The Great Package Race, 2007


Delivery to Tikrit, Iraq

DHL, first to Tikrit, celebrates in front of a Blackhawk helicopter

Some packages are still en route but it is already clear that DHL has won.  They were first to three destinations and came in a close second in the remaining two.

As of 20 April DHL had delivered all five of its packages. As of 30 April FedEx had delivered three packages, one was being held for some kind of payment, and one had been declined. UPS had delivered two packages, had another still en route, was returning another (“service not available”), and had declined to take one.

Some have observed, fairly, that our chosen destinations are not representative of actual business flows. Therefore we supplemented this year's race with another, from Atlanta to Singapore. Packages were sent 03 July and all were delivered 06 July. The results reflect those of the larger race: DHL was first, arriving at 1038; FedEx was next, at 1114; and UPS was third, delivering at 1551.

Read about the idea behind the race and past races here.

The challenge

We sent packages to:

The contestants

The start: Friday 13 April

Before starting the race we phoned each carrier and asked them whether they foresaw any difficulties in shipping to our destinations. FedEx and UPS both claimed that they could not ship to Myanmar but could not explain why. DHL said that it could ship in to but not out of Myanmar.

The phone representative at UPS said that there was no country named Samoa. (In 1997 Western Samoa changed its name to Samoa, but it still exists as Western Samoa in the UPS database, as you can see by looking at under “Shipping: Calculate Time and Cost”.)

We ignored the warnings and shipped all packages because in the past the phone representatives have been a rich source of misinformation. We phoned each company at 0830 to ask them to pick up our packages after noon. FedEx picked up at 1230, DHL at 1346, and UPS at 1525.

UPS and FedEx initially accepted but later returned our packages addressed to Myanmar. FedEx provided no reason; UPS provided a reason but it was unintelligible (“Invoice and receiver IRS # required”).  UPS carried our package intended for Tikrit as far as Dubai and then returned it because “this service is not available”.

The race as of 27 April

Destination Carrier Cost Delivery Route Comments
Apia 1. DHL $94.45 18 Apr 1315 (details) WINNER!
  2. FedEx $169.10 18 Apr 1420 (details)
  3.  UPS $188.93 Last seen in Auckland 11 days ago (details)
Florianopolis 1. FedEx $119.38 17 Apr 1330 (details) WINNER!
  2. DHL $76.96 17 Apr 1808 (details)
  3. UPS $135.58 Delayed 4 days in Campinas, Brazil: “the address is in a remote area and deliveries are not made daily” (details) Delivery attempt 23 Apr 1903, after business hours.  Successful delivery 24 Apr 1805.
Harare 1. UPS $336.60 17 Apr 1635 (details) WINNER!
  2. DHL $126.18 20 Apr 0855 (details) Missed delivery 17 Apr so had to wait until after national day holiday
  3. FedEx $244.48 Undelivered as of 30 Apr (details) In Harare for past 10 days: “held, unable to collect payment”
Tikrit 1. DHL $125.26 17 Apr 1400 (details) WINNER!
  2. FedEx $100.30 17 Apr 1645 (details)
  X. UPS $67.34 DNF (details) Package turned back at Dubai because “service not available”. After sitting in Louisville for 7 days the package was returned. We were billed nonetheless.
Yangon 1. DHL $94.45 18 Apr 1159 8 cities in 5 countries, 5 days (details) WINNER!
  X. FedEx DNF Returned package with no explanation
  X. UPS DNF (details) Returned package because “Invoice and receiver IRS # required”

“DNF” = “Did Not Finish”.

The routes

Routes to Tikrit

Figure 1: Routes to Tikrit

After local pickup, each package was driven to a local freight terminal, sorted, and then flown to one of the major sortation facilities the carriers operate in the midwestern US: UPS uses Louisville, KY; FedEx uses Indianapolis, IN or Memphis, TN; DHL uses Wilmington, OH (northeast of Cincinnati).


Next event

We welcome suggestions for subsequent competitions, where we will be sending a set of GT baseball caps, t-shirts, etc. somewhere in the world. Send us an address, preferably with accompanying telephone number and email address, and we will race the hats by vying package couriers to your parents, nephews, nieces, etc. All that we need is sufficient address and a promise to document the delivery.


Thanks to Michelle Owen, Pete Viehweg, and Sriram Subramanian for help in sending off the packages; and thanks to the recipients for documenting their arrival!