Archimedes said that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Well, duh. At least, you'd think duh. But apparently, some folks don't understand that.
Now, obviously, sometimes the shortest distance isn't the best distance. I'll go an extra mile or three to take the expressway to a destination rather than travel surface streets clogged with traffic signals, pedestrians and idiot drivers. It's faster and less aggravating.
When it comes to shipping goods, however, you'd think that sellers and shippers would adhere religiously to Archimedes simple line of reasoning. And you'd be wrong.
I live in Southern Indiana. Right across the river from Louisville, KY, which has a major UPS hub. It takes me about twenty minutes to drive from my house to the airport. If there was no traffic and it was an Omega Man scenario, where I was the Last Man on Earth, I could make it in 10. Or 5--no speed limits!
Imagine my surprise a few years back when I discovered that goods being shipped to my from distant e-tailers were taking a rather circuitous route to my home. You see, instead of flying my packages from say, California to the Louisville Hub, then driving them across the mighty Ohio River to a distribution center and then on to my door, they were going a little out of the way. The packages made it to Louisville, all right, But then they were flown nearly a hundred miles north, to Indianapolis, then put on trucks and driven south to the local distribution center, put on trucks and thrown, er, delivered, to my doorstep.
I pointed this out to UPS in a friendly email. I was informed that they had determined it was more cost effective to deliver packages this way. I responded that a truck travelling from Indy to my town would need one-and-a-half hours, or more, travel time, while a truck driving from the airport in Louisville could do it in thirty minutes. Again, I was assured Brown had figured out the best route.
What a load of brown.
Recently, I learned even my beloved Amazon suffers from the same map-challenged planning. We have a distribution center one town over. Prime actually gets delivered in two days from there. But not as easily as one might think. As I recently learned, a coat I ordered for my daughter traveled from Jeffersonville, Indiana to Hebron, Kentucky (near Cincinnati), again, almost a hundred miles away. To another Amazon facility. Next, the coat was tagged with a label for my house, which was ten minutes away from the Distribution center in Jeffersonville. The US Postal service delivered it to Louisville's main Postal hub--a journey taking a full day. Later that night, the package was smuggled across the Ohio (hopefully by truck and not airplane), ending up in my hometown's post office to be loaded and punted--uh, delivered-- to my doorstep by my friendly hit-and-run mailman (okay, maybe it isn't the same Postal employee who knocked my mailbox off the post and drove away last summer...).
I find this particularly disturbing, given a lot of my "Prime" packages fail to reach me in two days, despite originating from an Amazon facility one town over. I emailed customer service, where Hadji, a.k.a. "Scott", typed back a profuse apology, offering me a $5 discount on my next order and extended my prime membership for one extra month.
Can you imagine the money Amazon is losing with these insane routes? I mean, what else are they doing? Shipping package meant for Los Angeles from Seattle to Honolulu, then to Santa Monica for final delivery?! What kind of battery pack will their drones need to deliver goods in a year or two--can drones even fly that far?!
Anyways, the next time your delivery from an e-tailer is running behind schedule, just remember that it is taking the long way round and seeing more of the world than you probably ever will.