Hewlett-Packard Crowned Head Of The Stupid Shipping Gang After Packing 32 Sheets Of Paper In 17 Boxes

Leading the stupid shipping gang takes creative incompetence, and Hewlett-Packard is clearly up to the task. Other companies might have turned to email when faced with the challenge of shipping sixteen software licenses. Not Hewlett-Packard! HP went looking for a box. A really big box, which they filled with sixteen smaller boxes, each containing two precious pieces of paper ensconced in a layer of protective foam.

Hewlett-Packard’s head of product packaging was unable to explain the odd shipping choice, as he is currently en route to St. Ives.

HP shatters excessive packaging world record [The Register]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Zeniq says:

    Huh. I’m sure the people packing this thought it was just as dumb.

  2. Preyfar says:

    I can’t see how any shipping group would do something this stupid, especailly at HP where getting it out there faster is of a higher priority. I think they’d be more likely to just send out two boxes.

    Then again, CDW charged us $150 overnight shipping for a Sun power cable for a server we ordered… and the server hasn’t even shipped yet. Instead of shipping it with the server, they gave us a $150 overnight UPS bill for a single server power cable.

    So maybe I can believe it.

  3. jst07 says:

    Someone should let HP know about the bubble envelopes.

  4. I just got a plastic earloop, which is TINY, from Motorola in a box that is 12X12X10.

    My wife and I both got quite a laugh out of that.

    Had they shipped it in an envelope it would have been sufficient.

  5. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @jst07: Or carrier pigeons.

    This must be why HP can’t return their customer’s computers – they’ve obviously run out of boxes.

  6. AgentTuttle says:

    Something is going on here and this one is the smoking gun. But what is it? A retard would not have been able to pull this off, but a high functioning autistic person would. So if they’re not the latter, then there IS a conspiracy of some kind. Any theories?

  7. RDProgrammer says:

    I work for IT at my University and we received the licenses for 1400 UMPCs that were ordered for all our campuses. These were individually shipped in an envelope each. each had 3 sheets of paper. Why didnt we just get 7 reams no one knows.

  8. FLConsumer says:

    Only someone with a PhD could create a system this bad.

  9. UNDERSTAR says:

    Maybe they ran out of envelopes???

  10. SegamanXero says:

    I just took one look at this article and ROTFLAMOed off my bed. Now everytime shall thing of or hear the name HP or Hewlett Packard i will giggle, people are gonna think im nuts. then ill tell them of this article, then they will think HP is nuts.

  11. @Zeniq: I’m not too certain of this. Have you ever seen a shipping facility? Not everything is Lucy and Ethel making Bonbons on the conveyor, believe you me.

    Anyway, it absolutely, positively kills me that people do this.

    To think, Native Americans used stress about using the whole buffalo (I really don’t know that; I just pulled it out of my ass because it sounded profound).

    (Wannabe profound, rather.)

    (Bloody hell.)

  12. Turtlestack says:

    Maybe someone at HP is just having a bit of fun here.

  13. zumdish says:

    @Gilbert: Geez, I’ve run a shipping facility, my VP would’ve had my head with various sauces and garnish were I to allow this. I can only hope this is a result of somebody breaking the No Alcohol at Lunch rule, or just having a bit of fun.

    A computer illiterate friend of mine is asking for a recommendation on what laptop to buy. Hmmm – how to answer . . .

  14. @zumdish: I stand corrected. Sort of.

    That said, if your friend does indeed buy an HP, at the very least he can retrofit his ebay business with all the shipping materials he’ll ever need.


  15. Optimistic Prime says:

    As someone who works in the transportation industry, I totally get wanting to protect whatever it is you’re shipping as a lot of people are quite frankly not to bright. However an envelope or Tyvek Pak, or a combination of envelope in Tyvek pak would’ve been much better. Most companies charge by volume and wt, as a result an envelope is almost a flat rate.

  16. lchatburn says:

    The explanation is pretty straightforward…

    HP obviously stores their license documents as products, each with an individual box, in their warehouse. It’s an item on a shelf, with a barcode, that gets picked and dropped onto a conveyor. You can’t do that with a piece of paper.

    Then, if a customer orders a computer and needs a license, they just pull the computer’s box and the license box, and stick them in a packing box, and they are done. No opening, no checking, no taping, no mess. Of course, it gets messed up if you order 16 of them, but at the same time, it’s probably cheaper to do it this way than to have someone pick and pack by hand.

