Here's Why Amazon Sometimes Ships You Small Items In Huge Boxes

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If you’ve ordered stuff off Amazon even somewhat often, you’ll have encountered something very strange at least once. You’ll be expecting a package for an item about the size of your palm, and instead get one as big as your arm instead. What gives?

Well, it’s not any sort of nonsense like a conspiracy to charge you more for shipping by giving you a bigger box than needed. Instead, what’s more likely is that, despite all the automation and robotics at work in Amazon’s warehouses, this can be chalked up to human error. 

  1. Sellers input the wrong product dimensions

In a typical Amazon warehouse, products are packed into massive shelves and meticulously labelled an indexed. Where a few years ago humans would have walked the shelves to retrieve the products needed to be sent out, now the shelves come to them. The shelves are mounted on automated robots about the size of a footstool, that wheel a shelf to a human employee for either restocking or retrieving products. It’s a pretty cool way for humans and robots to work together efficiently.

When a package has to be sent out, the system knows its type and dimensions and can therefore allot the packaging material needed and even how much tape would be required. Unfortunately, those product dimensions are up to the seller to input, and sometimes they can make mistakes.

  1. Wrong box allocation

When the warehouse robot rolls over a small package and the human packer has been alloted a bigger box, there’s really nothing they can do. After all, even if changing the box would satisfy that one customer, it could upend the entire warehouse packing system because one empty box doesn’t match the actual inventory. Not to mention, packages are weighed before they’re loaded onto trucks, to make sure that the box alloted is the same as the one used.

  1. Only large boxes on the floor

Although it’s hard to imagine an Amazon Fulfillment Center running out of adequate sized packing boxes, it may happen at times (for whatever reason) that small packages may be in short supply for a short amount of time on the floor where packers and robots do their synchronized dance. In this case, there’s no option but to go ahead and put the small item in a huge box, just in the interest of time.

  1. Packers play Tetris while stacking up delivery trucks

Shipping products by road — especially Indian roads — isn’t without its challenges. In order to ensure products inside Amazon boxes reach their customers intact, the delivery truck needs to be properly stacked — with little or no empty area. No empty area means no boxes flying off their stacks. So even if a small box can save paper and space, for the sake of the entire consignment it sometimes becomes necessary to fill the truck up just like you’d play Tetris. If a large box is needed to make the truck more tightly packed, then so be it.

So the next time you have your new coffee mug arrive in a box big enough to fit your laptop, you know what went on behind the scenes.

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