Shipping Tips & Tricks

Shipping doesn't have to be complicated. Packaging your item for shipping properly makes a big difference in whether or not your item will make it to its destination safely. Whether you are sending a bike to your son in California or cookies to grandma in Maine, the packaging principles are largely the same. Below are some guidelines when packaging your items for shipping which will help keep the contents of your parcels safe and keep them from getting delayed in transit. Another option would be to ship it with a pick and pack service where they handle the packaging in their end.

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The Box

  • Choose a box with enough room for cushioning material around the contents. If you are reusing a box, cover all previous labels and markings with heavy black marker or adhesive labels.
  • Always use a heavy-duty corrugated box when shipping items. Never use gift boxes or shoe boxes that can be easily crushed.
  • When reusing boxes, make sure the structural integrity of the box is intact. A box that is floppy or soft is not suitable for shipping.
  • Do not wrap packages in paper or bind them with twine – this can cause them to get caught in conveyor belts or to be ripped during handling. In fact, UPS will not accept packages wrapped in paper or bound in twine.
  • Enclose an extra label, business card or letterhead with the shipper's address and phone number and the recipient's address and phone number inside the package before sealing it. If the outer packaging gets damaged the shipper will still have the return information.
  • Use an appropriate size box. A box which is too small does not allow adequate space for cushioning. A box which is too large leaves too much room for an item to shift and may be charged a surcharge.

Cushioning

  • Put 3" of cushioning, such as air-cellular cushioning, loose fill peanuts, corrugated fiberboard, foam pads, crumpled paper or molded plastic, on all sides of the container to fill void spaces and prevent movement of goods inside the box during shipping. Close and shake the box to see if you've used enough. If your item shakes or shifts, add more.
  • Place goods that might be affected by dirt, water or wet conditions inside a plastic bag.
  • Consolidate small parts or spill able granular products in a strong sealed container.
  • Double-box fragile items with 3 inches of cushioning in and around the smaller box.
  • Wrap items fragile individually with cushioning material and center them in cartons away from other items and away from the sides, corners, top and bottom of the container.
  • Position bottles that contain liquids upright. Use an inner seal and perforated breakaway cap. The inner packaging must be able to contain leaks.
  • Place items that might be damaged by normal handling, such as soiling, marking or application of adhesive labels, in a protective outer container.
  • Band or shrink wrap printed materials that can shift around, and then cushion them within a heavy-duty corrugated cardboard carton.
  • Wrap rolled goods such as fabric and wallpaper in air-cellular cushioning, reinforced plastic or heavy brown paper before placing them in an outer container.

Sealing

  • Tape the opening of your box and reinforce all seams with 2" wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape. Do not use cord, string or twine because they get caught in mail processing equipment.
  • Apply at least three strips of pressure-sensitive adhesive plastic tape to both the top and bottom of the box.
  • Distribute the tape evenly across flaps and seams, using the H taping method.
  • Use pressure-sensitive plastic tape, water-activated paper tape (minimum 60-lb. grade) or water-activated reinforced tape.
  • Don't skimp on tape. More is usually better. If in doubt add another strip. It is better to be safe and have your box overly secure than have it open in transit.

Correct Address

  • Using a complete and correct address is critical for efficient delivery.
  • Place delivery information inside and outside the package. Include an address for your recipient and yourself.
  • Supply a physical address rather than a P.O. box address when shipping with anyone other than USPS.
  • Remove or cross out any old address labels on the carton.
  • Package labels and packing slips should be applied facing the same direction on the same side of the package.
  • Avoid carbon-copy or stenciled labels unless you cover them with clear pressure-sensitive tape; they can smear and cause delays in delivery.
  • Avoid wrapping labels around the corner or directly on the edge or seam of the package.
  • Place shipping labels on the package's largest surface.
  • Do not place labels over seams or sealing tape.
  • Use tie-on tags on transit cases (including tradeshow display cases), golf bags, skis and luggage.

Common Sense

  • Use overnight service for perishables and be sure to pack with a cooling agent (dry ice, cold packs, etc.). Never use ground shipping for perishables.
  • Packages will get be exposed to heat when the weather is warm and cold when the weather is cold (anywhere the package travels en route to its destination, which may not be a straight line). Keep this in mind if the item being shipped is temperature sensitive.
  • Shippers do not count Sunday or holidays as a delivery day. Only USPS counts Saturday as a delivery day unless Saturday delivery is requested. Plan accordingly.
  • Never mail live animals or dangerous items. See individual shipper websites for list of prohibited items.
  • Purchase insurance if your item is valuable. UPS, DHL, & FedEx automatically insure each package for up to $100. Supplemental insurance is available from all carriers.

Compare Shipping Rates

  • Shipping rates differ considerably between carriers depending on origin, destination, and package size, among other things. The only way for you to know if you are truly getting the best shipping rate for your money is compare rates between the carriers. Compare your shipping rates.
  • Know your options. With four national carriers in the US each offering a number of shipping options, you have literally dozens of methods to ship depending on how fast you want your package to arrive at its destination. Ground shipping provides the best value for packages which are not urgent. Consider priority or 2-day service for items which are more urgent. Finally, all carriers offer an overnight or express option for items which need to get there in a very timely manner. You can compare the estimated shipping times of all services.

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