    I think people commenting on this stuff and posting to the Consumerist really don’t have a sense of how large and automated this process is…

    Anyone who is interested, take 20 minutes and read the Anandtech visit to Newegg.com’s warehouse – [www.anandtech.com]

    It’s an illuminating read.

  17. raleel says:

    This isn’t even the first time I’ve seen this practice. Back when I was in school 10 years ago, we ordered licenses for windows 98 for a computer lab (50ish). Each one came in it’s own box. All of those boxes were in their own box, and all of those boxes were together in one big box. All of the licenses were bubble wrapped, and there were packing peanuts in the big box.

    And here i thought it was an isolated incident.

  18. PatrickIs2Smart says:

    I think what’s worse is that somebody had to actually tape 2 boxes together to make it all work… wow…

  19. donkeyjote says:


    HP obviously stores their license documents as products, each with an individual box, in their warehouse. It’s an item on a shelf, with a barcode, that gets picked and dropped onto a conveyor. You can’t do that with a piece of paper.


    The problem is not that HP sent 17 separate licenses, but that the OP ordered 17 individual licenses. Why not order a volume license? Or, you know, pay for the volume license edition, so you wouldn’t need 17 separate license codes.

  20. TVarmy says:

    @donkeyjote: Don’t blame the guy who ordered them. I’m sure there’s a reason he ordered 17 separate licenses, and HP should know better than to package them this way.

  21. Aphex242 says:

    @lchatburn: It may be cheaper in terms of labor, but I guarantee you the shipping cost on that monstrosity is insanely high compared to one small envelope to hold the sheets of paper.

    So yeah, you’ve puzzled out how it happened (not that rough), but it’s still pretty indefensible.

    In these days of $4+ gas and increasing scarcity of lumber, etc, I think we can all agree a little less waste would be a good thing.

  22. kingofmars says:

    This is disappointing. I bought HP’s EX470 home server a couple of months ago. The ups packaging was exactly the same size as the retail box. Sure this was probably designed to fit exactly, but it was nice that I didn’t have even more packaging to discard.

  23. kepler11 says:

    That is the problem when software replaces people who can notice silly things going on. There would have been a person at the shipping department who would say, look, these are all going to the same address, and are ludicrously overpacked, let’s consolidate them all and also not use huge boxes. Now, the drones doing the shipping are not allowed any judgment because the software says what they do. People who write supply chain codes, or any other code, need to think about the various things that people notice that software will not, or may catch during the course of their job, and tell you about when they fix, so that these sorts of inefficiencies and bad headlines don’t have to continue.

  24. @lchatburn:

    To the voice of reasonable explanation, Thank you.

  25. The_Gas_Man says:

    I usually get irritated at the self righteous “stupid shipping gang” articles, but I’ve got to agree with you guys on this one. This is hilariously, incomprehensibly stupid.

  26. domo-arigato says:

    I see this quite often at work (next time I’ll take a picture). Office Depot once shipped a tiny box of pencils (all by itself with a bunch of bubble wrap) in a box around 12x12x12 because it came at a different time than the rest of the order. Sometimes they ship our HP inkjet cartridges in big boxes with bubble wrap; sometimes in plastic envelope-paks. I think it depends on the warehouse.

    Someone has GOT to get a handle on shipping waste. Conservation should be everyone’s business. Why can’t a real person evaluate shipping procedures & flag those that are obviously, overwhelmingly RIDICULOUS (as with the software licenses)? Doesn’t common sense have a place anywhere anymore?

  27. Trai_Dep says:

    Hewlett-Packard hates Bambi.
    That is all.

  28. coren says:

    @lchatburn: But doesn’t putting those licenses in a box take someone to pack them originally? The idea makes sense, yes, but it doesn’t seem to cut down on much work. Nevermind using a smaller box with no padding, or god forbid an envelope.

    @PatrickIs2Smart: You’d think they’d get the idea that something was up when they had a box the size of a child that weighed about two pounds, tops. Could it have really been cheaper to ship that oversized monstrosity than two smaller boxes?

  29. The_IT_Crone says:

    Wow. I was going to send in a package that Lenovo sent me, but this wins.

    I’m awestruck.

