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Dumb Things People Do Volume IV: Packaging Items Poorly

January 7, 2011 · 27 comments

in Dumb Things People Do

Over the Christmas holiday break, I got to spend some time at the post office shipping a couple of packages.   During this time, I saw a couple rather stupid ways to prepare items for shipping that I thoughts I would share.

Event one involved a boy shipping a used Xbox.   I am guessing he sold this on EBay based on some discussion he was having with a friend that was with him.  Anyway, he hadn’t packaged the XBox before he got to the post office, so he was trying to cram this XBox into an old box that once held roller blades while standing in line.    Of course, the Xbox didn’t fit right and the box was bulging at the top.  The teen got up to the counter, whipped out a big roll of tape from his pocket, and started taping the box in a hundred different directions, even though the box was really too small for the Xbox.   He chose not to insure the package, which is shocking considering the only thing protecting this XBox was a thin layer of cardboard.  (Tip:  If buying anything on Ebay or Amazon, communicate with the seller what your shipping expectations are, especially if you are paying for anything other than standard shipping.)

I cannot imagine shipping something expensive and electronic so haphazardly.   The XBox should have been shipped in it’s original packaging and wrapped securely.  (Tip: always save the box and styrofoam when you buy something expensive for this very reason. You will be glad you did if you ever have to return the item or if you choose to sell it.).  I am sure the person who bought the XBox was mortified when this strange box showed up on their doorstep.   I wish I could see what the box looked like when it did reach it’s destination.

Event two also involved shipping.  A middle aged woman was shipping a fairly large package at the post office and had not sealed the top yet.   This box obviously contained something somewhat valuable as she insured it for over one hundred dollars and asked for delivery confirmation.   Since the post office never offers free packaging tape unless you use priority mail, the man behind the counter told her she could buy some packaging tape off the shelf for three dollars to seal the top of the box.   So guess what this smart shipper decided to do?  She chose to use the scotch tape that is behind the counter to seal the box instead of springing for a real roll of packaging tape.   It took about ten minutes to get all those thin strips of tape to actually close the box and keep it closed, and the line was getting longer and longer.

I just keep wondering why she didn’t choose to buy a roll of tape.  She paid the money to insure the item and also cared enough to buy delivery confirmation so she could see when the package arrived.  So, why would she not pay the money to make sure the box was properly sealed?  This is one of those cases where I really don’t think it pays to be frugal, and she was definitely old enough to know better.

After watching these two events, I am inspired to write a future post offering tips for shipping packages.   Not the most exciting topic in the world, but people may find it useful.

Have you ever received a package that looks like it could have been shipped by one of the people mentioned in this post?    Have you ever been guilty of poor packaging/shipping practices?

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

First Gen American January 7, 2011 at 6:53 am

My hoarding cousin has a bit of an ebay addiction. She is always complaining about how badly things are packaged and how many items arrived damaged. It would be a good post idea.

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 9:34 am

I will work on that post soon. So much to write! 🙂

I have had pretty good luck actually with ebay. I have sold quite a bit on Amazon and Ebay and I am probably over-package. (I own a lot of bubble wrap.)

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retirebyforty January 7, 2011 at 7:03 am

Oh wow, that is just sad. I feel sorry for the recipients. I sold a few things last year and I always package them well. It’s not worth the hit to my online reputation to save a few bucks.
That lady with the scotch tape is nuts, clearly a case of misplaced priority. Maybe she wants to collect on the insurance like in that Seinfeld episode?

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 9:35 am

RB40 – You are so right about the online reputation. I am always terrified with my Amazon account that something won’t show up or that someone just trashes it at the post office because just one little negative on Amazon can kill you as a seller.

I love Seinfeld – I thought about that too!

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101 Centavos January 7, 2011 at 7:33 am

FGA is right, do enough shopping on Ebay, and chances are good you might be weeping with frustration at the lack of effort and forethought that goes into packing for shipment. I would venture that the Scotch Tape lady is a walking disaster in her personal life. You can’t fix stupid.

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 9:36 am

101 – It is funny because Mrs. Scotch Tape was dressed really well and looked quite professional. Where was the common sense?? I should have coughed up some money for tape myself. It would have been my good deed for the day.

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Moneycone January 7, 2011 at 7:50 am

What an awful thing to do! Why don’t people take time to complete packaging (and packaging properly) BEFORE getting to the post office?

Imagine how the person receiving the package must feel!

