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I work for Amazon at one of their largest fulfillment centers. AMA about their warehouse. Except their fantastic plan of taking over the world.

May 17th 2014 by vebent • 36 Questions • 2529 Points

Hello all. I currently work at one of Amazon's fulfillment centers. The warehouse is the largest in the country at over 1 million square-feet and we're one of the top warehouses in Amazon's network. I've been with the company for a year now and have worked in every department, except for the ship dock.

People on a different subreddit have asked me to submit an AmA and even asked me about the Radiolab podcast titled "Brown Box". Feel free to ask any question you would like. I'll try my best to answer all of your questions.

I've submitted proof to the mods last night about my employment. I'll see if they can post a comment verifying proof.

EDIT: I honestly didn't think it would blow up this much. I'll post up answers to the typical questions.

-What's the worst combination of items packed and shipped? I would say the sex toys mixed with children products. I packed 5 sex toys ranging from a black fist to a pink bullet. The last item packed in was a Dora the Explorer backpack.

-What's the worst part about the job? I would say stowing items since there's hardly any room in the bins. We have a bin etiquette that we have to think of when stowing items. No placing products behind other products, small items can't be placed in large bins, etc. Having to do that and keep up with a high rate is pretty tough.

EDIT 2: To certain people asking about questions that I can't answer. I'm sorry in advance. I would like to keep my job while answering as many questions as I can.

EDIT 3: People asking questions about lawsuits in the US and other countries. Every warehouse varies. All I know is that the FC that I work for is running great and almost every employee loves working there. I definitely can't speak for other warehouses in other countries because of different laws and European countries having a union standard.

FINAL EDIT: Sorry, everyone. This will be it for me. My butt is hurting, I have a cold, and Kingdom Hearts 1.5 has been calling my name all morning. To the other Amazon FC employees answering questions, thank you.

FINAL FINAL EDIT: So I'm still on here due to the Reddit black hole, but I'm just not answering as many questions. Feel free to continue asking.

Q:

What's it like being surrounded by an infinitude of shit that you probably want or could use but don't have? I'd probably spend my entire shift every single day thinking up reasons to want things that I see on the shelves.

A:

I've ordered so many items my first month working there. Any time I'm picking books, I write down the names of any books that catch my interest.


Q:

How much money do you make

A:

I currently make $12.25 an hour. I also get a shift pay of $0.50 an hour since I work the night shift. When I started at their staffing agency, they started us at $11.00 an hour.

NINJA EDIT: I should also mention that every warehouse vary's depending on their region.


Q:

How far do you walk a day? I've heard it's a crazy amount

A:

I walk on average 15 miles a day. I take in a Nike+ watch to keep track of the miles walked ad I believe the most I've walked was 20 miles.


Q:

Do they have bicycles for getting around the warehouse also?

A:

For facilities and IT they do. Mainly because they have to haul equipment and computers around. Although, our facilities department take advantage of the bikes and just ride them around.


Q:

How much stuff gets dropped, damaged or broken in the warehouse and how much do you think it would cost Amazon?

A:

I damage out maybe 5 items in a shift. Multiply that by 500 people on each shift and that's probably how much gets damaged. I don't know how much it costs due to every product varying in price.


Q:

What is the turnover like, as in, How long does an average employee last.

A:

The staffing agency has the highest turnover since people can't make their rate in the 1 month we give them. Amazon doesn't have that much. I probably see maybe 1 or 2 Amazon employees quit or get fired every couple of months.


Q:

Two questions: What would you compare the conditions to at the warehouse?

How much automation is at play in the warehouse? I've heard that the company uses a degree of robotics (or wants to) in order to collect orders in their warehouses.

A:

So I used to work at UPS when I was 19 and they were horrible. No air conditioning. We're working almost 8 hours and we only get a 15 minute break. There was one time that the entire warehouse lost power and we had to wait at the trailers until it could be turned on. No going to the break rooms or to the bathrooms. They took out our 15 minute break because we weren't doing any work during that outage.

