Staples Packages Five Small Notepads In Five Separate Boxes

Dear Staples:

Thanks for your recent delivery of the items we ordered. Your drivers must know how to drive fast because it always arrives very fast and we think that’s swell. However, your shipping department might be drinking on the job or something because the amount of packaging used for our most recent order was ridiculous. You might want to go down there and check.

Here is the major malfunction:

The shipment was prepared such that each of the…

Item Number: 708146 –
Ampad Gold Fibre® Designer Series Top Wirebound Writing Pad, Brown, Wide Ruled, 8 1/2? x 11 3/4?
Quantity: 5 Price: $3.58

..that I ordered was packaged and shipped in a separate box. Are you kidding me? Its just too much for me to bear! In addition to being very un-environmental, shipping one NOTEBOOK in a box that measures 2 feet by 1 foot 2 inches is costly, perhaps costing US more money and YOU for certain. We dont pay you for shipping, so it’s not like it was a clever ruse to squeeze more money from this cash cow.

I am speechless! SEE attached photos of the carnage from ALL the packaging from the delivery. I ordered 41, no wait, 38 items from you and they were shipped in 8 different boxes, most of which I could fit in! And I am not a dwarf OR a child. Actually, 1 item is backordered so 37 items shipped. The other 3 items were catalogs that I have requested NOT to have delivered since I do all my ordering ONLINE. That’s 4.625 items per box. And the “items” were things like “pens” and “highlighters” not “Hummer engines” or “flat screen tv’s.” Is this some kind of joke? If so, it’s not funny Staples, not funny. Most of the items could have fit in one box. Didn’t YOU see An Inconvenient Truth like the rest of America?


Above: Large mess cleaned up by ME, not staples.

My Account Manager has been the most helpful and enthusiastic customer representative I have ever had the pleasure to interact with, but the firestorm-a-brewing right now may be enough to have cost you a customer. Silly Staples.

The amount of time I spent breaking down boxes and properly discarding those “plastic bubbles” used to cushion each individually boxed notebook was ridiculous. You have wasted my time Staples.

And I am very, very upset.

The stupid shipping gang is a menace to the environment. Bubblewrap makers gaze dreamily as Walmart, Crate & Barrel, and Staples strike fear into the hearts of forests everywhere. Does an insider want to let us know how these packaging nightmares, which are a waste to everyone but the shipping companies, make it out the door?


Edit Your Comment

  1. velvetjones says:

    Our (huge) office has a contract with staples, and I think they’re limited to putting three items in a box. With our previous vendor we’d order some things and get two or three boxes, with staples it’s like NINE at least and they refuse to send envelopes, so you’ll get a shoebox box with five pencils in it. I opened a box with one bottle of window cleaner in it the other day. To make things more confusing, they don’t send you a printout of your order, they just send you a packing list.

  2. morganlh85 says:

    This is so wasteful and disgusting. It has to stop.

  3. Half Beast says:

    I’m having a difficult time thinking this is anything but intentional…

  4. STrRedWolf says:

    Unfortunately, Office Depot isn’t much better — even with from-government orders! One state government department ordered 40 printer cartridges. Did Office Depot pack them in one or two boxes? NOOOO. 40 big individual boxes! Took the poor delivery guy a few trips up 20 floors.

  5. sickofthis says:

    Amazon is almost as bad. I ordered a lot of stuff from them for Christmas, and the amount of wasted packaging was unbelievable. Amazon, if I order a video game, it’s okay with me if you just ship it in a padded envelope. It doesn’t require a huge box filled with inflated bags.

  6. Toof_75_75 says:

    “Didn’t YOU see An Inconvenient Truth like the rest of America?”

    Didn’t YOU do any actual research and figure out that whole movie is a load of crap?

    That said, it’s still no excuse to waste that many boxes and that much time.

  7. logie-al says:

    Here’s my theory – some bean counter looked what was costing them more, damaged/lost packages or shipping costs, found out that it was both. By shipping more items in fewer boxes, they made it heavier and incurred more delivery fees, and risked having an entire order damaged or lost because it was all in one box. By putting fewer items in more boxes spreads out the percentage of lost and damaged orders. The difference in shipping fees is negligible compared to the cost of having to refill orders that were totally lost or damaged as opposed to one box of your 9 box order was damaged or lost.
    Now I’m not saying their system might need tweaking, but I’m sure it makes sense on paper somewhere.

