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Avoiding Shipping Damage



10:44 pm on Sep 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

So I just had something returned. 60"x6"x6" triangle box, heavy brown cardboard... one side overlapped double because we take four sided boxes and turn them into triangles. Long boxes tend to collapse when square, so triangles work better.

This is actually the first time I've had one of the heavy cardboard boxes come back. The item inside was 6 pounds. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I am horrified at the condition of this thing. Never in my wildest dreams did I think they could ever do this much damage to something. By some miracle, the item survived. But the way the box looked is completely unacceptable. I've had stuff come back a few times in lighter white boxes. Those were bad as well, but I was in denial, thinking that it was the lighter box's fault, and that the item went across the country twice, so that counted for the bad damage. But I can't ignore this anymore. I tried UPS for a while and had similar issues. The shipping industry just seems to despise long items.

I notice that when things get returned by the PO, they typically seem to come back the absolute slowest method possible. I assume that doesn't help things. But after looking at this, I am now wondering how much stuff looks like this by the time it gets someplace. I rarely get comments from people, but it's still very demoralizing. We put way too much work into these products to have them treated like garbage. Does anybody have any secrets that work? Do stickers help? Anything? My thinking is that these morons throw this stuff onto the conveyors, knowing full well they'll probably get hung up. I've been inside major sorting facilities... They typically have a conveyor system that comes in from the dock... goes around the whole plant up on the ceiling... and at numerous points, it makes 90 degree turns, where it drops from one down onto another belt, or slides around a tight turn. But the belts are only 3-4' wide, and the whole thing is supported by vertical members that hold it up. So you take a 5-6' box and stick it on there... It doesn't take a genius to realize what's going to happen when it hits that 90 degree turn, with 2000 pounds of boxes stacked up behind it.

I've thought of using PVC somehow, but that would be very expensive and a huge pain.


7:23 pm on Sep 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I would keep your box as a rectangle, then pack your item with one or two Uline Edge Protectors. To keep everything centered, wrap with kraft paper before putting it in the box.


7:36 pm on Sep 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator mack is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

You could use those shipping labels that detect if the unit has been tilted. Not sure if having these fitted would make the shipping company pay more attention.



8:30 pm on Sep 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If you want to avoid shipping damage start like this:

Call the parcel service you are using and ask for a tour through one of their depots or hubs.

I was invited to a tour once and it was an eye opener. We made the necessary changes and since then we had not one damaged item. Before you haven't seen this, all you are doing is simply guesswork.

It starts when the parcels are unloaded from the truck that picks them up. They are thrown on a conveyor belt that carries them in several meters height, and sorts them. When they arrive at the destination ramp the parcels have to be brought down from a height of about five meters. This is not done slowly on the conveyor belt - would take up to much space. No, the belts end and the parcels fall down a steep ramp in three steps of more than 1.5 meter hight. Our courier takes parcels up to 30 kilos of weight. Now you can imagine when your parcel is already on the last step and there comes a 30 kilo parcel from above and lands on top of it. Then the parcels are loaded on the truck that takes them to the destination depot. However to use all the space there are no carts or racks or sacks. The parcels are loaded into the truck as they are. Giant tetris. Imagine your parcel is the one on the floor of the truck. Other parcels will be piled on it up too the ceiling of the truck. Nobody unloading or loading has the time to give your parcel special treatment just because you put a shiny lable on it. So forget any lables or tape like "attention glass" or "fragile" or "this side up". It's different with express but ordinary parcels are handled in bulk. Either your packaging can take it or the parcel service will break it.

I don't believe there is much difference with parcels services on how the depots and hubs handle the parcels. But if in any way possible - go and see for yourself.

Unfortunatley we were not allowed to take pictures but I found some on the internet that give a small impression:



Imagine your parcels would go to a garbage dump and had to survive the trip and package them accordingly.


11:28 am on Sep 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member wheel is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Yes, per jecasc. I used to own an online bookstore many years ago and what he said is exactly what I saw and inferred from the drivers. Basically your package is on the first floor of the sorting center, and they'll drop a 200lb TV on top of it, from the second floor. And I saw them unloading trucks including my books. Using the word 'thrown' doesn't do it justice :). Heaved, hurled, that's what they do with the packages.


7:28 pm on Sep 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

I agree... Like I said, I've been to sorting facilities. And that's why I am saying... If they refuse to make any sort of effort for long boxes... short of putting it in a 1/4" thick PVC tube that weighs 8 pounds, I don't see any way to guarantee it won't get messed up. I mean... Sticking something 6' long onto that system is probably at least 60% that it's going to get jammed up. They're only making more work for themselves. I don't understand why there can't just be somebody that grabs long stuff and sets it aside in a cart to move that way. It's just stubbornness. That would certainly take less effort than yanking at the thing with a rake to dislodge it. That's like, cave man attitude. I had one one time where two 3/4" aluminum tubes, 1/8" wall thickness, were bent about 15 degrees. I mean, you could stand on those and not bend them. How can anybody protect something from that kind of force? You guys with the little boxes are so lucky not having to deal with this BS.


10:10 pm on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

I talked with somebody at the local main sorting. He said that the conveyor systems have a 42" max dimension limit, and all larger parcels are supposed to be "culled" out and handled manually. This is the justification for the balloon rate charge over a certain max girth. He admitted that sometimes they can slip through and get thrown on the system anyway, but there is really nothing you can do to stop that. So it's a crap shoot.


11:53 am on Sep 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

That's like, cave man attitude.

But isn't that how yoiu can descibe this industry?

Its like the home moving industry - they're mostly just dressed up pirates and when they've got your stuff, they can do anything to you if they want.

Many industries like shipping have not changed at all in more than 100 years, except in a few non-item handling areas.
They're still just moving a box from one place to another and they do it with the minimum amount of work, unless you pay them a higher price to look after it, which few people pay unless their items are a premium price.

Your precious products (and those of others), the result of careful design and effort, are handled like cattle by low paid people.


6:30 pm on Sep 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Well, like I've said in another thread... If I did even half the things other businesses do to me, a tiny fraction of the time... I'd be out of business. I knock myself out to do stuff right, and seems like everybody else pretty much just does whatever they feel like doing.


7:34 pm on Sep 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

We cut strips out of a 2x4 and strap out 8' long product to it for UPS shipments. a 1/2" strip is fairly rigid and does not weigh much.


11:20 pm on Sep 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Thanks... I'll look into it. The lighter PVC drainage pipes are also an option.


12:57 am on Sep 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've seen 1" x 4" pine boards with the product strapped to it. All of this was then put into a cardboard box. You also might try switching carriers if this is happening frequently.


10:45 am on Sep 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I buy parchment skins that cannot be creased or crumpled, because that is permanent and makes that part of the skin unusable. The supplier ships them rolled in a heavy cardboard tube. It is almost like the kind that are used to make concrete molds. I believe they are the Uline kraft mailing tubes.


11:26 pm on Sep 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Yeah, I've seen those as well. They would probably work, but boy are they expensive. They're heavy and they don't collapse. So the shipping getting them to you is a lot. So with shipping they'd probably come out to about $12 each. But yeah, they'd probably work pretty well.

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