Disclaimer: Levi and I are in no way affiliated with or representing Amazon. We are simply detailing our work camping experience for those interested.
During the final quarter of each year, Amazon takes in thousands of employees in attempts to meet the demands of customers around the world seeking gifts for the holiday season. Among these hirees are RVers. There are many Amazon warehouses all over the nation, and world for that matter, but only a handful offer peak season positions to full timers. This program is known as CamperForce.
Our first year as associates with Amazon CamperForce was this past one, 2015, October thru December. Amazon had four centers available to RVers then, including Jefferson, IN, Campbellsville, KY, Murfreesboro, TN, and Haslet, TX. We opted for Texas. That happened to be the first year Texas opened up their doors to the program.
How did we learn about the position?
We first learned about work camping opportunities with Amazon while we were researching the lifestyle online. A number of full time RVer blogs raved about the monetary benefits offered during the short employment, and they weren’t exaggerating. Those interested in joining the fleet of packers and shippers need only to visit the site, Amazon CamperForce. Applications and additional information on the camper-specific program can be obtained here.
What were our duties?
Those pursuing a seasonal position with Amazon’s CamperForce program can expect to do one or more of the following general tasks: receiving, counting, stowing, picking, and/or packing. Levi and I were assigned to the ICQA (Inventory Control Quality Assurance) department for the season.
Our work days consisted of cross checking product quantity and condition. We used a variety of scanners to count inventory and cross check availability of outgoing orders.
As Christmas approached, we were asked to assist other departments in need of additional support. This allowed us to sample other duties within the warehouse. Our tasks outside inventory included outbound problem solving (finalizing orders before sending them to packing), mass distribution of inbound and outbound products using carts and totes, and retrieving and sorting lost and/or damaged items.
Work days lasted 10 to 11 hours, 4 to 5 consecutive days, all depending on overtime demand. We were on our feet, walking several miles a shift, at times, since the warehouse is so massive. Most days, however, we were at a designated station counting products since this facility is one of the few utilizing KIVA equipment.
A little bit of a background, Amazon Fulfillment Centers were typically shelves and shelves of products. Associates walked up and down aisles retrieving or storing items. Fast forward a few years and KIVAs came into play. KIVAs are, for a lack of a better description, giant Roombas that carry stored merchandise to and from associates. They allow more products to be housed and retrieval/stock time to decrease significantly as the machines are now doing all the traveling.
What were the perks?
As mentioned before, one of the main reason’s RVers apply to work at Amazon Fulfillment centers is the monetary benefits. Not only are all hours paid for at a beginning rate of ten dollars and change, but additional increases are allotted to those working night shift. Haslet’s center, this past year, offered increases in pay to both day and night shifts for those willing to work weekends during peak season. Hirees work a minimum of 40 hours per week, but can opt to work more hours. Overtime is paid at time and a half.
For those that complete the season, a bonus is attached as final payment, one dollar per hour worked. Couples working for only a few months can walk away with close to a thousand dollars in bonus pay (about 500 dollars each). One more paycheck perk: if you refer a fellow RVer to Amazon and they work the season, as well, you reap an additional incentive of $125 per referral. So, if you want to say you were referred by Natalie Flores-Henley or Levi Henley when you apply this coming year, we won’t stop you (wink, wink).
Each department in Amazon also had fun incentives for all associates, full time and part time, seasonal, and CamperForce employees. Associates with high performance rates in their field were rewarded with “bucks” that would allow them to either purchase Amazon merchandise (t-shirts, water bottles, bags) or food from the vending machines. During peak season, drawings were held for all associates meeting daily rate goals. Prizes included gift cards to local restaurants, Fitbits, and Kindles.
Besides payment for all hours worked, along with an end-of-the-season bonus, RVers can stay at a campsite (near the facility) for free since Amazon also pays local campsites for all hookups (electricity, sewage, and water). Amazon also pays for the two days preceding your initial start date and two days following your release date. This helped tremendously with set up and breakdown of the RV. Plus it allowed us to catch our breath between travels (getting to the campground and leaving to our next destination).
There were a handful of RV parks to choose from once we were hired on with Amazon. We chose a little park that contained about 40 sites, Boyd RV Park in Boyd, Texas. The park provided full hook-ups and amenities included bathrooms with showers, laundry facilities, and a small clubhouse. Propane was also available. The commute to Amazon from Boyd RV Park was about 30 minutes.
As far as location goes, Amazon warehouses are typically located in or near major cities. The Amazon center in Texas was located in Haslet, a small suburb just outside the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis area. There were many tourist sites to behold along with local events, oodles of outdoor activities for the hiker or sportsman, and loads of eateries.
What did the hiring process entail?
We completed applications online around February/March (2015); however, open enrollment typically begins at the beginning of the year, mid-January. The earlier you apply, the more likely you will get the facility of your choice. Texas seemed to be the popular facility (warmer weather, I am sure).
The online application process was pretty cut-and-dry: name and address; education and work history; task, shift, and facility preferences; and a personality assessment. They also requested a copy of our high school diplomas. Resumes were optional. Levi and I applied separately, but there was a question in the application that asked if there would be a travel partner and his/her name.
Be aware, that the department and shift you apply for may not be the end result. Positions assigned to work campers, ultimately, depend on the need. When Levi and I originally applied for Amazon CamperForce, he had requested to work in the receiving department during the night shift and I applied for the picking department during day shift. We both ended up together, in a completely different department, ICQA, working nights.
When we initially applied to work as associates for Amazon, we were required to open up our own personal account (username and password classified). We would sign into it periodically to check our application and hiring process throughout the year. The Human Resources department would also send emails with information as we progressed through the hiring hierarchy.
A webinar followed a few weeks after our application completion. This was a scheduled online session where several other potential hirees received an overview of Amazon CamperForce, job expectations, an introduction to KIVAs, and a question/answer session with our webinar conductor.
The following spring and summer months brought about emails mentioning available RV parks (affiliated with Amazon CamperForce) near the facility in Haslet. Our initial choices were turned down as one campground was never completed (construction and licensing) and another was filled up to capacity. We were on quite a few waiting lists, as well, since we did not have our confirmed start date yet.
Around the middle of September, we received an email from the Human Resources department explaining that our start date would be mid-October (with a disclaimer that we could start later if there was a conflict in our schedule and upon drug screening results). We had originally requested to begin work with Amazon the final week of October as we would be work camping in another state beforehand. Our supervisor, at the time, gave us permission to leave early so we opted to start Amazon mid-October.
An adjoining email instructed us to complete a drug test (urine sample) with the nearest Quest Diagnostics Center, which Amazon set up and paid for entirely. Our task was to show up to the center and pee in a cup. (I do recommend setting an appointment as opposed to a walk-in. It can be quite uncomfortable waiting to go to the bathroom and wait time could be hours.) Within three days of supplying a sample, we received an email with our results (negative for drug usage) and a final “Congratulations!” on becoming part of Amazon’s 2015 CamperForce crew.
We are planning on another Peak Season with Amazon Camperforce this coming 2016 year in Kentucky. Hope to see you there!
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