The Original Squatty Potty®, guinea pig hay, and kegerator coolers are just a few of the products Rich Hanna didn’t know existed until he worked at an Amazon fulfillment center—but they definitely haven’t been the strangest items he’s seen packed and shipped.
“When I first joined Amazon, I was in Phoenix, and we were tasked with shipping a moai Easter Island statue. Having no idea of the story behind this over-8-feet tall, cemented fiberglass statue, I had to Google it,” says Hanna, now site lead for Amazon’s fulfillment center in Fall River, Massachusetts. “Original moai head-and-torso statues were carved from stone by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island and thought to honor important people. We had to ship that statue in a crate.”
Hanna doesn’t remember where the statue was going but assumed it would be featured in someone’s yard.
From dog food to stormtroopers, associates see it all
With Amazon four years now, Hanna leads approximately 1,100 associates in a 1.2 million square-foot fulfillment center that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 363 days a year. The southern Massachusetts facility is a non-sort-type of fulfillment center responsible for shipping larger items like ladders, laptops, and many oddly-sized and shaped things.
“One of the first items at Fall River that was difficult to figure out how to ship was a 75-pound, blue corduroy beanbag so large it had to be moved by pallet. We made a custom 6-by-4 box and shipped that to a customer in Maine. And, yes, it was two-day shipping,” shares Hanna.
Other eye-catching products for Hanna include a $900 movie-quality stormtrooper costume, an eight-person hot tub, a larger-than-life-sized teddy bear delivered for Valentine’s Day, and a bag of bat guano, which he discovered is used for high-end horticultural activities such as growing orchids. Nothing really fazes Hanna anymore.
Amazon fulfillment center associates also catch a glimpse into customers’ lives.
“At fulfillment centers that handle regular-sized items, associates see combination orders that hint at life events. If they’re packing dog food, a puppy potty-training book, and carpet cleaner, it’s a safe bet someone just got a new dog,” says Hanna.
Going from Amazon.com customer to Amazon employee
When asked what the strangest item he has ordered for himself, Hanna says, “My wife does most of the ordering.” Then he pulls up his own order history and learns someone in his family recently bought a Little Red Riding Hood costume—just in time for Halloween.
Hanna and his wife became Amazon customers in 2002 while he was serving in the military and they were stationed in Guam. Amazon was the only company he could identify that would send things to Guam, including certain toys that were otherwise unavailable in the U.S. territory. Little did he know one day he would be overseeing one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers—a welcome surprise.
“There are a lot of reasons I love working at Amazon—the pace, energy, innovation, and being part of a large business delivering things that are important to people,” says Hanna. “But what brings me in every day are the people I work with and my team. It’s a ton of hard work, but it’s fun. I can’t think of something else I’d rather be doing.”