with my best friend to help pass the time and through a pretty cottonwood-filled valley with mountains on either side is nothing. 🙂

      Edit: Well, it’s not nothing, but it’s not the actual driving that bugs me, it’s the lack of time caused by the long drive.



  7. rick on November 2, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Your updates are always informative and uplifting so thanks for taking time to post whenever you can.



    • Becky on November 3, 2014 at 12:55 am

      You’re welcome Rick, glad you like them.



  8. Mike on November 2, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Great update. The hot tub in the winter weather will be relaxing.
    Full time as of last week.



    • Becky on November 3, 2014 at 12:54 am

      Congrats Mike! Enjoy the open road, I hope you find a hot tub or two yourself in your travels.



  9. Jack Nimble on November 1, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Reno area. I know working doesn’t give you much time to get to know the area, but before you leave try to get to Virginia City, Genoa, and Donner Pass. I see you’ve already hit Tahoe. So nice to see a young person make an alternative life possible.



    • Becky on November 3, 2014 at 12:53 am

      Drove through Virginia City, it was neat. I’m hoping to get out and see more of the area as time permits. 🙂



  10. Susan on November 1, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Becky, I will miss seeing you this fall but felt the opportunity for Nashville was a good one. Here the routine for overtime seems the same as Fernley. Campers are not required to do 11 or 12 hr days but have to do mandatory 5th days. The 20 hrs time off is nice but you have to sign in advance. It is a nice bonus with a strain I experienced at work this week.
    weather here is decent though freezing Temps fr last night and tonight then it will return to normal warm temps. All the campgrounds are 45 minutes or so away, some an hour. It adds a lot od stress to the day. The people are welcoming and lots to do in the area so it has been good. The managers have realized that Campers are great employees. Accordin to manager Jason- they work hard, and provide no drama. They are a managers favorite employees now. That was an appreciated compliment.
    enjoy the hot tub and enjoy Reno!



    • Becky on November 3, 2014 at 12:52 am

      Yeah, it’s a shame we can’t meet up this fall but there will be other chances I’m sure, enjoy your time out in TN and thanks for the update. I don’t have much input from RVers who’ve worked at the TN location yet and it’s nice to have that information to add to my reports. Maybe if CamperForce continues out there other RV parks will open up closer to the site.



  11. Fireman Steve on November 1, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Hi Becky,
    Always a thrill to read your posts. We are considering full time RVing. We recently went to the Pomona RV show and, I think, we saw every type of RV made…lol.
    We found what we like. Now it’s just being able to find a unit we can afford. I agree with a previous post about Virginia City, especially the Bucket of Blood Saloon…..interesting history in that city. Be safe out there on Hyw. 80 during your commute.
    Steve



    • Becky on November 3, 2014 at 12:44 am

      Oh, I always enjoy going to RV lots and shows, even when I’m not in the market for one. Just interesting to see all the options. 🙂 Good luck to you two, whether you decide to go full-timing or not. It is a big decision to make.



  12. Rene Kipp on November 1, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I think sharing a picture and a caption or quote would be a good compromise. Your readers understand that work must come first or you couldn’t have the lifestyle that you do.
    Working 10-11 hours and driving for 1 1/2 hours each day definitely makes for a very long work week! Good thing it’s temporary. I doubt anyone could keep that schedule for long.
    Hopefully you’ll have time to visit Virginia City. It’s about a 40 minute drive (south) from Sparks. Here’s a link describing the interesting happenings of the little old mining town. It’s kind of neat walking the wooden boardwalks. I’ve visited the cemetery and a few of the other areas. Honestly, I wish I would’ve seen this website before our last trip there. http://www.visitvirginiacitynv.com/
    Rene Kipp recently posted..Halloween Through The YearsMy Profile



    • Becky on November 3, 2014 at 12:42 am

      I hope it’ll work out Rene, we’ll see. 🙂

      I’ve actually driven through Virginia City! The CamperForce kickoff bbq was at the home of someone who lives just past there. When I was driving through I thought I’d like to go back and spend some real time there. Looked like an interesting place, that cemetery was visible from the road.



  13. Pleinguy on November 1, 2014 at 11:53 am

    That seems like a long drive twice a day after a long shift. Sounds like a good plan for the blog. Have fun in Reno and keep us posted.
    Pleinguy recently posted..TaosMy Profile



    • Becky on November 3, 2014 at 12:32 am

      Well, same commute time as the two real jobs I had before I started RVing, so it doesn’t feel as ridiculous to me. I will have fun and keep you all posted of course. 🙂



  14. Jodee Gravel on November 1, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Glad you at least have a “carpool” for the commute each day, although it still makes for a long day. Of course in L.A. it takes 45 minutes to go 6 miles on week days 🙁 Seems early for snow in that area, but we finally got a good little rain storm last night so I guess weather is changing all over.
    I wonder if the PIT certification is something that could be used at other employers “down the road”. It’s always nice to have an additional marketable skill just in case!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Nothing Left to Do But ChillMy Profile



    • Becky on November 3, 2014 at 12:24 am

      Yikes. It was like that in Atlanta too, glad I don’t live in a big city! The snow is all melted now, but it did last a full day.

      And yes, it occurs to me that learning PIT at Amazon could have uses elsewhere, if I end up coming back to Reno next year.



