Rant: online retailers and their crappy packaging jobs

Summary:Attention, my fellow geeks. You have your orders. Now fight. Fight back hard. This battle can be won. This battle must be won.

Rise up, ye geeks, techies, IT dudes, ye nerds of all ages. Finally, we have a cause that can unite us all.

Whether you're a Windows weirdo, a Linux loon, or an Apple addict, we have a cause worth fighting for together, a cause worthy of our combined strength, intelligence, influence, and good ol' American ingenuity.

There's a big problem out there. It affects us all. And it's in need of fixin'.

I am speaking not of malware, not of cyberterrrorism, not of spam or botnets or other ugly things. I'm talking about a serious threat to our livelihoods, to our families, to that which we hold most dear -- our consumer electronics. A threat, perhaps, even, to our very manhood (and womanhood) itself.

I have come before you to speak to you of what may well be the greatest threat of our times: crappy shipping packaging.

For how can we get our technology if not in a box? How can we build our entertainment media centers, our home servers, our overblown family networks, our monuments to electronic perversity worshipped from our couches, recliners, and comfy chairs throughout the land?

How, indeed?

Okay, okay. You, the whiny guy with the inhaler and comb-over in the back. You want me to get to the point, do you? Fine.

I'm talking, specifically, about how online retailers like Amazon and Newegg ship computer parts. The way in which they put the items you and I buy into the boxes they send out.

Here at Camp David, my wife and I decided it was time to build a media tank to backup the contents of our thousand+ DVDs. With 2 terabyte hard drives coming down in price to as low as $129, it finally seemed feasible to load up a 'puter with drives and build a big ol' tank with a ton of storage.

Anyway, stay with me here. This is important.

Last week, I placed an order with Newegg, one of my favorite retailers. I've long liked Newegg for their excellent Web site, quality of customer comments, pretty good prices, and even pleasant customer service.

The first carton arrived today via UPS. In it was the mobo, RAM, power supply, and two OEM hard drives. Please take a minute to notice this picture, which I've repeated from the top of the article for your convenience:

That little bit of paper was the only packing material in the carton. Everything was thrown in the box, loose, and it all just rattled around.

We're talking hard drives here, people, rattling around next to a power supply, exposed, with no protection, banging around in a big box for the entire trip!

Honestly, I'm reasonably sure the drives will be alright, because drives are relatively robust these days. But I don't like the idea that I just don't know how much abuse they took on the way here.

I especially don't like how poorly the box was packed.

Newegg is not alone and this is not a one-time incident. We've noticed this sort of minimal packaging before from both Newegg and Amazon. I've heard from friends that other online retailers are just as bad.

Last year, we ordered a printer from Amazon. The printer's box was about half the size of the carton it was shipped in, and there was nothing to prevent if from flying around the shipping carton but a single clump of packing paper. That printer turned out to be dead-on-arrival. Gee...I wonder why?

Amazon is particularly strange. For some reason, Amazon will pack a book like it's made of glass, but throw an Xbox 360 loose in a box with a token piece of packing paper.

Back in the day, us geeks would at least have the recourse of a local computer store, even if it was nothing more than a CompUSA. But today, all that's left to us locally is Best Buy, and I refuse to grace them with the term "computer store". I don't know about you, but I hate going to Best Buy as much as I hate going shoe shopping or getting a hair cut (and that's a lot of hate).

Although both Newegg and Amazon have occasionally been cool with returns and refunds, many online retailers have a restocking fee. So if you buy something, find out it's gotten crushed or banged up in shipping, to return it you either have to fight with some customer service droid or eat a restocking fee.

I'm mad as heck and I don't think we should take it anymore!

It's time for online retailers to clean up their act and return to those days of yore when bubble wrap and packing peanuts were routinely used to protect and cradle our sacred stuff.

I call upon all of you: geeks, nerds, techies, IT folk. I call upon the people you love and those who love you. I call upon you to stand up and fight back.

No? Don't like the standing up thing? Okay, fine. Sit back down on your couch. You can do this sitting down as well.

I call on you to recline back and fight! Complain to your favorite retailers. Bitch them out on their comment boards -- oh, don't even begin to tell me you don't know how to do that!

Tell them you're not willing to take crappy packaging that puts our purchases at risk, raises all our stress levels, and gives us yet more reasons to have to fix our parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws, cousins, and creepy friends of your moms' computers.

It's time for online retailers to stop packing boxes with a few measly strips of paper.

To misquote the great Jean-Luc Picard, "NO! NOOOOOOO!!!"

"I will not sacrifice our consumer electronics. We've made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They eliminate the bubble wrap, and we fall back. They pack with paper, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far and no further! And we will make them pay for what they've done!"

Attention, my fellow geeks. You have your orders. Now fight. Fight back hard. This battle can be won. This battle must be won.

Don't TalkBack here. Instead, log your chubby little fingers into Amazon and Newegg -- and all those other online retailers (you know who they are) -- and tell them to pack nice or pack it up.

Update: fixed a math error. Sigh. Always with the math errors.

Topics: Hardware, Amazon, Browser, E-Commerce, IT Employment

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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