Ask anyone on the street to name a popular shipping company and you’ll likely hear “UPS” or “FedEx.” Few people would answer “Amazon.” That may change very soon.
Amazon has been bolstering its logistics network the last several years. They now operate over 400 warehouses and 185 fulfillment centers in the United States, have a cargo fleet of 60 planes operating from over 20 airports, and run 20,000 delivery vans. You may have noticed more of your Amazon orders showing up at your door without a UPS label. That’s because Amazon’s goal is to be its own delivery company.
The global leader in online retail is well on its way to doing just that. It’s estimated that one in every five deliveries is an Amazon package and 60% of them are delivered by an Amazon driver. The company spent $27 billion last year to ship items. That’s enough motivation to invest in their own network to keep that profit in their pockets instead of in UPS and FedEx.
UPS and FedEx are middlemen in the equation. We all know one goal in business is to remove the middleman from your operations. FedEx saw the writing on the wall and ended its ground contract with Amazon in August after suspending the air contract in June. FedEx stated the earned revenue from the contract was less than 1.3% of their total revenue. They also stated wanting to focus on the broader e-commerce market rather than one specific company.
Ironically, it wasn’t long after the breakup that Amazon announced it would help third-party businesses develop their own surface delivery networks as part of their Delivery Service Program. FedEx then announced it would expand delivery services to seven days a week starting in January 2020.
Amazon has drastically changed the way businesses operate. Remember when Amazon debuted free two-day shipping with a Prime subscription? It wasn’t long after other retailers like Walmart and Target began offering free or discounted two-day shipping if a minimum order amount was reached. Retailers are trying to take a page out of Amazon’s playbook. Walmart now has 6,000 delivery trucks while Home Depot is developing its own supply chain and delivery system.
It once seemed laughable that Amazon could compete with UPS and FedEx, especially after DHL tried and quickly decided to stay in the international market. It’s no longer a laughable matter as Amazon has started referring to UPS and FedEx as “competitors.” It’s now a question of “when,” not “if.”
Amazon certainly has the money to be successful in developing their own logistics programs and software. The company reported $140 billion in revenue last year. It’s estimated that Amazon could save up to $2 billion if it can bring more shipping needs in-house. There’s no telling what that would do to UPS and FedEx. The shares of the latter companies dropped 20% in 2018 right as Amazon began handling more of its shipping logistics.
The Post Office could stand to take a hit from Amazon’s growing logistics network as well. They currently deliver 40-45% of Amazon’s packages in the final stage of delivery (also known as last mile delivery). While USPS is great at delivering to difficult or remote addresses, Amazon may do some of that themselves with their growing fleet of delivery vans. This would result in USPS losing even more mail pieces and revenue than what’s already been reported.
While Amazon may be a long way off from equaling the number of flights UPS and FedEx conduct every day or reaching the package volume of those carriers, there is no doubt they are affecting change in the industry. More businesses look to Amazon as a model and will adopt their strategies to reflect the giant retailer, whether or not it includes UPS, FedEx, or USPS.
Amazon may not completely remove the middleman from the industry, but they will cut a hole in his pockets and take whatever falls into their hands.
Finding an exceptional store to offer your business is a challenge people face every day. New options seem to pop-up overnight, changing and reshaping the retail landscape (or cyberscape) of where you can go to have your needs met.
Our store, The Mail Box Store, offers several services. Our customers often say the same thing after a few minutes of browsing: “Wow! You guys do a little bit of everything!” We do that intentionally; not because we can’t make up our minds as to who we are or what we’re about. Our goal is to make it convenient for our guests to do as much as they can in one place. That’s why you’re able to rent a private mail box, send a fax, get a document notarized, copy it, ship it at the speed and carrier of your preference, purchase office supplies, rent a U-Haul for the move you’re about to make into that beautiful new home you’re doing all this paperwork for, and much more.
There are many places you could go for all those services. That brings us to the title of this post. Why should you choose to spend your hard-earned money with us?
Allow me to be honest for the sake of respect and transparency. We are not the cheapest option available (for most services). The most common question we hear when shipping an item is, “Are you the same price as (insert carrier name)?” The answer is no, we are not. There are several reasons for this, but the main reason is we provide more services with our pricing. You work hard for your money, so it’s only fair we do the same to earn your business.
