An Amazing Journey

or, An Amazing Journey into the depths of an Amazon Warehouse

My journey from programmer to Amazon Warehouse worker.

  1. Introduction & Preface
  2. Applicatiion Process (online, digital)
  3. i9 & Drug Test (in-person)
  4. Looking Forward (other misc thoughts)
  5. Welcome To The Team (Teh Shoes! part 1)
  6. Documents Hell (online, digital)
  7. Teh Shoes! (part 2)
  8. Orientation
  9. Stow, Damnit. STOW!
  10. I finally met my manager.
  11. No Good Very Bad Day (pt 1, of many to come)
  12. The End


A few years ago, before the COVID pandemic — actually, a few years before that
— I got tired of sitting at my computer writing the same boring code all day.

For a while I thought about turning a desire to learn a particular hobby into a job.
But, over the past few years I have second guessed myself on this;
maybe a hobby needs to stay a hobby for some relaxation time outside of work.

The other thought on my mind is getting fit.
I've grown too fat sitting at my desk programming.
I've dropped nearly 30 pounds in 2022, and I want to continue losing weight.
What would be better than getting paid to stay fit?

I've thought about, but know nothing about construction.

I've never done food service.
A new pizza joint is opening down the street.
I Figured, hell -- why not?
I applied.
Obviously, No word back.
Makes sense, Those places usually only hire teenagers.

Just before the 2022 holiday season, I signed-up. I drank the CoolAid.
I guess it was on a whim.
I saw a news article about the local Amazon warehouse hiring, and followed the link.

The one thing I don't like is the drive; rather, I hate traffic.
And public transit stops about 2 miles short of the warehouse That's an irritaiton..
But, on a positive note: There were sheltered bike-racks outside the recruiting center.


Amazon does not want a resume or job history.
Hey, go ahead, c'mon in.
Put your name in the pot.

This, BTW, is really cool.
When I was younger, I hated filling-out job applications. F*-that.
This is a positive part of the application process.

A down-side is the non-FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) acknowledgement.
Yeah, Amazon makes you acknowledge that you have to accept them performing a legally questionable background check, should they so choose.
There might be some legal issue here.
But, as many people as Amazon goes through (said/meant in the disposable sense of staff being easy-to-replace), either this non-FCRA thing is ...

Whatever the circumstance, I decided to just go ahead and accept.
Besides, what's the worst Amazon can do to me?
Turn down a "contingent" job offer?
Remove my reviews from their website?

It would be fair to say I have a small bit of concern about the kind of stuff that big-data has been known to lump together and attribute to the wrong person, as it pertains to "internet" background checks, and secondary checks of a person's character. Or just plain going digging in the dirt, trying to make mud, etc. But that's also why the law provides for notifying individuals of an adverse background check report, receiving a copy, and going through a corrections process.

Otherwise, on a very positive note, the process of applying for grunt/manual/disposable labor jobs with Amazon is wicked simple.

Even though it's been a number of years since I've applied for a job,
it is also very positive that this whole process is digital; digitized; online.

I hate paperwork.

i9 & Drug Test

Presnet your ID.
Your official form of verifying your right to work.
Please wait ...
    ... ... ...
Thanks for waiting.

No, we won't pay you peanuts.
We're going to give you a second raise.
Before you start working for us.

Great. Thanks. Now I can afford shelled, roasted & salted peanuts.

Right here, I'd joke about practically having a heart-attack.
A $1 or $1.25 or $1.50 raise before even starting work?
Woo Hoo! That's awesome.

There's a base rate, and then another rate depending on shift, and job.
You don't know this when you select your shift online.
After you select, this information is presented to you (online).

And then, before you're even hired, still in the contingent phase, just going through the pre-hire motions
BANG! You want a job? Well, we've only got one with higher pay, so that's the one you get.

You get two raises,
before you start.

I'm dead serious.
She quoted one pay rate, and then a higher one, and then a second higher rate,
While working through whatever process of filling-in i9 details, and describing whatever job I've been assigned to.

It's worth observing that I've never received a raise BEFORE starting a job.
I've negotiated pay.
I've never, automatically been given a raise.
Why're so many people crying union?

It's worth mentioning that nothing of my work history has been asked or is known. I did apply for a software developer job with Amazon back in 2012 or '13 or '14. I'm not sure if Amazon has pieced this together.

