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Old 06-14-2018, 03:56 PM
boffking boffking is online now
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Amazon shipping question

How exactly does Amazon determine whether to ship items together or individually when they are part of the same order? I have seen them do idiotic things like ship salad dressings in the same box as computer parts. I also once ordered a bunch of books, each priced about $3-5. Each one was shipped individually. Seems like a waste of money to me. Is there any purpose to doing it this way?
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:04 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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I don't have any inside information on how Amazon does things, but I do know a bit from what I have ordered. Some stuff is kept in a warehouse that I assume Amazon owns and controls. Other things ship from the actual manufacturer or seller. When I have purchased used books in particular, they have usually shipped directly from the "book store" (which may not be an actual brick and mortar store anywhere and could just be a warehouse or someone's basement for all I know). When I ordered batteries recently, they apparently shipped from China. And got lost. Grrrr.
(I eventually got them)

If they are in the same warehouse, Amazon will presumably box them up together, which is probably why your salad dressing and computer parts ended up together.

Here's an article you may find interesting about one of Amazon's warehouses:
https://www.wired.com/2014/06/inside-amazon-warehouse/
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:04 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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Books can be sent media mail for cheap. Though I'm not sure if Amazon does that; individual sellers certainly do.

If an item is at the same warehouse/distribution center, then they might package them together. But they're not waiting for something on the other side of the country.

You may notice that on the "Orders" screen it looks like they're coming in separate packages, but then you get them together.
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:43 PM
iamthewalrus(:3= iamthewalrus(:3= is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boffking View Post
I also once ordered a bunch of books, each priced about $3-5. Each one was shipped individually. Seems like a waste of money to me. Is there any purpose to doing it this way?
The simple answer is that Amazon has a lot of warehouses, and the books you ordered weren't in the same one.

If the books aren't physically in the same location when you order them, then putting them into one box requires shipping some books to where the other books are.

The other option is to ship them all directly to you in one box from each starting location.

Think about the simplest case, where there are three locations: 1 book in location A, one book in location B, and your house in location C.

The "ship together" plan requires either
1 book shipped from A to B, unwrapped, repackaged, 2 books shipped from B to C.
or
1 book shipped from B to A, unwrapped, repackaged, 2 books shipped from A to C.

The "ship separately plan requires
1 book shipped from A to C, one book shipped from B to C

No rewrapping or repackaging.

Unless A B and C are pretty much in a straight line as far as the shipping chain goes, then shipping between A and B before going to C is just going to take longer and be less efficient. Cardboard is cheap, but you also potentially spend more on boxes, since you have to use a box to get the two books together, then another potentially bigger box to ship both books. Also you need extra labor to receive and open packages.

Last edited by iamthewalrus(:3=; 06-14-2018 at 04:43 PM.
  #5  
Old 06-14-2018, 04:49 PM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boffking View Post
How exactly does Amazon determine whether to ship items together or individually when they are part of the same order? I have seen them do idiotic things like ship salad dressings in the same box as computer parts. I also once ordered a bunch of books, each priced about $3-5. Each one was shipped individually. Seems like a waste of money to me. Is there any purpose to doing it this way?
Amazon is saving either time or money, whichever one they needed to save at that moment.
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Old 06-14-2018, 06:17 PM
sevenwood sevenwood is offline
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I have never worked for Amazon, but I have worked for QVC.

At that time (and that was 10+ years ago), many items that you purchased from QVC were never in a QVC warehouse. They'd be shipped (in QVC boxes) directly from the manufacturer's warehouse. QVC would ship the manufacturer plenty of QVC-labeled boxes in advance.
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Old 06-14-2018, 07:28 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Amazon has numerous warehouses (140 according to this article), works with numerous shipping services (UPS, USPS, etc.) and has their own fleets of drivers, drop ships items directly from manufacturers, etc. (and of course some things you buy from "Amazon" might be sent/shipped by third party sellers)...you can be sure a large part of their business is figuring out exactly how to get stuff to you as cheaply (for them) as possible.
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Old 06-15-2018, 02:58 PM
RaftPeople RaftPeople is offline
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Even if your items are shipping from the same warehouse/dc, there is an extremely low chance they will be picked by the same person, which means they need to be sorted/consolidated back together at or prior to packing. But for a large warehouse (million sq ft), it may not make sense to have every area reachable by conveyor from every other area.

In addition, there are other variables, like number of totes on the conveyor at one time (don't want to overload it) which is related to distance traveled by any one individual tote, and also utilization/capacity of sorting machines, putwalls and packing areas etc.. All of these must be balanced which can cause what appear to be local inefficiencies.
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Old 06-15-2018, 09:43 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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Somebody commenting on Amazon shipping mentioned that they even have a program that determines packing for much of the distance (say, until it reaches the nearest big city). He described it as a program like a giant game of Tetris to determine best way to pack the trucks so that everything fit and nothing shifted. This is why sometimes your shipment arrives as a huge almost empty box with a small piece as the content. But yes, they ship from all over, often not even from Amazon's own warehouses.
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Old 06-16-2018, 01:19 AM
jtur88 jtur88 is online now
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Books are a special ripoff. I once ordered two copies of the same title, ,from the same Amazon partner bookstore, and they charged me the 3.99 + 3.99 = 7.98 shipping. That's why there are so many of used books listed at 0.01. They can clear out their overstock and still make a profit on most of the 3.99 after shipping them at book rate. At Christmas time I ordered six books at a penny apiece and paid 24 bucks.