We offer to help carry your package(s) into the store, tape up the package(s), provide multiple carrier options, email you tracking numbers, and handling any issues that arise during transit. We provide you with the direct phone number to our store if you need assistance tracking your package. You don’t have to worry about calling an 800- number and jumping through hoops or talking to someone in a different country just to get an idea of where your package is located. Don’t feel like packing your item? Bring it to us and we’ll pack it for you with our expertise.
We’re trained professionals at what we do. Our staff are continually learning new skills and receiving training in packing and shipping. We attend regional workshops and national conventions every year to gain wisdom that will allow us to perform better and better.
Our managers recently attended the Retail Shippers Association Expo in Orlando, Florida this May. We learned about where the packing and shipping industry is going, studied the impact of e-commerce on the marketplace and how it effects all of us, tested new products for packing, and gained valuable insight on how to wow our customers with an unmatched experience.
Why do we do this? One reason: YOU. You, our customer, are our top priority. You are who we serve. We understand that a delightful experience for you is a benefit for everyone involved. Our goal is to offer the best experience possible. We call this our E5 Promise: Execute . . . Every Day . . . Every Hour . . . Every Customer . . . Every Time.
We’re not perfect. We make mistakes and have bad days like everyone else. Our intention is never to fail on our promise, but if we do, please tell us so we can take care of you and grow as a business and, more importantly, people in our communities.
The community is an important reason why you should chose us. When you choose us for your packing, printing, or shipping needs, you are supporting a local, family-owned, small business. Most of your hard-earned money goes back into the community where we live and work. We believe in supporting our community through donations and working with charitable organizations and non-profits to best meet their needs.
I’ve been a member of this team for eight years. Our store has grown through great and difficult times. When I started working here, I had no idea how long I would be part of this team. I can say with gratitude that I’m honored to be part of the staff at The Mail Box Store. I believe in our store and I believe in what we offer our customers and community.
I hope you will give us an opportunity to serve you. We would love to help you see “why us”!
Online retail continues to grow as more and more people are ordering their goods and services online. Shorr Packaging reports that 37% of online shoppers shop online one to two times per month and 41% shop online three to five times per month (see the second link at the bottom of this post for more). The growth of e-commerce has bolstered the rapid expansion of online retailers like Amazon, Zappos, and others. Some major businesses have accepted the shift in consumer behavior and closed hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores to focus on a greater online presence.
Everyone has taken notice of the convenience of online shopping. You could be flying at 30,000 feet and order a new pair of shoes and have it arrive at your house in a day or two (maybe before you get back from your trip!). You could be lying on the couch, get out your smart phone, and order your groceries without driving to the store or moving your feet. While its made life seemingly easier, there is a price to convenience.
If you do not select to sign for your package upon delivery, you run the risk of the package being stolen . . . right off your doorstep. Most packages are delivered when the receiver is at work or during the day when they’re not home. Because of the high volume of packages, major carriers UPS, FedEx, and USPS cannot have their drivers knock and wait for someone to come the door on every package and still get all their packages delivered in a timely manner. What typically happens is the driver will knock or ring the doorbell, put the package on the porch, and leave; something they are within their right to do if a signature is not required. If you’re not home, the package has the potential to fall into the hands of a “porch pirate.”
This latest type of piracy is increasing across the country and becoming a common crime as goods are delivered instead of being purchased at the store. Porch pirates operate in a couple different ways. Some will follow the delivery trucks around and steal a package they think may be valuable once its been left on the porch. Others will wait at the end of a street for hours until a package is delivered and they feel its safe to steal it. The stolen items are then kept by the thief or sold online through eBay and other auction sites.
A recent article reported that in Denver alone there were 264 stolen packages in 2015. They estimate that number to be over 400 this year (you can read more about that in the article at the end of this post). Nationally, there have been an estimated 23 million packages stolen.
So what are consumers to do? How do you defend your castle from the invading commerce pirates?
The quick answer suggested by many retailers is to buy a home security system (irony). That’s certainly an option, but it does not guarantee your package will stay safe. Do a YouTube search of “porch pirates” and you’ll find countless videos of people stealing packages off of the porch despite the obvious surveillance. In some cases, they look at the camera before taking the package!
The problem with surveillance is the thief rarely has a clear, visible identity. Police have to either catch the pirates red handed or know someone who knows the person in the video, which makes catching them that much harder.
