What's Inside This Big Box From IBM?

Ooo, what could be inside this box that IBM shipped to a reader—retail-packaged software? Peripherals? Maybe a hard drive with air padding? A logo-emblazoned hoodie? Monogrammed pencils? A kitten?

Nope: it’s two replacement trackpoint nubs, smaller than a lapdog’s nipples.

con_tinynipplenubs.jpgWe know some of you don’t like these “big box-tiny product” posts, but they highlight the waste and incompetence of current shipping methods, and remind us of how messed up the supply chain remains, despite years of fine-tuning. As long as companies increase profits by passing costs on to the consumer instead of seeking out and addressing these inefficiencies, we’re going to see higher and higher levels of government-style red tape and bureaucracy. And big boxes with big shipping fees with tiny products inside.

“Reason #2389 Why IBM is a Ridiculous Corporation and Why My Next Computer Will Be a Mac” [Optimus Crime Toronto]
(Thanks to Sofi!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Regardless of the fact that they used quite a lot of packing, The trackpoint is perhaps the greatest invention for laptops ever. I salute you, IBM, for pushing the trackpoint, for the trackpoint is god.

  2. jimv2000 says:

    Now if only there was some sort of small packaging material that one could place these nubs in and drop them in the mail…something made out of folder paper maybe?

  3. RottNDude says:

    In my former IT shop, we called the trackpoint the “clit”.

    “Hey, Bob in legal called, he lost his clit and needs a replacement ASAP”

  4. Nelsormensch says:

    “… smaller than a lapdog’s nipples.”

    Perhaps the greatest comparison I’ve ever seen on this site.

  5. DallasDMD says:

    @jimv2000: a small bubble mailer perhaps?

  6. evslin says:

    I was hoping for a kitten :(

  7. KernelM says:
  8. KogeLiz says:


    my god.

    the daily “my items were shipped in a large box” posts are getting boring.

  9. FLConsumer says:

    Hmm…we’ve always called them “redheads” around these parts.

    Could they have been inspired by female genetalia? Certainly could be! It wouldn’t be the first time that the human body has inspired an invention.

  10. Kounji says:

    yeah this is a sad trend. I wonder why none of the nationial news makes it an issue

  11. I always called it the fuzzy nipple. Then just nipple when it got worn down.

  12. IrisMR says:

    I think they see the world large.

  13. pegr says:

    Mousehead… The preferred kind was the sandy mousehead…

  14. scoosdad says:

    And UPS, to use one example, is funny about how they charge for shipments. I have a UPS account and just entered a test shipment of a 1 lb box with a $1 USD value, from Boston to Seattle (ground residential delivery), and you could send anything from an envelope size on up to a 24″ x 18″ x 12″ box for the same $9.91. As soon as any of those parameters went up by 3 more inches (like, to 24 x 18 x 15), the cost jumped to 33.54.

    So not only are they being environmentally unfriendly, but depending on the final size of the box, the cost of shipping in a larger than required box probably gets passed on to all consumers in the end.

  15. witeowl says:

    I wonder if this is also affecting fuel consumption for shippers as their vehicles can only carry so many oversized boxes.

    On the bright side, it makes our delivery people feel really, really strong as they toss these huge boxes around as if they contain nothing but air. Who doesn’t need an ego boost?

  16. johnva says:

    @RamV10: I agree. They are so much better than the stupid touchpads that almost every manufacturer seems to have gone to.

  17. m4ximusprim3 says:

    I, also, was hoping for a kitten. Ah well…

  18. gregne says:

    Small item in large box = waste in packaging process + waste in shipping = higher prices passed on to you and me.

    I would guess that IBM’s continuous improvement methodology does not have “Lean” in its description!

  19. TSS says:

    Aren’t they Lenovo now? IBM no longer does personal computing, I thought.

  20. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Funny. A few years back, I ordered a CDRW drive for my ThinkPad T30. The drive itself is no bigger than a couple of stacked CD jewel cases. But the drive was shipped in a fairly huge box. So I opened it up, and.. hey, another box! So I opened that up, and there was the actual drive surrounded by protective foam. Excessive? Maybe. But the drive was well protected from the package slingers at UPS.

    And I don’t get the article’s headline. You want to see ridiculous? Apple ships out a special paper clip to help you remove the SIM card from the iphone.

    Besides, the author could have bough the nub replacements from ebay or from a local authorized IBM retailer.

  21. jeadie5 says:

    IBM sold their personal computing division to Lenovo about 3 years ago.

    You sure it wasnt Lenovo you were dealing with?

  22. Electroqueen says:

    Man, why hasn’t the USPS made it illegal to ship high volume boxes with low mass? There should at least be a minimum on how much and how big one can ship an item.

    For a little bit, I thought IBM sent a human body part or something…

  23. Half Beast says:

    @TSS: Lenovo controls those divisions and Sales primarily, but the infrastructure for support (Atlanta, GA and Dallas, TX), repair (Memphis, TN and Raleigh, NC) and parts (Boulder, CO and Mechanicsberg, PA) is still all IBM.

  24. mobilene says:

    @johnva: 15 years ago my company issued me a laptop with a trackpoint. It was the first laptop I ever used and in time I got the hang of the trackpoint. But then a couple companies later I was issued a laptop with a touchpad, the first I’d ever seen, and when I used it I realized what utter crap the trackpoint had been!

  25. clevershark says:

    I love those trackpoints myself. I’ve never seen a trackpad that didn’t utterly suck. Maybe only really posh laptops have good ones…

  26. TSS says:

    @half-beast: Interesting – thanks for the info. A friend of mine has a ThinkPad and she keeps freaking that if something goes wrong, Lenovo is in charge now. I’ll let her know to chill out. Thanks.

