Amazon: Let's Ship The Flat Wrist Rest In A Giant Box

“I wonder if other readers have experienced the wasteful excessive packaging used by Amazon.com. I recently ordered a Gel Wrist Rest and a hardcover book (to qualify for free shipping). The two items were shipped to me separately, probably because they were coming from different warehouses. Though that itself is wasteful, I can understand why it may be necessary. But when the Wrist Rest arrived, it came in a GIANT box filled with paper stuffing (see photo). The box measured 24″ x 12″ x 18″. The wrist rest is about 20″ long, but flat. Is it possible that a company that sells all of its various products by mail doesn’t have a long flat box that could have been used instead?”

In an earlier order, I purchased some coffee refills for the Senseo coffee machine. They came to me one box at a time, each in a huge box. When I opened the box up, I found that the coffee refills were already in a very small, efficient box that said on the side ” Amazon.com ready to ship packaging. For some bizarre reason, they wastefully placed a small ready-to-ship box into a huge box with padding around it.

Has anyone else experienced this kind of thing. It is wasteful in terms of materials and shipping costs, but also impacts the environment too. Not to mention the impracticality of receiving a huge box at your home when you are expecting something small.

All that wasteful packaging could instead be used to protect the speed-bump fodder Amazon sells as hard drives. How about this: instead of shipping wrist rests in giant boxes, use compact tubes. The post office gives them away for free.

Comments

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  1. eyesonly says:

    As a bonus, many USPS materials are now Cradle-to-Cradle certified (though I’m not sure about that tube).

  2. chrisburp says:

    Ugh. I can’t stand these “small item in a big box post”. Neurotic people telling other people how to live. If it cost Amazon more to ship things like this, then they are stupid…it comes out of their bottom line. If their costs go up their profits/stock price go down. (And Bezos gets the boot)
    Other than that who cares? Aren’t there more things in live to obsess about than this?

  3. pylon83 says:

    @chrisburp:
    Agreed. I’m not sure why all the hippies get in an uproar about the size of a box that something was shipped in. Perhaps they ran out of the smaller boxes and it would have held up the line to fetch some. Really, WHO CARES!?!

  4. alhypo says:

    I think this is a game the people that assemble orders for shipment play with each other. The goal is to send stuff in the most ridiculous packaging and hopefully earn a post on The Consumerist.

  5. obbie says:

    I used to work in the sipping department of a company that sold items of many sizes. Some as small and light as a dime, others so large and heavy that they had to be taken by semi truck as opposed to merely shipping UPS. I can say that it is actually pretty hard sometimes to find a box that fits perfectly. Often times we would have to use a huge box for something small. Whether that was because we ran out of smaller boxes or the item had weird dimensions, it makes no difference. It is actually pretty hard to keep stocked such a large variety of boxes, especially for a company like amazon.

    Either way, this is a huge waste of resources as the person who packed this item could have easily cut down the sides of the boxes and made the volume of the box smaller so as it did not take up so much space. But then again… he was probably getting paid by how many boxes per day were sent out instead of how efficient or resourceful he is.

  6. Ashcan says:

    I find Amazon rarely does this type of shipping, at least to my home. Shipping products in a “too large” box ends up costing Amazon more money to ship the item. Odds are this primarily happens when the shipping warehouse is out of more appropriately sized boxes, or an employee is too lazy to go find a proper size box.

  7. Landru says:

    @chrisburp:
    why are you reading this?

  8. dafountain says:

    I think you SHOULD care how things are packed and shipped. Those costs are going to end up in the price you pay for the merchandise. And if a post bores anyone then just skip over it instead of crapping on the person posting.

  9. ClayS says:

    @pylon83:

    And how many times are we going to see this same story on The Consumerist?

  10. CurbRunner says:

    Think of how many less deliveries a UPS truck would be able to make on a delivery run, if shippers regularly boxes such as this large one, as opposed to using boxes that would more closely fit the items being shipped.

  11. pylon83 says:

    @ClayS:
    Agreed. It’s getting kind of old, and I’m not sure I see a logical nexus between this and “consumerism” as related to the rest of the site. But who knows, I’m not the editor, or assistant editor.

  12. snoop-blog says:

    the giant box is for your clubhouse! doesn’t everybody have a clubhouse made with cardboard boxes?

  13. ClayS says:

    @CurbRunner:

    Absolutely right. But there was a similar story on 1/19/08, 12/26/07, etc.

