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As online shopping continues to grow, companies like Amazon and Walmart are working hard on getting packages to you faster than ever. Remember the days when you ordered something from a catalog and were told to wait six to eight weeks for delivery? Now Amazon wants your product to arrive tomorrow.

But between the warehouse and that brand-new whatever-you-ordered-last-night-at-2 a.m. is a whole mess of logistics that customers probably don't care about. How your stuff gets from A to B is continually shaken up, though, and it's fascinating business.

The Wall Street Journal reports that FedEx is ending its ground deliveries for Amazon. This comes after the company already ended its air-shipping contract with the online retailer in June. Here's more from the paper:

"The once-staid delivery business has been upended in recent years as consumers buy everything from toilet paper to trampolines online, causing a surge in e-commerce shipments. FedEx and rival United Parcel Service Inc. have invested billions of dollars to handle the increased volumes. FedEx recently said it would expand to seven-day home delivery."

Yes, but there are other online businesses besides Amazon, and FedEx probably thinks it can grab more of those shipments if it didn't have Amazon filling up all its planes and trucks.

Amazon has been spreading out its deliveries between UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service. With FedEx dropping out of the picture, it's understandable that UPS and USPS are licking their chops, eager to snatch up that business. But be careful what you wish for.

For all the money an Amazon delivery contract brings in, there are real struggles. As more people shop online, more packages have to be delivered. And every system has its limits. Planes and delivery trucks can only hold so many boxes. It's possible FedEx looked at Amazon's goal of expanding overnight delivery and just pulled the ripcord.

Amazon has relied on these delivery companies for years because they have what the company needs: infrastructure. These companies already have the logistics and equipment in place to take items from a warehouse to each doorstep. And if the Seattle company wants to make overnight shipping a standard for its popular Prime service, it needs help from UPS and USPS . . . for now.

One of the most fascinating things to watch about Amazon has been its evolution from a tiny book-selling company in the 1990s to a streaming video company, a Web hosting company, an e-commerce giant and more. And Mr. Bezos keeps asking his employees how they can make the business bigger, faster, better. In the shipping wars, he might be dreaming of a future where he tells UPS and USPS to take a hike, then sends out a fleet of drones to deliver packages within an hour or two.

Apparently, he's hard at work with a bunch of other smart people on the Left Coast on that reality. The papers say he's deploying robots to neighborhoods for package delivery. It's just a matter of time before you push a button on your phone and you hear a buzzing over your house with whatever you've ordered.

And for every tweak Amazon makes, our own Walmart is doing an equal and opposite tweak to its business to compete. It's also experimenting with different ways to ship goods, including having associates deliver packages and groceries.

It's a funny world, and apt to get funnier. Looks like Futurama didn't quite have things painted right with those large glass tubes everywhere delivering people and packages. As the humorous exchange between Dwight and Cubert goes, "Man, the ad said to allow four to six seconds for delivery." "More like seven," Cubert retorts before a box smacks the kid from a mail tube behind him.

Then again, Futurama is set in the year 3000, not 2019. Maybe drones aren't the future Mr. Bezos thinks they are. Tubes still have 981 years to take over transportation and package delivery.

Editorial on 08/09/2019

Print Headline: Alexa, turn off FedEx


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