There is a better solution to ensuring you get your stuff. Below are five alternatives to receiving your home delivery package.
1. Get signature required on the package.
This is the easiest and fastest solution. There is a fee associated with this, but it can well be worth it depending on what you’re having sent to your house. Most people don’t get signature required because they can’t afford to stay home all day from work and wait for a package. That’s a very legitimate concern, which brings us to the rest of our list.
2. Utilize the UPS Access Point system.
UPS has recognized the growing problem of stolen packages and has come up with a creative way to ensure you get your items. They have reached out to local retail stores in your neighborhood (or close to it) and requested to use them as an alternate drop point for shipments.
It works like this: The driver leaves a door tag on your front door telling you they made a delivery attempt and gives instructions where you can retrieve your package (usually by the next business day). You take the door tag and your ID to the retail location and pick up the package where it’s being held safe and secure. The associate at the store has you sign a small terminal and releases the package to you after verifying your information. Granted, this will cause you an extra trip or delay delivery by a day, but it’s better than having no package at all!
There is no cost to the receiver for this program. It’s a great way UPS has recognized the problem and stepped up to make sure you get what you ordered.
3. Rent a Personal Mail Box (PMB) at your local pack and ship store.
This is not the same as a PO Box at the Post Office! PO Boxes will not accept UPS and FedEx packages. Your local neighborhood pack and ship store can (among other carriers)! This gives you the benefit of having all your packages delivered safely and securely to your PMB where they will be held until you pick them up. This is a great service because you don’t have to rearrange your work schedule or daily plans just to wait for a package. You also get a real street address to use!
There are rental fees and various box sizes to choose from, but it certainly costs less than reordering all your items again or buying a home security system and figuring out how to use it.
4. Have the package delivered to your local pack and ship store.
If you get a lot of packages delivered, renting a mail box is the way to go. If you rarely order packages and don’t want to rent a mail box for an extended time, contact your local pack and ship store about their package receiving service.
Most stores will let you have your package delivered to their location for a nominal fee. Make sure you contact them for their specific directions on how to address the package and what the costs are for using their location.
5. Have the package held at the local distribution center.
If you don’t have a local pack and ship store near you, you can reach out to the carrier and request the package be held at their distribution center. This requires you to go to the hub and pick up the package. An ID is typically required to retrieve the package.
These methods may have a fee associated with them or delay your receiving the package, but it’s a much better alternative to taking a risk and having your valuable items stolen from your porch. The retailer likely won’t send you a replacement for free, the carrier won’t be able to do much because a signature was not required, and the police will have little information to work off of as suspects are usually disguised and park near the end of the street out of the range of surveillance.
Don’t be the victim of porch piracy. Your local pack and ship stores, like The Mail Box Store, are here to serve you and make sure you get the items you paid for.
In the late night hours of Tuesday, August 2, a secret operation began in Rome, Italy. The mission: depart from Griffis International Airport, fly over 5,600 miles under cover of darkness heading west toward Seattle, Washington, arrive before dusk, and never be seen. It sounds like a CIA operation or a secret military objective, but it was far from it.
The team carrying out the mission was that of Atlas Air, their ship a Boeing 767-300, and their destination a hanger at Boeing Field. The mission was not planned by the government or military, but by Amazon. So why all the secrecy?
Amazon is making significant strides toward self-sufficiency in terms of their delivery network. Currently, the e-commerce giant uses UPS and FedEx to deliver their products to consumers. One goal of every business is cutting as much expense as possible. Amazon may have not only found a way to do that, but also put a challenge to the big shipping giants by creating its own shipping and delivery infrastructure to get packages from Point A to B. Hence the secrecy.
Amazon revealed their new cargo jet, complete with “Prime Air” in decals on the fuselage, on August 4 inside the Boeing hanger. The plane will be one of 40 in the newly formed fleet of planes, trucks, and drivers. The announcement came days before the Boeing Seafair Air Show in Seattle, where the plane was to be showcased.
The plan comes on the heels of Amazon testing innovative delivering methods. Innovation can propel a company forward and change the way business is performed. This is exactly what Amazon wants to achieve. If they’re successful, it will certainly change the way the world does business.
