outdo in charge onslaught
trinket estimate behind the scenes
pie on time point A to point B
track deadline handle (2)
facility make it procrastinate
belt courtesy that depends on
slide roughly anchor (2)
acre tarmac designated
battle approach gearing up
van precious run on time
fragile involve conveyor belt
willing ground nowadays
sort matrix get back (2)
steer scanner out of sight












Christmas may be a couple weeks away, but for those in charge for making sure all your trinkets and treasures make it in time, the season’s onslaught is happening right now.

Millions upon millions of packages are winging their way across the country as I speak at one of the busiest shipping nights of all time.

ABC’s John Van Dame brings a behind the scenes look at the people hard at work, trying to outdo the big man up north.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

The story of a pie in a box at Christmas time—and of the many people who help get it from point A . . . to point B.

Which is the story of FedEx, which like UPS and the US Postal Service, is how Christmas gets handled nowadays, especially today, the busiest day of the year for FedEx, shipping an estimated 19 million packages thanks to the start of busiest week of the year for online shopping.

For the rest of the procrastinators, there are still 14 shopping days left which translates to how many shipping days?

Well that depends on what you are shipping and how much you are willing to spend.

Even though the US postal service can be cheaper, if you are down to the wire, FedEx and UPS can save the day with last minute deliveries.

Which brings us back to our pie, which I picked up in a historic, little town of Acuacan, Virginia, from a friendly little placed called, well you see the sign (Mom’s Apple Pie Bakery).

Meet “Mom”, Avis Renshaw.

As Avis showed me what was on offer, I explained that I had in mind to send the pie to my friend and colleague, Yunji De Nies, one time ABC News reporter, now happily anchoring the news at station KITV in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Distance involved: roughly 6,000 miles (almost 10,000 km).

My deadline for getting the pie to her: 24 hours.

Cranberry Apple. That’s what went into the FedEx box for precious or fragile items—best to leave the packaging to the professionals.

And our pie is out the door . . . the first human link in the chain, the first of many.

Employee: “I place the pie securely in a designated area of my truck.”

For the next few hours—you see that purple line? That’s our pie on its journey, headed for Memphis, Tennessee.

Why Memphis?

Well, look at this place. It is FedEx’s global superhub. With more than 800 acres, it feels more like a military base than a shipping facility. And with Christmas approaching, it’s a military base that gearing up for battle.

Marcus Martinez keeps the plane running on time. And the vans and the trucks and 42 miles (68 km) of conveyor belt.

Every FedEx package is first sent to a hub like this before going on its journey.

Marcus Martinez, Senior Manager, FedEx Hub Operations: “Here in Memphis, we go from about 1.5 million a night to little over 1.9 to 2.1 a night.”

Let’s check in on our pie, which they were kind enough to track, just for us. It’s coming in for a landing soon, so out on the tarmac, where it’s nonstop on the runways.

Journalist: “Okay, now these are now all incoming still.”
Marcus: “We are going to bring in 155 jet aircraft tonight.”
Journalist: “Tonight alone? How busy does this place get compared to other airports?”
Marcus: “Well after dark, it’s actually the busiest airport in the world.”

In fact most of the work here happens after midnight.

Timing is everything. Back in the command center, and screens all over, a clock is counting down to the deadline for getting all the packages in and out again.

And then our pie is now safely on the ground, thanks to these two members of the nighttime pie delivery team.

Normally the pie would be in one of these shipping containers. But for now it’s being carried so we can track it to our next stop: they call this “The Matrix”.

Marcus: “If you stand here, in 15 minutes, you will see the world economy pass before your eyes.”

It’s a whole building functioning as a sorting machine. Incoming packages slide in here.

Marcus: “You’ll see major tech shipments, you will see medical shipments.”
Journalist: “And a pie.”
Marcus: “And a pie.”

Into The Matrix goes our box with the pie inside, courtesy of Lawrence Wick.

Lawrence: “The package never stops coming, so I have to get back sorting, okay?”

And the box?

Once it drops out of sight in a some hidden place of shoots and conveyor belts and scanners—it gets steered by belts to another building.

Ten minutes later, it comes down a shoot. It gets picked up . . . and put into a container.

Journalist: “Off to Honolulu.”

And then it’s out to the runway . . . and take off.

And six hours later . . . landing in Hawaii.

Our last driver to deliver . . .

And Happy Holidays Yunji.

Yunji: “Thanks John.”

Well, don’t just thank me: Avis and Diane; and John and Bill; and Marcus and Lawrence; and Paul and Mell and Martin and Darrell . . .

All had a hand in giving you that pie.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. Is business the same year round or does it vary?

2. FedEx, UPS and the US Postal Service operate in the same manner. True or false? What is the difference between the Postal Service and FedEx?

3. FedEx can deliver almost any item, anywhere, in one day. Is this right or wrong?

4. Do customers have to bring their envelops or parcels to the FedEx center?

5. FedEx flies packages and mail directly to their destination, i.e. From New York to Los Angeles or Chicago to Washington, D.C. Is this correct or incorrect?

6. Describe the superhub in Memphis, Tennessee. What happens there?

7. “If you stand here, in 15 minutes, you will see the world economy pass before your eyes.” What does this mean?

8. What happened in the end? Was only John the journalist involved in sending the pie to Yunji?

A. My company relies on FedEx, UPS, or DHL for our deliveries. Yes or no? Do you use these delivery services?

B. Are you surprised by the industrial scale of FedEx’s logistics?

C. FedEx, UPS and DHL are very busy in my city. They operate everywhere. True or false? Do you often see their vans?

D. What happens if there is a technical problem, delay or breakdown somewhere along the supply chain?

E. What will happen in the future?

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