There’s a pretty good chance that at least one of your recent Amazon orders has gone through Roundup — a tiny, 1-stoplight-town in rural Montana.
Amazon doesn’t actually have a warehouse there. Instead, Roundup has become central to its operations by accident — and it’s all thanks to the ballooning economy of delivery “prep centers.”
Wait, what’s a prep center?
Let’s take a step back: Amazon is home to a thriving industry of 3rd-party sellers. Many of them make money by trawling other retailers for huge discounts, then reselling those products.
That Nordstrom Rack overcoat they got on sale for $20? A seller can put it on Amazon for $60.
These sellers never see their own merchandise. Instead, they ask Nordstrom Rack to ship to “prep centers.”
Prep centers repackage your overcoat according to Amazon’s specifications — for instance, removing the old price sticker — before forwarding the package to an Amazon warehouse.
Roundup is the US’s prep center capital
Kristal Graham, a Roundup resident, started the town’s first prep center in 2015 on a total whim.
In such a tiny town, word spreads fast. Pretty soon, a bunch of other residents started jumping on the prep center bandwagon. Now Roundup sees 3k-4k packages a day and hosts 9+ prep centers. They make about $1 per package.
There’s not much reason for Montana’s preeminence — except one.
Montana has no sales tax, so sellers who list Montana prep centers as their shipping address can pocket a few extra bucks.