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Sun Feb 8 2015 10:29:01

Has Amazon Fixed Its Package Problem?

By: Ina Steiner

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It's a standing joke that Amazon uses boxes that are way too big for the items they are mailing. This Consumerist story from 2013 shows an extreme case of "over packing," complete with pictures showing a box many times bigger than it had to be.

But that may be a thing of the past. Amazon is now boasting about how it is shipping items in right-size boxes. The Central Valley Business Journal uploaded a YouTube video this month accompanied by the following abstract:

"Ever wonder how Amazon manages to ship your items in boxes that seem made for them? It's because they are. Amazon's manager of North American operations, Mike Roth, explains how it works at the fulfillment center in Patterson, CA."

What do you think - is Amazon getting it right these days, or are people still aghast about the size of shipping boxes, such as this blog post from 2007, "Seriously, Amazon, could you ship things in larger boxes?" Or this post on Gizmodo from 2013, "Why Is Amazon Packaging So Dumb Sometimes?"

And, since customers are clearly paying attention, how much time to you spend to try to use right-sized boxes for your shipments?



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by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Feb 8 10:52:45 2015

No they haven't. We received a box about 18' X 24' that contained 1 box of kitty litter weighting 37 lbs about 12" x 15" and a few wads of paper......Of course USP had to taped up the box as it was to big for all the weight that was in it,

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Sun Feb 8 11:07:20 2015

I've never had a problem with over-sized boxes from Amazon. As far as when I ship items in boxes, I always make sure there is plenty of space around the item to put bubble wrap or "peanuts" so that even if the box is damaged the item inside should remain pristine.  

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by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Sun Feb 8 21:01:10 2015

Seems to depend on the FC and not necessarily just the established but the new ones also can vary tremendously .

Recent order of five or six items, most from the same FC came properly tightly and  correctly packed.

Next day a camping tent in a manufacturers retail packing of 36 x 9 x 9 inches came from the Amazon warehouse in a 3.5 foot x 2.5 foot x 1.4 foot box. Yeah there was some air pillows inside, but overall a over priced and shoddy packaging.

My eight year experience with Amazon is that they are better at packing than the typical eBay seller; much, much better than the big box stores such as Walmart, Target, Boscovs, Macy's, Sears, Disney and such; But far below my personal standards of proper (10,000 plus over 18 years without a packing complaint) packing.

 

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by: topdog This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 9 00:13:53 2015

Not a chance. We get items returned (unfulfillable) all the time, and usually the box is WAYYYYY too big.  

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by: SparklyEyes7 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 9 00:27:35 2015

I bought some Post It notes from Amazon and they came in a 9" x 12" x 6" box.  The box was great for one of my items, but about 10 times too big for the notes.

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by: ewegolf This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 9 08:01:22 2015

IMO one of the biggest factors in FedEx and UPS going to dim weight was Amazon.  They have enough FC's now that they can push shipments to the USPS, which doesn't go dim on priority until Zone 5.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Mon Feb 9 08:24:40 2015

I reuse about half of the boxes I receive from Amazon. I reuse ALL of the air-pillows that I receive in my Amazon shipments.  

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by: MichaelMM This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 9 09:27:21 2015

Keep in mind that many of the boxes are filled by temporary workers who are still learning how to pack well. Also that at the speed of packing they limit the various sizes to simplify the choices the packers make for speed. It costs less to inventory fewer sizes.

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by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 9 10:52:10 2015

I worked at the Campbellsville facility and I can tell you that it does matter which facility the package comes from as it seems not all facilities have the same equipment.  We do not have the custom box making machines.

There is also a human factor involved as there is someone that weighs and measures the individual item on a special machine which tells the computer system which box to use.

The packing stations for individual items run at a speed of about 2 items per minute.  The person packing the items has a selection of approximately 16 different box sizes.  The computer tell the packer which box to select depending on the information that the person who measured the item loaded in to the computer.

I worked the packing station and found that often times small items were measured incorrectly BUT if I stopped to take the time to select a smaller box then my packing rate slowed down and I would be chastised by management.  Too much of that and you get the boot.

