4 Pack and Ship Mistakes That Are Costing You Time and Money

Whether you regularly pack and ship products to customers or only occasionally, you want to avoid these four common pack and ship mistakes.

Whether you regularly pack and ship products to customers or it's only an occasional task, you want to avoid common mistakes. Just a few postage mishaps can cause you and your staff unnecessary headaches.

Here are four packing and shipping slip-ups that cost small business owners time and money (and aggravate customers):

1. Reusing Shipping Boxes While recycling is always good for the environment, packing up items in a box that's been used before puts your shipment at risk. "Use a new corrugated box specifically designed for shipping," says Jennifer Cook, a public relations supervisor at UPS. "The more times a box is used, the more it loses its strength and protective quality." Additionally, reusing boxes with promotional messages from other products may cause confusion or damage your professional reputation. No one wants to receive an order inside a used cereal box, for example, or one previously used to mail diapers. Covering cereal or diaper boxes with brown craft paper isn't a great idea either, because it can catch in sorting equipment, says Cook. Go with a new, clean, solid-colored box to ensure your product arrives safely — and that the impression you make is a positive one.

2. Underestimating the Amount of Internal Packing Required Insufficient packaging often results in items arriving broken or damaged, unfortunately. That means you have an upset customer, need additional time and funds to ship a replacement and have to file an insurance claim (that is, if you bought insurance). Cook recommends first wrapping products in bubble wrap, then placing them inside a box with at least two inches of cushioning around it. Placing fragile items wrapped in bubble wrap inside a box, which is then packed in another box surrounded by packing peanuts, is even more secure. "Crumpled newspaper is not appropriate cushioning," she cautions.

3. Exceeding Weight Limits for Shipping Boxes Boxes have weight limits to ensure the corrugated cardboard can withstand the box being dropped and still protect the box's contents. Many business owners don't realize this, however, and assume that if it fits, it's safe. A better approach is to check that there's ample room for the product and lots of packing materials surrounding it — above, below and around the sides — so it's unlikely to break en route. Even if a block of heavy gold bullion fits in a Priority Mailer, for example, something so heavy is likely to cause the box to come apart in shipment. A better approach would be to put the gold bar in a larger box, surrounded by bubble wrap and lots of packing materials. Check the dimensions and weight restrictions printed on the side of the box to be sure.

4. Guessing on the Postal Class Unless you're using a flat rate U.S. Postal Service box, the cost of mailing a package varies greatly depending on its weight and dimensions, no matter what carrier you're using. At the post office, anything over 13 ounces ships via Priority Mail, which is pricier; anything under 13 ounces can go first class. And if you're using an oversized box, there may be surcharges depending on its dimensions. Just a few tweaks to your packing and shipping process can dramatically reduce damage along the way and ensure that all your customers are delighted with what's inside the box you've sent them.