From a social sciences perspective, I have often wondered if The Field’s customers are a good sampling of society. No, not everyone needs to ship things, but almost everyone uses Amazon and The Field is one of two places in town here that accept their returns.
There are a few different types of Amazon users, which I will explain below, but as far as I can tell, the one thing they have in common is that they all have access to the internet. The other thing they have in common is that Amazon will, eventually, send them the wrong product or they will have ordered nine Trump Talking Birthday Cards in which he wishes you Happy Birthday in HIS OWN VOICE and perhaps they only needed eight. [Depends on how many people they hate but to whom they still send birthday cards.] And when that happens, chances are very good they will come see us.
See if you recognize yourself in any of these Amazon Prototypical Explorers of Stuff (APES)™ and keep in mind that Private Ryan has never bought anything on Amazon, which I think is just a fun fact for our long days of battle.
“It’s My First Time Using The Internet”
Over my tenure as a Sergeant, I have met many a person for whom, I believe, buying a Trump Wig and suit and tie for their dogs is the first thing they have ever done on the world wide web. I understand the allure when one has been searching for a new and improved way to abuse their dog that one can just click a button and have it appear. It’s what makes America great! (I assume they do not sell this product to people with chihuahuas.) The problem is that the description made this promise: Let your dog look cute and nice when walking around the block and attract many attentions! And the dog does not look cute or nice and no one has said anything to you about it. And you want your $11.99 back.
“I Have A Great 8-Minute Backstory On Why I’m Returning This”
This person can be any variety of APES — frequent, infrequent, daily, first time — but each item in their order history is a story. It’s not a great story. But it’s a story. “I went to Verizon and got a new phone because my old phone stopped working because you know they put up those 5G towers so that the kids would have to go to school from home and then everybody’s phones broke so I went to Verizon to get a new phone and they talked me into this iPhone and I took it home and sprayed it with Lysol because even though they told me it was in the original packaging some Chinese person somewhere touched that and put the China virus on it and so anyway the Lysol soaked into the screen so I had to return the phone… good thing I bought that $7 million warranty and they’re sending me a new one and a couple of days ago I ordered these Trump 2020 washcloths and they sent me the tablecloth instead and I really need the washcloths and I need help returning them.”
“It Will Take You 2.5 Minutes To Scroll Through My Orders To Get To The One I Ordered Yesterday”
Most APES will just hand us their phones to set up the return for them. They’ll say some variation of, “You can do it faster,” to which we’re like, “We shouldn’t have to do it at all.” I can tell where I’m at in the week (and in my mood) by whether or not I’m willing to walk them through the return or I just forego all rational knowledge about hygiene and grab spanky6969’s phone to get him out of the store. [We did install that hazmat shower, thank goodness.]
When I do choose to risk getting smallpox, I have to go to their orders in order to set up a return. I’ll ask which product it is. They will tell me it’s the Countdown to Re-Election Clock with 4×6 Photo of Trump 2020 Hat Maga and American Flag, but it’s probably “a little ways down.” So I begin scrolling. The 95 items that say “Arriving Today” take a bit of finger flicking and, typically, the customer will begin uncomfortably explaining the other things in their order history that I am scrolling through. The amount of items I’ve seen blur by that start with the word “Slutty” is sort of amazing.
I let them know that I don’t care what they order to which they respond, “I’ve bet you’ve seen some crazy stuff.” And on my last day in The Field before I retire, I will absolutely say, “The craziest stuff I’ve seen is the sheer quantity of items you order on a daily basis.”
Not saying this out loud is my Everest.
“I Hate Amazon But You Can’t Live Without It”
I’m not good at small talk because I feel like there are so many other things to talk about in life. This year has been a beautiful reminder that small talk has its place. And its place is during a pandemic in an election year.
Small talk is based in the universality of experience and APES think that Amazon is a universal experience. They further take the exact stand that Amazon is awful for ruining small businesses but it’s a necessary awfulness we must endure in order to find MAGA 3D Printed Short Sleeve Shirts. Shit, these just need to be posted because someone not only created them but people buy these.
I feel that shirts like that really put a dent in the “You can’t live without it” argument regarding Amazon. Is it fun to find kitschy shit to promote your complete devotion to the dumbest ideologue in history? I’m absolutely sure it is. But guess what? You can actually find that exact shirt somewhere else on the internet. Will it cost you an extra $2? Probably. Is this shirt a “necessity” wherein $2 more seems excessive? No. Besides, those extra $2 will help buy another woman in an American concentration camp an unwanted hysterectomy. Support your causes.
Anyway, I’d rather talk about the weather.
“I AM GOING TO YELL AT YOU ABOUT THIS ORDER SCREW-UP EVEN THOUGH YOU DO NOT WORK FOR AMAZON”
The Field is a lovely place. I love it there 90% to 95% of the time. Our customers are kind and bring us cookies more frequently than you can really imagine. I’ve been called an angel, a saint, a gift from god, and a savior. This is for shipping things. Sometimes, it’s for putting a piece of tape on a box. People smile when they walk in and they smile when they walk out. Only the woman who called Private First Class and me “idiots” stands out as a customer who became an enraged mess because she gave us the incorrect information.
Every single other customer who has ever yelled AT me did so because of Amazon. Pick a phase of the Amazon process and I have been the receptacle for complaints about it. The conversations are typically the following and often spoken with a sneer toward… someone.
“They need to hire more people for the warehouses.”This isn’t a common conversation, but anytime there is any sort of employment-related news, it definitely comes up.
“A living wage and reasonable accommodations would probably help that.”
“Fuck that. People should be happy that they have a JOB and they should learn to be better at it!”
“Why don’t they make this return process easier?”A conversation I have AT LEAST 13 times a day.
“Well, they want you to pick the options that work best for them and make them the most money.”
“It’s just stupid! You’re telling me you can’t take this code?”
“But the internet said you were a UPS store.”
“No, the internet said we were a UPS Dropoff Center. They are different, but we don’t expect anyone to know that.”
“Why do you have a UPS sign in the window then?”
“You Guys Seem Busy – Must Be Because Of Amazon, Huh?”
The entire reason that I began writing Field Reports was because the shipping world blew up at the start of the pandemic. Everyone was told to stay home and we went from averaging 60 paying customers a day to 150. We went from 40-60 dropoff packages a day to over 100 on a slow one. Everyone I knew started seeing maybe 3 people a day (depending on the size of their family) and I started seeing 300. The job is funny and crazy and it’s important to be able to see the humor in things.
What we’ve been telling everyone is that no, we are not busy because of Amazon. Not even kind of, honestly. We tell people that because I think it’s important that they know that The Field does not belong to one company. It does not determine our success. The payoff between the headache that is dealing with APES and the microscopic pittance we get from anything related to Amazon is genuinely the hardest part of the job.
However, with the six types of APES, I do wonder if I’m getting a clear snapshot of current America through the business. I want to say yes so hopefully because the vast majority of people used to be kind to us. But that kindness has withered over the past few months which has made finding humor more difficult. I’ve even wondered if the masks have rendered nonverbal communication to be almost invisible at this point.
I’ve always thought that I had a pretty good ability to read people and how much lighthearted fun or sense of humor they can tolerate. And now, it feels much less certain and significantly more of a guess so I take fewer risks. They can’t see me smile or smirk and my delivery of funny absolutely relies on that.
However it goes, we’re heading into Day 214 now.
Oh! And wear a fucking mask. Thank you.