DHL Wins Package Race, UPS Still In Transit

Every year Georgia Tech’s Supply Chain and Logistics Institute holds a shipping race to see who can deliver packages to remote locations the quickest. Unbeknownst to the companies, they’re competing in the Olympics of shipping.

This year DHL won delivering first to 3 of the 5 locations, and second to the remaining 2. From Georgia Tech:

Admittedly, the race is an extreme test of the carriers’ ability to deliver anywhere in the world, Bartholdi said. This year’s packages were sent on April 13 to Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Burma); Tikrit, Iraq (one of the centers of Sunni insurgency); Floranopolis, Brazil (a small island); Harare, Zimbabwe and Apia, Samoa. Most packages arrived with a week or two, but one has yet to be delivered or returned.

DHL beat the competition this year, delivering first to three of the five locations and second to the remaining two. FedEx managed to deliver to three locations, and UPS delivered parcels to two. The remaining packages from FedEx and UPS went undelivered for a variety of reasons. In past races, the carriers traded wins in different locales.

Doesn’t the DHL guy look happy? He was the first to Tikrit, Iraq. That’s a Black Hawk helicopter behind him. Sadly, UPS never even made it.
The contest write up has some pretty hilarious commentary…highlights inside.

Some snippets we enjoyed:

FedEx and UPS both claimed that they could not ship to Myanmar but could not explain why. DHL said that it could ship in to but not ship out of Myanmar.

The phone representative at UPS said that there was no country named Samoa. (In 1997 Western Samoa changed its name to Samoa, but it still exists as Western Samoa in the UPS database, as you can see by looking at under “Shipping: Calculate Time and Cost”.)

We have no idea why our FedEx package is being held in Harare, as we prepaid everything. When our correspondent tried to pick up the package, it could not be found.

Prices of the shipments varied considerably; for example, one carrier charged $94.45 to Apia while another charged $169.10.

This sounds fun, why didn’t we attend Georgia Tech? —MEGHANN MARCO

The Great Package Race 2007 [Georgia Tech]
Map of the Race to Tikrit
Global Package Race Puts Major Carriers to the Test [Georgia Tech]


Edit Your Comment

  1. s00p3rm4n says:

    Meanwhile, no mail into or out of New Orleans can be guaranteed. Thanks, mail carriers.

  2. v8killer says:

    I wonder what the delivery vehicles look like in Iraq, brown armored personnel carriers?

  3. Optimistic Prime says:

    The really fun question is, who delivered the shipment more intact?? Depending on how many times a package is handled directly correlates with how bad shape it will most likely arrive…

  4. faust1200 says:

    Users on the forums had a much different view of DHL.

  5. ShadowFalls says:

    Good they didn’t throw in the USPS. It would be like the turtle with the brain of the rabbit. I just had a package shipping via USPS show up today after 2 months of transit… This coming from within the United States… That is just bad.

  6. ep5760 says:

    Way to waste my tuition, although from a consumer standpoint it is amusing. And why didn’t you go here? There’s a 1/3 dropout rate, nuff said.

  7. mopar_man says:

    Had UPS made it, whatever was in the box would’ve been destroyed. I never use UPS (pronounced “OOPS”) for anything. It’s always Fed Ex or DHL for couriers or USPS on the cheap.

  8. Mtxertudi says:

    I love DHL, I once had them ship me a package from Boston, Ma to Boise, ID in just over nineteen hours. On top of that, I had only paid for four to six day shipping.

  9. NKUMike says:

    I wish they would have done some more normal sites so this would be more useful for the average shipper.

  10. Mike_ says:

    Domestically, DHL is hit-or-miss. That’s been my experience, at least.

    I cringe whenever Amazon sends me something by DHL. I never know if or when I’m going to get it. Last time I specified 1-day shipping (inexpensive with Amazon Prime), my shipment disappeared for 3 days. DHL couldn’t tell me where it was. It had completley fallen off their radar. It eventually showed up. I was unimpressed. (Amazon refunded my shipping upgrade fee.)

  11. mfergel says:

    I use DHL extensively. I don’t even bother with UPS and FedEx anymore. Plus, DHL is considerably cheaper than the other two.

  12. strathmeyer says:

    Ah, I should remember trying to get the shipping fee refunded next time it takes me three days to get something overnighted to me. I always feel bad because the person I’m buying from is really getting screwed by the shipper, but it’s better than no culpability.

  13. fourmajor says:

    Is it really moral to send unnecessary packages into a war zone?

  14. guroth says:

    “Is it really moral to send unnecessary packages into a war zone?

    Ya maybe the reason UPS never made it to the Iraq location is because the guy was brutally slaughtered by insurgents.

  15. forgeten says:


    my thoughts too.

  16. FLConsumer says:


    Ya maybe the reason UPS never made it to the Iraq location is because the guy was brutally slaughtered by insurgents.

