Packing & Shipping "201"

As a graduate of "Packing & Shipping for Beginners," I would like to pass along some tips I've learned beyond the basics that can boost an item's chances of arriving safely, look more appealing to customers and keep shop owners' costs down.

* Print USPS labels off your computer and get discounts on postage. Registering a credit card with a USPS "Click-N-Ship" account lets you print prepaid labels and gives Priority and Express postage discounts, with free Delivery Confirmation. If you don't want to open a Click-N-Ship account, the USPS "Shipping Assistant" can be used to print labels for all kinds of mail. You'll have to pay for postage at the post office, but the discounts are there for creating labels online!

* If you UPS, find a local business that will let you ship your packages through them. Our local bookstore welcomes us - our packages help them reach their weight quota, and we benefit from taking advantage of their commercial rates! Even with a small service fee, this is still significantly cheaper than using a UPS store.

* If you need a good scale, consider an account with one of the postage-providing companies online. There are often good price promotions underway. You'll also receive the USPS postage discounts and all the benefits of printing labels online.

* Try using small plastic zip bags for tiny items. Cut a piece of note paper to slip behind the item for a finished, attractive appearance.

* Heavy items tend to "sift" through styrofoam peanuts, ending up right on the bottom of the box. Keep them where you pack them with kraft paper balls or larger foam pieces, gently wedged between the piece and all six sides of the container. Fill the gaps with peanuts as you work toward the top.

* There is always a chance that a package may be so damaged that it comes apart in transit. Placing the receipt inside the last layer of bubble wrap will help ensure the item can be identified if it separates from the outside container.

* Engage your customer in helping to go green, and keep your costs down at the same time utilizing used shipping materials - include a note letting your customer know you've carefully selected used packaging (clean and in good, acceptable condition) and thank them for understanding such an important way to recycle.

* Use sturdy cartons. If there is any doubt, take an extra wrap with shipping tape. You will be amazed how much strength an extra wrap of tape adds to cardboard.

* If your container has a zip- or pull-open strip, tape over it - ! Apologize in advance to your customer for the inconvenience, in a note letting them know that you want to make absolutely sure their item reaches them safely! It is not likely but these quick openers have been known to pull apart in transit, or catch on machinery.

* If you're shipping overseas, make up a large, easy-to-read label and affix it to the package in addition to the Customs form - the new multi-layer International First Class (uninsured) mail label is especially hard to read! And always include a Packing Slip/Receipt in an overseas shipment!

Jane Silvernail
Visit: Time's Treasures Railroad & Country

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