  14. Kierst_thara says:

    I think these oversized box stories are worth posting. Sure, getting a small item in a big box isn’t as big a deal as some of the consumer nightmares that get posted here, it still shouldn’t have to happen.

    And I suspect the root cause of the box problem is the same as for a lot of other consumer problems: too much bureaucracy/corporate policy that keeps employees from finding the common sense solution, and/or too many people who just plain don’t care about the job they’re doing.

    None of those attitudes are going to change though, if people don’t talk about them, and try to find ways we can improve things. (Which is sort of the point of The Consumerist, I thought.) If the blatant lack of critical thinking demonstrated by the way the boxes are packed doesn’t incense you even a little bit, just because the situation doesn’t directly affect you, then maybe Consumerist isn’t the place for you.

  15. eabu says:

    The box was probably used because the item is long and they did not have a box that was long, but short in height. A long box thin box would bend and not protect the item.

    The problem here is not really Amazon’s fault but the person ordering this item online. If you want to talk about environmentally friendly, the consumer could have driven themselves to a local store to buy this item. The time/fuel/energy to bring this $0.99 Made in China item to this person’s front door is ridiculous. These repeating articles in Consumerist miss the point.

  16. Are you guys serious? Have you noticed how many Best Buy stories are posted week after week, or how many Verizon/AT&T/Sprint stories are posted? Or how about recalls and stories about the defective manufacturing process?

    I get it: wasteful packaging doesn’t seem important to you, and therefore you think it’s “petty.” It legitimately impacts the consumer. It jacks up prices across the distribution chain. It’s a dramatic example of inefficiency—and without a doubt, the first place where costs due to inefficiency are made back is with consumers. If packaging wasn’t important, why do you think Apple keeps reducing the size of its packaging? These days, green=money.

    If you think conservationism is a hippie topic, look at gas prices now and in the late 70s–this is what happens when a resource becomes scarce, whether it’s through artificial means or natural.

    But I don’t have to convince you to like the subject, because ultimately you don’t have to read these posts. Wait a few hours and another one about a topic you enjoy will come around. We try to cover everything in an attempt to satisfy a broad swath of readers. So seriously, just skip these posts if they make you angry. The rest of us can keep shining a light on this inane practice (which will only grow larger as Internet shopping grows) and that way everybody’s happy.

  17. ConRoo says:

    Excessiveness is always a reason to be concerned.

    For example, those Menard’s stores with their giant, excessive facades are the epitome of wastefulness in the retail sector. Reason enough for me to take my business elsewhere.

    Amazon’s irresponsible and excessive packaging shows a lack of concern for the environment, and is reason enough to not shop with them.

    Hit them with your wallet.

  18. snoop-blog says:

    @Chris Walters: thank you.

  19. ecwis says:

    STOP THESE POSTS!

    The OP ordered an odd shaped watch. It was very long and that is the best box size to fit. The smaller boxes that they have are most likely not long enough. Would you rather have Amazon spend more money so they can get customized boxes?

    I use Amazon A LOT. I have Amazon Prime and only rarely do they have packaging problems. I think the only time it has happened is when I order an item right before the cut off time, so they have to rush to get it out within an hour or two.

    STOP with these posts.

  20. lyndyn says:

    Thank you, Chris. An important point, well made.

    That said – I think this is a fluke rather than a norm; as a book buyer for a public library, I see a lot of different packaging from a lot of different companies, and Amazon has always struck me as pretty efficient. There’s one book wholesaler we do business with – because our bestseller standing order is through them, we tend to get upwards of a dozen individual shipments per month, each with a single book. (I understand why they don’t consolidate shipment, and agree with it – no one wants to wait on the new Stephen King until the new Patricia Cornwall comes out a week later, nor do the publishers want that Cornwall getting passed around the library/bookstore staff before its release date!)

    The problem is, each book comes in an 8x11x3 cardboard box. I have submitted suggestions through my sales rep half a dozen times that they switch to the Amazon-style foldover cardboard units, or semirigid envelopes, for these single-book shipments, but no response. So we have a gazillion of these little boxes, each of which could comfortably contain three or four books, but which came with only one. Cluttering up the back offices. Making inefficient use of truck space and, therefore, gas. Wasting cardboard and packing material. Upwards of two hundred times a year. Multiplied by – how many small libraries only buy one or two copies of new bestsellers? Imagine the cumulative waste! (Hint: something like 7,000 libraries serve communities smaller than 25,000 people.) And this is a smallish company in a specialized industry. Project that inefficiency across the economy… that’s a lot of money wasted, and it’s my money, and yours, and in the particular case above, my taxpayers’. If a little publicity makes companies aware that consumers DO notice that wastage, more power to the Consumerist.

