Working at an Amazon Warehouse: What Is It Like Working for Amazon?
How to Get a Job at Amazon in the United States
Not everyone will be lucky enough to be able to get a job working at one of Amazon's warehouses in the United States. Almost everyone can get at least one shot to see if they can physically handle the job because it is physically and mentally demanding. A quick online search or by simply watching your evening news will let you know if the online giant retailer is currently looking for new employees.
In the area of the country that I live in, in order to get your shot at working in one of the Amazon warehouses, you have to first apply to a temporary service. There are a few guidelines that you will have to follow and these are important. Just like many jobs out there, being able to follow simple directions can make or break you in your job retention chances.
In order to be hired to work as a temporary associate at Amazon, you have to:
- Be able to pass a mouth swab drug test.
- Not been convicted of a violent felony.
- Pass a simple screening test for reading comprehension.
- Be available to work one of the four day on, three day off shifts that are available.
The first step is filling out the application online, then going into the temporary service's office the next day. You will register with them and go through a process that takes approximately one hour or more depending on what time of year it is and how busy the temp service is that day. If you make it through the screening process, you will receive a short interview where you will be given your start date for orientation at Amazon's warehouse, your schedule, told what you will be doing and given your pay rate and pay card unless you want direct deposit into a bank account. The temp service does not do paper checks.
Have you ever considered working for Amazon?
The Physical Side of Working Inside the Amazon Warehouse
Physical exercise is an understatement. I have worked as a ground picker, a picker that drove PIT equipment, a packer on the line to box product for shipment, and a stower that puts merchandise into the bins. Each position that I held was just as physically demanding as the others in one way or another. Here's a quick description of each of the jobs that I held while working there:
- Ground Picker: You walk for MILES a day pushing a cart that becomes heavier with each item that you scan and pick from the bins. It is a 10 hour workday of non-stop walking. It is amazing how much pain goes through your body until you have been doing the job for about a month. The good thing is that you will be in excellent physical shape, will probably lose a few pounds (I lost almost 20), and will have the privilege of being able to eat anything that you want without having to worry about gaining weight.
- Picking on Equipment: I went through a two day class on safety and how to drive a PIT machine that is literally called an order picker. You are strapped into a harness and drive the machine with a removable cart on the back. This machine allows you to go up to 40 feet in the air to retrieve merchandise that is generally larger and heavier than what is picked on the ground. If you are afraid of heights, this is not the job for you. The physical demands of the job are that you are lifting packages up to 50 pounds and have to stay alert of people walking around along with other PIT equipment that may be on the floor at the same time you are.
- Packer: This is almost as physically demanding as the ground picking. You will take merchandise from the picker's carts and scan it into the system. The computer tells you what box to select. You open the box (they are stored folded flat) and lift the item into the box, sometimes higher than shoulder height. The physical demands of this job are that you have to move very fast and could be stuck lifting heavier items repeatedly, back to back, over the course of the day.
- Stower: This is the exact opposite of the ground picker. Instead of pulling merchandise from the bins, you are putting merchandise into the bins. There is just as much walking involved in stowing as there is in ground picking and the cart is heaviest at the beginning.
Those are the four positions that I have had personal experience with. Each one presented their own challenge, the majority of them being physical. After getting used to the physical demands of the job, in all honesty, I thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Amazon.
Will Amazon Hire You?
The answer to that question is solely up to you. I was hired by Amazon even though I honestly didn't expect it to happen. I received the envelope with the application and instructions on what to do and my interview time. Less than a month later, I received my coveted "blue" badge. The identification badge that tells anyone inside the warehouse that you are on Amazon's payroll.
The top things to do to ensure that you have a chance of being hired are:
- Show up to work and coming back from breaks on time.
- Make your rate. This is not as hard as some people make it out to be.
- Keep a good attitude and being cordial to other employees. Don't buy into anything that creates a negative work environment.
- Keep your complaints to yourself.
- Follow ALL of the rules.
