Working as an Amazon Camperforce employee is certainly an experience. This time was better than in 2015, mostly because last time was such a transitional time. Some say Amazon was the same, it was our expectations that were different. Perhaps there is some truth in that.
We arrived a few days ahead of our October 16 start date and got settled in quickly. We chose, once again, to stay at Heartland RV Park, totally for the convenience of its location. It is not a beautiful location, with wide open spaces and green grass, or a view of a lake out my door, but instead only 1/4 mile from Amazon. All our neighbors were fellow Amazon Camperforce, so it was always quiet. After working 10 hours, the last thing we wanted was have even a 5 or 6 mile trip home. We did walk sometimes, but some mornings were just too cold, which made it worth taking the car for the (less than) 5 minute commute.
We had the same jobs as our last peak, Bill was a picker, while I packed. He actually liked picking, and didn’t mind walking 10 miles per day on average, which was nice. Overall, I didn’t mind pack, except for the times the boredom got to be too much. But, I got through. Physically, we both did okay. My shoulders and back got sore, but nothing some Advil, heat pack or back rub couldn’t help. I did use KT Tape on my knees every day and they did fine.
So, how did the financials play out?
We worked a total of 10 weeks. There was overtime available to those who wanted it. Amazon breaks it down into to categories, MET or mandatory extra time, and VET, or voluntary extra time. There was several weeks that MET was cancelled, but VET was still available. In those cases, we generally choose to work 5 hours VET, which was a nice compromise.
Financially, we didn’t do as well as we did Peak 2015, even if you take into account we worked 2 less weeks. The main reason is we were on day shift and didn’t earn the $0.75 per hour on straight time and $1.13 on overtime differential. You might think that isn’t a lot, but it actually adds up to quite a bit.
I was paid for a total of 390.93 hours of straight time, and 42.62 hours of overtime. Bill was paid for 398.47 hours straight time and 57.88 hours of overtime. Straight time pay was $10.75, and overtime $16.13. So, not including the bonus, our total earnings were $8,486.05 straight time and $1,621.07 overtime. Grand total (before bonus): $10,107.12. This is gross earnings, before taxes have been taken out.
If we were earning differential on those hours, it would have come to an additional $592.05 on straight time and $113.57 on overtime hours, $705.62 more for the season. Differential is paid for split shift (which we signed up for but it wasn’t available for our start date), and night shift. I believe there is also a shift that your regular scheduled days include Saturday and Sunday, that gets paid differential.
I also received a $500 referral bonus this year, $125 each for referring 4 people. Didn’t quite make up for not getting the differential, but almost. It was taxed like regular pay.
Amazon Camperforce pays a bonus for each hour worked when you work until your completion date, which this year for us was December 21, at about 8am. The way they paid your overtime hours bonus this year was different. In 2015, we received a $1 per hour worked, regardless of straight time or overtime. This year, they are paying $1 per hour straight time and $1.50 per hour for each overtime hour worked, so an extra little bump. Using the numbers above, our total bonus was $940.15, bringing our total gross income, also including the referral bonus, up to $11,547.27. Not too shabby – a fair time/money exchange, as Bill likes to call it. No where what we used to earn in our “previous life,” but especially for Bill – absolutely no stress at all – and that’s worth a lot!
The next financial consideration is our campground fees were paid by the Amazon Camperforce program. We generally budget $600 per month for campground fees, so 2 1/2 months of “free” parking represents a savings to us of about $1,500.
Costs in Campbellsville
Campbellsville also has a fairly low cost of living, groceries, fuel and the like are less expensive than other places we’ve stayed. For example, a gallon of milk is less than $2 at Walmart! Gas for the car averaged about $2.10 per gallon. Diesel was not cheap, but rather about average what we’ve seen in other places (except Alabama – Alabama was cheap for diesel!)
Bill went to the movies with Steven and it was $13.50 for admission, a large popcorn and drink. We went to see a play at the local college and it was $10 each! Other things we did (distillery tours) were between $8 and $14 per person. Out to dinner was also inexpensive, we ate at the college for $12 for the 2 of us, including drinks and dessert, Garcia’s was about $34 average with a drink, dinner at Brothers was under $25 and Thanksgiving dinner buffet at Creekside was $30 for both us!
We really loved being around other full-timers, we just “get” each other; we share stories and tips easily. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Steven & Linda and Lee & Tracy, not sure we could have made it without you! Also – Debbie & Jim, Deb, Kevin, and John, my pack dept buddies who helped the day pass with laughs! A few blue badge Amazonians that stand-out: Bryan, my manager, who was always there with his high-energy enthusiasm and a smile AND played awesome music at start-up meetings and in blurbs occasionally during the day. Jessie, other pack manager, who was always so sweet and a calm-in-the-storm when needed. There were also PA’s who were ever present and helpful – I’m afraid to call them out by name for fear I’d forget someone.
The most asked question when people find out we’ve worked at Amazon “Would we do it again” – while it wouldn’t be my first choice, I’m sure if conditions were right we would. Conditions being we need the money, but we are hoping our new venture(s) in 2018 will make it so we do not.