Sometimes I had found that an item was just barely too big for a small box and the next sixe larger was considerably larger.

Often times items such as shirts and ball caps were scheduled for a large box but could often fit in an A1 (if folded) or an A3 (if lightly padded) box but taking the time to fold shirts slows production.

It seems that Amazon's thought on this is to ensure the item arrives intact, therefore they prefer to use larger boxes over tight boxes in order to afford packing all the way around (in theory) the item in the box.

As to heavy items such as cat litter... the packing department is only allowed one strip of tape on the top and bottom of the box.  If the tape did not water properly or did not get smoothed out properly then it can come loose, especially with a heavy and ungainly item inside.

I will say that the packing departments do try very hard to do the best job possible at the most affordable cost to the company and they do manage a better packing job than a lot of other mail order companies.

When I worked on the packing line if I felt the box was too big I would take the time to fit it in a smaller box.  Unfortunately sometimes I would build a smaller box only to find the item was just slightly too big and end up making the suggested box anyway which slowed my productivity.

Time is money and at Amazon it is all about speed and productivity.

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by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 9 11:01:00 2015

@MichaelMM

The issue is not so much with the temporary workers/seasonal workers as with the full time staff.  The seasonal workers are not held to the same high productivity standards as the full-time staff AND they are freshly trained and for the most part more conscientious about the job..  

The full-time workers have become trained to speed production through the course of time and likely having been chastised over not meeting production quotas.  They want to keep their job so they do whatever it takes to keep their production quota up.  That equates to never questioning the computer and never wasting time trying to properly fit an item in a box... or even not spending a lot of time making sire adequate cello is in the box to pad the contents.

The seasonal workers are only held to production rates of 85% of that of the full-time workers, therefore they are afforded a little more leeway in taking the time needed to search for the correct size box out of the limited number of size  and shape boxes available to use..

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by: GotToGetOut This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 9 13:55:41 2015

Yes, I get 3 packages of K cups every couple of months on auto delivery and they come in a great size box.  Just a little room left for a couple of airbags that protect the package (not that this item needs much protecting).  

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by: Kip This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 9 15:41:42 2015

DeltaMail, thank you for sharing your experiences with packing at Amazon. That is very interesting -- and enlightening. Sounds very stressful, having to work at that pace.

I'd say probably a third of the packages I receive from amazon are in boxes that are two big. Ordered an item that was about 3 x 5 x 2 inches that came in an A7 box that could have held at least 10 of them.  

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by: SparklyEyes7 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 10 18:26:31 2015

@Deltamaster


>>>Time is money and at Amazon it is all about speed and productivity.

But at what cost to returns?

A friend buys $$$$ books and she returns about 3/4 of them because they were packed properly.

I've only sold a few collectible books and they get wrapped in tissue, then in large bubble wrap then in a fitted box.  

Yes, it takes me longer, but I get no returns.  :)

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by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 11 12:45:07 2015

@SparklyEyes,
I do not know about return rates, personally.  I only know what is reported by the department and shift supervisors and the return rate is surprisingly low considering the volume of orders processed through the facility.  

Another amazing thing is that every worker that touches an item from the time it is ordered until the time it leaves the facility can be tracked.

Amazon maintains those records in their vast databases for a period of time after the order is fulfilled, allowing management to research the fulfillment tree whenever a customer has a complaint.

If one particular worker is found to have a higher percentage of returns then that worker is counseled/reprimanded.  If this particular employee is found to have a high number of complaints then the employee will be relieved of their employment or in the case of seasonal employees they will not be retained the next season.  At least half the seasonal Camperforce (seasonal staff that live full time in RVs and work a few months from September through December) staff return for multiple seasons.

On each and every order the warehouse management can determine which employee placed the item on the shelves for storage, pulled the item off hte shelves to fill the order, packed the item in the box for shipment.

When a customer has an issue with an order the order fulfillment tree is checked and the employee(s) associated with the complaint is identified.



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