Amazon is a million times better than that. There's air conditioning and fans everywhere.

EDIT: Sorry everyone. I had to delete that last portion.


Q:

I heard that the company uses different amounts of robotics in different warehouses so a bug won't take them all down.

A:

We use the Kiva system in our sort facility. Unfortunately I've never seen it in action. We're opening up another warehouse about 20 miles away that will deal with apparel and small items and they will use the Kiva system as well. I hope I get the chance to open that warehouse.


Q:

What's the strangest combination of items someone's ordered?

A:

I've answered /u/scansinboy on the same question. Usually it's the mixture of sex products with children items. The weirdest for me would be the 5 sex toys ranging from black fists and small pink bullets. The last item placed in was the Dora the Explorer backpack.


Q:

Is it easy to steal something?

A:

Yes and no. Sometimes the metal detectors will go off, but I've heard that it's easy to take gift cards or anything you can place in your wallet. Good luck with that though because I heard that security can question the contents of your wallet.


Q:

You will probably find gift cards are only activated after scanning as part of a delivery.

A:

This is true. We scan the bar code and then the serial number. Just like the Kindle's.


Q:

How many dildos do you think you have handled?

A:

Personally or in the warehouse?


Q:

What to you think of Amazon's new Pay to Quit policy, under which you can get up to $5K for quitting your job?

A:

At first I thought it was bribery. Then I thought of the lazy people that we do get in our warehouse. If you don't want to work or if you have another job lined up, then take the money.

EDIT: Took out any identifying information on my FC location.


Q:

You just identified the warehouse you work at btw.

A:

Hmm... I sure did. I need to edit that out.


Q:

Do you think that your job will be replaced by robots in the next five years?

A:

Nope. We do have a robotics system in place at other warehouses when it comes to the pick department, but they still require people to physically pick the item.


Q:

How big are these warehouses actually? I ordered a graphic novel, which is in stock, from Amazon, not a reseller, and it's not going to ship for three months. I called, and they said it takes that long to find it.

I'm picturing the warehouse from Indiana Jones.

A:

Ok, so imagine your typical library with their different aisle of books. In the warehouse the aisles are twice as big since the have to fit 2 carts side-by-side. There are 125 rows of shelves in each of our mods and there are 2 mods each of them having 3 floors. If they tell you it takes a long time to find it, then they're either misinformed or just lying. We have a very easy process of finding these items. Basically I pick about 1,400 items in one shift.


Q:

Why do I sometimes get a giant box when I ordered, for example, socks? Why don't you guys put it in a smaller box?

A:

From what my AM's tell me it has to do with costs. Maybe it's cheaper to send a giant box to your area rather than a smaller box. We also put iPhones and more expensive products in large boxes due to people stealing packages when they're delivered.


Q:

So...do you ever hold off on shipping a product because someone asked for free delivery instead of overnight?

A:

That is something our corporate HQ deals with in the CS department. We get the orders from them to ship certain products or to pull them. We never see the reason why. At least I don't. My managers probably do.


Q:

What's the largest item you ship?

A:

The black fist I mentioned in another comment. There are larger items I'm sure, but this thing was unusually large.


Q:

Wait, I can order a 40' laddder and you're telling me a black fist sex toy is the largest thing....

A:

Our facility doesn't deal with those kind of items. The largest box we have is about the size of a school desk.


Q:

How does Amazon prevent theft by one of its employees? And have you ever been tempted? I mean you are in a warehouse with tons of goodies.

A:

We have metal detectors that we have to go through when we leave the warehouse. If they go off, security then wands us and sends us away if there's nothing. They also post up any big terminations on a board. Fortunately, they don't post the names of the employees.

I'm never tempted. The main reason being because I worked at a casino handling millions of dollars. If I'm not tempted to take that, then I'm not tempted to take products.


Q:

No question, just want to express to you and your co-workers appreciation from someone who lives in a remote community for the work you do to fulfill our orders. I've got limited choice locally and not only does Amazon bring a lot of products together to one website, but the shipping costs are also reasonable.

