Having to start the application process over could cost a brand-new dad like Brian a couple of weeks’ worth of work and pay. “Hurry up,” a trainer encourages me when he sees me pulling ahead of the others, “and you can put the other items back!
” I roll my eyes that my reward for doing a good job is that I get to do more work, but he’s got my number: I am exactly the kind of freak this sort of motivation appeals to. The programs for our scanners are designed with the assumption that we disposable employees don’t know what we’re doing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that more than 15 percent of pickers, packers, movers, and unloaders are temps.
They make less an hour on average than permanent workers. There are so many temps in this warehouse that the staffing agency has its own office here.
“I was up half the night because I was so afraid I was going to be late,” a woman in her 60s tells me. A minute’s tardiness after the first week earns us 0.5 penalty points, an hour’s tardiness is worth 1 point, and an absence 1.5; 6 is the number that equals “release.” But during the first week even a minute’s tardiness gets us fired. He’s speaking to us from a video, one of several videos—about company policies, sexual harassment, etc.—that we watch while we try to keep our eyes open. Other signs proclaim that a good customer experience, to which our goal-meeting is essential, is the key to growth, and growth is the key to lower prices, which leads to a better customer experience. The gal conducting our training reminds us again that we cannot miss any days our first week. She says to take Brian, for example, who’s here with us in training today. Give forklifts that are raised up several stories to access products a wide berth: “If a pallet falls on you, you won’t be working with us anymore.” Watch your fingers around the conveyor belts that run waist-high throughout the entire facility. We are broken into groups and taught how to read the scanner to find the object among some practice shelves.
When we get lined up so we can be counted a third or fourth time, the woman conducting the roll call recognizes the last name of a young trainee. Brian already went through this training, but then during his first week his lady had a baby, so he missed a day and he had to be fired. Then we immediately move on to practicing doing it faster, racing each other to fill the orders our scanners dictate, then racing each other to put all the items back.
Anyhow, regardless of whether the retailer itself or a 3PL contractor houses and processes the stuff you buy, the actual stuff is often handled by people working for yet another company—a temporary-staffing agency.(I wasn’t.) But I’d smudge identifying details of people and the company itself. If you know of someone doing this and you tell on him and he gets convicted, you will be rewarded with 0.Anyway, to do otherwise might give people the impression that these conditions apply only to one warehouse or one company. So I fretted about whether I’d have to abort the application process, like if someone asked me why I wanted the job. And though I was kind of excited to trot out my warehouse experience, mainly all I needed to get hired was to confirm 20 or 30 times that I had not been to prison. The computers screening us for suitability to pack boxes or paste labels belong to a temporary-staffing agency. There’s no point in lying, the computer warns me, because criminal-background checks are run on employees.The billion “value-added warehousing and distribution” sector of 3PLs is just a fraction of what large 3PLs’ parent companies pull in.