Amazon's Seasonal 'Workampers' Fill Holiday Orders

To help to fill orders during the holiday season, Amazon.com turns to "workampers." These are seasonal employees who travel around the country in RVs working temporary jobs. Lynn Neary talks with one such workamper, Irene Luft, who is wrapping up her job with Amazon.com.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Santa, of course, needs elves to make sure he deliveries his presents on time. Amazon.com needs workampers. That's a name for seasonal workers who park their RVs in campsites and take advantage of temporary jobs. For Amazon, workampers appear in the months leading up to Christmas, to get merchandise ready to be shipped. Irene Luft is one of them. She's just finishing up her fourth year of seasonal employment with Amazon. We spoke with her from the Big Chief RV Park in Coffeyville, Kansas. That's near a giant Amazon warehouse, where she's been working.

IRENE LUFT: Well, this year, what we did is we - what they call stowers. Product would come into the warehouse, and we would put it away in bins so that the pickers could pick it for the customers' orders. Last year, we were pickers, so we picked the products.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEARY: What does that mean when you say you pick the products? What do you do exactly?

LUFT: Well, we have a scanner, and it tells us what products need to be picked. And then it goes to the packaging center to be packaged out for the orders that come in.

NEARY: Right. How many hours do you work doing this and for how long?

LUFT: We work 10-hour days. Most people start, like, in the end of September, early October. Some come in August. It's four days a week, at least 10 hours to start, and then we go to 50, or we can go to 60 hours a week depending on the customer demand.

NEARY: Now, I understand the work is winding down a little bit right now.

LUFT: Yeah. We're done. Our last day was yesterday. We're leaving today to go to warmer climate.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LUFT: But we're returning next year.

NEARY: What is it about this nomadic lifestyle that you like so much?

LUFT: I like it because I get to see the country. I get to meet a lot of different kinds of people. It's something that, I think, if I waited until I was totally retired, I wouldn't enjoy as much as I do now. I wish I had started earlier.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEARY: So, you know, I know that you were saying some people come back year after year. I mean, do you see some of the same people and get to know them from one year to the next?

LUFT: Oh, yes. Workampers are like a family within ourselves. We meet new people, and yet we have the old people who return to certain jobs. My husband and I had become very close with a lot of the local employees. They're wonderful people. We love the facility. And that's why we're returning.

NEARY: Oh, that's nice. So you have a - kind of have a reunion every year when you come back.

LUFT: Yes, we do.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LUFT: Yes, we do.

NEARY: Well, thanks very much, Irene, really appreciate it.

LUFT: You're welcome.

NEARY: Irene Luft is a seasonal employee with Amazon, and she joined us from the Big Chief RV Park in Coffeyville, Kansas.

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