It's the holidays. We're ordering online. We're sending and receiving gifts from family and friends. Or ordering stuff just for us. That's what happened in my story here. Last week was my birthday. I decided to treat myself to some cologne. I shop at Kohl's. I have their credit card. I get the savings, discounts, Kohl's cash, etc.

So within a week (and I was surprised it got here so quickly - BONUS, especially during the holiday season) I get my box. I was expecting it to be left in my mailbox because, it's a box for a small bottle of cologne.

I showed up at home the other day. The UPS had just gone in my building. I followed him upstairs and he's standing at my door. With this box below.

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I was like, who sent me something. No lie, I was waiting on some glasses I had purchased online. And, maybe someone had sent me a Christmas/birthday present. So I quickly signed for it, got inside, opened it and...


The good - yay! I got my cologne and it got here quickly.

The bad - this little box of cologne in this giant box? What? Why? There wasn't even any packaging in there to make sure it didn't bounce around. And I guess that cuts down on waste but...this was a giant, heavy corrugated box.

And if I took it back to the store for whatever reason (even though I ordered it online from them), they would take the cost of shipping out of the price of the item for my return.

Apparently, Kohl's isn't the only place that does this. Amazon is notorious for it.


I did some digging online to find out, why companies would do this? Seems incredibly wasteful.

Here's what I found.

This explanation is from 2017 and a lot of folks have been blowing holes in it's theory.

The comment originally appeared in a thread on Reddit after someone posted a picture of a gift card that was delivered in an appropriately sized box. Because the internet is the internet, plenty of people have disputed that this is an accurate explanation, with many noting this theory falls apart when you consider the multiple vehicles that are used to transport your purchase.

However, it appears the comment is only referring to the arrangement of boxes when they first leave the Amazon warehouse. An article in Technology Review said Amazon’s computer system automatically assigns a box size when your items are picked off the shelf, and if this theory is to be believed, the goal is for the initial delivery trucks to be filled as efficiently as possible before they depart the fulfillment center.

Someone who claims to have worked at Amazon disputed this explanation, and plenty of people in the ensuing thread disputed that disputation. (Bro Bible)

Now, this one kind of makes more sense. It has to do with free shipping, offsetting costs, and how it's more profitable to ship empty air?

Whether an item is profitable to ship often comes down to packaging. Delivery companies often charge more to ship a larger box, even if it’s mostly empty. Online retailers typically use FedEx Corp. , United Parcel Service Inc. or the U.S. Postal Service for most shipments, though some also rely on smaller, regional carriers.

Large retailers typically have at least five types of boxes to package different-sized orders, though some could benefit by having as many as 20, says Peter Stirling, executive vice president at Supply Chain Optimizers, a consulting firm.

“The most expensive thing you can ship is air,” Mr. Stirling says. Even worse: filling that air with Bubble Wrap, air pillows and other packaging to keep small items from rolling around, he adds. (WSJ)

Mind you, I searched a little bit for the answer to this. Most of the articles I referenced here are a year or two older. For whatever reason, companies are very protective about their shipping practices. And don't really feel the need to explain them to us.

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