Following those simple tips will get you the best chance of making it onto the Amazon payroll.
The Peak Christmas Season and Overtime at Amazon
Peak season starts a couple of months before Christmas. In my area of the country, the temporary service will start advertising that Amazon is hiring for the Christmas season to try to get the workforce bulked up for the rush. There will be a lot of new faces around the warehouse from about October until the middle of January.
The regular work schedule for an Amazon warehouse associate is set to 4, 10 hour days in a row, and then three days off per week. You are usually assigned to work Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with Thursday, Friday, and Saturday off. Or you may work Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off. There is also another shift called the doughnut shift that works on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. People on that shift have Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday off. The shifts are excellent for the majority of the year, until you get into the peak season.
The first thing that will happen is that Amazon will ask for people to volunteer to pick up a fifth day. If you volunteer, you are locked into work that day and if you miss it, you will have to take the disciplinary action for attendance for that day. Once orders really start to pick up, that 5th day becomes mandatory for everyone. You are now on a 5, 10 hour a day work week for a total of 50 hours.
Closer to Christmas when orders are really pouring in, you will be hit with another day. In other words, you will be required to work 6, 10 hour days. This schedule does not last very long. Usually, it's about two to three weeks at the most before things start to calm back down and before you know it, you are back on your usual four day week.
20 hours of overtime on a paycheck is nothing to sneeze at and the money really comes in handy around the holidays.
Things That Will Get You Fired from Amazon.com
There are certain things that are really a no brainer that will get you immediately dismissed from the Amazon warehouse.
- Stealing of any kind. You go through metal detectors and the possibility of being searched before you leave the building. It doesn't matter if it is a break or you are leaving for the day. Amazon will prosecute too so if you decide to take something, chances are you will get caught.
- Fighting with another employee. A simple argument can get you in serious trouble including being fired. They have a zero tolerance for any type of disruptions in the work day.
- Violating certain safety rules. Many of the rules have a process that they follow for disciplinary action, but horseplay on equipment is a one way ticket out the door.
- Attendance is really important at any job but with Amazon, poor attendance practices can get you fired. They use a simple to understand points system. Once you reach 6 points, you are out the door.
Amazon's Benefit Package If You are Hired and Get Your "Blue" Badge
The benefits package that is offered to employees is in one word, amazing. Yes, you work hard as an Amazon Associate inside one of their warehouses but with the pay combined with the benefits, it is definitely worth it. Here are the benefits that I received when I worked there:
- Medical Insurance: They had many plans to choose from including plans for same-sex couples, common-law spouses, and older children. My medical insurance cost me $104.00 a month and I had NO co-pays for doctors' visits and my prescriptions were free.
- Optical Insurance: Free eye exam and free eyeglasses if I needed them.
- Dental Insurance: Minimal co-pay and excellent coverage.
- Life Insurance: Cost varies depending on the plan chosen, but the free policy is 2 1/2 times your yearly salary.
- 10% Discount: You get a code from Human Resources that will give you 10% off of your online order at Amazon. I heard a lot of people complain about this benefit but my take was that they didn't have to give us anything so be glad you get something.
- Prizes for Contests: Throughout the year Amazon will do giveaways for their employees and the prizes are pretty good. They give away large televisions, gift cards, iPad, and other high priced items that are in their inventory.
The benefits of working at Amazon are excellent in my opinion.
Why I Quit My Job at the Amazon Warehouse
The short version is because the job became too physically demanding in combination with my other life obligations. I am also a farmer and in the summer months, it became harder to keep up with everything that had to be done so I made the hard decision to let the job go.
I do go back every year as a temp for peak in the wintertime and really do enjoy it. Amazon has a lot of critics out there that say they are too demanding on their employees and some employees even complain about how they run their business. While working there, I found that some people can do the job and some can't.
It's like my grandfather used to say, the world needs ditch diggers just like it needs doctors—and unfortunately, some of the ditch diggers believe that they should be doctors.
© 2015 TheBadJuJu