Wal-Mart Joins The Stupid Shipping Gang

A reader writes, “As part of our Christmas shopping; we ordered several DVD’s, video games, and a phone card from Wal-Mart’s website.” The items trickled in over several days, then “this showed up. A 10X11X5 inch box, an air-filled air bubble, and one thin phone card taped to the bottom of the box.”

Companies, this has got to stop! It’s wasteful and annoying. It’s stupid. It can’t cost that much to hire someone to put together a shipping program that uses different package sizes for different types of products.

Stop wasting so much material and making the consumer complicit in your waste. Ever heard of envelopes? Use envelopes. Figure out the logistics. It’s not as if Christmas season only passes by the Earth every 75 years—prepare your facilities and employees to handle the annual, predictable increase in fulfillment.

con_amazonenvelople.jpg Despite Amazon’s novel hard-drive-shipping technique, they’ve at least begun to address this. We ordered a single book from them last week and it arrived in a flat package, stiff enough to protect the book but malleable enough for our insane mail carrier to somehow fold it like an origami Cthulhu temple so that he could shove it into our mailbox. So we know you can do it, companies. Stop being lazy. And fire the shipping facility manager who let that card get shipped out like that. (What? It’s not Christmas anymore.)

(Thanks to Ian!)

“Crate & Barrel’s Wooden Spoon Packaging Is Very Efficient”
“Amazon Is Unable To Ship A Hard Drive In Proper Packaging”


Edit Your Comment

  1. emilymarion333 says:

    Why were you shopping at Wal-Mart anyways?? Phone cards can be bought at the grocery store..

  2. Quellman says:

    Look at it as a free box to send next years gifts to family.

  3. SBR249 says:

    Actually phonecards can be bought online which just gives you a PIN. You call a special number, type in the PIN, then type in the number you wanna call. No shipping involved and often cheaper per minute too.

  4. madanthony says:

    I sell on eBay, so I love getting free boxes and plastic bubbles for when I need to ship stuff.

    Guess I should start buying all my stuff from walmart

  5. PinkBox says:

    Maybe it was done as a joke.

  6. Sudonum says:

    Not to apologize for them, but I would imagine that Walmart does have a shipping program but was probably out of a shipping container more appropriately sized.

  7. Buran says:

    @Sudonum: Then you send someone to the local office supply store to get some mailers.

  8. Leah says:

    @madanthony: swing by your local hospital and dumpster dive. I used to sell a bunch on ebay, and that’s where I got all my shipping materials. The only shipping stuff I ever paid for were sharpies and packing tape.

  9. SacraBos says:

    Gee, given that it was probably supposed to ship with some other stuff (thus conserving shipping costs), they probably lost all their margin on this waste.

  10. smarty says:

    That’s what I thought. A friend from a while ago used to deliberately ship small items this way just for fun. He once put lots of hole punches inside an envelope with a gift card, and then inside a small box with styrofoam popcorn. Total waste, but he said it was all the entertainment he had in the mail room.

  11. Sudonum says:

    While I agree with your point, I can’t imagine a Walmart employee being motivated enough to drop by the local Office Depot for some envelopes or smaller boxes.

  12. pepe the king prawn says:

    @sudonum: or in their own stationery aisle.

  13. royal72 says:

    i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, if you don’t like the way some company wastes material in packaging or prints out ridiculously long receipts, then stop giving them your money.

    while we’re at it, can we please stop complaining about this shit and have some damn common sense, please? think about how much paper you waste everyday. think about how many trees you killed in one single day by…
    – wiping your ass with toilet paper
    – drinking liquids from a carton
    – wiping your face and hands with paper towels and tissues
    – smoking paper wrapped cigarettes, from a paper pack, that comes in a paper carton, and you use wood or paper matches that come in a paper pack
    – making 50 copies of some memo or tps report that no one is ever gonna read to make sure you look busy and won’t get grief from the boss
    – drinking starbucks from a paper cup with the paper heat sleeve, into which you pour sweeteners that come in a paper pouches
    – reading your daily newspapers and weekly/monthly magazines
    – eating your hamburger and fries that came wrapped in paper and got put in a paper bag, next to the paper cup filled with soda into which you put a straw that was wrapped in paper
    – paying your bills with paper checks that come to you in the mail printed on paper, wrapped in paper, and of course can’t mail nothing without stamps
    – using that gorgeous new stationery at the office to fax a quote to the customer, following up with one in the mail, and handing everyone and their mother your fabulous new business card
    – celebrating holidays like christmas for which you will need a christmas tree, gift wrap, gift boxes/bags, tissue paper, cards, envelopes, gift receipts, then there’s of course all the packaging of the gifts themselves, and to make sure you find the best deals on all that holiday shopping you’ll need lots of advertising printed on paper
    – meeting your buddies at crapplebees for a beer with the paper label, which you set on your paper coaster or bar napkin, that’s next to the paper place mat and the stack of napkins to wipe off the buffalo sauce, after which you’ll wash your hands and use a paper towel to dry off, followed by the two copies of the receipt and the one to sign for your credit card, and don’t forget to fill out your comment card

    think about it.

  14. patrickhowell says:

    I used to work for the JCrew distribution center, and they had to nearly triple their workforce by hiring hundreds of low-pay seasonal workers for the holiday season. I’m sure that Wal-Mart, Amazon, and others go through the same thing every year, and these packages are likely coming from the hands of lazy, bored, or apathetic temp workers.

  15. Erskine says:


    “Lighten up, Francis.”

  16. rjhiggins says:

    @patrickhowell: Finally, a voice of sanity. I’ve ordered hundreds of items from Amazon, and never seen these problems. But with the holiday flood of orders, with hundreds of temporary workers and pressure to get orders filled and shipped, human beings are going to take shortcuts.