  30. floraposte says:

    The problem with consolidating is that that’s a Stupid Labor Gang–paying packers who can normally process X number of shipments per hour to pry open sixteen boxes, pull paper out of them, find the relevant package, and repackage them. Standardization means either there’s stupid visible at our end or stupid that’s not, and I bet it’s cheaper to pay for a big empty box than a big full person.

  31. xerent says:

    @lchatburn: You couldn’t store licenses in envelopes with the same barcodes affixed to them? I think thick envelopes would have no trouble on a conveyor system.

  32. 9900dude says:

    I see this at work all the time. Thing is, if I took a picture of it, and work found out about it, I’d get canned.

  33. ImpulsiveTurnip says:

    Well, none of this surprises me, even if it is some sort of automation oversight. I ordered a printer directly from the HP website. It arrived on my doorstep just fine. Yup, everyone who drove by my house knew I bought a printer, including the guy who delivered it. It came in it’s original store packaging. They just stuck a shipping label on it and mailed it to me. I’m just glad I got home in time before someone was tempted to take it. Geez, you could see what model printer it was from the street. Ugh.

    They’ve definitely got issues with product packaging.

  34. Out of all the previous stories about wasteful shipping techniques I’m stunned by this particular story. I mean, WOW.

  35. dondiego87 says:

    @lchatburn: I read that article all the way through, and the part that I think is most relevant to this is where the author describes how the item gets from shelf to tote (to package). There is absolutely no reason it couldn’t be done with an envelope. A person picks the item up off the shelf; thus there’s no problem with, say, a mechanical claw of some kind having trouble with a thin little envelope. Then the item goes into a little tub for its trip around the conveyor belt — again, something that an envelope would suffice for.

    Now, it’s entirely possible that HP’s system is different from NewEgg’s. But the article you cite as an illumination into warehouse automation makes the case that this instance of stupid shipping didn’t have to happen. NewEgg’s process appears to be reliant upon human beings except for making and taping boxes, controlling the flow of totes around the warehouse, and telling the tote jockeys what to take off the shelves.

    Of course, I think that shipping in general (stupid or no) didn’t have to happen in this case. Why couldn’t HP have sent 16 PDF versions of the license via email?

  36. mikemar42 says:

    Maybe they did this to show the importance of the software licenses. Some software licenses are really expensive and if they were tossed in a normal envelope they might get lost on someones desk. They might have done that to just show that its an actual product to whoever is in the IT department. I don’t think its that odd that they shipped them in bigger packaging, maybe this big is a little overboard but it is smarter than just tossing them in a regular envelope.

  37. Fallom says:

    @mikemar42: That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard today. I can assure you that HP didn’t package 32 sheets of paper in 17 boxes because software licenses can get lost on some slob IT geek’s desk.

  38. P41 says:

    For those of you arguing the standardized prepacked-box theory: So it would completely wreck their supply chain to have 5 or 10 packs of licenses as a separate type of box?

    If this OP got a 10 pack in wasteful boxing, and a 5 pack in wasteful boxing, and a single in wasteful boxing, I think the odds are they wouldn’t have even written, or if they had consumerist wouldn’t have bothered posting.

  39. Average_Joe says:

    How much were those licenses? If they cost a lot I can easily understand individual packaging. You do not want to merge them all together and have the customer complaining they did not receive one of the licenses because they couldn’t find in the huge stack of paper. Unfortunately, this kind of package is very necessary from a business stand point. At least they shipped them together in one box.

  40. midwestkel says:

    The license papers I have see usually have something that indicates who owns it like the company name.

    Also what product coming from HP that needs license.

  41. donkeyjote says:

    @midwestkel: Thinclients.

  42. donkeyjote says:

    @midwestkel: @donkeyjote:

    Sorry, got cut off. Thinclients, fat clients (Regular corporate computers) and the servers that love them.


  43. AgentTuttle says:

    If they are dumb enough to ship this way, maybe they’re dumb enough to pay an insurance claim saying that the contents were broken in shipping.

    I’ve got to go rewind my DVD now so that the rental store doesn’t charge me an extra dollar.

