When it absolutely has to be there overnight… that was the old slogan from FedEx—now technically FedEx Kinkos. And whether you’re going with FedEx, UPS or DHL, these private shipping companies have their own sets of rules and regulations.
- Supplies – as with the USPS each of these shippers has their own supplies, and while it is possible to use a FedEx box when sending via UPS I would advise against it. This can cause all sorts of confusion.
- Reuse of other packaging – unlike USPS, the private carriers don’t care if you reuse a box. The catch is that you might lose any coverage options if you do. Generally when shipping computers, TVs and other electronics the private carriers “recommend” you use the original packaging. If you opt to ship a laptop in another box, you do so at your own risk (see below).
- Proper packaging of electronics – I’ve had a few problems shipping electronics. As a journalist that covers consumer electronics I ship a lot of products back and forth. As I just mentioned the most ideal method of shipping any computer, TV, DVD player, digital camera, etc., is in the original packaging. And if possible put the packing for some devices—mobile phones for example—in a larger box with additional padding.
If you don’t have the original box most carriers recommend at least a minimum of an inch of padding around all sides of the device. This includes bubble wrap or similar padding. Whenever I ship a PC or other device without the box and use this method of padding I do not seal the box until I bring it for drop off. I prefer to have the representatives inspect the original device, the padding and the container. I also recommend a follow-up phone call with the company to let them know that I did show the package and contents to the representatives. Obviously get names and keep a record. I haven’t yet had to file a claim, but if it comes up I would be sure to stress that everything was reviewed prior to shipping.
- Sign up for an account – there is really no reason that a small- to medium-sized business shouldn’t have FedEx, UPS and DHL accounts. These generally are free to set up and help for vendor references should you later need one. But even a home-based worker should consider at least one of the aforementioned. This allows automatic payments through a credit card or bank account; I strongly recommend the former option, as you add an extra layer of protection by bringing your credit card into the mix.
If you have an account, you can print labels online and even track packages (outgoing and incoming). Additionally, should you have any problems with a shipment having an account will get you slightly better treatment than if you were an individual. Best of all, when you print the labels from your computer you generally won’t have to stand in line to drop them off for shipping.
- Pick up options – one thing that can cost money is a pick up. Most of the carriers will charge for one-time pickups. And annoyingly FedEx Ground won’t easily schedule a pick-up. I’ve had to make special arrangements for ground shipment pick-ups. Living in a city without a car can make this quite a task. So you could look for drop off locations, and factor in hours of operation, when deciding which shipping company is right for you.
It is worth noting that in urban areas most drivers from FedEx, UPS and DHL will accept packages. The exception that I’ve found is that FedEx drivers can’t usually take FedEx Ground packages and vice versa. These are basically different branches of the same company and thus might not go to the same depots.
Did I miss anything? Feel free to share your own safe shipping tips. Good luck, and know that in this modern age most packages will get there!