Amazon shift choice

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One Day At Amazon: In the Belly of the Beautiful Beast

An essay by Mills Snell.

Around this time last year, I began noticing the annual deluge of radio and billboard seasonal hiring ads for our area Amazon fulfillment center. Curiosity got the best of me. I’ve been driving by this facility for a number of years and always wondered what actually happened inside. What was the journey like for the constant stream of packages arriving at my door? My wife begrudgingly, but graciously, entertained my curiosity and let me wander down the Amazon rabbit hole.

APPLICATIONS & INTERVIEWS

I applied online on a Monday, through a third-party staffing agency where I filled out all my personal information and then took an assessment that asked questions like:

If you saw someone stealing something, what would you do?

a) keep to yourself
b) talk to them directly
c) tell your supervisor

After completing the application, I was directed to visit one of their local staffing agency offices anytime during business hours. The following day I arrived at a sleepy, predominantly vacant shopping center and entered a single large room with several half-wall partitions. When I signed in, the person at the desk asked if I had applied online or not, and because I had, I was asked to take a seat and wait. Others came in and applied on desktop computers that were in the waiting area, which consisted of about 30 chairs steadily occupied by the rotation of applicants coming in and out. My name was called, my picture was taken, and then I was directed past about a dozen desks of staffing employees to a rear waiting area of about 20 chairs in front of a television. A group of us sat and watched an 8-minute video in repetition for about an hour and 15 minutes before I was called over for my interview. About 25-30% of the people that waited with me during this video loop got up and left, saying under their breath things like, “Man, forget this, I don’t have time for this!” I couldn’t help but think that this friction was a planned winnowing.

My interview consisted of a mouth swab for drug testing, picking a job task, day or night shift, signing up for an on-site orientation, and receiving my ADP card where my paycheck would automatically be sent. I chose the job of “Picker”, which was the only job available (the four main jobs at Amazon Fulfillment are Receive, Stow, Pick, and Pack). My orientation was scheduled for Thursday, and I was told that I would be paid for that time.

A staffing agency manager walked around trying to convince applicants to take the night shift for an extra $0.35 an hour. Day shift pay was $10.53 an hour. I stuck with the day shift.

On Thursday, I arrived at the fulfillment center for what amounted to a 3-hour safety seminar. My cohort that day was about 170 people, of which the gender majority was female with a wide dispersion of age ranges. We were instructed about general safety precautions, reaching items overhead, correct posture when lifting, and how important correct posture and kinesiology are when making repeated motions. A man in his 60’s sitting next to me let me know he was excited about this job and his prospects of getting to join Amazon full time, and that his previous job required him to start at 4:00 a.m., so he was excited about a 6:30 a.m. shift start.

A woman who identified herself as “Mama P,” an employee of the staffing agency, gave us lots of practical advice. We should show up early, because they assume not everyone is going to show up on the first day and only a limited number of people will be let in. She let us know that if we were caught with a cell phone, the police would be called and the phone would be searched for pictures -- and we would be terminated. Interestingly, you walk into the facility with just an ID badge, but you must walk out through metal detectors. Mama P also let us in on a secret about what the number one stolen item was in Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Condoms.

SO IT BEGINS

My shift was on Saturday, from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. 30 minutes for lunch, two 15-minute breaks. Apparently, if I was caught sitting other than those times, I would be fired.

I waited through a registration line of new hires, where my ID badge was handed to me (picture from the staffing agency office earlier that week). While we waited in a large cafeteria for everyone to be processed, I sat by a man in his 30’s who said he routinely picked up seasonal work at Amazon to supplement his primary income earned through selling items on Ebay. While waiting, we were notified that mandatory overtime was in effect, and 60 hours a week was required because it was peak season. Several groans came from the crowd, to which the staffing agency employee responded, “Hey! We are all here to make that money, right? Well these people are handing it out.”