  44. Blackneto says:

    Oh this is nothing.
    We needed a crap-ton of power cords at work. we had a run of HP server orders that came with standard plugs and we need hooded plugs.
    Purchasing had to haggle with them on a price for the power cords because it wasn’t really an item they sold. they settled on the cost of a Penny each. now note that HP wasn’t going to charge but Purchasing insisted on paying “something”

    So the order goes in for about 3500 power cords. we figure they will come in a big box.
    well, they did.
    several in fact.
    One cord in each box packaged much like the licenses mentioned in this article.
    Each cord was nicely twist tied, with anti-static foam separating the cord from a piece of paper warning us about the dangers of electric shock or something.
    3500 little boxes. all packed in several bigger boxes.
    3500 little boxes. all packed in several bigger boxes.
    3500 little boxes. all packed in several bigger boxes.
    3500 little boxes. all packed in several bigger boxes.
    /well you get the idea

  45. jgodsey says:

    you gotta start giving an award for this.
    say a gold sprayed box…in a box..in a box.

  46. Propaniac says:

    @lchatburn: Assuming your explanation is correct, I can see two problems. 1) A box even as big as the one holding the individual license still seems excessive, especially if you have to send even as few as two or three licenses to the same person, which can’t be that uncommon. 2) This guy needed 17 licenses. If it’s really unusual for someone to need that many, I think it would probably not be a waste of time/money for the employee to open the boxes and consolidate them for this special case, given how much more the shipping costs must have been (and how long would that really take? Maybe five minutes?). If it’s NOT especially unusual, the system should be set up to accomodate such a case; the suggestion that someone else made that there be five-pack and ten-packs of licenses available makes a lot of sense to me.

  47. Ragman says:

    @RDProgrammer: I did a summer job where one day I had to stuff envelopes with Purchase Orders. I was told explicitly by the accounts clerk to put one order per envelope. When I asked the obvious, she said “Because I used to do that until I screwed up and put two similar POs to two competing vendors in one envelope, and vendor x made an issue of us buying from vendor y. Afterwards I was told ‘one PO, one envelope’ by upper management”.

  48. Breach says:

    The sheets must have been made from endangered white rhino hide or something

  49. oregongal says:

    Ok maybe I’m just not getting it. Why are these not available as an attachment in an email? If they are just printed on ‘normal’ paper, no special bits and bobs needed, then why package and send them at all? That would be the ultimate cost saving measure. Let the client print their own and save on shipping/packaging. Can someone enlighten me on this?

  50. dweebster says:

    wow. hp not only makes crap computers – with all that brainpower they can’t even figure out how to email a license, or put it up on a website to view.

    Nice work, Fiorini. Hope your work with McCain is just as useful as your stint at HP.

  51. CumaeanSibyl says:

    This is what happens when you contract out shipping to the manufacturers of matryoshka dolls.

  52. XantheCallisto says:

    At work we have IBM blades. Those are not installed in small quantities.
    After the first time getting warranty sheets for the first bunch
    packaged just like HP’s licenses, we complained to the IBM sales person.
    Not only came they packed one by one in its own box, no, we also had to
    fill them out and send back or fax them back. They they were stamped by
    IBM and sent/faxed back.

    Sales told us about “different department…done not in sales…” etc.,
    we told them “we don’t care, big IBM can surely do something about
    this, right?” and they could: sales talked to the warranty team, so the
    latter sent their sheets (in whatever form) to the sales department,
    sales filled them out (they knew serial number, who we are, and where
    they sent he blades), and then they sent us one pack of stamped warranty
    sheets back. One envelope. Hand packed.

    So it is possible with asking nicely and especially if sales might lose
    a customer about such a minor issue.

  53. mikemar42 says:

    You know everyone complains about stupid shipping like this but maybe we shouldn’t. At least you got the package and nothing was broken. Maybe we should start posting every time someone orders something and they end up with a box of broken junk. If thats the way hp needs to ship it, who cares. You get it, it’s not broken, it’s not lost, what’s the big problem ? I love the consumerist but sometimes it just feels like some of you were that kid that sat in the back of the class complaining about everything and never just accepted it for what it was. Theres plenty of people getting ripped off way harder out there than overkill shipping gangs. If anything else you got some boxes you can use to ship other stuff.

  54. z4ce says:

    I formerly worked for an HP reseller. This is not only very inefficient, its incredibly annoying. We would get free licenses every year for every product in the line… one per office. So we’d get 16 HUGE boxes packaged like the above.. Huge box, lots of little boxes, lots of pieces of paper, one useful number on the pieces of paper.

