Nearly 20 people visited the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Middletown on May 6 for the first-ever public tour the online retail giant has offered anywhere in the United States.
Sarah Rash has been trying for months to explain to her boyfriend what it’s like to work inside the massive Amazon Fulfillment Center in Middletown.
On Tuesday, she finally got a chance to show him as the couple joined the first-ever public tour of the 1.2-million-square-foot facility on Merrimac Avenue, which just so happened to fall on her birthday.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had and I’m here 40 hours a week,” Rash said. “You put so much effort in to something and it made me sad that he couldn’t see it. But now I can show it to him and hopefully he’ll remember what he saw the next time we talk about it.”
Rash and her boyfriend, Steve Gargalas, were among 20 visitors who signed up for the walk-through, which was first announced by Amazon on April 11.
The tours are only available at five other fulfillment centers in the country, including Phoenix, Ariz., San Bernadino, Calif., Jeffersonville, Ind., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Chester, Va.
“I just got a text that we’re the first tour in the country to get through the door,” company spokeswoman Rebecca Passo told the guests as the headed into the Middletown facility for the 10 a.m. tour. “We beat Virginia by just a few minutes.”
The visitors were first escorted into a conference room where they watched a five-minute video about the company, limbered up with some stretching and received headphones to better hear Passo during the tour.
“This is a cool and exciting building and I’m glad you guys have an opportunity to check us out,” Bimal Patel, the fulfillment center’s general manager told the group. “Middletown has been great and we’re thankful for the opportunity you all have given us.”
The group was then led on an hour-long journey through the $90-million distribution center, which mailed out its first package to a customer on Oct. 10, 2011.
While traveling along the same path that all products take through the building, the group learned numerous facts about the Amazon, including its busiest day (Dec. 1, 2014 when 36.8 million items were shipped), the number of tote boxes at the Middletown site (40,000) and even the number of large pizzas it takes to feed the 2,000 full-time “associates” who work there (625).
Along the way, the guests also were invited to try their hand at “building” shipping boxes and stacking packages into a two-foot-deep trailer.
“Stacking the boxes was my favorite part,” said Middletown resident Nancy Colegrove, who joined the tour to see where her online orders come from. “I always do puzzles and it actually looked like fun.”
Townsend residents Bruce and Nancy Macolley said they were impressed by the size and cleanliness of Amazon’s operation in Middletown.
“Even though the building is so large, it was still bigger than I expected once we got inside,” Bruce said. “It was absolutely a great way to spend an hour.”
Meanwhile, Newark resident Steve Gargalas said he’s glad he can now visualize the inside of the building the next time his girlfriend tells him a work story.
“I’ve heard her talk about it for the past six months, but now that I’ve actually seen it, I know words can’t describe it,” he said. “Just all the products they sort through. Anything you can think of, it’s there.”