We see Amazon.com as our own fairy godmother who drops off virtually any item possible on our doorsteps, sometimes even within the hour. But the next time you make an order, you'll appreciate the person fulfilling it by the end of this post. Instant gratification is made possible by the warehouse employees who have to walk more in a day than some of us do in a week (or more) and who have to grab the weirdest items people secretly purchase. In these Reddit IAmAs from a former worker at a million-square-foot warehouse, a picker from another large warehouse, a former fulfillment center worker, and an Amazon Prime employee, see some of your most curious questions answered!
1. What are some products that we might be surprised to learn are purchased a lot? What's the strangest thing someone's ordered?
"Not sure if you'd be surprised, but lots of sex toys. I'd say one out of fifty [orders]; mainly butt plugs and dildos. The weirdest was a fake ass. Usually the sex toys are wrapped in black plastic so we can't see them but this was sitting on the shelf in the open. It was just a life-size fake ass used for obvious reasons."
2. Roughly how long after I place a Prime order is my item actually being picked?
"One-hour orders always have priority. It is usually picked within 15 minutes after the order was made and out the door not even 10 minutes later."
3. What's the largest item Amazon can ship?
"Apparently the biggest thing they ship for free is a 2,000-pound gun safe. But they can ship just about anything, including something the size of a car."
4. Is it true they don't keep similar looking items next to each other so a picker can't grab the wrong item by mistake?
"No, they employ Chaotic Storage. They mix items of different sizes in order to maximize storage volume. It's almost impossible to pick the wrong item because of the picking system they use."
5. Is employee theft from the warehouse difficult?
"Yes, metal detectors."
6. What are the worst aspects of the job?
"Ridiculous quotas. At my peak, I was picking 120-plus items per hour, and it was just good enough. As I had to sometimes walk 1/4 of a mile or more between items, it was very difficult and physically demanding."
"Security checkpoints. We had to leave everything at the door . . . cell phones, iPods, watches, anything that could be sold at Amazon was off limits (which is everything). So there was no stimulation while we walked in upwards of 30 miles per day."
7. How can you be efficient in packaging items if you have to walk around between hundreds of aisles?
"Great question. I was only a picker. My only job was to grab two large, yellow plastic bins, put them on my double-decker shopping cart, and fill them with the items that my scanner told me to find. My scanner would then tell me when that particular bin was completed (sometimes it would only have one tiny item in it), at which point I'd move to the next one. When both were filled, I'd take them to a nearby conveyor belt and stick them on, where they would travel to the packagers. Rinse and repeat. Forever."
8. How many products did you pick a day? How are the products organized?
"Between 1,000 and 2,000. There are literally thousands of shelves full of little cubby holes. Each cubby hole is filled with an assortment of items . . . there might be a book, a toothbrush, a copy of a Barbie VHS tape from 1993, and a pair of moccasins. And you'll only pick one of the items."