  27. forever_knight says:

    i like these posts. waste like this needs to be stopped.
    i can’t wait for when this issue has been resolved.

  28. iamlost26 says:

    Though I sincerely doubt this is why IBM ships in this way, I used to ship eBay items with large packaging, though it may only contain a textbook or a game. The reason for this was because I was recycling the package from something that was shipped to me before, and I didn’t want to go out and buy new shipping material and so I just decided to reuse the old box, even if it wasn’t a great fit.

    It’s a question of what’s more wasteful: using a new, smaller box and just throwing the old one away, or reusing this old box and having whatever carrier I’m using waste gas/space shipping the larger box.

  29. bobpence says:

    @JIMV2000: Folder paper is Apple technology.

  30. bohemian says:

    The USPS has this wonderful invention called the VHS tape sized box. Great for small things like this. My last Amazon order was sort of like these big box examples. I had to wade through this huge box to find the handful of small items located within.

    My laptop has a touchpad AND a touchpoint, plus two sets of left-right mouse click buttons!

  31. Bladefist says:

    I worked in a warehouse back in the day and we sold baseball cards. Small boxes were obviously the first to be re-used, and then we had nothing left but huge boxes. A lot of the freight costs are based on weight. And the company I came from didnt purchase boxes, just re-used ones that came to us.

    So really we werent wasting because we were recycling. So simmer down Al Gores

  32. rtwigg says:

    pencil eraser?

  33. VnlaThndr775 says:

    So boring you had to come and whine about it instead of scrolling past the article.

  34. madanthony says:

    If you look at the box they shipped it in, it has the ibm part number on the box, which means it was probably packaged like this from the factory. Makes me wonder if IBM has some sort of automated warehouse and boxes need to be a certain size to work with the warehouse robots or conveyor belts or something.

  35. TechnoDestructo says:

    This is why the icecaps are melting.

  36. firefoxx66 says:

    I actually am glad you guys are pushing these ‘small item, big packaging’ stories. I’m hoping it’s putting some heat on these wasteful companies. There’s just excuse for being so damn stupid… So keep going at it!

  37. trujunglist says:

    Ugh, trackpoints. A terrible, terrible thing to put onto someone who’s trying to model miniscule points. I’m so, so glad that these have more or less gone the way of the IBM branded laptop.

  38. scoopy says:

    In addition to inventing the Internet, Al Gore also invented the trackpoint. Oh, and packing peanuts too.

  39. jkaufman101 says:

    @RottNDude: Sounds like something an IT guy would say. Uncouth and shameless. Keep it to yourself, bud.

  40. jbohlinger says:

    I have been working with IBM warranty for a few years now, and they are notorious for over packaging their parts. In my time with them I have had a part 3 inches in length and less than a half in wide shipped in 2 other boxes totaling 1x1x1.5 feet. That isn’t so bad, except I would receive multiple of this part at once, meaning that I would receive multiple of the 3 box set, one for each of a $2 part!

    Their packaging for screens is completely the opposite, meaning that I often get them in one box with hardly any packaging around them. My co-workers and I often commented that the boxes are crushed during transport and we were always shocked that we never received a cracked screen. More luck than anything else is my guess.

  41. mikelotus says:

    Doesn’t Lenovo do this now?

  42. StevieD says:


    And I bet that box is small enough to ship for the 1 lb rate.

  43. MrEvil says:

    I do field service for IBM from time to time, and they sent me a single 5cc syringe of thermal grease in a box that big. Bunch of retards.

  44. KogeLiz says:

    @VnlaThndr775: yes.

  45. rjhiggins says:

    @jkaufman101: “Sounds like something an IT guy would say.”

    So…anyone who works in IT is uncouth and shameless? That’s hundreds of thousands of people you’re tarring with that brush, most of them (including me) pretty highly educated. Seems a bit…uncouth.

  46. rjhiggins says:

    For the sake of argument: If the box is recycled, and there isn’t an inordinate amount of bubble wrap or peanuts or other unsavory packaging, and the shipping cost is based on weight, is this really a problem?

    I realize those are a lot of “ifs”, but if true it seems less wasteful to me than going out and buying a brand new, smaller package.

  47. RvLeshrac says:

    For the record, these typically come in cardboard envelopes which are roughly the size of 3.5″ floppy mailers.

  48. RvLeshrac says:

    Actually, I’m not even sure how she got those at all.

    There are two of them there.

    They *only* come in a pack of six, two each of three nub textures.

  49. TechnoDestructo says:


    It isn’t just weight. The more empty volume you have in the box, the more empty truck that fuel is moving. It costs less than a box full of bricks, but it still costs more than sticking it in an envelope.

  50. grouse says:

    Thank God that at least the Consumerist is taking the “big box-tiny product” phenomenon seriously!

  51. dgcaste says:

    @KogeLiz: people complaining about posts is getting boring too. don’t read it.

  52. dgcaste says:

    @grouse: it should be – it’s wasteful, and we end up paying for it.

  53. @trujunglist: i photoshop with them. any mousing device is only as precise as the user, so if you can’t use one, it’s because either a) you have poor motor skills or b) your computer is improperly adjusted. I hated them when I wasn’t accustomed to using them, but now I can’t live without. I’ve been looking for a desktop keyboard with one lately. I even play Diablo2 with mine while I’m traveling.

    @jkaufman101: It is. I say it too. If you want your computer fixed you will just have to leave your skirt at the door and enjoy our filthy fucking analogies.