45 Pens, 45 Boxes, One Customer: How Best Buy’s Shipping Blunder Contrasts With Carriers’ Holiday Shipping Preparation

One of the benefits of shopping online is being able to catch great deals, pay, and have the purchase show up on your doorstep without ever having to get off the couch or turn off Netflix. But sometimes, deliveries of online packages might be more than you bargained for.

According to The Consumerist, one man found a great deal a pack of pens on office supply giant Best Buy’s website, so he bought 45 of them. Then the packages started to arrive — each pack of pens in its own individual box.

The man, identified as Michael B., took to Reddit last week and posted pictures and a description of his purchase. Forty-five packs of pens in 45 different boxes, each packed carefully with packing material.

Despite this particularly odd example, the shipping industry is rather efficient — for being one of the most vital services to the economy, transportation only accounts for about 6% of economic activity in the United States. This includes vehicles like trucks, courier services, ships, airplanes, and logistics services.

This holiday season, carriers are actually making more and more efforts to increase efficiency, especially after last year’s weather and shipping volume delayed deliveries. According to the New York Times, carriers like FedEx, which delivers about nine million packages every day, are hiring more staff (in the FedEx’s case, this includes 15 meteorologists), communicating with retailers earlier in the season, and adding more tracking technologies and sorting facilities.

“There are three main costs, excluding fuel, associated with shipping – handling, tracking, and packaging,” says Chris Franzen, Director of Logistics,Broussard Logistics. “By shipping 45 separate boxes, the retailer greatly increased the odds one or more might get lost, which could result in an unhappy customer and increased costs. In addition, every step in the supply chain – packaging, warehousing, shipping, delivery – risks getting bottlenecked handling 45 different packages when it easily could have been 3 boxes of 15 each or 1 box with the entire 45 units packed together. Finally, there is the issue of packaging costs which includes not only boxes and packing material but labeling,” added Franzen. “Simply put, retailers just need to be smart. Using technology to consolidate customer orders wherever possible is a must.”

By now, many retailers and carriers across the country are surely getting into the full swing of holiday shipping. Carriers already taking measures to increase efficiency this season — and retailers, like Best Buy, should too.

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