FedEx Truth-in-Tracking (China Edition)

James Fallows bought a new laptop from Apple's online store to ship to his home in Washington D.C., and when he went to track the package on, he saw this:


The package has been "Picked Up: Shanghai, China." It is surprising to see FedEx be explicit about the true origin of the package. Surprising, but good. More Americans should know where their products come from. Especially when the product is not a piece of shit toy, but high-end, expensive gadgets from a company whose boxes list a California return address.


There were a lot of ugly ads this past campaign season (and a lot of unfortunate results, especially in California). One of the ugliest ads — for its anti-China xenophobia — was the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's against Republican candidate for Pennsylvania Senate Pat Toomey. Here's the link. Adam Ozimek responds:

The goal of the ad to slander Toomey with a quote of his where he says “It’s great that China is modernizing and growing”. Gasp! Oh the horror!

The economic growth and modernization in China over the last 30 years has lifted literally hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and if you don’t think that’s an unmitigated great thing then fuck you, I hope a Chinese person does “steal your job”.

5 comments on “FedEx Truth-in-Tracking (China Edition)
  • Ben, you conflate two separate points: provenance/ origin and process transparency.

    All Apple products say “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” And they do not try to hide it either. It is quite visible on the back of laptops (less likely to be seen, admittedly) and iPods and iPhones (quite likely to be seen easily). The provenance of one’s Apple products is quite clear.

    Now, I know your comment is about FedEx’s transparency but then they have designed the process to be transparent to their customers and no doubt, it also aids them in locating where a product may have gone missing or astray, if it does. I do not find it surprising. Refreshing yes, surprising not. The web has made it harder to “hide” things anyway and in this instance, none of the parties is trying to hide anything. (My link below is to a specific post on my blog which discusses “origins” of products).

  • They haven’t. When the iPod was first launched, one could buy identical devices in Delhi’s Palika Bazar, with an added feature – recording facility. They don’t just copy; they copy, improve, then undercut and if they didn’t have plenty of takers, counterfeiting may have long stopped.

  • Ben, The point that Apple and it’s shipping partner Fedex readily admit to where Apple products are manufactured is well made, but a.. little late. I can remembering ordering an iPod 5th generation classic (with the click wheel) back in 2005 and tracking the package from China, through Alaska, and a few scattered states and finally to California. This is not new.

    The more interesting part for me is Apple proudly advertising ‘Designed in California’ on its products – something I see as wry humor on their part, even though that is probably not the intention.

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