Last edited by jtur88; 06-16-2018 at 01:19 AM.
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Old 06-16-2018, 02:06 AM
Roderick Femm Roderick Femm is offline
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Yes, the Amazon used book partners all seem to have the same business model, which is to make all their money on the shipping, and to ship the books separately. I was trying to complete a collection of used Maigret novels a couple of years ago so I did a fair amount of this. If I hadn't been driven to complete the set I would have stopped after the first few books showed me what was going on.
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Old 06-16-2018, 05:06 AM
bob++ bob++ is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
Somebody commenting on Amazon shipping mentioned that they even have a program that determines packing for much of the distance (say, until it reaches the nearest big city). He described it as a program like a giant game of Tetris to determine best way to pack the trucks so that everything fit and nothing shifted. This is why sometimes your shipment arrives as a huge almost empty box with a small piece as the content. But yes, they ship from all over, often not even from Amazon's own warehouses.
I call bullshit on this.

Goods come on a conveyor to a packer sitting at a packing station; those guys have to work fast and are supposed to use the smallest suitable box. There can be all kinds of reasons why they choose a big one, including that they just ran out of small ones. You can be sure that management want them to use the smallest available.

Stuffing boxes into trailers is hard work and it's down to the loaders how they pack it in - they want it solid floor to ceiling and wall to wall to minimise shipping costs. There is no 'Tetris' program.

There are such programs for packing larger boxes into shipping containers where speed takes second place to efficiency. They do work fairly well, but a couple of experience loaders can often do as well or better in my experience. The program may not be aware that some boxes are 'this way up' for example.
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Old 06-16-2018, 11:13 AM
RaftPeople RaftPeople is offline
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Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
I call bullshit on this.
Seconded.

Trying to manage the sequence and positioning of cartons coming down the fluid load into the truck so they can be packed according to plan is just not even close to worth the effort. You can do a pretty good job on demand in random order.

Where I work, even within a shipping carton we scaled back the cubing algorithms effectiveness to avoid having the picker and/or packer (depending on flow) need to spend time following a detailed plan to be able to fit everything in. It's much faster and cheaper to leave something like 10% to 20% unused volume so they can dump them in and make it work the first time.
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Old 06-16-2018, 12:07 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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My sister works in an Amazon warehouse. They don't pick out which box they want to use. The stuff comes down a conveyor belt with directions about which size box to put it in. She's never mentioned anything about being told to put small items in a large box.
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Old 06-16-2018, 02:39 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
My sister works in an Amazon warehouse. They don't pick out which box they want to use. The stuff comes down a conveyor belt with directions about which size box to put it in. She's never mentioned anything about being told to put small items in a large box.
They shipped me an 8" brine shrimp net in a box 18"x24". I thought they somehow save money by having a standard sized box, but you guys think they just ran out of small boxes?
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Old 06-16-2018, 05:32 PM
RaftPeople RaftPeople is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
My sister works in an Amazon warehouse. They don't pick out which box they want to use. The stuff comes down a conveyor belt with directions about which size box to put it in. She's never mentioned anything about being told to put small items in a large box.
She may not have mentioned it, but it's pretty typical for this type of operation is to suggest the carton size with the option of overriding it if the packer has run out of the suggested size, or if there was a mistake in the volume or dimensions of an item etc.

The alternative is for the packer to sit there idle while someone gets more supplies, but that is an expensive and slow approach.



Quote:
Originally Posted by carnivorousplant
They shipped me an 8" brine shrimp net in a box 18"x24". I thought they somehow save money by having a standard sized box, but you guys think they just ran out of small boxes?
They definitely have standard box sizes. It's pretty normal to analyze historical shipping and determine how many different box sizes and their dimensions make the most sense. Variables include shipping costs as well as operational issues at packing. You don't want to have 100 different box sizes even if it's more optimal for shipping costs because it costs more to track/stock/manage/find that many carton sizes at packing.

We have between 6 and 10 different sizes depending on types of orders being processed and the method of picking/packing.
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Old 06-18-2018, 04:13 AM
bob++ bob++ is offline
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I suspect that many of you have no idea of just how fast those packers have to work.

From comments on an Amazon recruiting ad:

Quote:
you work 10 hour shift you have to pack 1000 a days thats 2 every one min they give you support on where your going wrong but you have to hit your target otherwise they will get rid of you the hardest part of the job is the targets best bit about the job is the money
Try assembling a flat carton, putting the items inside, stuffing the empty space and sending the carton off into the tape machine in thirty seconds. Then repeat 999 times in a shift....

Last edited by bob++; 06-18-2018 at 04:14 AM.
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