    Doubtful. Only the package would be brutally slaughtered, and it would be by the UPS staff, not insurgents. I’ve had far better luck with USPS than UPS, and that’s saying a lot considering how terribly disorganized USPS is.


    Is it really moral to send unnecessary packages into a war zone?

    Since when has academia ever had common sense or a sense of moral obligation?

  17. Mr. Gunn says:

    s00p3rm4n: Where are they telling you that? Hell, Amazon had their “shipping may be delayed for weeks” notice up for almost a year and a half. When I finally started emailing them about it, they told me they just hadn’t bothered to take it off yet.

  18. Mr. Gunn says:


    Since when has academia ever had common sense or a sense of moral obligation?

    What you say? All ur brains are not belong to you.

  19. cabinaero says:

    @mopar_man: I’ve actually had decent luck with the USPS once you start paying for guaranteed delivery dates. I’ll gladly use priority mail with a tracking number instead of FedEx for most documents.

    My only exception is if I have to send paperwork to my fiancee: It takes about 36 hours to get from the post office to customs in her country. And then it takes another four weeks before it’s in her hands. FedEx can do it in about 30 hours, only ten hours more than the actual physical transit time.

  20. seattlegirl says:

    Two comments:

    1) The headline should really read “DHL Wins Package Race. UPS, Fedex Still In Transit.” You guys sure do hate you some Brown around here, huh?

    2) Where does morality come into shipping? “Is it really moral to send unnecessary packages into a war zone?” Wha???

    Besides which, who are you (by which I mean anyone, really) to say what’s “necessary”?

  21. metroxing says:

    It took FedEx 3 weeks+ to deliver a ground package from SF to Toronto …

  22. yg17 says:

    What sad is that those companies can get packages from Atlanta to places like Iraq and Zimbabwe quicker than the crappy old USPS can get my Netflix DVDs from the distribution center in Kansas City to my house in Rolla, Missouri 215 miles away and within state lines.

    I’ve only used DHL a couple times, but have no complaints. I once ordered a textbook off eBay that came from Bangkok (international edition). Left there on a Monday, arrived at my parents house in St. Louis on Wednesday. Needless to say, I was impressed.

  23. shoegazer says:

    @yg17: That reminds me of an old scifi satire where a person in London sent packages to Hong Kong, Harare and Harrow-on-the-Hill (some town 5 miles from London) and ended up discovering the Post Office was run by aliens with faster than light travel. It always amazed me that it took 2 days for a package to arrive to my folks in Manila when friends in France waited a month for my present.

  24. yg17 says:

    Just to add to the UPS douchbaggery, some RAM I ordered arrived at the local facility this morning. But since it’s only been one day (the place it shipped from is relatively close) UPS is going to sit on it until tomorrow. God forbid I get next-day service when I paid for ground and they make a customer happy for a change.

    I bet if this shipped from Zimbabwe, I’d already have it by now

  25. minneapolisite says:

    USPS time to deliver a simple adequetely postaged wedding invitation to Perth, Australia: 5 months. (Yes, the wedding had taken place 3 months before the friend finally received her invite.)

  26. vanilla-fro says:

    I agree with the above comments regarding the war zone. If you really need to send some poor slob to a war zone its one thing. But to send some poor bastard into a war zone just to see if he can seems wrong. no sense in sending somebody into harm’s way for a super secret contest. the delivery guy most likely had guards with him too. those guards would be our troops, so they also endangered our troops for their silly little contest. oh and wasted our tax money.

  27. catnapped says:

    DHL gets another “no” vote from me. Coca-Cola sent me a gift card last week through DHL. Supposedly twice the guy came and “nobody was home” (hmm, I must’ve been off in that other dimension cuz I sure don’t remember being out). Only after I called their 800 number and complained did the guy come back and deliver it. Never have this kind of trouble with UPS, FedEx or even the postal service.

  28. DHL is a nightmare and the purpose of its customer service is to never, ever pay anything to anyone for any reason regardless of what DHL did to your package.

    FedEx is sort-of on my shitlist as well, because once they misdeliver an overnight package (which happens surprisingly often with FedEx to law & ordery addresses — they must use a different address database than USPS, UPS, and DHL, at least for government buildings) and put it back in the system (“lost package”), they can’t pull it out FROM the system without five days of processing, which is A SERIOUS PROBLEM WHEN YOU’RE COURIERING COURT DOCUMENTS. They also refused to refund the money for their failure to deliver, let alone failure to deliver within the guaranteed time frame.

    They could tell me exactly where it was but they informed me nobody in the entire company had the power to WALK INTO THE STORAGE ROOM and PICK UP MY PACKAGE that I had paid an arm and a leg to have overnighted on a court’s order. “Could the CEO go in and get the package?” “No, ma’am.” “Why not? Is it locked?” “No, ma’am, we just can’t go in there.” “Is there a magic forcefield preventing you?” “We can’t go in there.” “So how do packages get out of there in five days?” “Someone goes in and gets them.” “I want to talk to that guy.” “You can’t.” “Why not?” “He can’t go in there.” “Then how does he get the packages out? LEVITATION?” It was absolutely ridiculous.

