Packing for Shipment

Make sure your item arrives in one piece

After making a sale, shipping is only half the remaining battle in closing the deal. The other half, packaging, is too often ignored or not taken seriously. Good packaging isn’t a need reserved only for fragile items—nearly any box shipped is likely to be handled multiple times with forklifts and small package sorting machinery along its way to the delivery point. The hardiest of items can be damaged under these normal transportation circumstances.

Please be aware that these are only suggestions and that, as the shipper, you are responsible for safely and securely preparing your shipment.

Here are some packaging tips to live by.

Good Materials and Methods

When packaging for shipment you should always take care to:

  • Choose clean, strong boxes. Use unmarked cardboard boxes whose listed burst strength (found on the bottom of any good box) is greater than the weight of the item it will hold.
  • Use a large enough box for your item to be protected. Select a box large enough to allow for two inches of packing material on all sides of the item.
  • Protect your item with plastic. Place a plastic bag around the item to seal it from any exposure to the elements, using a silver anti-static bag if you are shipping an electronic item.
  • Use bubble wrap for primary protection. Wrap the item in at least one layer of bubble wrap, large or small, with bubbles intact, using the pink anti-static type bubble wrap if you are shipping an electronic item.
  • Use foam filler for secondary protection. Fill all empty space in the box with peanut foam—if possible, the environmentally sound foam made of vegetable matter, or pink anti-static peanut foam if you are shipping an electronic item.
  • Use proper packing tape. Use the clear plastic shipper’s tape or packaging tape in large quantities. Don’t use other varieties, and don’t skimp.
  • Affix the address permanently. Clearly address your package using a printed adhesive shipping label or a permanent marker

Bad Materials and Methods

When packaging for shipment keep the following general DON’Ts in mind:

  • Don’t pack in heavily marked boxes. For cross-country shipping, you should never re-use boxes with large amounts of printing or images on the outside.
  • Don’t pack in failed or inadequate boxes. Don’t try to salvage damaged boxes or make due with weak boxes whose listed burst strength is less than the weight of the item you are shipping.
  • Don’t use inferior filler. Don’t fill empty space with newspaper, paper from a document shredder, or any other material with low crush resiliency or that may harm the item.
  • Don’t leave space for the item to shift. Never leave any empty space at all in the sealed box, even if you feel that the item is otherwise protected. If the item can shift at all, in the normal conditions of transit it will eventually shift its way to the bottom or one side of the box and may be damaged as a result.
  • Don’t use inappropriate tapes. Don’t use grey duct-style tape because it can dry out and fall off in hot trucks or containers. Never pack using painter’s masking tape, narrow clear Scotch-style tape, or other weak or inadequate types of tape that are not designed for strength and/or adhesion.
  • Don’t risk items by using mere envelopes. Don’t ship any valuable or even moderately fragile item using just a padded envelope. This increasing practice is regrettable, since padded envelopes offer almost no protection to an item and are often handled alongside bulk mail using sorters and bags, rather than with other packages, meaning that they suffer an even more harsh journey than they otherwise might.
  • Don’t address inadequately. Don’t address your packages using pencil, ballpoint pen, or water-soluble marker, since these can all quickly become illegible in poor conditions.

Things to Remember

There are a number of things that you should keep in mind as you package your item using the correct materials. By being aware and planning ahead, you can avoid disaster later.

  • Your package might be opened mid-shipment. Shipping companies may open your box at any time to inspect its contents, so be sure that it can be opened and then re-sealed out of your sight without compromising the packing job you’ve done.
  • Weather happens. Any package can be exposed to the elements, so take care to select your materials and package your item to survive short periods of exposure to adverse weather conditions.
  • Machines will handle your package. Don’t try to ship any package with loose edges, “tape tails” or other dangling or loose parts that can become snagged in conveyors, pulleys, or doors, any of which can tear your package apart.
  • A package without an address goes nowhere. Don’t use any labeling method that is liable to wash away, wear away, peel off, or otherwise leave your package without an address.
  • You never get a second chance at a first impression. Your packaging job is the first thing your buyer will see when they receive your item. When you do your best to show a buyer that you’re serious about protecting their item, they’ll thank you later.

As a last thought, remember that if the unthinkable does happen and you or your buyer is forced to make an insurance claim, the first thing the insurance company will examine is your packaging job. Do a bad job and a claim is likely to be rejected.