    Also, a little absurdity lightens the day. :-) The issue isn’t really funny, but that’s a pretty damn funny picture.

  21. Syrenia says:

    Add me to the list of people who are tired of seeing all the “oh no! my carton was bigger than it needed to be” stories.

    Companies that ship things have to buy boxes to ship things in. In order to run their businesses efficiently, they order boxes in the sizes they are most likely to need. They don’t order a lot of odd-sized boxes that they won’t need many of, because they get a better price on a larger order. (Especially if the boxes are printed with their logos…)

    They also have to store those boxes, so again, having a large variety of box sizes is not a plus, since they’d have to store all the different sizes in such a way that people could find them quickly.

    Sometimes you will get a small item in a box that you think is larger than it needs to be. Well, it’s probably the smallest box they had. (In this particular case, the length of the wrist rest probably disqualified several smaller packing containers.) The company is not going to send someone over to Office Depot to buy a smaller mailer because someone placed an order for one small or odd-shaped object.

    If inefficient shipping bothers anyone *that* much, I suggest making all purchases locally, in person, so that there are no boxes at all. Surely that’s even better on the packaging front.

  22. joemono says:

    Why doesn’t gawker implement a “digg” feature that lets the logged-in readers of the site click a “I liked this” or “This was pointless” button to give some kind of feedback about the topic at hand?

  23. nrwfos says:

    @Ashcan: I’ve found (as a Prime member and frequent buyer on Amazon) that the big box/small item is very common. I always have a “Oh, no” moment when I see the box. It can be ridiculously large. And I can’t easily dispose of these boxes. I have to burn the boxes…but I have to time that burning with the correct “legal” times set by our fire department (which is volunteer). That means I can be weeks with these huge boxes and their packing. I tried offering them on freecycle, but they were still too small for most people. I’ll keep on trying. The most joy I get is when I get an item in a small gift-wrappable box. I’m homebound and going out to shop is not much of an option.

  24. dvdchris says:

    Recycle the box and be done with it. I keep all shipping boxes and packing materials and recycle them. Flatten the box and store it for future use.

  25. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Just a wild guess here, but maybe it’s cheaper for Amazon to ship packages in big boxes? It would drive costs up if Amazon stocked boxes to accommodate every single size package they ship out. If you ran a business, would you order every single item from the box catalog? Of course not. You’d order only a few box styles based on the average size of the items you typically sell.

    Personally, I prefer receiving small items in big boxes. After working at UPS, I’ve noticed that small packages tend to receive the most abuse; both from being handled by the employees and from being crushed by larger/heavier boxes.

    But yeah, I agree with others here. I don’t understand the complaints. If the complainers are so environmentally conscious, they wouldn’t be here whining. Instead, they would just throw the box in the recycling bin and move on. Or re-use the boxes. And Amazon is offering free shipping! If they actually made you pay for shipping, you might have something valid to whine about. Sheesh.

  26. SOhp101 says:

    Look at the item–it’s a little difficult to find packaging that would fit the wrist rest perfectly. This isn’t ridiculous like the “usb key in a huge box” stories.

  27. wallspray says:

    Its all money. Its cheaper for Amazon to send in a big box obviously, otherwise they would not do it. Would you want to pay more for that wrist pad in order to get it to you efficiently? Maybe so, but you do no have that option.

  28. MonsieurBon says:

    Let’s not have any more of these “articles.” It’s all recyclable, they probably don’t have a more fitting box, and I don’t know if all their automated systems could handle tubes.

    Pleaase… no more “big box, little item,” articles!

  29. snoop-blog says:

    you people do realize Chris Walters works for consumerist, and has already told you where to go if you don’t like these articles………to the next one!

  30. dandd says:

    I wonder how much resources are wasted because people have to bitch about the large box they received in the mail?

    Obviously no one has a problem with firing up their computer and monitor, loading batteries into their digital camera, shooting a few photos and uploading them to website X. Come on people think of the children! :)

  31. Miss Anthropy says:

    I absolutely love that a story that has been done to death on Consumerist leads with the line: “I wonder if other readers have experienced the wasteful excessive packaging used by Amazon.com.”

  32. D.B. Cooper-Nichol says:

    Dog bits man.

  33. D.B. Cooper-Nichol says:

    “bites,” that is.

