“Dear LuckyVitamin.com….”

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:03 pm

It was with a mixture of amusement and bewilderment that I took delivery of order number xxxxxx when it arrived on my doorstep yesterday afternoon. Everything arrived in a timely manner and in good condition. So far I am more than satisfied with your pricing and your customer service. however, there is one matter that needs addressing.

My order was for forty-eight rolls of Seventh Generation toilet paper, thirty-two rolls of their paper towels, and two gallons of Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Castile Soap. Your prices were very competitive, particularly since UPS Ground shipping was included free of charge. After a brief bout of confusion regarding my billing address—which I regard as a good thing, reflecting as it does your particularly stringent precautions against online fraud—my order was completed.

About a week later, I was working in my home office when I heard the blare of the UPS van’s horn and got up to greet the driver. He met me at the door with my delivery….all seven boxes of it.

I was a bit taken aback. Your packing department had elected to send each twelve-back of toilet paper in its own box. The paper towels were broken down into two shipping containers, one containing three eight-packs and the fourth in a separate box.

Not only that, but each cluster of rolls was tightly secured on all sides by a thick coating of….bubble wrap. As though toilet paper were susceptible to bruises, dents or stress fractures during shipping.

In fact, the only thing that wasn’t rendered immobile in its box by a thick corona of bubble wrap were the only two things that could conceivably have benefited from such treatment, namely the two gallons of liquid soap. They arrived, terrified but none the worse for wear, in a single box with one bottle upright and the other on its side, with a smattering of bubble wrap thrown in as a garnish. Your trust in the power of plastic screw caps is touching.

As a consumer trying to use his buying power to help make small differences in the world, I can tell you that, when I think of helping to reduce conspicuous waste—by, say, purchasing paper products made from recycled materials—the image that comes to mind in no way resembles this:


All this instead of grouping the paper goods into, say, two boxes—one for the TP and one for the paper towels—with a third box for the soap. This would have actually saved you money; I ran the numbers at UPS.com. At standard retail shipping prices, the four separately boxed twelve-packs of toilet paper would have cost at least $14.10 per box to ship to Zone 8 (me) via UPS Ground, for a total of at least $56.40. I say “at least”, because the actual dimension of the boxes you shipped them in was slightly larger than the actual roll packs, which means that an even greater dimensional weight would apply and bump up the cost. By contrast, four twelve-packs shipped in one box via UPS Ground to Zone 8 would run about $52.37 retail. The cost of shipping the paper towels breaks down in a similar way.

Furthermore, I suspect that the Seventh Generation products I purchased are supplied to retailers such as yourselves in “cases”, bulk lots of multiples of four (say, four twelve-packs of toilet paper per case, or four eight-packs of paper towels) and that these cases arrive at your facility already boxed. I can only hope that you were out of those pre-boxed cases at the time the pick list for my order was printed, leaving the packer/shipper with no choice but to scrounge for appropriately-sized boxes to use in the fulfillment of this order. The thought of someone pulling a case of toilet paper off the warehouse shelf, cutting it open, removing the contents and putting them into four individual boxes for shipping is enough to turn my brain to Cheez Whiz.

Actually, I have a pretty good theory as to why my order was shipped the way it was. Two words: “holiday help”. Or perhaps “temp agency”. Someone with little or no experience on the job and not a whole lot of impetus to try to do things in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. Or perhaps this is merely a case of someone with r-e-e-e-a-l-y bad spatial-relations skills. Either way, I’m certainly not suggesting that you dismiss this person out of hand. They may have numerous other desirable qualities and qualifications. But you might want to take them off the pick/pack/ship fast track and onto something more their cup of tea….assuming, of course, that they can get their tea to fit in just one cup.

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