Let’s Talk About Shipping

Josie Leavitt -- October 2nd, 2013

Okay, I need to vent about shipping for just a moment. I get countless boxes a day and for the most part the books arrive packaged the way they should and there are few damages. And then there are the packages that make me wonder what’s going on in shipping departments.

photo-25There is a new phenomenon happening where tiny things, books, or puzzles are shipped in very large boxes surrounded by those pillow packs of air. This sort of packaging takes up a lot of space, in a box and in the store. And, after a confirmation call to my local solid waste department — they cannot be recycled. So, here’s an example of a poster being sent in a large box, surrounded by pillow packs of air. The photo-26irony here is, the poster is in its own hard cardboard tube that could easily have been shipped by itself. This sort of shipping decision makes me crazy. Not only is it wasteful, the packing material is so voluminous that it takes up half of my back room. I know I could find people who could use this material (and we do have a staffer, Darrilyn, who is amazing about finding homes for bubble wrap), but I don’t have the space to store it.

I wrote a blog post early on in my ShelfTalker time about hurting myself with a Baker and Taylor box. They had recently switched to a new box system that involved a lot of glue, very strong glue. Sadly, these boxes remain and they still can’t be recycled or reused easily because of the glue and the plastic wrap that’s permanently stuck to the bottom of the box. My heart sank the other day when I saw that a publisher had switched to this kind of box as well. The problem with this kind of box is they are very hard to break down and they don’t stack easily. I know this sounds like a minor problem, but when I get a six-box shipment and the boxes topple over the rest of the recycling because they can’t lay flat, it’s a problem. Okay, it’s a minor problem, but it’s still irritating.

One last vent and then I’m done, I promise. This has nothing to do with the packaging from publishers, but from the carriers themselves. Why are the boxes so dirty these days? I’m not sure what’s happening in the back of these trucks, but it’s so dusty that sometimes boxes that aren’t well sealed come in the store covered with a layer of grit and grime. And if I pick the box up the right way and use the “lift with your legs” method, my shirt gets dirty.

But, every day, a very large percentage of packages come unharmed, clean and ready to be put on the shelves, and let’s face it, any day where I get look at all the great books that come in is a pretty darned good day.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Shipping

  1. Melissa Posten

    I work at a wholesaler now rather than at a retail store, and the packing problems are even more ridiculous. We get things that look like someone stumbled over to the box with fifty books in their hands, threw them all up into the air, grabbed the box off the floor and ran around catching all the books with it. Then they slap some tape on it and off it goes!

    We get a lot of single copy damages within larger shipments. The favorite way of most pubs is to re-send these books alone in padded envelopes. Inevitably, the books are almost always damaged again, because they get bent in transit. Sometimes we’ve had a book come re-damaged three or four times.

    For awhile, one major publisher was shipping Big Books in these flat packages that weren’t sealed all the way around. The corners of the books would slide out and, you guessed it, get damaged.

    One small nonfiction publisher routinely hurls their books into boxes and stuffs wrapping paper or gift bag stuffing on top. Another uses PACKING PEANUTS. Packing peanuts should be illegal.

    I agree completely that the boxes that are glued should be outlawed.

    I think my true favorites, though, are the publishers who ship their boxes taped with nuclear-strength tape and then affix a giant sticker to the outside that says DO NOT OPEN WITH SHARP OBJECT. Am I supposed to open the box with the power of my mind?

  2. Kathy Isaacs

    My pet peeve is the single book that arrives between two pasted-together sheets of corrugated cardboard with a tiny scored strip that is supposed to be the opener. Two pairs of pliers are necessary to open this package and sometimes the cover gets damaged.
    On the good side, my UPS store will take any and all forms of bubble wrap and packages of air to reuse in their own packing.

  3. Carol Chittenden

    One peeve, one praise song:

    Too much merchandise arrives damaged because it was packed in such a way that it could move around inside the packaging, or the packaging couldn’t stand up to the stresses of shipping, or both. This is SO COSTLY, because it’s not only the goods, but also the staff time to follow up, two more shipping charges to get the same book back on the shelf, and all the paperwork of crediting the damaged goods. A small investment in training the warehouse staff would pay off bigtime.

    On the other hand, we put out a sign in front of our store offering “Good Clean Boxes Free: Ask Inside”. This maintains an equilibrium more or less continuously, and even the Baker & Taylor style boxes are greedily carried away for many further adventures. We often show them how to cut away the extra plastic shrinkwrap so it’s out of the way without exposing anything to the incredibly sticky adhesive below it. Our sign is actually on a box (the “Box Box”) so it only goes out when we actually have spares to offer.

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