The warehouse experience

By Fouad Alaa



Regardless of how content anyone is with their current job or career, they will always complain about some aspects of their job. Whether it is about bosses, workload, forced overtime or pay-cuts, you will eventually learn to hate something about your work. It is rare to find someone who says, “You know what? My job is awesome!”


If I were to tell anyone that I envied them for having their jobs, they would either tell me that I wouldn’t like it if I had it because of some reason unseen by third parties. The way I see it, having a perfect job is more or less like having a perfect partner, only the very lucky few can have it from the beginning of their careers.


Last week, I had an experience that renewed my gratitude for my job, and for anyone who hasn’t experience that sense of gratitude, I would highly recommend working one day at a warehouse.


Currently, I am working as a content writer at an online shopping website, and last Tuesday there were problems at the warehouse. Due to technical difficulties over the weekend, none of the products were shipped on time, creating a huge backlog. Since the warehouse is already slightly understaffed, it was an all-hands-on-deck situation.


The head of my department gathered us to explain the situation. He told us that they needed people to work at the warehouse for the day, doing manual labour, and that volunteers would be paid double over-time. He then mentioned that if there were no volunteers, he would have to pick people himself. He didn’t have to though, because he had us all at “double overtime” and everyone gladly volunteered as tributes.


Personally, I love breaking routine and I thought the activity would kill three birds with one stone. First, it would serve as a great team exercise for the department and give us a nice opportunity to socialize within the group. Second, the double over-time would cover my next month’s transportation costs, and even if it doesn’t, more money is always good! Third, I have never been in a warehouse, and most of times you see warehouses in television shows, it’s the scene for some underground drug-dealing activity or the final show-down in an action movie, so it was exciting for me to see one first-hand!


As soon as we arrived, our senior writer popped the trunk of his car open and brought out a wild skateboard. When I asked why, he joked, “Who wouldn’t want to skateboard in a warehouse?” and everyone laughed. I thought it was cool and that kind of made the whole working at a warehouse idea seemed like it would be even more fun.

I was not entirely correctly and was later proven very wrong.

As it turns out, you can’t have your phones or personal belongings on you inside the warehouse, nor can you leave without being fully searched. On a sunny 32-35 degree day, it was hell inside the warehouse as the fans were only available for specific counters and not anywhere else. Last but not least, there were only 15 of us and 2,000 items to be picked, packed, and shipped.


The orientation was short and brief given the lack of time, each of us was introduced to one staff member to copy them until we got it right. I was paired with a middle-aged Indian man with kind ‘uncle-like’ features and he had an efficient vibe created by his speed and manner of work. Our task was to turn a couple of shipping details papers and a raw product into a wrapped package for the shipping company to take and deliver.


Sounds simple enough but it actually is harder than you might think. After the first 100 products, though, you should be able to get it right with no supervision. After the second 100 products, the task turns from something new to a challenge as you try beat your personal best time per item. After 300 products, you’ve shifted into autopilot and the task begins to be tiring and boring.


It was hot as hell and my back muscles were starting to ache a little from standing too long. The task had become boring and the twist was it had only been an hour and a half! How could anyone do this for hours without a break?


During the 6 hours we were in the warehouse that day, we took 3 breaks (15 minutes each), 2 members of the group “escaped” (one went missing all of a sudden and the other went looking for him, never to return) and then there were only 3 of us left for another 3 hours.


By the end of the day, we were exhausted and took comfort in thinking about all the food that we would devour or all the sleep that we would get. As for me, I took comfort in the fact that not only am I grateful for my job and would take its hardship anytime over the warehouse’s, but also because I realised that I was doing something that I like.


Most people don’t focus on how lucky they are doing what they are doing because they focus more on what they would do or have given a different job or career. But does anyone think about what they couldn’t do or have? Having a job with less pay or privileges? Or having a job that you hate, with no benefits and inadequate pay just for the sake of having a job? Or worst of all, not being able to have a job at all?


Thinking about the worst possible jobs or situations is more like seeing the glass half full career-wise. it doesn’t eliminate the fact that it is also hard and stressful, or make horrible Mondays any better, but at least it serves as a reminder how better off we are and to look forward the rest of the 4 average to good days.


When I first started my job, I liked it. It was something I saw myself doing comfortably, something that I liked and it was very convenient, but after the warehouse experience … I FREAKIN’ LOVE MY JOB!


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