    BTW @donkeyjote, did you know anyone can now to go webware.hp.com and use your license? Probably not a good idea to post that order number across the internet…

  55. dragon:ONE says:

    @z4ce: That image is from the HP site. It won’t work to generate licenses.

  56. Zeniq says:

    @Gilbert: My thought was that the workers who actually put the packages together have to do it according to policy.

    Then again, maybe they just thought it was funny.

  57. Rachacha says:

    Perhaps a disgruntled employee. Reminds me of a story that a coleague of mine told. His former employer was shutting down the local offices/facility and was transfering everything to CA. The bosses told the workers (who knew they were getting laid off) to “PACK UP EVERYTHING and put it on the trucks for shipment cross country” So they packed up all of the equipment, furniture, a full machine shop, and then went out back and boxed up thousands of pounds of rocks, put them on palates mixed in with the items that were really supposed to go and put them on the truck.

  58. MerisStheno says:

    We get something nearly as bad… We have been receiving 10 computers a week
    for the last couple of months, each of those computers comes with a 19″ LCD,
    the LCD comes with DVI/VGA & USB cables. We don’t bother plugging in the DVI
    or USB cables and just leave users with VGA. Additionally, we get a second
    DVI cable, that comes in its own box with warranty information and foam
    packaging.. We have just been throwing the DVI cables into a box, and now
    easily have about 150+ in a couple of boxes, and using the packaging to
    resend other stuff at work.

  59. lingum says:

    4 words.

    Are you shitting me?

  60. kvanh says:

    There is a bunch of retardation on HP’s part here:
    1) HP probably saved a couple of thousand in programming by routing paper only deliveries through the standard computer ordering system. But they probably waste that in shipping charges every 2 or 3 months with stunts like this.

    2) These paper licenses? They mean NOTHING. If you get busted for piracy the only proof of ownership that matters is actual paid invoices. Your IT department could track every little piece of paper they get shipped but if your accounting systems are a mess you’ll still get fined. HP could just e-mail a damn PDF with the number of licenses purchased on it and be just as well off.

  61. Kirk Douglas says:


    No way, this guy must have a buttload of degrees attached to his name beyond the age-old Piled Higher and Deeper

  62. eddiesmile says:

    That’s just good manners. Sending things in such a luxurious way. And you people are complaining.

  63. Meathamper says:

    I would like it if people with these boxes could send me them, because I’d like to use these for a Metal Gear Solid live-action parody.

  64. mrearly2 says:

    That’s gotta be it.

  65. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    18 boxes, actually — look carefully at that outer big box, and it actually appears to be two smaller boxes taped together.

  66. Cary says:

    As an HP dealer I can assure you that nothing that company does makes sense. They are out to skin everyone for every last cent they possibly can after reducing their staff to nothing.

    If they gave a crap about their customers, dealers or employees someone would have figured out that its cheaper and easier to email a license then print it, throw it in a big box and ship it UPS. And if there was any doubt, they already handle their EXTREMLY profitable Care Paqs that way so the mechanism is already in place.

    If they could figure out a way to email their tiny little $30 ink cartridges I assure you they would (hell… they almost can)

    Kudos to the genius who figured out this system to screw the company over just a little the way they’ve treated everyone else.

  67. Anonymous says:

    The answer of it being an almost entirely automated system is the only way I can think of explaining this one. The fact they’re in neoprene-padded boxes in the first place rather than envelopes is a little excessive, but if you just received one you probably wouldn’t think too much of it as it’s not an outside box. And it’s not possible to accidentally tear the document if you’re careless opening the box, as you may with an envelope.

    The things to be shipped were probably picked just by their index number, possibly even by an automated system, and the workers sticking them in the big box to be sent out would neither known nor cared exactly what it was they were putting in the big double-box (which probably seemed like a more reliable and efficient way of getting all 17 of these things to their destination at once, instead of possibly having them split to seperate consignments in two normal-sized boxes), and may have ended up catching holy hell should they have looked inside, seen it was just paper, and gone off to get something with which to send the 50-odd sheets more sensibly.

    My laptop is an HP, and it came in a very efficient box that was just about large enough for it and it’s carefully arranged accessories (battery, tablet stylus with lanyard & spare tips, power transformer & leads, recovery CDs and a minimalist owner’s manual) to fit with some thin but effective padding. I don’t think they’d waste resources thoughtlessly like that, and if you were ordering a site license in a more normal way would probably just send a single, bespoke document through in an envelope.