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Packaging Tips for Shipping with UPS

December 5th, 2023

When it comes to shipping via UPS, proper packaging is key to ensuring your items reach their destination safely and intact. Below are some invaluable packaging tips to consider before sending your parcel through UPS.

One common misconception when shipping items through UPS (along with other carriers including FedEx, DHL, and USPS) is that the package is handled entirely by human hands from the drop-off point to the delivery point. Rather to the contrary, the majority of a package's journey is handled by automation and robots such as electronic arms that abruptly sort and arrange packages, sending them to conveyers that can be as high as 30 feet or more in warehouses with the opportunity for packages to inadvertently fall off conveyers, plummeting to the ground and getting damaged in the process. Such events are considered normal among shipping carriers, meaning your packaging must be able to withstand significant forces and extremes in order to arrive to the destination safely. Furthermore, failure to package items properly is not typically covered under insurance claims as improper packaging is usually considered negligence on behalf of the shipper.

  • Choose the Right Box
    Avoid padded envelopes and mailers as they can easily tear open in transit. Instead select a sturdy, corrugated cardboard box that is appropriate for the size and weight of your item. Avoid using oversized boxes as they may increase shipping costs and leave excess room for items to shift during transit. However, ensure the box has enough space to add protective cushioning around the item.
  • Use Quality Packing Materials
    Invest in high-quality packing materials such as bubble wrap or air pillows to cushion your items effectively. Wrap fragile or delicate items individually with bubble wrap and secure them with tape to prevent breakage or damage during transit. Products with large glass screens such as tablets and displays are protected best by their original foam inserts.
  • Secure and Seal
    Use strong packing tape to seal the box securely. Reinforce all seams and edges to prevent the box from opening accidentally during shipping. Make sure the tape is applied evenly and covers the entire seam to provide maximum strength and durability. If using pressure sensitive tape (most common), be sure to press down firmly along the entire run of tape to ensure it adheres properly. You don't want your box to open in transit and the contents to go missing in a sorting warehouse where they are unlikely to be retrieved.
  • Labeling and Documentation
    Clearly label the package by using a UPS generated label and ideally use a laser printer or thermal printer, or if using an inkjet, use a high-quality print setting to ensure the barcodes are clear. Do not attempt to handwrite the address information. Include necessary documentation, such as an invoice or packing slip inside the box for redundancy that clearly identifies the contents and receiver/sender. Another option is to include a second copy of the UPS label inside the box for back-up.
  • Consider Special Handling
    While it may seem logical to write "Fragile" or "Handle with Care" on the box for delicate items, the truth is, the sorting machines at UPS do not read additional notes or labels on the boxes so essentially all packages are treated equally. Instead consider double boxing fragile items for added protection, providing an additional layer of cushioning and security.
  • Test and Inspect
    Before sending your package, give it a gentle shake to ensure items don't move inside. If they do, add more packing material to secure them further. Conduct a final inspection to ensure all edges, corners, and openings are well-padded. The package should be able to survive a repeated 3-foot vertical drop when packaged properly.

By following these packaging tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of damage during UPS shipping. Proper packaging not only protects your items but also ensures a smoother and safer transit, allowing your package to reach its destination in the best condition possible.