Is that too long of a title? I don’t know, probably, but you did click on it so it must have caught your eye enough to some regard. Anyway, in the midst of the quarantine, I worked at one of the Amazon warehouses for a little less than three months and if any of your packages were damaged during that time…that might have been me…kidding! But also, if you’re in the Renton area, it may have been me and I am sorry if it was.
With Amazon being such a massive company, there are many rumors that are true and many that absolutely false about the intense work environment. I am big on reflections so if anything, this is me processing what it was like to work such a physically demanding job, did I mention that this was my first time working in a warehouse? Let me continue.
If you’re looking to lose weight or get fit, work here. At times I would end up walking about 9 miles and burning close to 700 active calories…which is impressive given my height and weight. To give some sort of perspective, if I ran a 5k, I would probably burn somewhere between 350-400 calories. Now, fully understand that I went into work under the impression that I was going to get paid to work out, essentially. I did my job with the intention of working hard and sweating a lot (and probably smelling utterly terrible towards the end of my 6.5 hour shift). But all that being said, I lost a lot of weight and most of my pants don’t fit me properly anymore. Side note, I also went hiking and running on my off days, but still, you burn a fair amount of calories on the job, so consider it to be a reason to join. The tasks can be monotonous. They are not hard to learn and get good at, mostly. The people make it interesting. I took it seriously but also was able to laugh at myself and my coworkers. The Amazon warehouse in Renton is less stressful compared to the nightmare stories you may hear about the warehouse in Kent. Take that into consideration.
To my friends who are chasing white-collared jobs, work a blue-collared job, just for a little bit so you can appreciate the hard work and the people that get these kinds of jobs done. Gain perspective. You meet people from all walks of life working at Amazon. Some are your standard college kids who just need to pay off their student loans, some this is how they pay for rent and expenses, some ended up here solely because of COVID-19. As I worked at Amazon, I always saw it as temporary because I knew I was going to leave before school. This brought perspective and appreciation to those who see Amazon as a permanent position, at least as long as their bodies can take it. Here I was complaining about having to take painkillers every day, but for some, this is their full-time job and I cannot express my gratitude enough. Good on you. Please take care of your bodies. Please get some sleep. But thank you for doing the work that many of us do not want to do long term, thank you.
Amazon pushes you to be competitive and pushes you to do the best you can without any sort of appreciation, which is interesting. You equally make a difference yet you are easily replaceable. You equally matter yet some may never learn your name. Your hard work is acknowledged by being given more hard work. If I’m completely honest, the built-in competitive nature of the job plus the lack of appreciation is where I struggled as an Amazon employee, as a person and as a Christian.
To Amazon, you’re just an employee ID number and the goal is for you to do the best and most efficient job you can. “Big Brother is always watching” is a great way to describe the work environment. They keep track of how fast you can move and how quickly you can do things. They know when you take your break. They know when you take a break that you were not assigned to. They know everything, probably. Work with integrity and you have nothing to worry about. If you’re good and fast at your job, you’re going to know it because you’re given harder work. It is just enough praise for your ego to take it and run with it. I do have a competitive nature so that is definitely most of the problem, but also, Amazon feeds into it ridiculously well.
My biggest struggle was making sure I was doing things for the right reasons. “Am I helping my coworkers because I want to help or because I want to get praised?” “What is driving me to do my job faster?” “What is the motivation behind trying to be the fastest and hardest worker in the warehouse?” I had the internal struggle of wanting to feed my ego and do things out of selfish ambition versus doing things out of complete selflessness. At one point, for at least a couple weeks, I was doing things solely to just be the “best” and be praised for it and for me to get all the glory. It was my way of trying to be praised but disguise it as just being a really helpful and non-stop working person. I was running around filled with pride. In retrospect, it’s not something I was proud of, but oh it’s so tempting to fall into that trap. I think we all relate to this whether we’re working or not.
I knew it wasn’t right and I knew that’s not how I am called to live as a Christian. Our human nature wants us to just praise ourselves and think way too highly of ourselves but when I think about living as a Christian, that’s not it. As a Christian, I should be doing things out of selflessness, just like Jesus. I should work with integrity. I should respect my bosses. I should help because I want to help not because I want to be labeled as helpful. I should work hard and humbly. Even my non-Christian friends, I know you can agree to at least some of this. You know that love is selfless.
“3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Philippians 2:3-5
After this realization in the middle of my shift, with arms full of packages, stacked poorly with my chin pressed on top to increase my grip, I tried to be very intentional with my motives. I tried to look at people as God’s creations and truly get to know them because I care, not because I want to be labeled as caring. I would only help others if my motivation was selfless. I would work hard but not ask about my “efficiency rate” as I knew how troubling that could be for my ego. I wanted to work hard in a humbling way. Now I was never perfect at it, go ask my coworkers. They know. But I did try to be intentional with my thoughts and actions.
I sit here, sipping away at my now room-temperature “cold” brew coffee and I can tell you wholeheartedly that I miss it and I will really miss working at Amazon. Some of those reasons are completely selfish and some aren’t so much. I miss the people. I really enjoyed working there and I learned a lot from that experience. It wasn’t always easy to live a God-honoring lifestyle there, in fact it was almost the opposite. There was a lot to complain about. I worked a lot of shifts filled with anger and bitterness. There were times where I snapped and made stupid and snarky remarks, that I regret. I do feel like I got better with time at managing my emotions, my competitive drive, and my thoughts about the company, but I messed up occasionally, as expected.
There’s this line in Hamilton where one of the characters asks herself, “have I done enough?” and that represents how I felt when I left. Did I do enough when I was working at Amazon? Did I do the best job I could have done? The questions are interesting because they are, well, works-based. Honestly, the answer is maybe to those questions. I did my best. I tried hard. I worked hard. I did what I could with the premise being that I am an imperfect person. Works-based is so hard because I do not think that you can ever have a solid answer to “have I done enough?” Who’s the judge of that answer?
You know where this is going my non-Christian friends, but please just hang with me. We are almost done. I think about the “have I done enough?” question in regards to Amazon and I know a lot of people can relate to that with their work but also with their salvation. The nice thing is salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Though I strive to be a “good person” and I strive to do what’s right in God’s eyes in all areas of my life, my salvation is through believing that Jesus died on the cross out of love for us all. I never have to worry about the “have I done enough?” question because I could die at the end of this sentence or in 80 more years, but either way I know I am saved. Well, looks like I made it to the end of that sentence at least. Every other religion is works-based except for Christianity. Everything else expects the imperfect person to be perfect. Christianity acknowledges you are not perfect but still offers salvation through faith in who Jesus claimed to be. It’s something to ponder, quite frankly. I know you can’t compare Amazon to Heaven, not even close, but you see what I’m saying.
“23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
My little tangent is over. I really enjoyed my time at Amazon. I gained a lot of perspective from my time there and I am excited to share the sitcom-sounding stories that I will remember the rest of my life. It was quite a summer and I met some really awesome people there. I thank God for that experience and I thank God for each and every single one of my coworkers, even the ones I bickered with. They all have a special place in my heart.
Thank you for staying with me as I gathered my jumbled thoughts and threw them onto this blog. I appreciate each and every one of you. You are all so loved by the way.
Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.