We then moved to a large classroom where groups of five new employees were assigned to an ambassador that would help orient us. We were given a series of laminated information cards that clipped on to our ID badge necklace that contained maps of the facility, common codes for the scanners, etc. My ambassador had been with Amazon for about 6 months and she recently moved to this facility from a “non-sortable” facility in Spartanburg, SC. Non-sortable is anything that doesn’t fit in the yellow totes that are about 18x24 inches. There had to have been tens of thousands of these yellow totes in the fulfillment center. The sortable facility I worked in is one mile long, and contains three floors. There are apparently three Amazon facilities on this site: the one I worked in, one that prints books for Amazon’s publishing arm, and then another that I’m not sure about its specific use. My ambassador gave us a tour of the various areas in our facility and pointed out the different jobs before we were taught how to use the personal handheld scanners that Pickers use.

One of the most fascinating things about the facility was how seemingly unorganized it seemed. Vertical shelving held cardboard boxes with specific alphanumeric and color coded locations, but the contents of each of these bins seemed completely random. One box might contain: a pack of men’s vitamins, three different books, a Taylor Swift CD, a pair of jeans, a phone case, a travel size shampoo, and a pack of toothpicks with Italy flags on them. The genius of this system is that no single item is very far away. If all the ketchup is stored in the back corner, then it is inefficient to pick that item. The “Everything Store” has fulfillment centers everywhere that store all kinds of items everywhere.

Since Amazon knows the dimensions of each product, they know how many of these various items can fit in a bin. Stowers, one of the other 4 main jobs, are responsible for putting items into specific bins. Some bins had 50 or more different products, and they were often packed full, which led to a digging exercise to find the specific product that was to be picked.

Pickers don’t try to calculate the fastest route between different items on a list, but the scanners instruct each Picker towards a single location at a time. Here’s how it works: start your scanner, grab a rolling cart and yellow tote, and go to the specific bin location on your scanner. Scan the barcode on the bin, and the scanner specifies the item to be pulled from the bin. Scan the item, scan your yellow tote again to link the item with the tote, and then the next bin location is given and the process repeats.

I found it interesting that I wasn’t told the item to be picked until I scanned the bin. Sometimes I would scan 5 items before I was instructed to drop my tote on a conveyor belt, and sometimes I would place 30 items in the tote before I couldn’t fit anything else and would have to drop it on the conveyors. I’m not sure how these items were separated further down the line into customer specific lots.

First day Pickers were expected to work up to a rate of about 60 picks per hour, and I was able to get up to 120 picks per hour. This should paint a picture of how location-specific my picks were and how short of a distance I had to move between picks. I would frequently pick several items from the same row and section. I heard many people say that Pickers walked 13 miles on the average shift. I felt it.

Once we were trained on the scanner, our ambassador floated between our 5 new hires and helped us problem solve as we began getting to work on our own. I was a fully autonomous employee before lunch time. There were 170 people that started that day, and I would estimate over 2,200 employees in this one location. Fastenal vending machines were dispersed throughout the facility through which any employee could type in their code and freely receive work gloves, reflective vests, box openers, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, electrolyte packets for water, band aids, etc.

A post-lunch huddle was conducted in our area of the FC, where about 120 Pickers from our section gathered around a young man who looked to be in his early 20’s. He discussed productivity and some situation-specific items to be aware of. Two women carried on a conversation, but were quickly reprimanded by him. He wielded what seemed like incredible power and responsibility. He was respectful, but direct.

My entire afternoon was spent picking and was confined to a relatively small level of the facility on the third floor. It is difficult to express how incomprehensibly large this facility really is. The rows and stacks of vertical shelving run as far as can be seen in almost every direction, and the facility is three stories tall. Around 4:00 p.m., I received a text message alert on my scanner announcing a competitive “Power Hour,” during which the top two most productive Pickers would each receive a $10 pay bonus. I don’t know how many Pickers were working during that shift, but it was easily several hundred. Incentives are such an interesting thing.

SO IT ENDS

I left that shift feeling like I drank from a fire hydrant, struggling to take it all in. It was an operational wonder created by the wealthiest man in the world. I notified the third-party staffing agency that I wasn’t planning on returning to work, which I realized throughout my shift was a fairly normal occurrence. The staffing agency works off a points system, and at the end of peak season employees with a high enough point balance are eligible to be considered as an Amazon full-time hire. Points are lost at varying amounts for being late, failing to show up at all, failing to show up but giving notice, etc.

