How To Ship Your Gifts Without Them Getting Destroyed

Senior Contributor
11.26.13 7 Comments


This weekend, the shopping frenzy starts in earnest. But perhaps you were smart, and bought your gifts early. Or you like to plan ahead, and want to lay in your shipping supplies. Especially if you’re shipping gifts that are valuable or fragile, here’s how to get it across the country without it being destroyed.

Don’t Assume Shipping Companies Will Treat Your Package With Respect

This isn’t to say that every shipping company will work over your packages with a sledgehammer, but the truth is that they don’t care if your Aunt Ruth is disappointed her crystal swan is more like ground glass. UPS alone delivers, on average, half a billion packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They just don’t have the time to treat every package like it’s valuable. So don’t assume they will.

Never, Ever Mark A Package “Fragile”

It’s been proven, more than once, that every package service will treat a package marked “fragile” like a football with Andy Dick’s face on it. It doesn’t get your package any special treatment, not least because everything is labeled “fragile.” They don’t care. If your package is destroyed, they’ve got plenty of places to pass the buck and replacing it is the company’s problem anyway.

Buy From Amazon, With A Credit Card, If At All Possible

The best way to ensure that your packages don’t get trashed, and that your gifts will be replaced if they do get trashed, is to outsource it. Amazon, for example, has a “screw it, have a replacement” policy. Your credit cards will likely have some form of automatic purchase protection as well, although check your fine print before assuming. This is important because there is no package delivery service that will actually replace your package.

New Boxes, Wide Tape

As your author comes from a long line of cheap bast-er, frugal Yankees, the urge to reuse boxes is perfectly understandable. But you shouldn’t do it for two reasons.

One, yes, a box can seem sturdy, but consider that this box will likely have other boxes heaped on top of it, of varying weights and hefts. You want something that won’t fold under that weight.

Two, the most likely way your package winds up sent thousands of miles from its original destination is the old labels that are slapped on it. Miss even one, or just don’t cross out the bar codes thoroughly enough, and it’s off on a magical journey, from which your package will likely never return.

Buy A Bunch Of Plastic Coolers

This sounds bizarre, when you first hear it: Why the hell would you put your stuff in a cooler, and then load it into a box? That’s a bunch of unnecessary bulk and crap, and it adds a lot of money, right?

To answer your question, here’s a video. Note that it takes a five-hundred pound strongman a lot more effort and force to trash even a cheap-ass cooler than UPS will put it through.

A cooler, especially one packed full of bubble-wrapped gifts, is pretty hard to trash. Even a dollar-store special adds an inch of plastic and foam, and if it gets destroyed… who cares? Yes, it costs more, but consider it an investment in not having to fight over a warranty, or deal with a nightmarish claims department. Screaming at a bored customer service rep is not really what one calls the spirit of Christmas.

Also, it’s likely the trailers used to ship your stuff leak. Coolers are dirt-cheap waterproofing, especially compared to other options.

In short, plan ahead, assume the worst, and your gifts will show up intact. Otherwise, well, we wish you luck.

(Image courtesy Louis Abate on Flickr)

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