Friday, May 9, 2008

PACKING & SHIPPING FRAGILE ITEMS

First off let me say that I do not claim to be an absolute expert on this subject. BUT, I do
have 8 years of experience sending fragile, vintage items through the mail system to all 
parts of the world, so I guess that qualifies me to at least give my 2 cents worth. AND
since I just completed yet another exhausting insurance claim with the post office after
receiving yet another smashed beyond recognition vintage headvase in the mail I thought
maybe there just might be some folks out there that could use a little help in this area. 

The methods I use applies to all fragile items, not just headvases. I have sent glass, porcelain,
ceramics, dolls, etc with excellent results. I draw the line at electronics and liquids though--
I don't have any idea what the requirements are for sending them and I am sure it is very
specialized. The best place to find out? www.usps.com


Oh, and for all the people out there that think Alaska is not in the U.S. and refuse to ship headvases 
to me because their policy is to not ship international...I looked it up in my daughter's geography
book today and yep, we ARE part of the United States. Whattaya know? 

Here are the 3 ladies being sent today. They are in for a long haul--all the way from Alaska 
to Singapore! I better do my best to make sure they are well prepared for their trip.

One of the most important things you can do to make sure your items ar well protected is to use a strong enough box. I can't emphasize this enough. All the packing material in the world won't protect a fragile item in a smashed box. I asked at the post office and they are allowed to stack 30 pounds on top of ALL Priority boxes. That means your 1 pound box can have a 30 pound box dropped on top of it. If you can picture what your box would look like if 3 ten pound sacks of potatoes were dropped on it, you can understand why the strength of the box is so important.

I use Priority boxes from the post office. These are able to be used for domestic OR international shipping. They don't carry them anymore in your local post office though--you have to order them online. It's free to do so, you just have to establish an account and you can order everything you need and have it delivered to your house. Be aware that the supplies are shipped by ground service, so it takes awhile to get them. I order at least 2 weeks ahead so I don't run out. You can access the ordering page here.

I place the item in small bubbled bubble wrap that will go around the item at least twice. Then I place the wrapped item on another piece of small bubbled bubble wrap and go around at least twice. This gives you an extra amount of cushion, with nothing protruding that can be broken off. For the larger lady that is shipping in this box I actually wrapped her twice with the smaller bubbled bubble wrap and then finished it with a piece of the bubble wrap with the large bubbles. She had a hat with a rim and a dimensional arm that I didn't want to get broken.

The 3 ladies all wrapped and ready to go into the box. If you were to pick them up you wouldn't feel anything sharp or sticking out in any way--just a squishy, cushiony feel, which is what you want. I always tape the bubble wrap shut too, especially for international shipping. They are allowed to inspect packages at customs and the last thing I want is someone picking up the item and having the bubble wrap fall open. Plus I figure if it's taped maybe they won't bother with opening it up and trying to retape it shut (it's just a theory)

Here they are packed into the Priority box with peanuts. The smaller ladies I stood up on end and the large lady is laying down. I found this to be an excellent way to keep each item completely  surrounded on all sides by at least 2 inches of peanuts, which is the key to absorbing any impacts the box WILL receive. Sheesh, sometimes people tell me they think this is overkill since they marked their package fragile and they expect the post office to handle it carefully (laughing hysterically)

Here is the final bit of cushion--a square of large bubble wrap on top to absorb any impacts the box WILL receive on top. Just make sure the package isn't overpacked because that can be as bad as underpackaging it. The lid should fit down easily and snug--you don't want to force it down or you may actually cause the items to be broken from the stress.

All ready to go with tape across the top and bottom to hold the seams together during any impacts the package WILL receive. I print clearly on the label and always add a FRAGILE sticker in red, in the off chance it will catch somebody's eye and remind them to try and keep it from being drop kicked off the truck.

That's it! Oh, and if you shake your finished package and hear things moving around, you will want to go back to the beginning of this post and start over again. Movement=breakage!

If you have any questions, just leave them in the comment section and I'll help with whatever I can.



2 comments:

Pam said...

Neat post. I once won a physics egg drop contest where you drop the egg off the building, and it has to survive the drop. The first objective is obviously to make sure your egg survives, but secondly to have placed it in the smallest, most light weight packaging. I used packing peanuts and a styrophome cup. Of course it was small and light, and since I packed it well, it survived the drop. Just goes to show, if you pack things right, they can survive the postman dropping them.
This was a really informative post as well. Bravo for helping the masses ship better ;)

pam said...

Have a Happy Mother's Day!