I left that shift with a profound appreciation for the package waiting for me at my front door. Our fulfillment center shipped 273,000 packages on my shift.

The next day I emailed Jeff Bezos to express my wonder for the system and my appreciation for the experience. The systemization of processes and tasks are inexplicably woven into the entire operation. As an investor focused on longevity and durability of competitive advantage I was awestruck by this 800-pound gorilla, and became a meaningful shareholder the following day.

Mr. Bezos,

I am a long time customer of Amazon and a Prime member for close to 10 years. In that time I have gotten married, had three children, and bought my first home. Amazon has been a constant resource throughout these disparate seasons and become indispensable in many ways.

I recently exited a company that I helped start several years ago, and found myself exploring some curious thoughts during my increase in marginal time. To that end, I heard local radio ads from a third party staffing company hiring for the CAE1 Fulfillment Center in West Columbia for peak season. I always wondered what the inside of a fulfillment center looked like (and where so many of my packages traveled through), so I applied for a job.

I was amazed by the application and onboarding process - from an HR, operations, and human behavioral psychology standpoint. The ability to corral and rally several hundred individuals and take completely untrained new hires and have them working with relative autonomy in a matter of hours was staggering to watch and participate in. I sat among my fellow orientation participants and heard them talk about their eagerness for advancement, their past jobs and the conditions of other workplaces, the way this job would help provide for a more meaningful holiday with their families, and their aspirations for being converted to a full time hire. It was a really amazing thing to observe and be immersed in. It provoked gratitude for the opportunities that I have been provided and endeavor to provide for my children.

The scale of the facility was incomprehensible, and the magnitude of the operation was absolutely fascinating to take in. I worked as a Picker and settled into a steady rhythm, beginning to race against my previous pace in an ever increasing manner.

I have a number of observations and questions that resulted from the experience but I left my first (and last) day as a fulfillment associate with a newfound appreciation for the process that I had taken for granted, the company as a whole, and for the economic benefit it provides my community. The next day I became an AMZN shareholder and look forward to continuing as a customer.

As trivial as it may sound, please know that you are welcome in Columbia, SC anytime.

Thank you,

Mills Snell

I received the following reply from HR later the same day.

Mills,

We are writing to confirm receipt of your e-mail below. Please be advised that we have shared your e-mail with the appropriate parties. We appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback.

Sincerely,

Amazon Human Resources

Sours: https://www.permanentequity.com/writings/one-day-at-amazon

On the Clock

On the Clock is Motherboard's reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.

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On January 25, hundreds of workers at an Amazon warehouse in Chicago were presented with a baffling choice: sign up for a ten-and-a-half-hour graveyard shift, or lose your job.

Management informed workers that their warehouse, known as DCH1, would be shut down, and they were being offered a shift that runs from 1:20am to 11:50am, which is known as "megacycle," at a new Chicago warehouse. 

DCH1 has been the target of protests, walkouts, and petitions organized by workers that have changed Amazon's nationwide policies for its warehouses. Its closure will force workers to choose between their lives outside of Amazon and keeping their jobs in the middle of a pandemic. 

"[This decision] is cruel and the antithesis of family-friendly corporate responsibility," organized workers at the facility who go by DCH1 Amazonians United, told Motherboard. 

"The new schedule is unworkable particularly for many mothers, those who care for elderly relatives and others who need to be home in the morning hours," they continued. "In this COVID-19 environment, kids are home and learning virtually and a parent needs to be with them."

The ultimatum presented to workers at DCH1 reflects a broader strategy in the U.S. for Amazon. The company has been quietly transitioning warehouse workers at delivery stations nationwide to the "megacycle" shift in recent months. The megacycle shift collapses shorter shifts into one 10-hour shift that begins around 1 am and ends around lunchtime. It's unclear where the term megacycle originated but it's used by both managers and workers to describe 10-hour graveyard shifts, workers tell Motherboard. An Amazon spokesperson told Motherboard that more than half of its last-mile delivery network has already transitioned to the new model. 

Workers at DCH1 were previously offered several different shift options, including an eight-hour overnight shift that ends at 4:45 am, a five-hour morning shift, and a four-hour morning shift. Going forward, rank-and-file DCH1 workers will only have the megacycle option at a new facility, DCH1 Amazonians United told Motherboard.  