Using airplanes is not the first time the Amazon logo has filled the sky. Certain parts of the country are serving as test areas for 30-minute delivery to local addresses. Customers go online, order a product, and select the 30-minute delivery option. Amazon sends the package (weighing up to 5 lbs) to the consignee via an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or “drone.” The drone only has a range of 15 miles, so don’t plan on ordering a package in Ohio and expect it to make it there in 30 minutes from Washington.
The drones use sense and avoid technology to monitor the flight and can see objects miles ahead to ensure a safe delivery. Once the UAV reaches the consignee, it identifies a safe area to land, drops off the package, and returns to the distribution center (see the video below for a demonstration).
It may sound like science-fiction and not reality, but the fact is this is where the world is going. UPS and FedEx have been locked in a decades long battle for supremacy. No one has been able to compete with them. DHL tried in 2007 and quickly realized they couldn’t crack the domestic arena. There have been regional carriers such as SpeeDee and OnTrac that serve different localities, but none have the infrastructure to make a run at the big guys (nor do they want to on a head-to-head level). The question some are asking is whether Amazon could be a potential competitor to UPS and FedEx.
Amazon has not announced whether it will try and compete with the carriers. At this point, the goal is to do more of the heavy lifting and cut costs. It’s hard not to ponder what it would be like to have an alternative to UPS and FedEx when Amazon adds a fleet of 40 planes, increases distribution centers across the country, and unveils new technology.
Whether UPS and FedEx are going to have another competitor is unknown, but it would serve both companies well to look at what Amazon is doing. If they looked in their rearview mirrors they would see Amazon closing fast (in a truck, plane, or drone; you pick). They may not be directly competing with the carriers, but they are certainly leading the way in new technology and services.
With a new year comes new things: Plans to get healthy, start a new career, take a dream vacation, and if you’re in the shipping industry, a General Rate Increase (GRI).
Shipping rates have climbed steadily over the last decade and there does not appear to be an end in sight for future rate increases. Retail Shipping Associates reported in a recent issue of RS News that shipping via air service has risen by a total of 62.8% for FedEx and 66.1% for UPS, respectively. Ground service for both carriers has risen 54.9% in the last 10 years.
GRI will happen despite any economic growth, lower fuel prices (like we saw this past holiday season), or how well the market is doing. GRI is determined by one thing: Volume.
This year’s GRI, for example, was 4.9%. UPS and FedEx study where their packages are going and how frequently they’re going to a given location. Some areas will see their shipping cost rise by 8% because they’re in a high-volume area. In contrast, some will see a small change in price because they’re in a low-volume area. Others will see no change in price.
The carriers describe a GRI in terms of an “average” or “percentage.” By raising rates in heavily trafficked zones and not raising them at all (or not by much) in low trafficked zones, UPS and FedEx can say rates are only increasing by an average of 4.9%. That sounds better than 8%; especially to the paying customer at the counter.
Keep in mind the rate increase is solely based on transportation; it does not include surcharges the carriers use. Below is a list of charges that make up the overall shipping price:
- Fuel Surcharge – Carriers will charge a small percentage to offset the cost of fuel to move packages.
- Declared Value – Most commonly referred to as insurance. UPS and FedEx cover the first $100. The rest will cost about $3 for each $100 of coverage after that.
- Dimensional Weight – Also known as Volumetric Weight. This is a calculation used by the carriers to determine how much weight a package will hold. You multiply the length x width x height and divide by 166 (194 for USPS) for domestic shipments and a divisional of 194 for all international shipments. Shipping price is based on whichever is higher: the actual weight of the package or the dimensional weight.
- Address Correction – If you need to change the delivery address expect to pay nearly $15 depending on the carrier.
- Residential Fee – It costs more to deliver to residential addresses than businesses. Businesses are typically easier to find, have someone there to receive the package, are located around other businesses where packages are delivered, more secure, etc.
- Signature Fee – To ensure your package gets delivered, the carrier will charge anywhere from $3.00-6.00 depending on the carrier and the type of signature you choose.
- Oversize Fee – If your package weighs more than 150 lbs or is greater than 130″ (length + girth), you will be assessed an oversize fee. Carriers are charging nearly $75 for each package that you send oversized.
- Delivery Area Surcharge – This fee occurs when the delivery destination is in a remote, difficult to reach, or sparsely populated area. Cost varies depending on location.
- Additional Handling – Packages not incased in cardboard or that do not lie flat (i.e. shipping tubes) are accessed this fee. Large packages that require two people or extra equipment like a hand cart or forklift to move fall under this area as well.GRI will likely never go away.