As a programmer, I'm paid much more than what Amazon is paying. I'm doing this for the fun of it, and because I'm a fat desk jockey in the process of getting fit. The benefit for me is the physical-labor aspect of the job, not the increased pay.

Another way of putting it:
I'm not doing this for the money; it doesn't motivate me.

I understand that some people struggle; and this is a big-deal for some people.
My jokes about this are not meant to be offensive.
I can't help but find the whole situation humorous.

If you're reading this, and it bothers you, I apologize.
Different things motivate different people.
I was young once, and worked minimum-wage jobs.
$1.50/hr more is nothing to balk at.

Oh, and now you have mandatory overtime.
Yeah, this was a WTF kind of thing for me

I came into this having heard about these things, knowing they could happen, but
I didn't expect to be notified of the days and hours of mandatory overtime I'd be assigned to, BEFORE I start working.

Why didn't they just put it in the shift description in the online application?
Those increased pay perks have some down-sides I guess.

But, I wouldn't peg it as a negative.
I'm glad I only applied for part-time.
Might be a knock-on-wood thing.
Who knows. It might turn into a full-time job.
I'm replacable. Go along with it, or be replaced!

Now follow the yellow brick road.

Drug Test!
Stick the cotton sucker in your mouth, and suck, damnit, suck!
Nope. Suck harder.
Yes, you suck.
Jokes just aren't jokes without negative reinforcment.
This whole sucking hard, on cotton, should be interpreted like comic-book anti-hero, Venom, conversing with his host.

Thankfully, the cotton-sucker-room attendant was wicked cool and chatted up a few of us up while we were waiting.

And then I left. And now I'm sad. And here I am starting this.

Looking Forward

So, part of my interest/motivation, getting fit aside, I have to admit to a bit of curiosity.

I want to know if my experience is one of the positive ones, or if all of the negative stuff peole say about Amazon is true.

I do know some things, because I know some Amazon employees. Desk jockeys and programmers like myself.

Ex. that whole "hustle" culture, work hard, points-system thing is real.

Fair to say, if Amazon has its compensation levels automated the way it does; my experience above; why're so many people crying union?

However, I am not in it to influence or seek answers to the latter query.

Though answers might eventually reveal themselves, I've set my mind to —
I'm a part-time seasonal employee.
At the end, I'm laid-off.
I'll tell pro- or anti-union influences that I'm part-time, seasonal, and to leave me the hell alone!!!

IF, and ONLY IF at the end of the season Amazon asks me to stay on full or part time,
There might be some point in the future I'd indulge such thoughts more fully.
But for now, I need to get fit, not fat.

Welcome to the Team

Well, that was fast.
It didn't take 2 weeks to do the background check.
Either I'm that good, or Amazon simply doesn't care.

Now you need to go read and sign a bunch of stuff.
I actually read most of what I acknowledged and signed.

But first, who doesn't want or like a new pair of shoes?
Amazon gives you a $110+%10 ??? gift certificate for Zappos.

Amazon puts emphasis on the fact that you need good quality "safety" shoes for the warehouse.
And since Amazon owns Zappos ??? — go over there and get yourself a pair of shoes, pre-selected and approved by Amazon, their treat.

New shoes! Wow!!! Thanks!
I think I'll get myself some bloody expensive flip-flops! (or some other not-very-safe shoe style)
Just joking!
Not likely. Code is probably limited to specific shoes in that curated selection.

So, that's what I did before signing my life away ... ordered some shoes.
immediate gratification is all the rage
good trade

Sign Your Life Away

Not really.
BUT, Ugh... employment paperwork.
Always a grind.

I always read through employment paperwork.
I'd suggest you do the same.

Nothing out of the ordinary or surprising, except maybe one or two things I thought about writing about.
BUT, I acidentally signed the Confidentiality/NDA before realizing it.
What's done is done. Can't talk about it.

There are TWO (2) sections — acknowledgements, and stuff you need to sign digitally.
My process flow was acknowledgements first, then sign all of the documents in one shot.
That's how they sunck the NDA under my nose.
I was just sort of humming along; going with the flow; the employemnt paperwork grind.
It was a minute or two later I realized I'd signed away my rights to speak freely.

All of the documents you sign and acknowledge can be downloaded.
AND, like I recommend you actually read what you're signing and acknowledging,
I also highly recommend that you keep digital copies of what you sign and acknowledge.

