In: Packaging29 Mar 2009
Here’s what you don’t do: Drop your item in an empty box and then seal it up. A loose item in a big box will bounce around and get damaged, guaranteed. (Imagine your box being tossed around by a bunch of gorillas in a parking lot, and you get an accurate picture of what most packages endure in the shipping process.) No, you need to carefully pack your item to minimize any potential damage from dropping and rough handling and from various weather conditions, including rain, snow, and heat.
How do you pack your box? Professional shippers use Styrofoam peanuts, and lots of them; amateurs tend to use crumpled-up newspapers and other materials found around the house. Here’s where you can learn something from the pros peanuts are much lighter than newspaper. Weight is a factor in how much you’ll pay for shipping, so anything you can do to lighten the weight of your package is important. Because peanuts cost…well, peanuts, they’ve become my preferred cushioning material. (And I used to be a crumpled-up newspaper kind of guy, until the latest increase in Priority Mail rates.)
As you might expect, packing needs vary for different types of items. You can use these packing tips when it’s time to ship your next item:
After you think you’re done packing, gently shake the box. If nothing moves, it’s ready to be sealed. If you can hear or feel things rattling around inside, however, it’s time to add more cushioning material. (If you can shake it, they can break it!)
When you’re packing an item, watch the weight. I make it a point to have a postal scale at my packing station, and to weigh the item shipping container and all during the packing process. When I’m using Priority Mail, the difference between shipping a one-pound package and a one-pound, one-ounce package is as much as $1.90, depending on where it’s going. Finding some way to cut that extra ounce of packing material can save almost two bucks in shipping costs which is why I want to know the weight before I seal the package.
Packing for international customers shouldn’t be any different from packing for domestic customersas long as you do it right. Foreign shipments are likely to get even rougher treatment than usual, so make sure that the package is packed as securely as possiblewith more than enough cushioning to survive the trip to Japan or Europe or wherever it happens to be going. What is different about shipping internationally is the paperwork and the shipping costs.
After your box is packed, it’s time to seal it. A strong seal is essential, so always use tape that is designed for shipping. Be sure to securely seal the center seams at both the top and the bottom of the box. Cover all other seams with tape, and be sure not to leave any open areas that could snag on machinery.
What kind of sealing materials should you use?
Do use tape that is designed for shipping, such as pressure-sensitive tape, nylon-reinforced kraft paper tape, glass-reinforced pressure-sensitive tape, or water-activated paper tape. Whichever tape you use, the wider and heavier, the better. Reinforced is always better than non-reinforced.
Don’t use wrapping paper, string, masking tape, or cellophane tape.
One last thing: If you plan to insure your package, leave an untaped area on the cardboard where your postal clerk can stamp “Insured.” (Ink doesn’t adhere well to tape.)
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