  29. dtm says:

    “Is it really moral to send unnecessary packages into a war zone?”

    Haven’t you been paying attention, the insurgency is in it’s last throes. Mission accomplished.

    Despite the fact that the country is at war, life must go on for the people who live there. It sounds as though the package contained GT hats and t-shirts and surely brought some joy into an otherwise bleak day for the recipients.

  30. shiznannigan says:


    I’m sure the package was moved along with many other packages of questionable necessity. It’s the risk that comes with the delivery person’s job, and they are well aware of it (and probably paid nicely for dealing with the extra risk).

    Somebody somewhere probably risked their life delivering the box of cookies I got the other day. I could have lost sleep over that thought, but I was too busy enjoying the cookies.

  31. dotyoureyes says:

    Wow. Just awesome. The only thing that could make this contest better would be some motion-activated cameras on each package that started snapping pictures every time it switched vehicles.

  32. Starfury says:

    When I ship I use either USPS or FedEx. I’ve had no problems with either one. I’ve found for books/small items USPS is cheapest but for larger/heavier boxes FedEx is cheaper.

    Recieving: I prefer USPS/FedEx. Packages aren’t beat up and they arrive quickly.

    UPS: Damaged boxes every time.

    DHL: One site I buy from uses them. Shipping time varies from 3-10 days and tracking is flaky. So far everthing has arrived undamaged.

  33. Fuzzy_duffel_bag says:

    When I lived in Providence, I witnessed several different DHL drivers in different neighborhoods selling drugs.

    But that’s Providence for you. Everyone sells drugs.

  34. Chese says:

    I couldn’t even get DHL to deliver a text book to me. A commercial animal farm now has my text book on management principles, ugh.

  35. TechnoDestructo says:


    I lived in Alaska for 23 years. The only problem I ever had with the USPS was with things coming from the west end of Fairbanks to North Pole. (About 20-40 miles, depending exactly where) Particularly from the university, where it consistently took 1-2 weeks, to go 20 miles.

    Apart from that, I never had ANYTHING, even large packages sent book rate, take more than 3 weeks. Including an M-bag to Japan. I even had a regular first-class letter get from Fairbanks to Atlanta THE NEXT DAY. (The timing at every step would have had to be flawless for that, it was obviously a fluke.)

    Maybe I’ve just been lucky. Maybe I’ve just never sent packages to or from any places where USPS (and other national postal systems) sucks. But I’ve never had any big problems with the USPS.

    Also, am I imagining things, or have parcel post rates dropped, drastically? I remember the difference from priority used to be pennies.

  36. pearlandopal says:

    I haven’t used DHL since they freaking ran over a box last year. The box was shipped by a co-worker and contained a prototype missile nosecone. (Disclaimer: I no longer work for this company, and now you know what defense contractors do with your money – ship uninsured missile parts through DHL.)

    My holiday gifts might not be as important, but I don’t want them run over either. The other part that was in the box was lost entirely.

    Then again, we had a lot of fun running around the office with a big smashed cone on our heads afterwards.

  37. remedies says:

    my one experience with dhl was lousy. they misdelievered my package twice to the SAME wrong address…an address that wasn’t remotely similar to mine and was nearly ten miles away from my house.

    the poor people at the wrong address finally wrote on the front of the package, “REFUSED; please deliver to address listed on package, not this one.”

  38. kitsura says:

    I really can’t believe DHL won. I regularly shop at Amazon Japan and since they only use DHL for international shipping I’ve had lots of run-ins with them.

    As some of the commenters have already mentioned, DHL ruins your package regardless of shipping speed or location. This I have experienced several times. But Amazon Japan probably knew about it therefore they ship most packages overly protected and buffered. Its only when I receive the goods in envelopes do I receive them squashed and maimed.

    Its even worse now that Amazon Japan has done away with international economy shipping since Mar this year. When they ship express I don’t necessarily receive the packages any faster but have to pay more as well as additional duty fees incurred by express shipping.

    I don’t really care to have my packages arrive fast but in several pieces I just want it intact. Probably the next competition should be for shippers to compare who ships packages in the most intact fashion.

  39. Trackback says:

    Dude Busted For Running An Illegal Bank For Tax Evaders From His Suburban Home Today’s lesson: don’t give your money to someone you don’t know who runs a “bank” out of his house. Oh, and you’ll get caught if you try evading taxes.

  40. laker25 says:

    This is just plain silly. It’s like choosing an auto mechanic based on how well he can fix a nuclear reactor. I use and insist on UPS shipping all the time. It’s fast and reliable and all packages are insured free up to one hundred dollars. Higher value packages can be insured for a small fee. I always get my packages in good shape at least one day ahead of the scheduled delivery date. UPS is an American company too proudly celebrating 100 years of service this year. DHL is owned and subsidized by Deutch Post, the German post office monopoly