As you can see, a lot goes into shipping a package. Factor all these prices into the picture and then add the fact that every person who handles the package must get paid, you start to see why it can cost so much to ship.
The best we can hope for is a low average increase in price. What we can do is better educate shippers on how to utilize every inch of their package to get the most bang for their buck. Can the box be cut down? Can items be combined into one box? Can you ship to the person’s place of business instead of their residence that’s in a DAS?
Those are a handful of ways to navigate higher shipping costs. It becomes an annual New Years tradition for the carriers and shippers alike. The carriers raise rates and shippers come up with creative ways to keep their customers’ cost low.
Your local pack and ship store exists for this very purpose. They will happily help you get your items packed properly and shipped at a fair rate. As far as building your dream home, taking a grand vacation, or losing weight in the new year you’re on your own . . . unless it’s dimensional weight you want to lose.
We’ve had quite a few customers ask us about the future of the fun-loving, popping sensation we all know as bubble wrap. It seems there is a rumor going around that bubble wrap will no longer be made in its current format. We did some research and came across an article that will reassure all the kids and kids-at-heart.
Bubble wrap is here to stay. It’s an important resource in the pack and ship world (something dear to our hearts at The Mail Box Store), so its very unlikely that we’ll ever see a time–in the near future at least–where bubble wrap doesn’t exist. So where is the rumor coming from?
People are probably hearing about a new product from Sealed Air that has changed the design of bubble wrap. Their new product allows air to flow between the pockets (“bubbles”). The obvious benefit is also the chagrin of every bubble-popping toddler: the bubbles don’t pop, which keeps the sheet intact and better protects the product.
Sheets come in rolls for better storage and shipping. The sheets get inflated with a pump provided by Sealed Air. The company was the first to make bubble wrap in its traditional design in 1960. It assured customers that it will make both the new, improved material as well as the traditional type on their Twitter account using the creative hashtag “We Won’t Stop The Pop.”
So rest assured that the days of getting a package in the mail and being more excited to pop the bubbles than using the actual gift are not going away. You might even find a new way to enjoy bubble wrap like comedian Eric Buss did:
The year was 2010. American Express decided to encourage cardholders to “shop small” by designating the Saturday after Thanksgiving as a day to shop and buy at small businesses. The goal was to bring small businesses what they need most: customers.
Small businesses have come to look forward with hope and anticipation to what has become known as “Small Business Saturday.”
While small business like us certainly appreciate the effort made by AMEX, we want people to know that it’s okay to shop and buy from us more than one day a year. The following is a list of reasons why it pays–not merely costs–to support a small business like us.
1. WE’RE LOCAL
For starters, what better way to say thanks to a business than the ones that live right where you do? Sure, corporate giants like Walmart, Target, and FedEx have a lot to offer as far as product diversification, but do the people in charge know much about your community and the challenges it faces? Does it know your customers on a personal level? Do they cheer for your high school or college teams? Probably not.
Our store is operated by people who live in the same community as our stores. We know the people, places, and challenges that are the social makeup of our community. We also support a lot of organizations in our community and do whatever we can to help when and where it’s possible. That helps build relationships, and relationships are at the heart of a transaction. When you’re assisting someone you know, it feels more like helping a neighbor and less like taking someone’s money.
2. WE’RE FRIENDLY
We haven’t gotten where we are by being grumpy, unwelcoming, or cold when it comes to our customers. A smile can go a long way to making someone’s day or experience in our store that much better. People tend to relax and loosen up when the person with them is smiling or is in a good mood. Everyone wins! We want our customers to feel safe and comfortable in our store, and it all starts with a smile and warm greeting.
3. WE GO THE EXTRA MILE . . . OR 250 MILES
It’s not uncommon for us to do what a lot of other stores can’t do or are unwilling to do for their customers. There have been many times we’ve driven packages to the carrier hub after hours so their shipment can get to its destination the next day. We’ve done extra research on issues a customer was having with a carrier just to help them navigate their shipping needs. We’ve picked up their belongings from hotels and shipped them back to their residence. In one case, we even helped a customer move from our area all the way to Avon, Indiana . . . a distance of nearly 250 miles! If a customer needs help, we’re there to deliver.
