The Great Package Race, 2009

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

And they are off...!

This is the Recession Edition of the Great Package Race: Only two destinations, but interesting ones. And after years of choosing ever more distant destinations, this time we chose one close to home. On Monday 05 October we sent packages to:

VSO volunteers in Mongolia

We sent books and personal supplies to VSO volunteers in Mongolia.

We did not use DHL to send to Opp because DHL no longer offers domestic-only air or ground express services within the US. (It still does import/export.)

The packages to Ulan Bator include the usual Georgia Tech paraphernalia, but are also packed with peanut butter, oatmeal, books, and favorite candies for an international team of volunteers working to improve the public health system in Mongolia.

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

The start: 05 Oct

This year we did not pre-announce the start, lest that tempt competitors to anticipate and plan for the race. Also, we took the packages to Kwik Copy, a commercial shipping service that feeds UPS, FedEx, and DHL. However, they were not able to accept our packages intended for USPS: After 9/11 all large packages to be mailed through the postal service must be presented for inspection at a postal facility. We immediately drove to a nearby post office to mail the USPS packages.

In both Kwik Copy and the post office the clerks seemed quite matter-of-fact about accepting parcels to Ulan Bator, but they expressed some incredulity about whether Opp is a real place. It is.

It was challenging to fill out paperwork in the post office because of an unhelpful clerk and because the usual forms had all been changed since last year.

The scorecard

Carrier Cost Delivery Tracking # Comments
Ulan Bator, Mongolia
DHL Estimate by DHL: $134.32 First! 12 Oct at 1333 8066308250 Generally regular updates to tracking
UPS Estimate by UPS: $319.04 13 Oct at 1113 46851522573 After departing Incheon, KR on 08 Oct, there were no updates for six days.
FedEx $227.74 14 Oct at 1000 862815443400 Sent, mysteriously, from Japan south to Guangzhou, China and then back north again to Korea. Only one update to tracking between 12 and 16 Oct.
USPS $68.25 04 Nov at 1135 CP072663035US No visibility between leaving Miami (why Miami?) and arrival at the local post office in Ulan Bator.
Opp, Alabama, USA
USPS $6.95 First! 07 Oct at 1356 03090330000171326776 Cheap and surprisingly fast
UPS $16.82 07 Oct at 1641 46851522582 A ceramic mug was broken during shipment.
FedEx $17.58 08 Oct at 1624 828519026728

The routes

After local pickup, each package will be 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.

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

DHL delivery to Ulan Bator

DHL was first to Ulan Bator.


Georgia Tech paraphernalia in
  Ulan Bator

Thanks to VSO workers in Ulan Bator for their help!


Stand by for the eventual price of the DHL and UPS packages.

USPS delivery to Opp, AL

The US Postal Service was first to Opp, AL.

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 sent 40-foot shipping containers full of medical supplies by alternate routes and carriers to a hospital in Ghana.


Thanks to Michelle Powers and to my students for help in preparing and sending the packages; and thanks to the recipients for documenting their arrival!