  34. Half Beast says:

    There are way too many of these stories recently.
    How about making stupid-shipping-gang.com and call it a day?

  35. Dibbler says:

    Ok, I think this person just wants to be noticed and has some problems. I buy TONS of stuff from Amazon and it always amazes me as to how efficient their packaging is. I’ve never seen a package arrive with paper stuffing from Amazon and they usually shrinkwrap the item along with all the ads and the invoice. I don’t see anything about that picture that says it was shipped by Amazon. I call Shenanigans…

  36. DojiStar says:

    What’s with the small item big box trend on the site lately.

    Why do we suddenly care so much?

  37. StevieD says:

    Now for the FACTS.

    1) UPS/FedEX etc dimensional weight calculations of the 24 x 18 x 12 box computes the billable weight of the box as being ONE pound. Thus the billable weight of the box will be exactly the weight of the contents. IF the box was physically larger, then the dimensional calculations would apply if the weight of the box was insufficient for the volume of the box.

    In other words, from an UPS perspective the size / weight of this box is not an issue.

    2) The cost of the 24 x 18 x 12 box is $1.39 per box purchased from a popular industrial supply house in quantities of 1000+ boxes. The 24 x 18 x 12 box is 3 cubic feet in volume.

    3) the cost of a smaller box, say the ever popular 24 x 18 x 4 is $1.05 when purchasing 1000+ boxes. The 24 x 18 x 4 box is 1 cubic fee in volume.

    4) The cost difference, relative to volume of the box, is in favor of the larger box.

    5) the larger box can accommodate a much wider range of products.

    6) Changing to a much more radical sized box, say the 24″ x 6″ x 6″, would drop the cost of the box down to approximately $0.46. But this much smaller box would be useful for only a narrow range of products.

    7) Multidepth boxes are readily available. The 24″ x 18″ x 12″ box, which can be broken down to accommodate 10, 8 and 6″ depths costs $1.55 per unit when purchasing 1000 boxes.

    8) Processing times with the multidepth boxes are tremendously greater than using a singe depth box. One of the issues is the multidepth boxes must be cut down to the shallower depth. Cutting with a utilty knife takes maybe 20 seconds and risks employee sharp blade contact.

    Given everything listed above, the 24 x 18 x 12 box is quite attractive for a busy warehouse operation that must meet shipping unit goals.

    From a pure practical business warehouse perspective, I (as a business owner) would want the fewest choices that costs the least total $ in terms of employee thought processes, warehouse space, concentrating my purchases etc.

    I personally use 9 boxes in my business. Nine. Not 19, not 39, not 119. Nine. And I could reduce the 9 down to 4 or 5 if I could stop shipping 135 lb goods via UPS.

    I wonder how many box sizes Amazon uses? Maybe 5 or 6?

    When you are complaining about “wasting money” please have a clue what you are talking about.

  38. pylon83 says:

    @StevieD:
    EXCELLENT analysis of the issue. Practical, informative, and presumably all correct (it would seem that you did some research).
    However, I’m certain that all the “conservation) folks (read: Hippies) will jump all over you can claim that you and amazon and anyone who ships stuff in boxes that are “too big” are destroying the world, yada yada yada.

  39. Half Beast says:

    @StevieD: Awesome information.
    I knew there was a recent change in how shipping is calculated based on dimensions for USPS shipments, but wasn’t sure if the courier companies had a similar policy. I suppose a deeper analysis of cost margin in regards to processing speed and potential risk are in order.

  40. shenanigrams says:

    @StevieD:

    great information but so what…

    it’s one of those issues where the microscopic tunnel vision of the business owner ignores the bigger economic picture. bigger box means that the planes/ships/trains/ups trucks are all carrying less than optimal carriage AND more cardboard is used. ultimately the package and delivery costs us (the consumer) more one way or another.

    this is definitely a problem and it’s a common for amazon and buy.com (the two places where i shop online most). amazon (which has its own warehouses and uses drop-shippers too) and buy.com (which just uses drop-shippers) and other online/offline retailers should take the initiative on this. i see buy.com touting epeat and other green rating — why don’t they push their drop-shoppers to use optimal packaging?

    those same drop-shippers send books the your local barnes and noble and electronics to your local best-buy — this inefficiency is endemic.

  41. superchou says:

    the irony is they complain about the over packaging yet use Senseo coffee pods. If waste was that much of a concern then use a coffee maker with one of those “gold filters” that you reuse umpteen times. Those one use all in one coffee things are so wasteful and overpriced.

