Believe me, I get the irony.
We wanted less stuff. We got rid of almost everything we owned in order to gain more freedom and more mobility.
So what the ever loving hell are we doing taking seasonal jobs with Amazon’s Camperforce, working for the planet’s largest consumerism enabler, during the months of the year when people are losing their minds in their eagerness to Buy All The Things?
Well, it’s not like we’re buying it.
We’re just gonna be moving it around. A lot. For pay!
And everybody likes to earn money, right?
I’ve made no secret that we live solely on Tim’s military retirement pension, and have done so by keeping our spending and our debt under control for the past four years. For us, the taking of these jobs is more about our need for new experiences than our need for income, and we know we’re very lucky to be able to work because we want to.
Plus, it’s Amazon — a business and cultural icon that we can’t imagine living without, even though we managed to find and buy things we needed (and… didn’t) without it for more than half our lives.
The company was born in 1994. Our sons? 1995 and 1997. It’s grown up with our family, with an order history stretching from toddler shoes to Legos to iPods to college text books. We want to be a part of it.
So… why the ever loving hell not?
Mmmmm, maybe because we’re not gonna know what hit us?
Although I’ve had many part-time volunteer and paid positions over the years, I haven’t worked a 40-hour week or had to clock in and clock out since 1994.
And Tim? Tim was a naval officer for 25 years, so he was used to being in charge of people, and now he’ll be in charge of precisely nobody. He will not be invited to morning staff meetings. He will be but a cog in the wheel for the first time since a stint flipping burgers in college back in 1980-something.
In other words: this will be a big BIG BIG change for both of us.
Here’s what we know:
- Our schedule will include 4 10-hour work days/week to start, increasing to a mandatory 5 days during peak season, with an option for a voluntary 6th day. The two of us will work the same shifts, although we might not see much of each other throughout the day.
- We will be paid an hourly wage, with time and a half for overtime.
- Our campsite is paid for by the company during the time we are on their clock, plus a 2-night cushion on each end. For us, that’s September 20 to December 25.
- If we finish our tours (sorry — old military terminology dies hard), we receive a completion bonus.
- We are also eligible for referral bonuses, so hey, if you apply for Camperforce next season because of this article, and they hire you? Tell them we sent you!
- We will be working in the warehouse as pickers, the position that was our first choice due to the amount of walking involved — like 10 miles/day! To state it simply, we’re on the outbound side of the operation, picking ordered items off the shelves and placing them into yellow totes bound for the packing and shipping departments.
- We are not allowed to carry our cell phones with us. We bought simple pedometers to keep track of our steps and calories burned while we work. The facility, which is only 5 years old, is a little more than a million square feet, so our feet are going to be tired. But I guarantee that lack of cell phone access will cause me to lose my shit and burst into tears long before my aching tootsies will. Just wait for it. You’ll hear me.
- The fulfillment center where we’ll be working is in Murfreesboro, TN, and was one of four Camperforce sites that were available when we applied early in 2017. Two sites were in Texas. We’d lived there for 5 years, and have had family there since 1987, so we ruled out the familiar. That left Campbellsville, KY, and Murfreesboro. The latter came out on top because the pay was higher by $1.00/hour, and there’s no state income tax.
Here’s what I predict:
- We will be using our time off for little other than subsistence chores and recuperation: cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, eating and rest.
- Social media and overall computer use will decline. Markedly.
- We will complete this deployment. By comparison to the ones Tim made during his military career, this is a short one!
And that’s all I’m willing pull out of my Magic 8 Ball of Expectations. Why? Well, because I remember that when we were awaiting the arrival of our first baby, we read all the books, we did all the research, and yet people kept telling us, “You have no clue. None.”
We thought those people were wrong.
They were not.
So for these jobs, we’ve again done a lot of research. The big difference is that this time, we know we have no clue what it’s really going to be like. Hence, I’m keeping my predictions to a minimum. And I’ll evaluate the three above a bit later in the game.
For now, we’ve got one more sleep until show time, which is tomorrow morning at 0730.
My alarm is set — with Rocky’s Theme.
This is the “Before” installment in my trilogy chronicling our 3-month gig with Amazon’s Camperforce. Other chapters quite logically include a “During” and an “After.”
For more information, feel free to dig around on the Camperforce web site, and to check out this exposé that appeared on Wired, or these articles from The Guardian, Marketplace, and Ozarks First. And if you search Google for “Camperforce,” you’ll also find a lot of personal blogs written by other RV’ers about their experiences. Mine is definitely not the only voice in the chorus!
14 thoughts on “Work camping for Amazon, Part I: What’s a minimalist like you doing in a place like this?”
It’s a very physically demanding, exhausting job. Plan on working 44 to 55 hours a week. And yes, wear good shoes and switch them out daily. This job isn’t for everyone, and not too many make it to the end of peak. Best of luck to you!!
Thanks, Matt. We’re hoping for happy feet!
Great writing as always, Emily. Good luck to you and Tim! Can’t wait to hear your take on the experience…whether it’s positive or not, I know it will be entertaining!
Thanks, David! I may not be able to string a coherent sentence together for the first few weeks, so I’m hoping we’ll get used to our new routine quickly.
So, I have never heard of such a think as this Camperforce movement! It’s quite interesting! I hope when I get to a point that I am finally able to ditch being pinned to one spot that I can get an RV and have adventures. It’s neat that companies have created a temporary job market for the nomadic people like you 😉 Can’t wait to read more! Best of luck to you both!
And I’m always surprised to encounter people who haven’t heard of it, because it is so widely known in the RV community. Wishing you a future filled with many nomadic adventures, Sherri. Sounds like you’ve got big dreams!