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

Moneycone- I go to the post office at least once a week, and I am shocked at how many people do not package before going to the post office. I walked someone through packaging their item 2 days ago at the post office. Many show up without even a box and expect the post office to provide a free one. (Which they will do if you ship Priority Mail.)

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Nicole January 7, 2011 at 8:49 am

Oh gee, yeah, those are pretty dumb things.

A note: In some post offices they’re happy to supply additional packing tape even if it isn’t priority mail. I’ve been places both ways. Our local place they’ll often add a piece or two if they think you need it. I think it’s mostly a function of size of the post office– little ones are more likely not to have a policy.

My MIL is the opposite with packing. Everything we get from her requires a knife to break into because she’s so zealous with the tape.

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 9:38 am

Nicole, the post offices I have gone to are always trying to get you to buy the tape. Although maybe they are just so sick of these people that show up and expect the post office to provide all the packaging supplies that it is just personal choice to deny the tape!

Congrats to your MIL! Although you don’t want to cut yourself opening a package, I would rather deal with someone who is over-cautious.

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc January 7, 2011 at 9:52 am

Oh I have, and it is rather annoying. Also, I once had a post man who would even contribute to beating up my packages. He would cram my packages into my mailbox, when he knew they couldn’t fit. I asked his on several occasions to either hold it at the PO or to put it in a special group box for our HOA community. He finally obliged me, at least for a while.

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Oooh, that is scary. As an online seller, that is my biggest nightmare. (I am a small time seller, but I have shipped plenty of things.)

I am sure you are hesitant to even shop online unless the package can fit in your tiny mailbox.

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DoNotWait January 7, 2011 at 10:09 am

I am certainly not guilty! I have a tendency to pack things too much! Some people complain it takes too long to unwrap and unpack! But I think it is better taking too long to unpack than receiving something broken…

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm

DNW, some people will never be happy. Better to err on the side of caution, that is for sure.

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Money Reasons January 7, 2011 at 11:18 am

Shoot, I even pad my packages with cushioning of sorts even for things that aren’t breakable. I figure if the package gets punchered, it would be nice to have some distance between the out shell and the contents there within…

I was a ebay seller for a short period of time though… So I learned all the tricks upfront before I started…

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm

MR – Too bad a lot of ebay sellers do not read the packing instructions before even listing one item. I think people package better from Amazon because the feedback is so important there.

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krantcents January 7, 2011 at 11:38 am

Isn’t this reflective of poor work overall? Way too many people provide shoddy service or performance. I guess expecting the post office to require the sender to meet certain minimum requirements is a wish unfulfilled.

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

You are very right Krantcents! People do like to take the easy way out, or are too lazy to learn what the right thing to do is.

I don’t know that I would ever buy an expensive item on ebay, but maybe I am missing out.

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Jenna January 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

No, but I bought an iPad and had to ship it. I packaged it nicely and insured it, only to have the postal service woman toss it into a huge bin. SCARY!

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Yikes Jenna, that must have been terrifying. Do you know if it arrived ok?

I love how the postal workers throw your packages into a bin right in front of you with no concern whatsoever sometimes.

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Suba @ Wealth Informatics January 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I might be guilty of over doing in 🙁 May be it part of growing up in India where there is no insurance or delivery confirmation or any complaint system if the shipment breaks (may be it is there now, not sure). So I always pack it like I know it is going to go through hell. I even bubble wrap books so that the ends don’t bend and add a hard cardboard along with a paperback for the same reason. Once my sister told me seeing the package she thought I had sent her something really costly. Now she knows… oh well…

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Kris January 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Suba, we pack the same way! I bubble wrap all books, and paperbacks get cardboard support. I pad the corners, I protect as best I can. However, I am sure there has been some mishaps along the way.

How often did your packages get lost or ruined in India?

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Kevin@InvestItWisely January 8, 2011 at 11:05 pm

I recently shipped a bunch of packages recently, and had to make some use of packaging tape, but they let me use it for free. I went off to the side so that the line wouldn’t be held up, but it did take a while while she was adding up all of the weights and measures, and the line was growing while all that was happening. I was lucky to have gotten in first!

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial January 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

I would be so upset if I purchased something expensive and it was packaged poorly. Actually, the price doesn’t matter to me, all items should be protected when shipped!

And I can’t believe that lady paid the extra money for certain things, but not to keep the package safe. We can very foolish decisions at times!

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