4. WE BELIEVE IN “SERVICE ABOVE STAMPS”
Making customers happy is about how you treat them more than the exchange of money. Customer service is what drives us and defines us as a go-to source for many needs like packing, shipping, printing, and more. Anyone can sell you a stamp, but it takes an extra effort to offer you a friendly environment in which that sale takes place. We’re willing to make that extra effort every day.
5. WE HAVE FAIR PRICES
This may be the single-most contested area of concern when it comes to shopping small. Small businesses charge more. It’s true. It’s not evil or done to rob innocent people of their hard-earned money. We don’t have the need or space to order and store large bulk amounts of stock like the corporate giants do. Their prices may be cheaper, but what are you getting in quality? What about the service? Have you ever seen all of those registers staffed with an employee . . . or even half of them?
We commonly get asked the price question in terms of shipping cost. Our prices are not the same as the carriers because we have additional services built into our cost. For example, if your package is lost or damaged we do the claim work for you. We give you options with all the carriers rather than you having to drive all over the county to get accurate prices from each. Ironically, that can amount to more time in the car and more money spent in gas all while trying to save money.
We work hard to offer fair prices. Our focus is on offering customers a value decision; not a price decision. We do this through quality products, services, and staff that make your visit one worth repeating. It saves you time and money and who doesn’t want that?
6. WE’RE A ONE-STOP SHOP
Convenience. We all want more of it. Our store offers it. There are not many small businesses that offer you the ability to rent a personal mail box, send a fax, get a notary, scan a document to your email, shed whatever you don’t need, and ship a package through the carrier of your choice (we even offer a regional carrier!). The only thing missing is the frappuccino machine!
Being able to do it all in one place is invaluable to customers. Something we often hear from our customers is the wow factor of “You guys do a little bit of everything!” You can hear the excitement and surprise in people’s voices when they ask us if we offer all the services they’re looking for and we say “Yes!” We love their excitement and saving them time and money that would have been spent running around town.
7. WE’RE EXPERTS AND PROFESSIONALS
Our staff has years of experience to draw from. We’ve attended countless seminars, classes, and conventions in which we broadened our horizons. Hours were spent learning the important tips and tricks from industry leaders so we could grow and improve our business. You can trust the advice we offer because it comes from a knowledgeable staff that is always adapting and learning new things.
Rules and policies constantly change with carriers and vendors. That shouldn’t be something for our customers to worry about. That’s why we put in the time and effort to understand it and make sense of it all. Are you not sure how to pack and ship your high-valued item? Are you wondering what the difference between all the carriers and what they offer? We want to make your life easier. We’re happy to handle the tough stuff and help you with your questions by sharing our knowledge.
8. WE LISTEN
There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Anybody behind a counter can hear a customer, but it takes a special employee to listen to what they customer really needs or wants and find a way to get it done. That’s what we do every day at The Mail Box Store.
Sometimes our customers know what they want, but can’t exactly explain it. We do our best to listen to the details and make sure they show up in the shipment or the print job we’re processing. Knowing what the customer wants or needs allows us to offer them the appropriate services. For example, we’re not going to try and sell someone on overnight delivery when they want to send their package as slow as possible to save money. We’re here to help our customers, not push them into something they never wanted to begin with.
9. WE DELIVER ON OUR PROMISES
It’s our goal to make customers happy. If we say we’re going to do something, we do it. We even try to exceed our promises by completing jobs sooner than expected whether its packing and shipping an item or a large print job that customer needs by the end of the day.
This is all part of our mission at The Mail Box Store. We want our customers to have reliable options, quality choices, and unparalleled service. It’s on our mind whenever a customer walks through our doors. Delivering on this mission is such a high priority that we refer to it as our E5 Promise: Execute . . . Every Day . . . Every Hour . . . Every Customer . . . Every Time.
Like any store, we do make mistakes and have bad days. What sets us apart is that we own our mistakes and promise to do whatever we can to make it right.
10. WE CARE
I saved this for last because it’s the best reason I have for why it’s important to shop at a small business like us. This is, as one of industry leaders said, “The razor’s edge” of why we’re worth the money to shop with us. We care. We care about our customers’ packages, their print jobs, their time, and them as people. We do our best to learn people’s names and use them.
The relationships we’ve formed over the years have been a blessing to us because we’ve become better clerks and managers by learning about some of our customers. Naturally we want to hear how things are going in their lives and we’re happy to be their cheerleaders in life. Helping people is what we’re all about and that comes from our level of care.
