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Size does matter for FedEx

Shipping orders go by on a conveyor belt at Amazon's San Bernardino Fulfillment Center October 29, 2013 in San Bernardino, California.

Heads up if you buy lots of diapers, paper towels or shoes online. FedEx has announced starting next year all ground packages will be priced according to size.

Analysts believe this could mean a price spike on 30 percent of the company's shipments, primarily the bulky, lightweight stuff. Yes prices will go up, but people in the shipping business say there may be a way around me and my pillow retailer paying it, especially if cost – not speed – is the primary consideration.

Local couriers – and even USPS – are ready and willing says Kent Smith with Ursa Major Associates.

"Sophisticated ecommerce mailers will manage it in stride because they are not tied to a single deliverer," he says.

Another potential change to watch for: box sizes. Supply chain consultant Marc Wulfratt with MWPVL International says he expects to see companies tailor box size to the precise dimensions of what's being shipped.

"Today if you put an item in a box and it doesn't fill the full height they add air bags, paper. Well that space in the box is costing them money," he says.


by Shea Huffman

But when thinking about how this change will affect shipping items and online shopping, what items can you order, say from Amazon, that push the boundaries or are otherwise unsusal in terms size and weight?

In an attempt to answer that question, we put together a wish list on Amazon of things that are bulky, heavy and dense, or light, fluffy and compact. You can see a few selections below, but we are most certainly only scratching the surface.

The heaviest thing on Amazon

The honor for the heaviest item on Amazon famously used to belong to this three-quarter ton gun safe, but it has since been overtaken, as far as we can tell, by a 4.5 ton industrial-grade lathe, which Amazon will ship to you for free.

The most dense element on earth

Osmium has the highest density of any naturally occuring element and in certain forms, particularly the kind you can order from Amazon, it can become toxic when exposed to the air. Hazardous materials fees are included in the pricing.

Feathers

What springs to mind when thinking of things that are light? Feathers of course. Certain packages of them are so light and small that its apparently not even worth if for Amazon to ship them on their own.

Our wish list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have any suggestions about light, heavy or unsually voluminous items you can find on Amazon, we'd love to hear about them.

And while we're on the subject, if anyone is feeling like making a generous contribution to public radio, there is a handy wish list available...

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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