So I get home yesterday and I see a giant box outside my apartment. My first thought was, "Did I purchase a door from amazon.com?" Nope -- apparently I purchased a new scale and they put it in an enormous box.
(By the way, there was nothing else in this box except a bunch of packing material -- incredible waste.)
So how does this happen? Fortunately (and somewhat unfortunately), I've had the relatively unique experience of actually working in an amazon distribution center for 2 weeks. Every Christmas (I don't know if they still do this -- but they did it when I was there 10 years ago) -- they would send all of us who didn't work in distribution centers to help with the Christmas rush. Nearly everyone went -- including the execs. It was quite a site to behold. It frankly was incredibly instructive in terms of seeing how that core portion fo the company worked. Why it was more cost-effective to send all of us to Fernley, Nevada (and other places) -- put us in hotels, bus us, etc. -- rather than hire more local workers is beyond me. They claimed there weren't people to be hired but I'm sure they could've easily increased the hourly rate, gotten all the people they needed, and still saved money. That being said, the experience was not always the most pleasant, but quite invaluable.
If you've ever seen the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy can't keep up with all the chocolates on the conveyor belt -- that's sort of how it is. Stuff keeps coming and you gotta keep packing them. So you don't have a lot of time to look for the perfect box. In this case, maybe whoever packed it just grabbed the first thing (or only thing) they saw. What was strange when I was there was that we were always short on boxes. You would think this would be one of the things that's particularly optimized for (places for boxes) -- but that just wasn't the case.
The other weird thing is I wonder is how incentivized amazon is to even pack more efficiently. When I ship via UPS and other services, they always ask me to measure the size of the box -- but it doesn't really seem to affect the price. Maybe it only affects it if it is disproportionately large, but otherwise it doesn't.
If it did though -- I think this would be a prime argument for paying your hourly distribution center workers more money. Picking the right box (though they should just programmatically give guidance right on the packing slips -- that would make things SO MUCH EASIER) -- requires intelligence and thoughtfulness (and some experience.) So by paying a few dollars less, you save on the hourly rate but potentially pay much more because they make bad decisions about packaging. But without that, and without sufficient boxes lying around, you end up with a small item in a gigantic box.