And Today’s Post of Shame Goes to… BatteriesPlus

It’s been a while since I had a good chance to rant about ridiculously oversized shipping boxes.  I miss it.  Today’s target: BatteriesPlus.  These guys sell just about every kind of battery imaginable.   That’s great, but they win today’s prize for comically maximizing box to product size ratio.

I ordered a battery for a cordless phone which is about the size of three AAs bound together.    The box, as you can see, in the photo was about 10x15x15 inches, which according to my back of the envelope calculation is about 1,000 times the volume of the actual product.  One…. thousand…. times…..

Plus, what’s with all those horrible peanuts?  A battery is a pretty solid product that really doesn’t need much more than a ring of cardboard, if that, to protect it in shipping.  I actually had to dump the entire thing out into the trash, then root through the trash to find the product because I simply couldn’t locate it with my hands in the box.

How can a company let this happen?  How can any self respecting warehouse manager watch an employee package something like this without saying anything?

The good news is that so many people complain when they get ridiculous packaging that companies are taking note.  The Consumerist has an ongoing “Stupid Shipping Gang” column to which this post will undoubtedly be submitted.  Amazon, as it turns out, has gotten so many complaints about this kind of thing over the years that they have set up a proactive system to track complaints, give input to their various packagers, and make some effort to prevent the problem in the future.    I don’t order things from Amazon very often but I have noticed far more sensible packaging in recent times.

Nonetheless, the problem persists.

In a warehouse fully of hourly workers who would probably rather not raise a fuss, it’s understandable why it would be easy to just toss things into pre-assembled boxes on a standardized packaging line and get them out of the way.   But there’s no excuse for the bad management practices that let this happen.   Given how small most batteries are, it’s crazy for a company like BatteriesPlus to not have smaller packaging options readily available and to properly train workers to use the smallest possible package, especially for durable items.

Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that BatteriesPlus doesn’t even know who their warehouse workers are and that the warehouse from which my battery was shipped was an outsourced operation run by “temporary” workers under extreme pressure to perform tasks fast.  Efficiency of packaging would be hardly the first thing on their mind.

Clearly, solving this problem would save money and space in the warehouse.  Maybe even time that could be given to workers needing breaks.   They could even offer workers some kind of benefit to whatever group uses the least amount of packaging per quarter.  That would not only add up to savings and happier customers, but it would be add some goals and creativity to an otherwise routine job.

A bit of extra packaging may happen from time to time, but there’s no excuse for egregious waste.  Hopefully BatteriesPlus is listening.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

5 responses

  1. It’s possible that BatteriesPlus outsources all their shipping to one of the massive warehouses – which would explain their ridiculous shipping. This Mother Jones expose gives some insight into the pressure the workers are under to turn out orders at an insane rate:

    If it were me fulfilling those orders, I’d be tossing products in whichever box was closest, regardless of the fit or expense to my employer.

    End results like your ridiculous box speak to one downside of the insane pressure online retailers face to keep costs as low as possible and deliver the goods as quickly as possible. Between us – did you buy from these guys because they were the cheapest?

    1. Actually it wasn’t so much that it was cheap, it was that it was a really obscure battery and they were the only obvious choice.  Didn’t have it on Amazon.  Could have gone to a store location as it turns out…

      Plus the shipping was pricey – no corners cut there :-)

  2. On a related subject, it’s noteworthy that the current generation of Panasonic cordless phones no longer require a proprietary rechargeable battery pack that seems to cost nearly as much as a new handset. Instead, they take standard AA rechargeable batteries.

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