Attribution not required: Morguefile.com
For several years, I worked at a retail pack and ship counter. Customers would bring gifts, valuables, souvenirs and even furniture to the shop in hopes of having their goodies transported safely and magically to a far-off destination. To cut down on the cost of sending an item, lots of folks elected to box up their items prior to coming to the store. But with the scale of today’s parcel shipping environment, most folks are ill equipped to prepare a package for the often-treacherous journey.
Are you sure your package can survive a drop from waist height? What about being kicked off the truck? It happens all the time. Here’s how to make sure your items arrive in one piece, and what to do if they don’t.
Check the Website
Each shipping company has an explicit set of guidelines for properly packaging goods for transport. The guidelines almost always seem like overkill, but they are primarily designed to protect the shipping service from damage claim liability. Items packed according to company standards can be dropped off a truck or tossed onto a concrete porch stoop and survive. The sheer volume of packages being shipped ensures that individual packages receive a rough ride along the way.
UPS, for example, offers a wizard on their website that gives packaging specifics for many items. Electronics may require a double box, and a chandelier may require disassembly and a wooden crate. Following the packaging guidelines will enable you to feel confident that should your item be damaged during transit, your insurance coverage will be honored.
Let The Pro Pack It
Recently, I had to send an espresso machine for repair. Even though I’d worked as a professional packer, and had used several layers of bubble, two sheets of double-corrugated cardboard and a large cube box with a heavy-duty crush rating, the shipping clerk informed me that if the item was damaged in shipment, her company may not honor an insurance claim I would make because the item wasn’t packed by a company employee. Since the coffee maker had a value of at least $500, I wasn’t very happy at the prospect of ending up with nothing should it be crushed during transit.
So, instead of using makeshift crumpled newsprint to fill up the empty space around your antique punch bowl, let the packing shop do the work. It will cost a little more, but you’ll have the piece of mind that you’ll at least be protected against a denial of your damage claim.
Get A Signature
It’s quite convenient to waive the signature requirement and permit your package to be dropped off, but you should always try to have valuable or fragile items delivered to a human being. Besides eliminating the risk that your box will be stolen from a doorstep, requiring a signature at delivery ensures that your receiver has the opportunity to alert the parcel carrier to any damage, or to refuse to accept a damaged package.
Damage Control Mode
If you’ve had the pro pack your item, shipped it with full insurance and required a signature at delivery, you’ve done as much as is possible to ensure a safe trip. However, you may still end up with a damaged item. If so, you must act quickly. Somewhere on the parcel carrier’s website, you’ll find instructions for how to make a damage claim. Sometimes, the steps can be as involved as the packaging requirements.
A friend of mine ordered a pallet of photovoltaic solar panels directly from the manufacturer. When the shipment arrived, it seemed to be in good condition. However, upon unpacking the panels, substantial damage was revealed. When my friend made a damage claim, the parcel carrier sent an inspector to view the packaging materials. The inspector said that if my friend had discarded any of the cardboard, strapping, shrink wrap or netting that had been used to protect the panels, he’d have to deny the claim due to lack of evidence that the damage was caused by the shipping company. So, be sure to keep every piece of packaging until you’re sure your item is unscathed. It’s always a good idea to take pictures of every package you receive before and after opening to preserve a record of the condition of your parcel.
Fight the Power
Some shippers have a regular practice of denying damage claims the first time they are submitted, regardless of the evidence. Don’t be afraid to push back and demand that they reconsider. If your item was packaged properly and damaged in transit, you deserve compensation. The shipping company has insurance for just this purpose, so make sure you fight to get what you deserve. It may take some time, but you will get past the “automatic no” stage eventually.
With a little research, you can determine the proper way to package your item. If you’re not convinced you can do it yourself, simply let a professional pack it for you. When it’s shipped, have the recipient sign for it and you’ll be set up for a successful shipping experience.
Andy Bristol has been supplying packing boxes and packaging supplies to individuals and businesses throughout Western Australia for the last 10 years. Powerpak Packaging can help you find what your looking for whether you’re looking to move house or run a business.