Amazon's nationwide push to move its workers from shorter daytime shifts to longer shifts that begin in the middle of the night fits within the company's efforts to increase efficiency and speed up delivery speed for its customers at the cost of its workers' health and safety. 

A delivery station is the smallest type of Amazon warehouse, where packages are prepared by warehouse workers for last-mile deliveries to customers' homes. In August, Bloomberg reported that Amazon had plans to open 1,000 new delivery stations in cities and suburbs around the United States to improve on its two-day Prime delivery times, which faltered during the early days of the pandemic. DCH1 Amazonians United in Chicago and another affiliated group of warehouse workers called Amazonians United NYC told Motherboard that newly opened Amazon delivery stations appear to be on the "mega-cycle shift." 

Jen Crowcroft, a spokesperson for Amazon, told Motherboard that the transition to megacycle provides a longer window for customers to place orders and an improved station experience, and makes it easier for different delivery stations to work together. 

“We have to choose this option or lose our jobs.”

But labor experts say the move to consolidate shifts in the warehouse industry is a tactic long used by employers to cut back on labor costs; hiring and scheduling fewer workers for longer shifts means paying for fewer benefits. 

"There’s been a trend since the 70s of warehouse employers consolidating to longer shifts with few workers," said Jamie McCallum, a professor of sociology at Middlebury College and the author of Worked Over: How Round-the-Clock Work is Killing the American Dream. "In recent decades, the fixed cost per worker has gone up significantly, particularly healthcare, so it makes sense to hire fewer employees." 

DCH1 Amazonians United have already been organizing against the transition to "megacycle," alongside organized Amazon delivery station workers in New York City and Sacramento. According to a group of workers in Sacramento, known as Amazonians United Sacramento, most of the delivery stations in their region have already shifted to megacycle. Workers at a delivery station in Queens in New York City say their warehouse has not yet transitioned to megacycle, but they fear their schedules and lives could be upended with short notice. 

On Tuesday, the coalition published a petition demanding $2 an hour extra for megacycle shifts nationwide, accommodations for mothers, parents, and caretakers who can only work part of a megacycle shift, and free Lyft rides to and from work, noting "it's impossible or unsafe to travel via public transportation past midnight."

"Amazon's change in delivery station shift schedules is throwing our lives into chaos," the petition reads. "They give us 2 weeks to decide between caring for our family and having a job. This is an unacceptable level of corporate control over our lives."

"We have to choose this option or lose our jobs," a DCH1 warehouse worker told Motherboard on the phone. The worker spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from Amazon. "It's not a real option. They're basically telling us 'you're fired."

During the pandemic, DCH1 Amazonians United staged a walkout to protest management's handling of positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 200 workers successfully petitioned management for paid time off for all Amazon workers. DCH1 Amazonians United, which calls itself a union but is not certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), formed in the summer of 2019, when workers created a petition demanding higher pay, air conditioning, and health insurance for part time workers. Eventually, management agreed to shut down the warehouse due to 90 degree temperatures. 

An Amazon spokesperson did not respond to questions about when the company began rolling out "megacycle" shifts or when the transition will complete.

A labor organizer familiar with Amazon's warehouse presence in Pennsylvania told Motherboard at least one delivery station in the state, in the Philadelphia area, runs on a megacycle shift, adding that "megacycle" creates obstacles for workers who need access to childcare and public transportation for shifts that begin in the middle of the night.

Meanwhile, in online forums, such as the subreddit, r/AmazonDS, which covers topics related to Amazon delivery stations, warehouse workers have discussed the punishing amount of strenuous labor required of the "megacycle" shift. 

“Megacycle isn’t not just bad for lifestyle reasons. It’s bad for your body. I don’t think everyone can handle this.”

"You will do all the stuff you are currently doing for like 7 hours. Then after you are done sorting, you pick and stage. That’s when you take all the bags and oversized packages and put them on carts for the drivers. IT SUCKS," one worker recently posted on the subreddit, describing megacycle.

Currently, workers at DCH1 either sort or pick and stage, but not both. Workers have been told on the megacycle shift they'll be asked to sort for eight hours, and then pick and stage for two additional hours. 

