This may seem like an unusual topic for an RVer to be focused upon, but give me a few moments to share a little background and it will all start to come together, if some of you haven’t already figured it out. Also be forewarned, no pretty pictures to be found in this post.
“The Everything Store” is what Amazon.com has been dubbed and for those who are very organized and have begun their holiday shopping, you may have already placed an order or two here with the largest e-commerce company in the world. And Terry and I may have helped to fulfill some of those orders. Yes, we have jumped into the Amazon.com pool (drunk their koolaid), like so many other RVers. The big question is, what do we think and would we do it again? I will keep you in suspense for a few minutes as I give a little background on the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos. This CEO grants few interviews, so much mystique is swirling around him, with many questions being answered by former employees or those who have survived the “Amazon culture”.
If you have worked at one of the many Amazon centers across the country, no matter your experience, you cannot help but be intrigued. I have read a few excerpts and a lengthy article written by author Brad Stone, of the recently published book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, which is getting a lot of press.
“Amazon’s culture is notoriously confrontational and it begins with Bezos, who believes that truth shakes out when ideas and perspective are banged against each other.” ~ Brad Stone, Senior Writer, Bloomberg Businessweek.
With humble beginnings in a garage in Bellevue, WA in 1994, Jeff Bezos launched what was to become Amazon.com, named after one of the largest rivers in the world, and a name beginning with the letter ‘A’ to appear early in an online search. Even at this early stage, he envisioned his brainchild to one day be the largest online retailer in the world, and this visionary has accomplished just that. What started as an online bookstore is now a website where you can buy anything, and I do mean anything, based on what we have seen in its KY warehouse.
Jeff Bezos, former Wall Street employee, joins the elite ranks of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and his intensity seems to fit perfectly with these other tech CEO’s. His corporate culture has been said to be one of secrecy and relentless ambition, and those who do well working at Amazon thrive in an adversarial environment with almost constant friction, not exactly a healthy way to live IMHO.
For those of you with experience in the corporate world, and I shuddered when I read this article as it brought back some less than pleasant memories, one positive thing to be said for this CEO is that he takes customer complaints seriously, reading what his shoppers have to say through his public email address. Those emails that particularly peak his interest are forwarded on to his executive team, with only a one-character change in the subject, a question mark. It is said that a “question mark” email from Jeff Bezos is like a ticking time bomb, as you have only a few hours to solve whatever issue is being addressed before you receive a visit from the chief.
Today, nearing its 20th anniversary and approaching $75 billion in annual sales, with stock price soaring, we find ourselves working a seasonal gig as an Amazon workamper in the Campbellsville, KY warehouse, with a title of ‘picker’ and working the night shift no less. Shortly after we arrived in Ohio this past summer and felt the need to hover in this part of the country to see if other assistance would be needed with Terry’s folks, we applied with Amazon thinking it was a way to stay in the area, make a few bucks and get some exercise in the process. This decision was made prior to lots of hard work at the folks’ home and Terry’s cancer diagnosis. I must admit I wanted to pass on this opportunity after the summer we had but Terry was given the green light by his doc so we honored our commitment.
You could speak to hundreds of other workampers and all would hold different views of their work experience, given the position and shift. But one thing would not be denied by many, it is hard work. I think we both came into this feeling that, given how fit we are, this would not be too difficult. But unless you are accustomed to walking briskly on concrete for several hours throughout a 770,000 square foot maze, doing repetitive movements with a hand-held scanner, and doing lots of lifting and squatting each work day, you are not prepared for the Amazon experience. Our position as picker is that of a 4-day work week, 10 hours daily, with mandatory OT during the last 4 weeks, Black Friday until December 23rd. I wear a pedometer and have averaged 12 miles per day, topping out at 14 miles one night. Is this sounding fun to any of you yet?
My two BFFs are Martie, my masseuse, and Dr. Sam, my chiropractor. Having never had back problems in my life, I seem to have developed something called piriformis syndrome, where the piriformis muscle, located deep in the thigh, becomes inflamed and presses on the sciatic nerve, which presents like sciatica, with running pain and muscle spasms. So for me, having pain in my butt (hehe), I am taking it a day at a time. Terry, who has nursed a bit of a knee strain himself, believes I am a pain in the butt (just kidding of course), as I continually remind him that “I will never do this again” and I seriously doubt if he wants to either. Some things in life just do not have to be repeated.