  8. DallasDMD says:

    @Toof_75_75: Really, you did the research and contradicted years of scientific studies? Link to peer-reviewed paper plz!

  9. timmus says:

    If the waste gets any bigger to where larger boxes are involved, I’ll make a note to use them for moving boxes instead of the liquor store.

  10. chutch says:

    I actually was pretty happy, but amazed, by Amazon the most recent time I ordered from them. I received 4 DVDs and 2 USB Tivo WiFi devices in the same relatively small box. I could fit 2 medium sized hard back books in this box, but according to what I’m hearing – my box was personally packed by the best packer in the warehouse! :)

  11. hossfly says:

    Well, where i live, Fed-Ex people (dunno about UPS) get paid by “PACKAGES” delivered, so……maybe there’s a “inside” reason to have more boxes/packages to be delivered……?
    This would probably be one of those “coporate decisions” that we would not understand…right?

  12. DeeSarco says:

    My last Amazon order was perfect, 2 DVD’s in a specially made box that would not hold anything else, no extra space.

  13. yg17 says:

    @tmccartney: The problem with Amazon is they ship out of several warehouses, and then they partner with a million other retailers to sell stuff through Amazon (not the marketplace, but some of the main listing items are sold by someone else). So you might order 5 things that come from 5 different parts of the country.

  14. darkclawsofchaos says:

    I like it, I prefer this than under packing. Especially electronics, I rather have one tree wasted than the silicon and metal wasted due to returning. Yes, it is selfish, but I rather scold companies that gimp out on packaging than those that give to much. This is as bad as the free plastic bag issue, yes its bad for the environment, but the convenience is most of the time warranted

  15. Buran says:

    @DallasDMD: Thank you. I just love how people go around quoting books written by laypeople as gospel. Gee, if those people are so good, why aren’t they PH.D.-wielding researchers with lots of peer-reviewed research to their names?

  16. irid3sc3nt says:

    I’ve always had a good experience with amazon shipping me loads of items in appropriately-sized boxes as well. Maybe we have the same packing person?

  17. IphtashuFitz says:

    A number of years ago a company I was working for ordered a bunch of servers from Sun. The servers showed up without any power cords so our rep apologetically rushed an order of 30 or so power cords for us. A couple days later a huge box, probably 4 feet square, showed up from Sun. Inside this box were 30 smaller boxes, roughly 8x8x2. Each of those boxes contained a single power cord.

  18. Kaix says:

    Sounds like a great way to stock up on boxes and shipping supplies.

  19. TTFK says:


    Sun shipped these to you this way because this is the way they actually come out of the factory and stocked by the distributor.

  20. Aesteval says:

    The short answer as to how this happens is that packaging
    configurations for Staples are determined by a computer system. It does
    not know any better. It just designates how many and what size boxes to
    use and what goes in those boxes entirely based upon data (size and
    weight dimensions) stored in the system. Sometimes it messes up,
    especially if one of those fields are off. It has also been known to
    stuff 300+ pounds of pink erasers into a single box. As to how this
    sort of thing makes it out the door, it’s because so many different
    people handle any given box that is shipped. Everyone is one step in a
    process and they more or less only know what’s going on in their
    specific area and may not necessarily have the time or inclination to
    think outside of that immediate responsibility. The best way to have
    something like this fixed is to attempt to find the phone number for
    the warehouse that the boxes shipped from and get a hold of someone
    from inventory control as they will be able to correct the dimensions
    if they’re off (which appears likely in this case.) And you can’t
    really blame shipping for this because shipping only moves the boxes
    out the door; in this case they don’t stuff or package them.

  21. stynesteen says:

    Who orders 5 notepads? How about you get off your ass and go to the local store. Much better for the environment.

  22. Aesteval says:

    @velvetjones: 99% of the time at any
    moderately large or larger warehouse you will not find items shipping
    in envelopes because putting envelopes on their conveyor system is a
    very bad idea. An envelope would never make it through because it lacks
    an adequate height dimension.

  23. meneye says:

    what probably happened was this stupid customer complained about a previous order not being shipped properly so they made sure this time.