Another worker wrote, "megacycle is exhausting and the hours are fucking awful." 

Posts referencing "megacycle" on Reddit suggest that Amazon warehouses around the country have been rapidly shifting to this new schedule since at least August 2020, often with little warning. For workers used to picking and packing boxes on four or six or eight hour shifts, the transition to the ten hour shift creates an even greater risk for workplace injuries. 

The National Employment Law Project found in a 2020 report on workplaces injuries in Amazon warehouses is twice that of the national average for the warehouse industry. 

"Amazon’s own internal data paints a very troubling picture about what is happening inside the company’s fulfillment centers," the authors of the report wrote, citing "algorithms being introduced to speed up rates and force workers to work faster" as the driver of high injury rates. Another factor is the exhaustion and fatigue that sets in after lifting boxes for six or eight or 10 hours. Injury rates are highest during Amazon's peak season in the lead-up to Christmas, when standard shifts extend for 10 to 12 hour a day. 

"Megacycle isn't not just bad for lifestyle reasons," a warehouse worker at a delivery station in Queens, New York and a member of the group Amazonians United NYC, told Motherboard. "It's bad for your body. I don't think everyone can handle this."

Do you have a tip to share with the author about Amazon or “megacycle”? Please get in touch with the author at [email protected] or privately on Signal 201-897-2109.

"If I work more than eight hours, it takes a day and a half to recover, and I'm a very fit person," they continued. "Amazon work can be so demanding that Jeff Bezos doesn't just own your time at work; he owns your entire weekend that you're in bed recovering so you can go back to the warehouse." 

Crowcroft, the Amazon spokesperson said that DCH1 employees are receiving individual coaching to place them in one of three recently opened Chicago delivery stations, and that no layoffs will be taking place at the facility. "We are excited to have recently launched three new, next generation delivery stations for DCH1 employees where they can continue to work and grow as an integral part of the Amazon team in state-of-art facilities," she said.

Workers at the facility say management has refused to offer workers any accommodations, which could force many to lose their jobs. 

"We asked Amazon during a meeting, will you be providing accommodations for moms? Will you be providing basic accommodations?" the DCH1 worker said. "They said there's no plan for that."

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Amazon recently told workers at its in DCH1 warehouse in Chicago they had to take 10-hour overnight shifts at a new warehouse or risk losing their jobs, according to a new report from Motherboard.

The shifts, known as “megacycle” shifts, typically begin around 1AM and end around lunchtime. The DCH1 warehouse used to have a variety of shifts including an eight-hour overnight shift, a five-hour morning shift, or a four-hour morning shift. But DCH1 is shutting down, the company told workers. Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft said the company was not only asking associates at DCH1 to change to a single shift type, however. “We offer a wide range of job opportunities at Amazon sites and we are working with each associate directly on the option that best supports them,” she said in a statement emailed to The Verge.

The shifts are meant to improve efficiency, according to Motherboard, and workers at delivery stations in other cities have already transitioned to the new megacycle shifts, along with half of Amazon’s last-mile delivery network.

“We are excited to have recently launched three new, next generation delivery stations for DCH1 employees where they can continue to work and grow as an integral part of the Amazon team in state-of-art facilities,” Crowcroft said. “Our associates are the heart and soul of our operations, and we are happy to continue to offer great, flexible career opportunities in world class facilities.”

DCH1 Amazonians United, a group representing Amazon workers at DCH1, said the new schedule was “unworkable” for many of the warehouse employees. Ten-hour shifts are not uncommon at Amazon warehouses, and many warehouse employees are part-time workers not eligible for benefits.

Warehouse workers have criticized Amazon for how the company has treated them during the coronavirus pandemic. Workers in New York, Chicago, and Detroit staged walk-offs last spring, which pushed the company to do temperature checks and provide masks, offer partial pay in some instances when it sends sick employees home, and implement cleaning protocols to protect its workers from becoming infected. The company has largely dismissed most of the workers’ complaints as “unfounded,” with executives insulting one fired worker who helped organize a strike at its Staten Island facility last year.