  42. Double_JJ says:

    As someone that is familiar with fulfillment processes there are several reasons larger boxes are used. Here are a few…

    First, the desire is to reduce the total cost of the operation at the expense of inefficiencies that hopefully happen infrequently. That larger box will roll down a conveyor better, permits automatic taping, automatic label application and other automation. Some facilities have one employee picking the products for a given order into a tilt tray conveyor, the process is then 100% automated into the back of a truck.

    Second, we are typically only willing to keep a limited number of standard boxes on hand. Sure boxes can better fit the products in the order but there is little cost benefit in it. Someone mentioned cutting a box down. This may sound like a good idea but do it 5,000 times a day. This slows things down and has ergonomic issues.

    It’s obvious that Carey should be in charge at Amazon. He could get the box size reduced in half and at the same time double the shipping and handling cost. Everyone knows that Jeff B is a big moron that has no clue about topics like math or business.

  43. Vilgrom says:

    I just got my Sociology book from Amazon.com and it came in a similar giant box, stuffed with large amounts of the same brown paper.

  44. Amazonian says:

    You had this item shipped to you for FREE, instead of maybe paying $3-5 for the standard shipping. Why are you complaining? It was FREE.

  45. landmark says:

    Listen to this one…

    Just a few weeks ago I received an already overpackaged computer accessory from Amazon packed in a oversized box with tons of paper filling. I wrote a quick e-mail to Amazon’s customer service complaining about the packaging. It was nothing irate, just a note letting them know my preference as a customer. (At least to me, packaging matters.)

    Soon, I received an e-mail back saying they were sorry for the problem and they would send me a replacement item right away. Before I had a chance to write them back, the very next day, the same computer accessory arrived in the same overpackaged manner!

    I thought of complaining again, but I was worried they’d send me a third one. So I kept it for a while and then decided to return it for a refund which should come any day now.

    I don’t feel it’s the most ethical solution. But I didn’t set out to steal from Amazon. I’d have gladly just returned it to them for no money if it were easy to do so. At least now they can sell the accessory to someone else instead of it going to waste.

  46. StevieD says:

    @shenanigrams:

    As you said ” bigger box means that the planes/ships/trains/ups trucks are all carrying less than optimal carriage AND more cardboard is used. ultimately the package and delivery costs us (the consumer) more one way or another”

    I would agree. But….. UPS does not care. Seriously. UPS allows a box of up to 84 inches in girth and length to be shipped for the 1 lb rate. Above 84 inches in girth and length the box will be be billed for the density charges that are appropriate for a box of that size and weight.

    Until UPS (FedEx et al) starts density charges for boxes under 84 inches in girth and length there is absoulutely no motivation for shippers to shrink their boxes.

    And UPS is not going to start those charges. I will bet a years salary that UPS will not shrink the 84 inch requirement any time soon. Using excessively bigger boxes that what “we” deem appropriate results in lower damges, fewer lost packages at residential locations and ease of handling within the UPS terminal facilities. Bottom line, shrinking the box requirements could COST UPS serious money.

    As to what is optimal packaging … my packaging, using 9 box sizes, is pretty darn optimal. Sure I could ADD 39 box sizes to my shipping line. Per our internal calculations we would save about $19k per year in wasted styrofoam fill. Sounds pretty good. And the extra boxes would cost us $3.3k in extra box costs per year as we currently use the most cost effective sizes. And then there is that little matter of employee effeciency. Currently a packing line employee has immediate access to the 9 boxes without moving his/her feet. Adding 39 box sizes would add x number of steps and decrease the effeciency of the employee by y %. X and Y combined together are Z more than 19k.

    So increasing the box options would cost me $. I would be sure to pass those costs unto the consumers.

    Regarding the best boxes. Without revealing business details, the labor costs of setting up box manufacturing machinery dictates the cost of the boxes. Boxes that are produced in larger quantities are chearper than boxes produced in smaller quantities. The amount of cardboard is almost not a consideration.

  47. KogeLiz says:

    i rec’d two packages directly from amazon.com.
    they were packaged fine.

    there are a trillion other vendors on amazon that may not package their items in a smaller box.

    i wish more stuff i ordered cam in bigger boxes.
    comes in handy for moving or shipping.

  48. Balisong says:

    @KogeLiz: Anyone who needs boxes for moving can get them easy if they just take an hour or two to look around. I once got a huge pile of never used boxes from Borders. Just had to go in and ask! I still have 80% of them lying in a corner of our den/storage room.