    God forbid that this nitwit have to deal with a few freaking boxes! I know it was excessive, but ‘very, very angry?’ that’s not necessary. Chill out.

  24. PatrickIs2Smart says:

    @Aesteval: I’m curious to know your background experience…

  25. Aesteval says:

    @PatrickIs2Smart: Former employee

  26. vulgarboatman says:

    I have had the same experience with Office Max. Even when I made specific packing requests in my order, they do this every time. A whole box, stuffed with bubble wrap, for one three-pack pen refill that would comfortably fit in my back pocket. It’s crazy-making. They claim it’s because things are being shipped from different centers.
    But I have a hard time dealing with so much waste. At least when it comes to my house it gets recycled. I hate to thing about all the packaging that ends up in the landfill.

  27. takotchi says:

    I had an order from Office Depot or Office Max for a single bottle of white out (actually, it was yellow; that’s why I had to order it on-line). I got a promotion for free overnight shipping, and sure enough they overnighted me a tiny bottle in a box like those in the pictures.

    I thought it was pretty odd, but I didn’t get upset about it… I try to reuse the boxes and packing supplies I get anyway.

  28. StevieD says:

    There are lots of reasons…..

    Goods are shipped from different warehouses, or different parts of the same warehouse.

    Limiting liability for damages and missing boxes. Most large shippers self insure and as such do not utilize standard insurance from UPS/FedEX.

    Self insurance will cause shippers to use oversized boxes just to minimize damage claims.

    Large box theory of shipping. Yes, there is such a theory. Large boxes are harder to loose by the shiping company and if crushed allow more movement of the outer box before the goods are reached. The theory also requires minimal packaging material so the goods can readily shift within the box.

    Computer predetermination using correct or faulty data.

    Standardization of packing boxes. (it costs less to stock a few boxes than stocking 97 different box configurations)

    Employee errors. Yes, those really happen.

    Employee performance motivators, aka “You can go on break when you fill this bin with customer’s orders”.

    Warehouse/ conveyor considerations. Those small dinky boxes and enevelops are actually hard to handle.

    The one way to figure out what is really happening is to order the identical goods several times. I suspect you will receive the same oversized boxes on each and every order.

  29. Trai_Dep says:

    @Buran: Because, by definition, the “PH.D.-wielding researchers with lots of peer-reviewed research to their names” HAD already published. To no avail. So they needed someone with some pizzazz, some recognition, for our miserably inept national media to attach a hook to it.

    Nobel laureate Al Gore, Esq., served that purpose quite admirably.

    Blaming the PhD-wielding scientists for not getting a Brittney-obsessed media, while a multi-trillion dollar polluting industry runs interference, to focus on technical – yet Earth-periling – material seems… Misdirected.

  30. VeritasVierge says:

    And here I thought Amazon’s bizarre shipping of same order items in different bloated packages was bad….

  31. EtherealStrife says:

    @meneye: Or maybe they’re packaged this way to protect the items from flying pig attacks. Because…you know. It could happen. The more I think about it, the more I’m certain that’s the reasoning. The inconsiderate customer should be glad his notepads made it without damage!

  32. aristan says:

    I recently ordered a stapler and staples from well… Staples. Came in two different boxes.

    I also deal with a food distributor twice a week at work. I get ‘repacked’ items, that is small quantities of product that are packed together. In these, everything is hand wrapped in brown paper, and then packed 1-4 items to a huge box. I have ordered 10 items and got 11 boxes. Yes, I once got a box with just the packing slips for the other boxes in it.

    Somehow, this is the same company that once mixed several completely unaffiliated stores’ orders together… then wrapped the whole thing in black plastic, hoping I wouldn’t notice.

  33. everything says:

    A few years ago when purchasing for a small retail store, I ordered six copies of Trend Micro PC-cillin which, at the time, came in a glorified CD sleeve. Two days later, we received six identical 9x12x4 boxes, with $7 shipping on each packing slip.

    I just assumed that they’d hired a few new packagers at the warehouse and were using my order for training.

  34. Buran says:

    @trai_dep: If you want to be taken seriously, you start as a grad student and you get your name attached to peer-reviewed, published-in-real-journals research very early on, establish yourself in your field, get cited, and work with already-established scientists, and eventually maybe get your own lab or write your own papers and so on.

