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Amazon to start fining sellers for using boxes that are way too big

How many times have you ordered a tiny item from Amazon, only for it to arrive in a box way larger than necessary?

The online shopping giant is well aware of the issue and its impact on the environment, and has been taking steps to try to get vendors to package their products in a way that creates less waste.

To encourage good practice, it’s even been paying retailers $1 for each package they send out that’s recyclable and that doesn’t require an Amazon “overbox,” CNN reported recently. But from this week, that incentive turns into a fine, with some sellers facing a $2 penalty fee for each package that fails to comply.

The packaging conundrum is considered such a serious issue by Amazon that it created a Customer Packaging Experience team — currently comprising 85 people — aimed at making improvements to how Amazon and its sellers ship items.

Lead Kim Houchens says her team is constantly asking itself, “What is the right design to make sure a product arrives unbroken, in the least wasteful package possible?”

If you hadn’t noticed, Amazon has become a gargantuan, global operation since the company launched in 1994. It means that creating the most efficient packaging designs for its fulfillment centers, as well as getting its sellers around the world to properly package items, is going to take some time.

But its latest move to start handing out fines to some sellers for poor packaging reveals a serious change of gear as Amazon works to put things right.

The ecommerce company also has a Frustration-free Packaging program that works with sellers to help them improve the way they box their goods before they’re sent on the road for delivery.

At its own fulfillment centers, the company introduced a “packaging feedback” button that enables workers to bring attention to a product that they believe may be able to ship without extra packaging.

If they see such a package, the worker simply taps the button to send a message straight to the Customer Packaging Experience team.

The team then tests the product to confirm whether or not it has sufficient protection to ship as it is. If the product gets the green light, a new Frustration-Free package can be added to the growing list of items.

Commenting on the system last year, Amazon’s Nikki Haven said the company’s workers “have a keen understanding of product packaging – they each pack thousands of products every day. Now that we have an easy way for them to provide recommendations, we can partner to reduce packaging waste and improve millions of customers’ experiences.”

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Trevor Mogg
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