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14 December 2010

Data from Experimentation

package!photo © 2008 Beck Gusler | more info (via: Wylio)It has happened to almost all of us. We've ordered something online, or we've shipped a gift to a friend or maybe even had a critical item mailed to our office across the country. When it arrived, the package was mangled, water damaged or simply disappeared. If the item was easily replaceable or had little value, its an annoyance. If it was timely or expensive, its a severe frustration, especially if it didn't have package insurance on it.

Given the large number of packages most shipping companies deal with on a daily basis, it is only a very small fraction of those packages that end up damaged or completely missing. That isn't a great deal of solace to those of us whose packages end up in that small percentage, but I love the fact that Popular Mechanics went out of their way to find out which shipper did the most to try and avoid package damage.

I thought their method of testing was really quite ingenious. What I wish is that they wouldn't have been so limiting in their data points. While its a neat concept, their results are what I consider to be quite circumspect for a few reasons.

First, there were not a lot of samples taken, and those that were, covered only a small number of routes. True, they did apples to apples comparisons because all three shippers covered each route, but shipping between such a small number of destinations makes it difficult to see how such a study applies to those of us who don't have the same package carrier people. Yes, this can be indicative of a carrier as a whole, but without additional samples, its hard to say if these were anomalies or a true representation.

Second, it only covered air shipping. That's expensive, so you would hope that the service would be more gentle, but what about ground trucks or trains? I rarely ship via air as it is quite expensive relative to ground shipping. I would prefer to know a bit more about other methods of shipping as those are the more commonly used ways by volume of packages.

Last, what is up with that image at the top of the article? Was it staged to look as beaten up as possible at the end of the shipment? I can't tell you the last time I received such an awful looking package, unless the shipper had intentionally used an old, beat-up box.

Still, a neat project and one that will likely make me think twice before I go to ship my next package.