  15. Barrie on November 1, 2014 at 6:55 am

    Hi Becky,
    Thanks for taking the time to write. Goodness only knows how you do it. I find your postings interesting and appreciate you sharing.
    Barrie



    • Becky on November 2, 2014 at 11:12 pm

      You’re very welcome Barrie. I enjoy writing them or time would be even harder to find.



  16. Sherry on November 1, 2014 at 5:36 am

    I’m curious if you know why Amazon is is spending the $$ to close two existing plants and build two new ones? No wonder they have to drop the discount people can easily use for healthcare that’s harder. Bummer for the two towns they are abandoning.



    • Becky on November 2, 2014 at 11:12 pm

      Us regular workers have never been told, so I don’t know for sure Sherry.

      If I had to guess, I’d say technology. The fulfillment centers that CamperForce has a presence at are all the older ones without the automated machinery that don’t require a large workforce. I’m guessing building new warehouses with more up to date technology costs money in the short run, but saves Amazon money in the long run with less workers to pay. Again, this is just a guess.



  17. Jim@HiTek on November 1, 2014 at 5:31 am

    Another great post, Becky.

    One favor to ask. Would you mind taking a picture or two of the Fernley plant and posting it? I know you can’t take any of the inside, I’m just talking about a picture of the building.

    Thanks.
    Jim@HiTek recently posted..More from Rome…My Profile



    • Becky on November 2, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      I’ll try to get one this week Jim if the light is good enough. Now that we’re back on Standard time the sun sets an hour earlier and I don’t start until 6 pm.



  18. Leslie Alpen on November 1, 2014 at 2:52 am

    What a most informative blog. I enjoyed it all – very interesting – 10 hour shifts would not be allowed here – unions would screen blue murder!!! Have Fun in hot tub – your body will need it



    • Becky on November 2, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Welcome to IO Leslie, glad to have you here and I’m happy you’re enjoying it!

      10 hour shifts four days a week or 8 hour shifts five days a week… still works out to a standard (for the US anyway) 40 hour work week. When overtime gets called, then we work five 10 hour shifts for a 50 hour work week, or if Amazon doesn’t need quite that much they may have us work 11 hours four days a week for 44 hours a week, all depends on the needs of the company. Least the pay (for this kind of job) is good.



      • Leslie Alpen on November 8, 2014 at 2:24 am

        Thanks for the info – breaking it down to understandable hours – have fun – it makes the day go faster cheers. ?
        Leslie Alpen recently posted..LAST GLIMPSES. ….My Profile



        • Becky on November 8, 2014 at 10:31 pm

          You’re welcome!



  19. John Hussey on November 1, 2014 at 2:18 am

    Strange. The Amazon link does not appear up on your posting’s email, but only when I click on the header or “comment”and your blog opens in separate tab. So…”found the link”!



    • Becky on November 2, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      Yep, viewing in RSS readers or through the e-mail just gives you the actual blog post, not all of the rest of the content on the website. Usually once a month (at the start of a new month) I’ll post the link directly in a blog post along with a thank you note, but I don’t want to spam people with it every post.



  20. John Hussey on November 1, 2014 at 2:13 am

    No more Amazon link, portal for us shoppers there to give you some income?



  21. Ron on October 31, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    HAPPY HALLOWEEN & Don’t work to hard. Sure enjoyed your adventures between jobs.



    • Becky on November 2, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      I hope you had a good one too Ron, and glad you enjoyed following along.



  22. Jonathon and Audrey (YarrVee.com) on October 31, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Becky,

    Reading your post, a couple other options came to mind…
    1) Use Snapchat for pictures and short (10 second) videos on your phone, and publish to My Story. If you select your name at the top of the My Story list, you’ll see your Snaps for the last 24 hours, with a gear icon on the right side. Select the gear, then select SAVE. This puts the photo/video in your gallery, and you can share it with other apps, upload to IO, YouTube, etc. when you have a solid connection. People who follow you on SnapChat can see your videos and pictures as you post them, and the rest of your audience will see them later, when you upload them to the blog, etc.

    2) Again, use video instead of audio to write your posts. You can probably bust out a significantly long post on video in 10 minutes. If you’ve got a good network connection, upload it to YouTube, and link it from IO. If you’ve got a terrible network connection, then – when you have time, transcribe the video, editing as you go.
    I’ve found when I do that for myself (make a rough cut of the post in audio or video first), the time it takes to create a new post falls dramatically, because I (mostly) already know what I’m going to write, and writing the post is more akin to editing the post…

    Can’t wait to see how it all shakes out for you! =)

    [J]
    Jonathon and Audrey (YarrVee.com) recently posted..Oh, the Calamity!My Profile



    • Becky on November 2, 2014 at 10:28 pm

      We’ll see Jonathan, video doesn’t come as naturally to me as writing and taking photos, and uploading video on free campground Wifi might be something of a nightmare. I may try it sometime. 🙂



  23. Rob on October 31, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    A 10 hr day and a 45 minute commute each way really east up the day (did that & it did), soaking in the hot tub will be a good way to end the day.



    • Rob on October 31, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Eat the day….eat!



      • Becky on November 2, 2014 at 6:14 pm

        Yeah Rob, my last two “real” jobs before I hit the road had 45 minute drives…and no hot tub! I’d say my situation has improved. 😉



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