The Great Package Race, 2008

A student project sponsored by The Supply Chain & Logistics Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology

And they are off...!

The theme this time is “Hard-To-Reach Places”. On 01 April we sent packages to:

Boxing materials

Students prepared 4 identical boxes to be sent to each destination.

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

The start: Tuesday 01 April

Over several weeks preceding the start, we phoned each carrier several times and asked them whether they foresaw any difficulties in shipping to our destinations. We frequently got different answers, depending on with whom we spoke.

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 in the morning and asked them to pick up our packages after 2PM. DHL picked up at 1430, FedEx at 1440, and UPS at 1640. We had to take our packages to the USPS.

The race as of 18 April

Some details, such as cost, will not be known for sure until we receive invoices. We will post them as soon as possible.

Carrier Cost Delivery Tracking # Comments
Uluru, Australia
FedEx $152.52 08 April  862815443318  FIRST! From FedEx hub: Honolulu; Alexandria, AU, where it disappeared from the tracking system
UPS Still unknown 08 April  H5209262196  From UPS hub: Honolulu; Sydney, where it disappeared from the tracking system.
DHL $141.53 09 April  8066254033  From DHL hub: Singapore; Darwin by 07 April. “Delivery arranged; no details expected”
USPS $29.50 10 April No tracking Only slightly later than premium services
Almaty, Kazakhstan
UPS Still unknown 04 April 1102  H5209262187  FIRST!
FedEx $235.06 04 April 1212  862815443329  A close 2nd
DHL $233.32 07 April 1720  8066254044  From DHL hub: New York; Leipzig; Amsterdam; Almaty. Package arrived in Almaty on 04 April 0640 but was delayed for 12 hours and apparently sat over the weekend.
USPS $26.50 No tracking
Pitcairn Island
USPS Appx $40 11 Dec No tracking FIRST!. See note below
UPS   Package returned 03 April  H5209262150  No service, contrary to what we had been told by phone
DHL   Package returned 03 April  8066308261  No service, contrary to what we had been told by phone
FedEx   Package returned  862815443340  No service, contrary to what we had been told by phone
Khartoum, Sudan
USPS $30.00 Sometime before 24 April No tracking FIRST!
UPS   Package returned 03 April  H5209262178  “Embargoed country”
DHL $233.14 Package returned 07 April  8066254055  “Unacceptable commodity: Only documents”; “No WPX allowed.” (WPX??)
FedEx   Package returned  862815443330  “Embargoed country”
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories
UPS   Package returned 03 April  H5209262169  “Do not deliver to Gaza Strip; only docs per world com”
FedEx   Contacted customer on 13 April  862815443351  In Israel by 07 April. On 13 April we received a letter from FedEx asking us to phone, when they explained that Israeli customs would not allow the package to be delivered. They asked whether we wanted the package returned.
DHL $199.52 Package returned 15 April  8066308246  In Israel 03 April; returned with no explanation

The routes

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 mid-western US: UPS uses Louisville, KY; FedEx uses Indianapolis, IN or Memphis, TN; DHL uses Wilmington, OH (northeast of Cincinnati).

We will post maps of the full routes once the packages have been delivered.

FedEx delivery to Almaty

FedEx delivered to Almaty within 3 days


Box delivered to Uluru

Thanks to our correspondent in Yularra, Australia for this photo (Note Uluru in the background).


Late-Breaking News!

(16 December 2008) Long after we thought the race over, we were surprised and delighted to receive this email from Ms. L. Brown of Pitcairn Island:

“Dear Sir or Madam: We received a parcel on the 11th December, this parcel contained Baby Ruth bars which were handed out to the community. [...] the parcel arrived in good condition, all our mail arrives on the supply ship then after the sorting process is finished everyone collects their mail which is normally at the end of the day so you still have a long wait until you can find out what has been delivered. [...] our next supply ship is not until March 09. Thank you to everyone involved, Merry Christmas to one and all hope 09 is a good year for all.”

On the basis of this, and its successful delivery to Khartoum, and its amazingly low prices, we have to tip our hats to the postal service.

Next events

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.

Check out the companion event, The Great Container Race, in which we send 40-foot shipping containers full of medical supplies by alternate routes and carriers to a hospital in Ghana.


Thanks to Michelle Owen and to the students of ISyE 4803 International Supply Chains for help in preparing and sending the packages; and thanks to the recipients for documenting their arrival!