So how do all of these things add up to your perception of small business? Do the big box stores boast the same reasons? Have you experienced any of the same things at the multi-million-dollar corporate stores?
If you haven’t and wonder what it’s like to experience these things, give us a try; because we’re not just here on Small Business Saturday. We’re right where you need us and we’re looking forward to helping you, and that pays off for everyone.
Packing a box properly is crucial when it comes to shipping. If your item is not packed well, it probably won’t stand a chance in the carrier’s fast-paced hubs full of drops and falls from conveyor belt to conveyor belt. The carriers know this and have come up with several resources to use for all the do-it-yourself packers out there.
We put together a list of eight things to do to ensure proper packing. Follow these guidelines and you’ll greatly increase the chance of your item arriving in one piece.
1. PICK THE RIGHT BOX: Box selection is crucial. Everyone likes saving money and some do this by recycling a used box to ship their item. Recycling is great! Just make sure the box doesn’t have any water damage, rips, tears, holes, or anything else that weakens the integrity. What most people don’t realize is that boxes lose 60% of their strength after the first shipment. Keep that in mind when choosing a box!
Depending on what you’re shipping, you may want to use a box that has double walls or more. The “walls” are the part of the box with the flutes between them. If you hold the flap straight up and look down on it, you’ll see holes or tubes in between the sheets of cardboard. Those are referred to as flutes. The more rows of flutes you have (i.e. “walls), the thicker and stronger the box. This is important when shipping extremely fragile or heavy objects.
2. REMOVE OLD LABELS AND BARCODES: You want your package to go to the right place, right? Make sure you remove or cover up old shipping labels so the package doesn’t get miss-sorted and go to the wrong place. Believe it or not this happens quite a bit. One time we had someone come into our store with a box that had three shipping labels on it; no one knew which one was the correct label (including the customer)!
You’ll also want to remove any labels that no longer apply such as the lithium battery or hazardous material labels that are affixed on some boxes. Packages with such stickers are meant to be sorted and handled differently and sometimes require specific paperwork. Obviously a stuffed bear (with nothing but stuffing inside of course) is not considered hazardous material, but if it’s shipped in a box with a hazardous sticker it will likely get processed that way. It could be held until proper paperwork is provided or the error is corrected by the shipper.
3. WRAP ITEMS INDIVIDUALLY: When shipping fragile items, it’s important to wrap them separately. This can be done with bubble wrap, foam sheets, or newsprint to prevent scratching. Wrapping items individually prevents them from hitting each other with enough force to cause damage. If you put two or more items together and wrap them as one, it may protect them from other items in the package, but it won’t protect them from each other.
4. USE PROPER CUSHIONING: You should never pick up a box and hear items shifting around in the box–unless your shipping something like LEGOs. Severe damage can result as nothing protects the item from the edges of the box or outside forces being applied to the package. There should be cushioning in the box to prevent items from freely moving about the package.
Proper cushioning includes peanuts, Styrofoam, or thick kraft paper. They help hold the item in place and protect it from the edges of the box. It also gives padding for when heavier items are placed on top of the box or in the event a heavy box slams into it while sliding down the conveyor belt.
Speaking of heavy objects, exercise caution when selecting your cushioning for those objects. Peanuts won’t do much good in a box with a 70-pound dumbbell or weight. The use of multiple-walled boxes or Styrofoam would be a better choice for heavy objects.
5. USE THE RIGHT TAPE: This is not the area to go cheap. Get a good brand of tape made for shipping. Scotch tape, duct tape, masking tape, painters tape, and other craft-type tapes should not be used. They’re either not strong enough or interfere with the carriers’ scanning equipment and are therefore not acceptable by the carriers.
Good tape to use is heavy duty brown tape that is strong enough to cover seams and hold flaps down. Strapping tape is excellent when banding the same size boxes together. Strapping tape has small twine inside that holds the package together. When using this tape, make sure you go around the entire box and fasten it to itself to make a proper hold. If all you need is a basic closure for the box, then clear tape is the best way to go. You can buy most of these tapes at your local neighborhood pack and ship store.
The carrier recommends using the H-tape method when sealing your box. This is where a strip of tape is placed over the seams on both sides of the box and down the middle. Make sure the flaps meet and no gaps exist between themselves.