If I remember correctly,
One thing that left me scratching my head a little,
A document marked confidential,
It described something that's common knowledge about Amazon's warehouse operations.

I mean, who cares about turning people into robots or automatons.
It's going to happen. If not Amazon, then someone else. Amazon didn't invent this phenomenon.
Hi John Muir, I'm waving at you!!!
Everyone else, read yourselves some history, and books like The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

Or at least I think it's common knowledge. Stuff I've heard and read about before.
And, not a big deal, other than outlining specific and particular details.
Absolutely nothing strange or off or new compared to the kind of performance things
other employers employ to hold employees in suspensful fear of the revolving door.

Okay, that halloween joke was really, really bad. Sorry about that.
I'm not a whips-and-chains kind of person,
but some people get off on their employment,
and others get off living in fear.

Teh Shoes!

Like the background check, and drug test results ...
... the shoes arrived earlier than the specified delivery date.

I wouldn't say I'm necessarily "worried" about it,
but, I wouldn't be surprised if I got called-up earlier than my start date.

Woo Hoo! I got new shoes!
Just joking. IMO:
They're work shoes. I won't wear them anywhere else.
I am, however, keeping them at the end of my "seasonal" job.
Pretty sure they won't want shoes used that much returned.

I wore them for a few hours after they came.
They're well built and comfortable.
I'll be breaking them in some more.


It's been a few weeks.
Before I forget:
I was not called-up early.
I started on the original date set when I applied.

The first day was orientation, duh!
I went in there thinking they'd give you a quick run-down,
and then throw you into the fire,
what with the holiday seasons coming up.

10-hours sitting on my ass,
developing blood clots,
being indoctrinated into Amazonian culture.
There's nothing Amazonian about this place; not one thing at all.
Amazons are wild. This is just another warehouse job.

If that sounds bad — it's only because the indoctrination is typical BS.
Legal and safety stuff, etc.
Lions and Tigers and Bears ... Oh My!

There were, however, a few interesting parts.

Except for the formal indoctrination into things which are culture-specific to Amazon.
Not saying anything bad about it.
It's just ... humorous ... trainers trying to be positive and upbeat,
but the jaded audience isn't phased;
mostly there to do a job, and for the paycheck;
Ain't nobody drinking the kool-aid.
The world keeps turning; the trainer stays positive; eyes glaze over.
Yawn. What time is it? What! It's only been 2 hours!
Another 8 hours of this crap? Oh jeez. Oh boy.

The two guys from HR both had beards.
One spoke.
The other did not.
The one who spoke was a substitute for someone else.
We'll call the one who spoke "The HR beard-o" from now on;
like "weird-o," but for bearded HR people.
I really hate HR people. And this guy big, burly bearded guy definitely had the soft, calm HR persona down to an acting art form.
I think one of the open jobs at my facility is for the head/lead HR person.
Amazon just froze corporate hiring; dumping like 3% of its corporate workforce.
Belt tightening; batten down the hatches before the economy tanks.

Amazon puts a great deal of (digital) emphasis on: You may be asked to stay-on full-time after your seasonal role.
The HR beard-o de-emphasized this.

After the talking HR beard-o went over VET and MET (Voluntary, and Mandatory Extra Time), I asked a question about P/T seasonal MET ...
The HR beard-o clarified: "No, you will not have MET as a seasonal P/T employee."

So, that shot-down one of the funny things about the onboarding process ...
when the lady who did the i9 paperwork informed me of pre-employment raises, ...
and that Thursdays would be my MET days.

I've since picked-up a few VET half-shifts.
I have not seen any MET on my schedule.
I did get an extra hour of pay just for submitting proof of COVID vaccination — that was cool.

After orientation, I had 2-days with a "learning ambasador" — and now I know how to stow.

Stow, damnit, STOW

Stow like your lives depended on it.

LOL, no, it's not that bad.
It's not bad at all.

Stowing is the process by which we put stuff away.
After unloading a truck, or stuff gets returned, or whatever ...
Before someone can pick an item and put it in a box to ship it outbound,
Someone has to put that item somewhere so that it can be found.
That's what I'm doing.
That's what stowing is.

Most of all, my feet hurt.
They hurt even more if I stand still.
This is despite awesome shoes, comfy insoles, and a thick padded mat over concrete floor.
Simply put: It hurts less if you keep moving.