    A few examples of wasteful packaging doesn’t indicate wanton disregard for the environment or moral bankruptcy (you can find plenty of other examples to support that in the case of Walmart). And firing the shipping facility manager over a single package? Doesn’t that seem just a bit over the top, Chris? Makes it kind of hard to take your other posts seriously.

  17. ecwis says:

    I’m pretty sure that this item was sent Ground, be it FedEx, UPS, or DHL. If they would’ve sent the item in an envelope via UPS Ground (or DHL, or FedEx), then it’s almost guaranteed that it would get lost somewhere. When sending small items, it’s useful to send them in boxes.

    At least you got your phone card. If they would’ve packaged it “appropriately”, you probably would have never received it.

    Stop your whining and save the box so you can reuse it later.

  18. scampy says:

    Who cares. Wal-Mart is wasting the money on boxes, not you. It is ridiculous that people complain so much about things as trivial as this. Its really not a big deal. You just throw away the box anyway no matter what size it is.

  19. SaraAB87 says:

    I sell on ebay and ALL my packaging material is re-used. The UPS store and Sam’s Club are GREAT places to pick up free packing materials. The UPS store tosses out so much material here that I can go there and pick up enough in one trip for an entire christmas of ebaying.

    I ordered a PSP system from amazon and it was poorly packaged, in fact the only thing that saved it was the retail box. It was loosely shrinkwrapped into the box with one air packet and was being tossed around in the box due to the poor packing job.

    If I stopped shopping at every store that printed long receipts I would have to stop shopping altogether.

  20. Wheels17 says:

    Usually Amazon is pretty good about shipping, but they joined the stupid shipping gang this year too. In their case it is repeated, severe underpackaging.

    I received a box with two cast iron vises, a cd, and three air pouches, all loose in the box. Nothing taped, fastened, or overwrapped. You can imagine the condition of the CD after being hammered between two vises all the way from Phoenix to New York.

    So, I send a note to the complaint e-mail address requesting a new CD, their computer parses the order incorrectly and guess what I get?

    A CD, three air pouches, and a vise, loose in the box. In this shipment, only the CD case was damaged, so I swapped the case for a good one, and wrapped it up.

  21. arkangel318 says:

    I don’t understand how they can AFFORD to ship out things in ridiculously oversized boxes like that. I work at a company that ships tons of stuff, and they’re always telling us to not waste boxes like that as they’re expensive. Come to think of it, it’s a major miracle that box didn’t get squashed by anything stacked on top of it along the way.

  22. goodkitty says:

    This isn’t surprising. What did the packaging cost, 20 cents? What does the worker’s time cost? It’s probably overall far more economically beneficial to the company to have the packaging people working steadily and keeping the line moving, than it is to hold things up and have some drug-addled packer spending 5 minutes trying to figure out which special envelope the card should go into, then wondering where to put the UPS sticker, and whoever is palletizing or stacking the ‘to-ship’ boxes having to deal with odd-sized boxes. Then, having the item arrive in three broken pieces because it was crushed under ten other boxes. This is a non-issue, IMO.

    Big empty boxes are good for your compost pile. Now Amazon shipping your hard drive like a rattle-toy, that is a problem.

  23. tk427 says:

    – wiping your ass with toilet paper

    What do you suggest? The Ass Vac 45 powered by a self-contained recycling microbial fuel cell isn’t on the market yet.

  24. Womblebug says:

    @royal72: Conserving paper to save trees is like conserving tortillas to save corn plants. Trees are grown specifically for paper making needs and are renewable. If you’re that worried about it, recycle. But not your toilet paper. Please.

  25. Blueskylaw says:

    @pepe the king prawn:
    Bad day at the office?

  26. Copper says:

    I just reused my two boxes I got from Amazon. I like the way they package, assuming it doesn’t damage anything.

  27. barty says:

    How else am I going to get boxes for the crap I sell on eBay? Our local UPS Store likes to charge you anywhere from $7-15 for a box! Office supply places aren’t much better and always seem to be out of the size you need.

    My wife sometimes gripes about all the boxes in the attic, but at least it saves me from the outrageous (retail) prices of packing materials.

    As mentioned before, I’m sure its probably more expensive for them (ie., hiring another person to keep the shipping department moving) to put stuff in different sized boxes rather than just standardize on a minimum sized box. Yeah, its wasteful, but we are talking about Wal-Mart, the king of cheap.

  28. Sidecutter says:

    @tk427: Kind of have to concur here. What the hell does Royal72 do? Take a shower every single time he or she goes? Yep, that conserving there, all that water and soap, plus more to clean washcloths later.

    Royal, if you’re going to pick on something as anti-conservation…try making sure there’s a viable alternative, hm?

  29. mmmmna says:

    I do have to agree with EMILYMARION333 AT 12/26/07 12:28 PM – why not just get a phone card when you are at the grocery or drug store?

    Shipping losses are usually the culprit behind these seemingly ‘idiotic’ decisions, though. The post office will lose an untraceable letter faster than UPS or FedEx loses a box which always has a tracking number. If I were a shipper and I had to guarantee a delivery, my money is on the traceable shipments. If I wanted to be sure I got my own delivery, again, my money is on the tracking numbers.

    The consumer could be to blame, the selected shipment method can be to blame, but usually these decisions are made before the flunky in the shipping department gets the order – don’t blame the shipping staff.

  30. superqueen23 says:

    For work, I once had to order a bunch of staples supplies. Two days after my order was scheduled to arrive, I finally receive one small box containing only packing material and a catalogue. I was not pleased, but after a phone call they did overnight the rest of the order that had been lost somewhere.