6. LEAVE THE PAPER WRAP INSIDE THE BOX!: It used to be very common to take your box–most likely the manufacturers box–wrap it in brown paper, write the address on it, and take it to the closest shipping store. As nostalgic as that is, it’s no longer a recommended way to ship since nearly everything is handled by machines.
The issue with using paper wrap is that almost all shipping stores use thermal labels for postage and shipping. If a package where to get caught on the conveyor belt or caught on another box that, say, wasn’t packed or closed properly, it can tear off the paper and the label. There is no recourse when this happens; the package essentially becomes abandoned.
7. USE ONE ADDRESS LABEL WITH COMPLETE INFORMATION: If you’re processing the shipping label online, make sure all content fields are filled in. This is especially true for phone numbers. The carrier needs to know who to contact if there is an issue with the package. If you do not have a phone number for the receiver, use your number. You should also have the correct destination address including suite or apartment numbers. Make sure your return address is complete and accurate.
Proper address labeling makes the process go faster and assures a more accurate delivery. You’re local pack and ship store can help by processing the label on their account if you need assistance.
8. PUT AN EXTRA LABEL IN THE BOX: Place a duplicate copy of the shipping label inside the package. The carrier can use it to complete the delivery if the label on the outside gets ripped or partially torn off.
Following these guidelines will make your shipping experience more enjoyable and better ensure your package gets delivered safely.
If you’d like more information on how to pack specific items, we recommend visiting the carrier websites below:
When talking about protecting packages, we focus a lot with customers on packing methods, proper loose fill, the appropriate box, and more. Those are all important, of course, but one of the most overlooked areas of shipping for customers is insurance (or “declared value” as it’s more appropriately referred to).
Some packages are going to get damaged. It’s a fact of this industry. The odds for jostling, friction, and impact are bound to happen when you factor in the sheer millions of packages with various sizes and weights being quickly loaded and unloaded by hand, then moving through sort facilities on conveyor belts that move at high speed, and then traveling along in a truck or plane over rough surfaces. That’s why we stress proper packing. Sometimes, though, even your best packing efforts won’t guarantee your package arrives in one piece. If you didn’t declare a value on it, you can expect to experience a headache worse than the one you felt when you learned the item was damaged.
You’ll often hear declared value referred to as insurance. People use the term “insurance” because it’s easier to say and generally better understood. What you need to keep in mind is that “insurance” and “declared value” are two different things.
Insurance provides different levels of coverage based on a small fee that you pay. It gives you access to a premium and allows you to use whatever amount you need up to that premium. For example, you can rent a 14′ U-Haul van and get different levels of insurance. The more you pay, the higher dollar amount you get in potential benefits.
Declared value, however, is whatever value you say the item is worth. You still pay a small fee to add declared value, but there are no premiums. For example, if you’re shipping a $500 stereo and you declare a value of $700, you’ll only be covered for the actual value of the stereo. In other words, shipping insurance companies will only cover the cost to replace the item; they won’t pay anything above that. That’s why its important to refer to your package as having a declared value of so many dollars and not insuring it for a certain amount.
Another fact to keep in mind is that insurance companies like saving money, too. That stereo may have cost you $500 when you bought it, but if they find the same model on eBay for $200 that’s what you’ll receive a check for. If they cannot find a replacement item of like or similar quality, you’ll have to provide proof of value (i.e. a receipt) before the insurance company will cut a check for $500. That’s also assuming they think it was packed properly, which takes us back to the importance of proper packing.
Below is a list of some tips to follow when your package will have a high declared value or fragility:
- When shipping jewelry, pack it in a plain, nondescript box that’s at least 6″ x 6″ x 6″.
- Double box items with high fragility (put the wrapped items in one box with loose fill and then put that box in another box with loose fill). This is a good step to follow if your declared value is over $1,000.
- Require a signature on high value items (anything over $500) so packages are not left and lost or stolen.
- Don’t seal the top of your box if the value is $500 or higher. Most shipping companies will need to inspect packages that have a high value to ensure proper packing has been performed on the item. This protects you from losing money on a claim that gets denied due to improper packing.
As you can see, it can be tricky navigating the waters of package insurance . . . or declared value. Your local neighborhood parcel store is there to help guide you through the process and make it easy. Stop in and see them for more details and help with your high value shipments!