10 Times Packaging Went Overboard

Whether it's a tiny item in a big box or an insane amount of Bubble Wrap, some retailers take packaging too far.

If you do as much online shopping as we do, you've probably run into over-packaging before. You ordered something small, and it arrived at your house in a box large enough to store your entire wardrobe (with the Bubble Wrap to match). Or you ordered 10 things, and they all came in individual boxes.

Over-packaging isn't just frustrating; it's creating a big problem. Packaging materials make up more than 40% of the solid waste stream in the United States, according to Packaging Digest. Most of that ends up in a landfill.

We all know the drill: reduce, reuse, recycle. But why aren't our favorite online retailers on board? We found 10 examples of ridiculous packaging that prove it's time for retailers to rethink how products are shipped.

memory card packaging

The Nesting SD Card

It started out as an SD card. Then it got shoved into a plastic protective case. Then the plastic protective case got its own plastic clamshell cover. Finally, it shipped to the consumer in a massive box, complete with a seemingly endless roll of wrapping paper. Maybe nesting SD cards are the new collectors' items?

toy set packaging

Maybe Amazon Thought It Was a Real Car?

Our second example appears to be a child's small toy car set. These sets are typically lightweight and come in very small boxes, but the toy was shipped in a box large enough to fit a small car.

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. Nevertheless, the box and packing materials are a little much.

packaging for phone

Or Maybe It's Nesting Boxes?

In our next example, we can place the blame squarely on the retailer. This Flickr user ordered a new smartphone. You know, those fancy, streamlined, thin-as-a-piece-of-paper things you can fit in your pocket? The phone was packaged neatly into a tiny box, which was put into a slightly larger box, which was then put into a huge box.

box with SD card

The SD Cards Are Back

Maybe the real lesson here is to never order an SD card online unless you need a huge box for moving. Here's another example of a small, lightweight SD card being shipped in a box that's big enough to almost cover an entire desk.

packaging for ruler

How Many Air Bags Does It Take to Keep a Ruler Safe?

We count 20. A customer ordered a single ruler off of Amazon. The ruler does fit lengthwise in the bottom of the box, and technically the 20 pieces of protective packaging fit, too. We're just not sure they were necessary.

packaging for paring knives

Don't Play With Knives, Kids

Knives should probably be packaged pretty securely — even if they're plastic — but this might be too much. Each paring knife was wrapped in protective cardboard and placed in its own box. Then the three boxes were placed in another even larger box and wrapped with air cushions. Overkill? We think so.

packaging for maple syrup

Sometimes It Isn't the Size of the Box

One of our biggest gripes? Not just getting too large a box, but getting too many shipments. This plastic container of maple syrup was shipped separately from the rest of the order. With plenty of space in that huge box, it looks like the items could have been shipped together.

packaging for socket organizers

Organizing Your Organizers

Maybe Sears knew this customer was pro-organization? The person did buy socket organizers, after all. Perhaps the company was just trying to show off its skills to a fellow enthusiast by packing each organizer neatly in its own box?

box with inflatable packaging

A Tranquil Sea of Bubbles

We're not sure what's going on here. The item is clearly unprotected on one side, but oh-so-protected on the other. In fact, there is so much inflatable packaging perfectly in place, it's almost peaceful to look at. If only all that plastic wasn't going to waste.

packaging for padded envelopes

Padding for Your Padding

How do you ship padded envelopes? With even more padding, of course! This customer's set of padded mailers were placed in a box, wrapped with inflatable packaging, and then placed in another box. If only a padded envelope had a way of protecting itself.

Readers, what examples of ridiculous packaging do you have to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Angela Colley
DealNews Contributing Writer

Angela Colley has covered everything from money saving technology to how the Mayans might affect your savings. She's appeared on publications like MainStreet and MSN Money. You can follow her on Twitter @angelancolley.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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In the past year, I have had the opposite problem with Amazon's shipments of paperback books. They have been under-protected and as such, I have had to return most, if not all, of them.
I have the name of a merchant who is the perfect example of all of the above. Jet.com, I love you, but your packaging skills need work.
I buy a lot from Ebay when i'm not in a hurry and Ebay sellers know the bigger a package the less profit. SD cards come in envelopes, boxes are filled with product not air.
like the person below me I used to think Prime was the answer. However, I'm starting to see a lot of items change to "add on items" this is a marketing strategy to get consumers to spend more to get stuff to ship. Prime members are not excluded from having to pay $25 or more for it to ship.
I once had to get something for amazon but was just less than a dollar under the free shipping threshold. I searched for something as a filler, I found an item that was perfect. It was some product manual. I expected it to be shipped together. But amazon shipped it separate (why then enforce , with the paper manual in its own box, not an envelope. I kept that box unopened for a long time to be reminded of the waste that comes along with online shopping. Later I got Prime and don't need to worry about fillers.
send extra packaging to texas.