This is the second part of my “Shipping Large Boxes of Books” In the first part of this I related the story of shipping a large set of “The Encyclopaedia Britannica” to a customer at a US Embassy. Early in October I got another order for a set of “The Encyclopaedia Britannia. This order was for the large format version of this edition which was printed on fine rice paper. This again was the 1910 / 1911 edition which is considered to be the last great version of this set. This was a very heavy set of books. The total weight of the books was almost 100 pounds. If memory serves me correctly I sent one box which weighed 43 pounds and another which weighed 48 pounds. These books were shipped from Pennsylvania to Washington state – completely across the country! I wanted to insure that the books arrived in the condition they left my shop. I wrapped each book in kraft paper. I chose heavy duty boxes which I purchased at Staples. The boxes were designed to handle up to 75 pounds per box, so I had a good margin of safety. In addition to wrapping each book individually I placed bubble wrap on the bottom of the boxes and around the empty spaces in the boxes. I taped the boxes with 2” wide packaging tape. I shipped the 29 volume set in 2 boxes. In retrospect I think I should have used 3 boxes. When I took the boxes to the post office the clerk who assisted me seemed to have difficulty lifting the boxes. The boxes felt heavy to me, but I did not have difficulty moving them. Next time I will limit my boxes of books to 35 pounds or so. I insured both boxes of books. I shipped 2 boxes and I insured each box for half of the total value of the books. I thought about insuring each box for the total value of the set – there is an argument that could be made for doing that – the entire set would be worthless if just one of the boxes was damaged , but I decided to take the risk of insuring each box for half of the total value. I shipped the books via USPS media mail. I could have also shipped them via UPS ,but I have had good results with the USPS. I obtained delivery tracking and confirmation for both boxes.
Nothing sends customers into a tizzy faster than a missing package. Once it leaves your hands, there’s only so much you can do to find one of these waylaid packages. Tracking SHOULD tell you where it is, but if it wasn’t scanned in at a step, it can appear to vanish in transit. Or sometimes it even shows as delivered, but your customer still doesn’t have it. International shipments can be particularly difficult because tracking doesn’t really work very well once it crosses the border… if at all. At that point, the customer can often the package a lot faster than you can playing phone tag. They just need a little reassurance that it’s not gone, its just temporarily mislaid, and here’s how to get it.
Here’s some common ways to resolve common “where’s my package!?!” woes.
The shipping estimate on the USPS website is lovely, but its not actually guaranteed for most shipping classes. For First Class mail, estimating when it will ACTUALLY arrive vs when the the USPS says it will can be frustrating. Having shipped hundreds of packages overseas, here’s how I estimate when the overseas customer should be looking for it. This doesn’t guarantee this is when it will turn up… but it gives a narrower range than the 4-20 the USPS lists.
This is the estimate for First Class. Priority is usually a little faster, but not guaranteed. Start with one day. You’ll add days for where it originates from and where its going TO. If you don’t immediately recognize the destination, look it up on the internet. Keep in mind this is BUSINESS DAYS. Make this clear to the customer as well. Holidays don’t count as “days” for the estimate!
Corrugated Mailing Boxes I want to talk to you for a minute about shipping books. I owned a used bookshop for 4 years and learned a thing or two about shipping books, both from the sender’s end and the receiver’s end. To throw out some numbers, and keep in mind we were a small family … Read more
Here’s another installment from contributor William Smith of Hang Fire Books (editor’s note: while I use a different method for shipping, William covers two very important concepts; a. the book must stay dry and b. the book should never move iside its package.) ***************** Office supplies and packing materials amount to one of the largest … Read more