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Boxed In

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Boxed In

With Christmas over, overworked e-tailers may feel like curling up in a box and having a nice scream. But all the good boxes may already be taken.

That's one curious finding of Resource Marketing Inc., a Columbus (Ohio) firm that conducted an online field test of 50 leading Web stores. Purchases began arriving in ever-stranger boxes as holiday frenzy peaked. First, a Furby came in a three-foot-square box from Resource called to ask whether the doll could be returned to a KB Toys store. Only if you bring it in the box, they were told. "We had to drag this huge box that would barely fit in anyone's car to bring back this little Furby," says P. Kelly Mooney, Resource Marketing's director of intelligence. Mooney's favorite: a figurine from in a huge IBM PC box.

Behind the weird boxes, of course, was holiday online shopping that exceeded even aggressive estimates by 15% or more. But unlike in 1998, every store sent the right goods, Mooney says. That, at least, is progress.By Timothy J. Mullaney

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