    You don’t do it by publishing big shiny books with simplified text that doesn’t really have any peer review or the sort of sources that real scientific papers have.

  35. Buran says:

    @logie-al: Then there’s Occam’s Razor: The simplest explanation is the most likely one. AKA, human stupidity.

  36. SexCpotatoes says:

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Pick two.

  37. MMD says:

    @SexCpotatoes: Heck, picking *one* would be an improvement here!

  38. TheDude06 says:

    Do you guys still do that thing where you go around and ban commenters who make poor comments? its long overdue! comments are seriously lacking lately. and often downright useless.

  39. wring says:

    i’m sure if they’re bubblewrap, complainer wouldn’t mind. hey it’s therapeutic!

  40. Trai_Dep says:

    @Buran: you seem to be consciously missing my point: the scientific community already went that route, found themselves ignored. So they worked with someone that could spread the word. Everyone wins.

    Err, except the Hummer guys and Exxon. Whoops!

    And, the nice thing about finding an interesting book on a topic that isn’t weighty enough for you? Find ANOTHER book, that’s weightier. That’s why libraries and bookstores have General Interest and Scientific sections.

    Books: can’t stop after reading just one!

  41. n8srq says:

    I received a single SD card packaged identically to the notebooks here. I’m glad I didn’t order 5 of them.

  42. sashazur says:

    Hopefully this is the exception rather than the rule. At least most packaging is reusable/recyclable.

  43. dafountain says:

    So, I guess it boils down to, which way do you want to kill the planet? Get off your lazy butt and actually GO to Office Depot in your ozone depleting SUV or order online and kill a bunch of trees for packaging. But then, the shipper will be burning fuel in vans and planes too so the “get off your lazy butt” method is actually better.

  44. Trai_Dep says:

    @dafountain: Or, you know, drive a car that handles better (and weighs less) than, I donno, a street-sweeper, to pick up misc. supplies. :)

  45. Toof_75_75 says:

    Since you swallowed Al Gore’s pill without even reading the label, here’s a few links for you.


    Perhaps even give a few books a read. Here’s one:

  46. cordeduroi says:

    *I’ve* never seen ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and *I* live in America! -gasp- -stagger- -thud-
    Staples Corporate isn’t going to be nearly as concerned with ‘eco-concerns’ as they are with possibly spending 6x more on shipping than necessary. I think the letter would have been better served towards that point.

  47. Buran says:

    @trai_dep: Thanks for assuming I’m a library-hating type … I’m not.

    The problem is that the ignorant layperson is being credited unfairly with it all and people are assuming as a result that it’s OK to accept opinions of laypeople as scientific fact. It is not. This kind of misguided idiocy is giving credence to the rants of truly uninformed morons who don’t really have a clue.

    And scientists have been spreading the word for years through public forums, such as articles in newspapers, television, books of their own, you name it. You can’t claim that the information has not been available to the public.

    I’ll trust PBS’ NOVA series, which gets its info directly from people with actual credentials, publications, and peer review to their names, or books written by those same people (and SCIENTISTS DO WRITE BOOKS), over some book with some random guy’s name on it, no matter whether or not I’ve heard of said guy before (where’s his degree in science? does he have one? I don’t think so, but if I’m wrong please do let me know).

    Oh, by the way, to the original poster in this thread … we’re still waiting for that link to that peer-reviewed paper.

  48. barty says:

    Break down the boxes and use them to ship stuff out without having to pay for a box in the future. That should at least offset the extra cost to you that is embedded in the price of the item(s).

    Companies could get a clue by at least providing some basic guidelines to their shipping employees on when to use multiple boxes. Empower them to use a little common sense instead of imposing a “one box for every item” rule. Of course when you hire people, legal citizens included, that can hardly read or speak proper English or follow simple instructions, I can see where there might be a problem.

    FYI everyone, trees that are used for paper are grown specifically for this purpose. If I drive about two hours south of where I live, you’ll see nothing but pine forests stretching as far as you can see, all owned by Georgia-Pacific or one of the other large paper producers.

