Suppose there's a supply-chain blockage, so you order your personal essentials and holiday gifts ahead of time. And let's say those packages made it all the way to the very last link, only for a delivery driver to dump them into a local ravine.
That's unfortunately not a hypothetical scenario for some 450 people in Alabama, where authorities are investigating a FedEx driver for throwing out multiple truckloads of packages.
The Blount County Sheriff's Office, in the north-central part of the state, said last Wednesday that between 300 and 400 boxes "of assorted sizes" had been discovered in a wooded area on private property.
FedEx sent trucks and drivers from across the South later that day to begin the process of recovering the packages, it added. Photos posted to Facebook show boxes scattered on a steep ravine, several trucks lined up in the woods and assorted packages crammed into the back of a truck.
By Monday, Sheriff Mark Moon said the driver — who has not been publicly named — had been identified and questioned. He urged the media and public to be patient as investigators worked the case, which he characterized as a "debacle."
The driver was found to have "dumped at least six times," which makes FedEx a victim of six different theft of property cases, Moon announced in a Tuesday update.
"As of right now we are looking at around 450 individual victims, some in Blount County some not, that investigators are attempting to work their cases," he added. "This will not be an easy or fast case to close."
FedEx said in an email to NPR that the company has reviewed the situation and is cooperating with law enforcement, and that the individual involved is no longer employed by FedEx Ground.
"We regret the inconvenience this situation has caused and appreciate our customers' understanding throughout the package recovery process," the statement added. "Where possible, recovered packages are being delivered to the intended recipients. In the event of a damaged shipment, we will make every effort to work with the affected shippers to reach a resolution."
The company directed customers with any questions to track their shipments online.
This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.