You have no idea the impact you have in your role for people like me.

A:

Thank you for this. This is one of the reasons I'm excited to be there.


Q:

Hello there!

I read at another AMA way back that working conditions for Amazon warehouse workers were really stressful and tough. I didn't think it was strange - I mean, big corporations often have pretty shitty jobs at the bottom and Amazon is a huge company, with focus on speed and price.

Would you the warehouse conditions are as terrible as previously stated? How is worker burnout? Average employment time?

I really like Amazon, especially here in Japan, so ideally, I'd like it to be awesome of everyone involved.

A:

I'll admit it's pretty tough at some points. I'll have days where I wish I can be home rather than constantly walking or packing items. However, I've heard of these same conditions. Every warehouse varies when it comes to who's running the place. Right now, we have an awesome GM that is all about morale since we're one of the top running warehouses in Amazon's network.


Q:

Do they let you visit the ship dock to see the secret Nuclear missile sub program they are developing if you promise not to tell anyone about it?

A:

WHO TOLD YOU ABOUT THAT?!

EDIT: I mean, what secret Nuclear sub program?


Q:

Do you get free Amazon Prime?

A:

No. Every single employee want it though.


Q:

What shoes do you wear?

A:

Nike+ runners. Because I have a watch that works with the device in them that keeps track of the distance I've walked.


Q:
  1. How popular are Amazon's products like the Fire and new TV, are you shipping lots of those? Are there any special instructions for handling goods made by Amazon?

  2. Just from your vantage point, do you ever have corporate orders that show how Amazon is reacting to rivals from Apple and Google to Walmart and Target?

A:

When the Kindle Fire HDX was released, we shipped off thousands of those in one shift. As for the Fire TV, I'm not really sure.

I honestly don't think Google or Apple are our rivals since we do sell their products. We never hear anything about Walmart or Target.


Q:

What is the worst thing about your job? Conversely, what is the best?

A:

The worst thing is stowing items in the bins. In that department they have a rate of over 100 and you will hardly find any space in the bins due to keeping a proper bin etiquette. Basically you can't stow products behind other products and you can't stow large items in small bins and vice versa.

EDIT: Sorry about this. I had to edit out the last portion.


Q:

What is the weirdest/most random items that have gone into one shipment box?

A:

I did 5 different sex toys ranging from black fists to small pink bullets in one package. The last item I had to put in was a Dora the Explorer backpack. Usually it would be the sex toys and lubrication mixed with children products.


Q:

Amazon was slammed recently for underpaying and mistreating its workers, are you sure this isnt some kind of attempt to reimage the company? Most companies have a media clause in regards to their companies operations so I find it interesting that you could get such permission to post an AMA without a PIO public information officer approval.

A:

I don't have permission and I know I'm not underpaid. I did research on other warehouses and Amazon is the highest paying when it comes to having no skills.


Q:

What colour is the floor?

A:

White, grey, and there's different colored tape on the floor.


Q:

Nice try Amazon supervisor, trying to find out who OP is so you can fire him. Nice try.....

A:

Yeah, I'm not falling for that one. I'll see you at work, /u/Human_Sandwich.


Q:

Where are my Tim Tams? Can you look for them?

A:

Dude, we totally shipped them yesterday. I promise.


Q:

Have you ever gotten any angry letters from people when they don't get their things on time?

A:

None of the associates see any customer feedback. Although, I would like to see the responses from angry customers that get mad over too much bubble wrap, too little bubble wrap, or the item was placed in the box wrong. I've heard of feedback like that.


Q:

Irrelevant to the topic, but what are you doing tonight?

A:

I'm going to watch Attack on Titan and make some awesome love with my fiancee.


Q:

What's you're opinion on the whole amazon air delivery system and do you think it'll come to the us

A:

I would imagine so if Jeff Bezos can pull some strings with local air space. They were able to start the Kiva system in our sort facility and they're going to add in more Kiva systems in other warehouses. So I'm almost certain that their drone system will take off, but not real soon.