  49. weakdome says:

    Yawn… this sort of news is getting a little old. Really, does this person think they are going to get something from Staples for “wasting his time” ? Honestly. Please.

  50. DAK says:

    @stynesteen: I thought the same thing, but he/she/it seems to have had more on the order.

    Still, this is a great example of how ridiculous some of the posts have gotten to be on here. There are complaints, and there are noteworthy complaints. Try to stick to the latter, please.

    @cordeduroi: Same here. Regardless of where you fall on the issue, if you’re not already up to speed on the topic, then there’s probably no helping you anyway. If Al Gore has to be the one to enlighten you, on anything, you’re already beyond hope.

  51. DAK says:

    @TheDude06: You’re mostly right, but it’s also a reflection of the non-topics that are becoming more frequent on the site. There’s really nothing intelligent to be said about Staples using extra boxes to ship an order.

  52. twoply says:

    Agreed, OP needs to STFU.

  53. @TheDude06: Amen, I second this.

    @DAK: Large corporations wiping their metaphorical asses with the environment isn’t relevant to consumerism, eh? Good for YOU not caring about it, but there’s plenty “intelligent” to be said here. Too bad that 7 / 50 comments here (better than 10%) are blatantly criticizing the OP for daring to complain about corporate waste, while another 10+ are dealing with some lunatic trying to disprove global warming.

    Honestly, I still enjoy reading The Consumerist most of the time…as long as I don’t read the comments.

  54. noquarter says:

    @Toof_75_75: Your first link is a blog containing the opinions of a single scientist, your second is a misinterpretation of a misinterpretation of scientific data, and your third is a book written by a PR expert and a journalist. All of your sources are more political than scientific.

    Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with what it means for a theory to have a scientific majority, but pointing to individual scientists who disagree with it does not make it false.

  55. noquarter says:

    @Toof_75_75: Also, I find the fact that you get your science information from political websites to be very troubling.

    If you are concerned with discovering what the facts are, rather than with having your opinions confirmed, you need to seek out other sources of information.

  56. rmgustaf says:

    I remember hearing on NPR a few weeks back that the cardboard industry in America is doing really well, and that’s usually a good indicator for how well the economy is doing.

    But if major shipping companies like Amazon and Staples are grossly inflating their use of cardboard with, to be blunt, idiotic shipping methods, I wonder how accurate the report was.

    Is “cardboard inflation” going to affect how economists look at the state of our nation’s economy?

  57. SmallParcelLog says:

    The problem most likely resulted from their system’s carton selection logic. Most likely the dimensions for the notepads had been incorrectly entered. The employee fulfilling the separate pick tickets – putting one notepad into one box had no way of knowing about the other boxes. The five different shipments could have been picket by different people at different times. The distribution center that shipped out the order could be filling anywhere from 1,000 to 50,000 shipments a day. Another reason shipments end up in large cartons is due to a lack of small cartons to select – the carton selection logic may have picket the smallest box for the order. The real problem is there may not be enough small carton sizes for all the possible combinations of items a customer might order at the same time. A company like Staples would be selling a wide variety of items as small as a pencil to as large as a file cabinet. It is also easier to use a carton that is too big than it is to solve the problem of a carton that can not be used because it is too small.

  58. menoditre says:

    For some part, smallparcellog is right. But after working at Staples for awhile, I can safely say that orders are broken down piece by piece, in case your order has to come from more than one warehouse. This keeps the employees from playing the “telephone game” to track down all the parts of a full order before packing it into just one box, where your order would most definitely be screwed up.

    If you are really concerned about keeping green, you could always return the boxes to your local staples the next time you drop by. We would love to have them to send out orders placed between stores.

  59. smusha says:

    how come nobody gets this right ? if they ship product in envelopes or million things in one box product gets smashed and it does more damage to our planet to Staples and its customers most people think product is delivered from stores wrong it gets shipped out from many different warehouses changes few trucks and goes from place to place in matter of not days but minutes I have worked in industry and I also know that Staples asks every customer to consolidate orders in order to save money waste and many other things ! Also there is laws about shipping you cant put window cleaner and pencils in same box its illegal certain products have to be in same box some products can never be in same box so next time your windex arrives in separate box don’t blame retailer blame law fro protecting you )))

    Sorry for my English )