I Want Boxes Now…Or In 15 Minutes


Some of you may have noticed our recent changes to the appointment system during ordering. Along with two appointment choices we now also have a drop-down box for each choice where you can specify the number of hours you can honor the appointment. This allows buyers to specify ranges of time such as 12pm-4pm instead of just specific times. The seller can then select the specific time in the range if they have a preference.


The range system eliminates the need for minor rescheduling such as when a seller has an unexpected short-term commitment during their regular hours. However, the main reason for it is to deal with urgent orders in a reasonable manner.

We allow the first appointment time to be as little as 1 hour after order. Since we have to confirm appointments with most sellers this isn’t a lot of time. However, we want to accommodate urgent orders as well as possible. Auto-confirm sellers do not need a confirmation at all and many sellers reply very quickly. We didn’t want to introduce unnecessary delays. After all, buyers would select their second choice appointment a reasonable period of time in the future and we can handle their first choice on best effort basis. If the seller responds quickly, everyone wins. If they take more time, the buyer still gets their boxes by the second appointment.

However, this isn’t what happened. Instead, most orders we received were ‘urgent’ and nearly every urgent order had 1st and 2nd choice appointments no more than a few hours apart. Some were less than an hour apart. That was unexpected. If the seller can’t honor an appointment in an hour, they probably can’t do it in 90 minutes either. Appointments so little time apart are basically one appointment, not two.

Processing urgent orders takes much more time and is typically quite frustrating for everyone involved. Our intent with offering short-notice appointments at no charge certainly wasn’t to run around like mad trying to get every order processed within minutes.

Buyers might simply not understand that there is a confirmation step involved. We added a bunch of help to the appointment screen to explain the process better. However, I don’t think that was the main problem.

With moving, things are often done last minute. Unless people have moved a lot, boxes isn’t something people think about until they find out it will cost hundreds of dollars to buy them. While most people can wait a few days, they would certainly prefer to get their boxes immediately and start packing. When faced with two single appointment times it actually seems risky to select the second appointment far in the future. “What if I *could* get my boxes in 2 hours, but had to wait 2 days because I picked the second time too far in the future?”

By introducing time ranges we’ve removed the risk from selecting reasonable appointment times. If you can pickup boxes anytime today, but can also do it in 2 days, it’s now easy to say that. It also makes it more intuitively obvious that 12:00pm and 12:30pm are really one appointment time; otherwise why would we allow 12:00pm + 30 minutes as an option?

With the main cause of the problem addressed (hopefully) we also added explicit checks to make sure appointment times are reasonable. Appointments less than 2 days in advance now have to be at least 5 hours apart (unless the seller has very few available hours).

So far, the changes seem to have worked. We receive fewer questions related to scheduling, orders have reasonable appointment times, and no one has gotten confused yet (at least no one who told us about it.) And we can get work done instead of running around like mad.

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