Update February 4th, 1:21PM ET: Added comment from Amazon spokesperson

Update February 4th, 3:52PM ET: Added further comment from Amazon

Sours: https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/4/22266369/amazon-ten-hour-overnight-shifts-warehouse-workers
What's its like to work at Amazon fulfillment center

Amazon Anytime Shifts

Work when it works for you.

Anytime Shifts let you choose

Create your own schedule. Use an app to pick shifts up to 15 days in advance, and as soon as 15 minutes before a shift starts, giving you total control of when you work – with no set schedule.

Discover new benefits

What’s so great about Anytime Shifts? They let you plan your workweek – with some extra advantages, like:

  1. Work as few as 4 hours per week - build your schedule on your terms
  2. Receiving notifications on your phone about shifts and work news
  3. Canceling a shift in advance – no questions asked
  4. No need to ask for days off – you decide your schedule

Reliable pay, flexible schedule

You still have all the benefits of a regular employee, including:

  1. A consistent hourly pay rate
  2. Overtime pay after 40 hours per week
  3. Retirement Savings, Employee Assistance Program, Employee Discount and more
  4. Unique shift options – weekends, nights, or early mornings

Search Anytime Shifts

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Shift choice amazon

Amazon workers claim the company is forcing them to work grueling 10-hour shifts

Amazon recently told employees at its DCH1 warehouse in Chicago it was closing the facility down. DCH1 has been the site of protests and walkouts. It’s also the home of DCH1 Amazonians United, an advocacy group that has successfully petitioned the company for things like paid time off for part-time workers. According to Motherboard, the company reportedly gave employees two options: they could either take on 10-hour “megacycle” shifts at other facilities, or they could find a new job. 

Megacycle shifts are a relatively recent development at Amazon’s delivery stations. They see the company’s warehouse employees work for 10-hours straight in graveyard shifts that usually start in the early hours of the morning and end around lunchtime. Amazon told Motherboard more thanhalf of its last-mile delivery network is already on the model. In moving to the new model, Amazon has also reportedly been phasing out the shorter shifts it offered as an option to its workers previously, a claim the company disputes. 

Amazons shutting DCH1 down and transferring us to facilities with the shift 1:20am-11:50am. These facilities are supposedly overstaffed, still HR won’t provide accommodations to people with 2nd jobs or mothers who need to be home in the AM to care for their children/e-learning 😡

— DCH1 Amazonians United (@Dch1United) January 28, 2021

“It is inaccurate that we are only asking associates at DCH1 to change to a single shift type. We offer a wide range of job opportunities at Amazon sites and we are working with each associate directly on the option that best supports them,” Jen Crowcroft, a spokesperson for Amazon, told Engadget. “Our associates are the heart and soul of our operations, and we are happy to continue to offer great, flexible career opportunities in world-class facilities.”

Motherboard suggests Amazon is moving to the megacycle model to save on labor costs since longer shifts allow the company to hire fewer workers, which in turn saves it money on benefits. Amazon contends the model streamlines its operations and provides a longer window for customers to order products. The company is also quick to note the three new facilities where it’s transferring DCH1 workers pay at least $15 per hour and offer comprehensive benefits.  

Still, megacycle shifts come with several notable drawbacks for workers. There’s less flexibility than a five or eight-hour shift, and a recent report found injury rates are higher at Amazon warehouses during the holiday season when employees work longer hours in one go. 

DCH1 Amazonians United is attempting to challenge the decision. This week, the group started a petition for megacycle shift workers. They’re demanding the company pay those employees an extra $2 per hour, as well as provide accommodations to those workers who can’t work an entire shift because of other obligations. "Amazon's change in delivery station shift schedules is throwing our lives into chaos," the group says in the petition. "They give us two weeks to decide between caring for our family and having a job. This is an unacceptable level of corporate control over our lives."

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Sours: https://www.engadget.com/amazon-megacycle-220236417.html
What's its like to work at Amazon fulfillment center

The feet instantly become wet with dew. The man kisses her again. But not a second should be wasted; passers-by or a janitor may appear at any moment. "LTD. How he wants me.

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Began to take out the groceries. Everything was beautiful and romantic. There was a lot of space between the benches, I sat down on one of them and lit a cigarette, admiring the view. Of my wife's naked pussy under her dress.



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