I knew that 2.5 hours walking, usually around 7 miles ... woudn't fully prepare me for this.
But I'm still amazed at just how much it hurts.
It's not bad enough I'm going to quit.
But it has crossed my mind to call it quits.
I think to myself: By the time I walk out,
stand there explaining to HR that I'm a quitter,
it'll be end of shift anyway, just keep going.

I've never done food service.
Like an 8-hour shift at a fast-food restaurant.
Or a waiter or waitress at a diner.
I can only imagine.

I should clarify ...
Once upon a time, my first job while in High School was an industrial workplace.
It had shorter work weeks and longer shifts.
There was no over-time unless you went over 40-hours in a week.

At Amazon, I'm working 10-hour shifts.
There are two daily shifts.
Inbound and Outbound are separated by 30-minutes start/end times per day/night shift.
My department, STOW is Inbound.

It's not like it was when I was younger.
I work 8-hours regular pay, and then 2-hours overtime pay, daily.

Stowing is literally 10-hours ON YOUR FEET.
Oowwwww. My feet hurt. They don't ache. They hurt after 10 hours.

Worst part is when you aren't very active ...
... big items in your crate queue, ...
... and pods full of bins that are already packed/stuffed.
The time slows to a crawl.
And my feet hurt more.

The last two hours just suck (feet, pain).
A free bin, down low on a pod, and a crate full of small stuff ...
Feels so good to kneel down and take the weight off my feet for a minute.

You should not interpret the whining about my feet hurting as anything negative about Amazon or its workplace culture.
There are literally hundreds of other people in the building at any time, some feel the same, others maybe less so.
Taking on this job was my choice.
Informational for others who seek to join Amazon.
Experiences and mileage may vary, person-to-person.

I finally met my manager.

It took a while, but my manager finally came around while I was working one day.

In speaking with another manager in the same role,
I was told that during the "peak" (holiday) season,
His employee head-count is almost doubled.

There were at least 30 people in orientation with me.
Five (5), maybe 6 people per learning ambasador.
Amazon hires 1000 -to- 1500 seasonal/temp employees for this facility.
And this happens over the course of a few weeks,
starting about 1.5 or 2 months before Thanksgiving.

I can only imagine what they're going through; the insanity.

The No Good, Very Bad Day

Or maybe there won't be many more to come?

We hear about those bad experiences,
but in staying positive,
we don't expect them.

That basic desire to want to have a good, positive experience.

Well, I had my first bad day.
It was one of the VET (voluntary extra time) half-shifts I picked-up.

It's dark out when I would usually walk for exercise,
I'm happy having the ability to get a full-body workout inside a warm warehouse.
AND NOT a full 10-hour, feet-hurt-like-hell shift.

Except when you're not getting a work-out, but standing around.

When all you have to stow are big or heavy items,
and most of the bins in pods are already full ...
... your performance metrics tank.

I can't help what's thrown at me.
Auditing my performance, or coaching me doesn't solve the problem.
Tips and hints are helpful.
Blaming employees for the employer's problem with operations doesn't solve problems.
It just upsets the employees you're relying upon to do a job.
Happy employees work more efficiently than those you piss on.

I learned how to game Amazon's system.

The trainers and auditors teach you how to game the system because they know about its problems and issues.

I'm new, and I'm learning, but still.
It is not my problem that Amazon's systems or operations are screwy and stupid.
Especially because I'm new.

Rather, I think this is an operational problem with the facility.
And if not my particular facility, then Amazon warehouses in general, or at large.

If the facility's managers followed Amazon's leadership principles,
they would be trying to solve problems, not teach employees to game the system.

On the other hand,
who am I to argue,
what the hell do I know?
It works.
People love Amazon.
They get their stuff.

Amazon wouldn't have insanely large distribution facilities
staffed with hundreds of thousands of people
if it didn't somehow work.

Then again, the latter statement(s) is/are how you become complacent and not improve.

There's always room for improvement and to be better.

Broken robots, two different managers saying different things,
and then blaming employees for systems/operations problems:
No Bueno!

I'm not going to let one day get me down.
Besides, as many people as there are, if I up and quit, won't matter.
Cynical/Sarcastic Reminder: People can be convereted into disposable robots or automatons.
Solution: Laugh in the face of fools; act as indifferent and disrespectful toward employers as they treat their employees.
And then Walk.

The End