Advertisement
  1. Business

Amazon's new Florida centers draw out desperate job-seekers

Amazon is offering $11 an hour for work at its new distribution center in Ruskin, and it shouldn’t have a tough time finding 1,000 workers to fill those positions.
Amazon is offering $11 an hour for work at its new distribution center in Ruskin, and it shouldn’t have a tough time finding 1,000 workers to fill those positions.
Published Jun. 17, 2014

Amazon has put out another "We're hiring" sign, suggesting the retail giant is close to opening its distribution centers in Ruskin and Lakeland.

I'm not sure whether to celebrate or put my phone on mute.

For weeks, I've been inundated with calls asking for information about Amazon. Callers read my stories about Amazon opening warehouses in Florida and think I work for the online seller.

I don't. I'm a newspaper reporter.

Around the office, it has become something of a joke. Colleagues laugh at the sheer number of times in a week I say, "I don't work for Amazon." My editor says I should get a commission from Amazon for everyone I direct to its job sites.

Some days, I cringe picking up the phone, especially after the three calls in a row from a trucking company owner increasingly angry because his driver couldn't find Amazon's warehouse in Ruskin. I finally pulled up a map online and directed him from Interstate 75. "Head west off College Ave., turn right at McDonald's and look for the 1-million-square-foot building on the right. You can't miss it!"

Sheesh.

Some of the calls are just strange, like the one from a mother looking for a job for her adult son, who would be "just perfect" for a warehouse position. I pictured the poor woman making a ham and cheese sandwich for her 32-year-old son while he played Xbox in her sewing room. "There, there," I told her. "Write down these websites and apply for him online. Good luck." (She needs it.)

There also was the call from a delivery guy who wanted to know if Amazon accepts shipments on weekends or at night. "Don't know. Maybe check the invoice for a name and phone number?"

Good idea, he said.

Wow.

Part of the problem is that reaching Seattle-based Amazon is nearly impossible. The job sites don't list a contact number. You can email or live chat with a representative, but if you want to talk to a real person, reaching someone on the top of Mount Everest is probably easier.

Granted, the sites clearly state Amazon will contact you via email if interested. Obviously — based on the two calls I got before 9 a.m. Monday — people can't wait.

And that leads to the bigger issue of jobs. Sit at my desk long enough and you'll find out people are desperate for work, even for $11 an hour in a warehouse.

To many, landing a job at Amazon seems like a good opportunity. You earn more than minimum wage — though not by much — you get health benefits and, after a year of full-time employment, Amazon will cover most of your college tuition. Educationwise, all you need is a high school diploma or equivalent.

Consider that this isn't "sit around and eat bon bons" kind of work. Jobs at Amazon's fulfillment centers are rigorous. Picking, packing and shipping orders at lightning speed is physically demanding, stressful and monotonous. Amazon requires applicants be able to lift up to 49 pounds and stand and walk for up to 10 to 12 hours. Not everyone can do that, or wants to.

My voice mail box will tell you that Amazon shouldn't have trouble finding 1,000 workers for its Ruskin warehouse. Many appear eager to embrace Amazon's motto — "Work hard, have fun, make history" — provided they can figure out how to apply.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com. She does not work for Amazon.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Erica Allums poses for a portrait behind the counter at Banyan Cafe in St. Petersburg while she was still the owner. Now, she's in the process of taking over the MLK spot once again. [Times (2018)] [Tampa Bay Times]
    The Central Avenue location will continue to operate as normal.
  2. A for sale sign is seen in front of a home in the Westchase area of Tampa. CHRIS URSO  |  Times (2013)
    And a spike in cash sales suggests investors were active in the market.
  3. Florida's unemployment rate hit a record low in December. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) [LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP]
    Nearly every major job sector posted gains from a year earlier.
  4. A proposed bill in the Legislature would set a statewide referendum on whether to amend Florida's constitution to add a year to the period when home buyers can transfer their accumulated benefits under the Save Our Homes cap on property assessments to a new home. Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty says going from two years to three would reduce the possibility that construction delays in a booming real estate market would prevent some buyers from meeting the deadline, costing them potentially thousands 
 of dollars in property tax savings. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times (2019)]
    The bill, the idea of Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, would give buyers another year to transfer their tax savings under Florida’s Save Our Homes assessment cap to a home they’ve...
  5. The Tampa Bay Times' headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    No customer information was compromised. The Times is removing the malicious code.
  6. Concentrix has told the state of Florida that it plans to lay off as many as 174 employees from one of the programs it has at the Interstate Corporate Center east of Tampa. This is the same call center hit with 245 layoffs announced in November. (Google street view photo) [Google Street View]
    In November, Concentrix, the California multinational company that runs the center, announced the layoffs of 245 employees.
  7. Loreen Spencer (left) and Sue Watts, the two newest members of HCI Group's board of directors. [HCI Group]
    “I just wish I had thought of this earlier,” the chairman and CEO said.
  8. Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans will become the headquarters for Medicare and pharmacy operations now that it has been acquired in a $17 billion cash and stock deal by Centene Corp., base in St. Louis. (Times files)
    New owner Centene said it “expects to maintain strong operations in Tampa,” which is anticipated to be the headquarters for its Medicare and pharmacy operations.
  9. A Publix chicken tender sub sandwich. Pub Subs are now easier to order through Instacart grocery deliveries. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
    New Instacart Meal program to make Pub Sub orders a breeze, according to the grocery delivery app.
  10. Johanna Santiago, 50, of Riverview, hopes to start selling her Joba Sofrito early this year. Santiago developed the product, a savory Puerto Rican cooking sauce, with help from the nonprofit Enterprising Latinas in Wimauma. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Selling food and crafts, three women are among the dozens who turned to the organization for training in 2019.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement