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Which Shipping Company Is Kindest To Your Packages? 480

Posted by samzenpus
from the handle-however-you-want dept.
Ant writes "Popular Mechanics mailed a bunch of sensors on an epic journey to find out which American shipping company is the most careful with your packages. From the article: 'One disheartening result was that our package received more abuse when marked "Fragile" or "This Side Up." The carriers flipped the package more, and it registered above-average acceleration spikes during trips for which we requested careful treatment.' Here's what they found."
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Which Shipping Company Is Kindest To Your Packages?

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  • TSA (Score:5, Funny)

    by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Sunday November 28, 2010 @09:56PM (#34370272) Homepage Journal
    . . .will be kind to your package, as long as there is not too much junk in it.
    • Re:TSA (Score:5, Funny)

      by Dayze!Confused (717774) <slashdot.org@ohy ... BSDcom minus bsd> on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:21PM (#34370510) Homepage Journal

      When I worked at UPS I remember my foot going through a Dell package, they had pretty sturdy boxes, just not a match for my steeled toed boots...

      • Re:TSA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MadnessASAP (1052274) <madnessasap@gmail.com> on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:57PM (#34370782)

        I currently work for a Canadian shipping company that handles UPS, Purolator, DHL and a bit of FedEx air freight across the country and I can tell you at 4 AM outside in the cold and rain after the 4000th 50lb supposedly fragile package it's REALLY hard to give a flying(get it? 'cause it's air freight) fuck about your shipment. And of course as they say in the article, express shipping (read: air freight) is expensive, to keep a reasonable profit margin sacrifices have to be made and so that although 1 in 1000 might get damaged the other 999 make it to their destination on time and in one piece.

        • Re:TSA (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anrego (830717) * on Sunday November 28, 2010 @11:49PM (#34371106)

          I actually don't mind this at all.. but I wish shipping companies did a better job of handling the aftermath.

          I can accept that in order for me to have a package sent from somewhere in the bowels of the USA to my door step here in Canada within 2 days for under $50 .. some corners need to be trimmed. Trying to deal with UPS over the phone however is way too painful, and DHL is (in my experience) akin to eating a lightbulb.

          • Re:TSA (Score:4, Insightful)

            by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@world3. n e t> on Monday November 29, 2010 @09:33AM (#34373636) Homepage

            I can accept that in order for me to have a package sent from somewhere in the bowels of the USA to my door step here in Canada within 2 days for under $50 .. some corners need to be trimmed.

            Like the wages bill for the legion of highly trained and helpful staff you want to answer the phone? There is a reason we have to put up with shitty menus and recorded messages. Everyone wants the best deal and when looking at the cost of a service they don't factor in the value of support when things go wrong.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CAIMLAS (41445)

          99.9% 'fragile handling' doesn't bother me.

          What bothers me is that sensitive equipment which can be inperceptively damaged by such handling is difficult to detect.

          Specifically, hard drives. They are the basis of our society, and damage from improper handling can often take days, weeks, or months to determine after the fact. It is not fun to receive a box of disks which has been thrown, jostled, and dropped needlessly; you find out at 3am when several members of an array fail at the same time.

          It's slightly d

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by SkyDude (919251)

            What bothers me is that sensitive equipment which can be inperceptively damaged by such handling is difficult to detect. Specifically, hard drives. They are the basis of our society, and damage from improper handling can often take days, weeks, or months to determine after the fact. It is not fun to receive a box of disks which has been thrown, jostled, and dropped needlessly; you find out at 3am when several members of an array fail at the same time.

            I'm not going to make excuses for poor service, but items that can be damaged through normal (or abnormal) handling should be packaged to survive such a trip. Not only the exterior corrugated parcel but in the example you cite, drives need to be engineered to handle such potential shocks. Don't drives park the heads in a safe zone now? Or are you referring to the platters being damaged?

            UPS offers packaging assistance for any shipper, but having been in logistics for a number of years, I can tell you few tak

        • Re:TSA (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2010 @04:34AM (#34372314)

          "I can tell you at 4 AM outside in the cold and rain after the 4000th 50lb supposedly fragile package it's REALLY hard to give a flying(get it? 'cause it's air freight) fuck about your shipment."

          Boy, aren't you glad that pilots don't stop giving a flying fuck about your ass after 10 hours of flying? Or that the doctor doesn't stop giving a flying fuck about you after you've been bleeding for 10 minutes and (s)he's all messy? Or that after a long double-shift the guy building your car and assembling the brakes doesn't stop giving a fuck after a long 12 hour shift?

          Fucking pussy. Suck it up. And stop breaking my expensive shit.

        • Re:TSA (Score:5, Informative)

          by Xelios (822510) on Monday November 29, 2010 @04:38AM (#34372324)
          This is exactly right. I spent almost a year working at UPS while I was going to university as a "pre-loader", night shift loading the delivery trucks. The place was chronically understaffed, full of temp workers from work placement agencies, and far too small for the number of boxes we went through on any given night. Christmas time was the worst though. Our volume almost doubled, but our staff didn't, and neither did the time we had to get everything done. If anything we had less time due to the shift before us lagging behind because of their ridiculous work load.

          The cars are all lined up along a conveyor belt, and your job is basically to stand by the belt, pick off every box that belongs on the 3 or 4 cars you're responsible for and load them into the proper position on the proper shelf. Sometimes the managers just want to "git 'r done", so they'll have the tractor trailers unloaded so fast that it floods the belt and nobody has any time to actually load their trucks. All the boxes are basically thrown off the belt into a giant pile outside the trucks, because there's no time to do anything else. And remember, this is all happening at 3 am in a warehouse largely open to the sub zero temperatures outside. Tim Hortons coffee was the only thing that kept us going.

          It's probably worth mentioning that every second box is labeled as fragile, there's really no point anymore. If it really is fragile, then either ship it by air or throw some extra padding into the box. Aside from that, make the box interesting in some way. Paint it bright pink. Slap some funny comics on it. Anything to make it stand out and brighten someone's day a little. Those boxes will usually get the royal treatment, because at 4 am it's the little things that keep you going.

          Lastly, theft was never really a problem where I worked. I know of one guy who was fired on the spot for taking a pack of gum out of a box that broke open as it was being handled with care. Though if someone wants to steal something and is smart about it, I think it'd be fairly easy to get away with.
    • by Dhalka226 (559740)
      I hear you're alright 99% of the time if you wrap your junk in a clear plastic bag before beginning the process.
    • by PPH (736903)

      So, you're saying that TSA has something against large packages? Pretty insecure of them, IMHO.

      captcha: throbs

  • by AxoltAl (1155115) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @09:58PM (#34370300)
    I recommended people mark their packages with something like "Danger- Live Fish"...
    • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:02PM (#34370346) Journal
      Would labeling it "bottle deer urine" work as well, too?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      i knew a lot of people that worked for UPS loading trucks... they said if you sent a long cardboard tube it was pretty much guaranteed to be used as a hockey stick or baseball bat on other small packages.
      • In a just world... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by msauve (701917) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:21PM (#34370518)
        they wouldn't be working there long. Also, it makes me wonder why you have reprobates as friends.
        • by Eskarel (565631) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:58PM (#34370788)

          I worked with a guy when I was young who was an ex UPS employee, he told similar stories.

          The reality is that the guys working in the shipping center are generally young, unskilled, and paid crap. Even if they actually got fired for screwing around(which they generally don't), they'd just be replaced with another batch of idiots.

      • by schklerg (1130369) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:26PM (#34370558)
        I worked for the aforementioned shipping company. I unloaded trucks. Here I learned that Fragile is a French word, meaning, "to drop kick". Also, the phrase, "UPS, where the Q Stands for Quality". There's no Q in UPS you say??? EXACTLY! Of course I still use them...
      • by schklerg (1130369) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:37PM (#34370640)
        I felt a bit guilty after the last post. I did work for UPS, and I did learn those phrases. And while I saw my fair share of kicked in, mangled, or shredded packages (some of them at my hand), I never saw it done deliberately. You have a lot of work to do in a short time and things get treated rough. Things that say "this side up" or "fragile" just get handled more as a result of the instructions and thus they will be more prone to error on statistics alone. If you care about your stuff, pack it well and then the company doesn't really matter.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by 1310nm (687270)
        These test results are quite surprising to me, as the packages I receive from UPS are typically battered and have damaged corners, whereas those from FedEx are typically well-treated. I even had UPS call me once to tell me that a package, which I had taken care to tape really well, had come open during shipment, and was apparently in such a state of acceleration that the contents were strewn about, so they wanted to ask me what was in the box.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Lehk228 (705449)
          my experience has been the same, UPS will destroy or misdeliver at random, so i use them for things worth under $100 if they are the cheapest option and as long as getting the shipment there successfully in a timely manner does not matter
      • by director_mr (1144369) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:46PM (#34370712)

        i knew a lot of people that worked for UPS loading trucks... they said if you sent a long cardboard tube it was pretty much guaranteed to be used as a hockey stick or baseball bat on other small packages.

        I worked at UPS, and had several friends that worked there as well. Either you are trolling slashdot and making stories up, or your friends were spinning quite the story. You are dealing with such a high volume of packages, you don't have time to play around with individual packages for your own amusement at UPS. Additionally, they grade your performance based on the volume of packages you handle, and the percentage of them that are mishandled (damaged, lost, sent to the wrong area). Anyone who would play around and intentionally damage packages wouldn't last long. I suspect the same would be true of any package delivery company, really.

        It interesting what slashdot chooses to reward the informative score to.

        That being said, long cardboard tube do seem to be damaged more often than normal boxes. This is because they are typically weaker than the average cardboard box, very often they are not filled to capacity, giving them no internal structure to resist crushing forces, and the conveyers and rollers don't handle them as well as a normal box, because of their narrow shape and ability to roll around. Also they are an odd shape, so if a load shifts in a trailer, they can be exposed to some shearing forces because of they are usually longer than the average box.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hedwards (940851)
          That's much more consistent with what I've seen. I've never worked for UPS, but I did run the loading dock at a high rise. UPS seemed to be much more professional in terms of the way they conducted things and in my experience I've rarely had any trouble with them manhandling my packages.
        • by EdIII (1114411) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @11:31PM (#34370970)

          Well..... I will believe the troll first based on my experience. If you want +informative....

          Back when hard drives used to be HUGE (I mean really big) we built a 10k engineering workstation. The case was made out of solid fucking steel. Solid. Steel. Why? Because we had two of those monster hard drives mounted inside it. We needed to move this thing around the country so we had a specially built container, but this was shipped from the company that built it for us... and they used UPS. When we received it, the power supply was obliterated. The first hard drive had an end crushed so bad you could see the platters. The steel frame was warped to the point it sheared off the screws holding the hard drives in it. Both hard drives fell through to the bottom taking out all the cards and cracking the motherboard in half.

          UPS response? "Well you obviously dropped it". Really? Reaalllly? From what, a fucking 15 story building? The company that built it had it insured and had to build us another one, but we heard it took a year and a bunch of lawyers for UPS to finally cough up the money. Seriously, anyone with half a brain would have looked at that system and realized it was not due to it falling, but being crushed by a rather large object like a UPS truck running over it.

          How about a second one....

          Company purchased a Persian rug for the front of the office (insured of course) and we received it with two holes straight through the rug that exactly match one of those little loading trucks.

          UPS response? "You must have purchased it like that".

          So after using the lawyerpult a 2nd time it was decided that company wide down to the smallest detail, UPS was banned from use for any reason. We informed all of our vendors, and to this day anyone involved with that company still remembers the horror stories and does their best to dissuade others from using UPS as well.

          Not mentioning the delayed and missing packages....

          Since then, I have worked with many companies and clients and have received and opened a large number of UPS packages. I would have to put the damage rate around 30%. Superficially, on the box that is. I am talking large punctures and crushed corners. Only a lot of peanuts and careful packaging keep the claims rolling in against UPS. I also honestly forget how many networking products I have pulled out of UPS boxes that were also partially crushed but the product was still intact due to its internal packaging. Let's just put it at "often".

          So yeah.... I don't believe the people making those posts that make UPS look like incompetent psychopathic jackasses are trolling. From my experience, and the horror stories of other people, it seems like UPS hires sadists that actively try to one up each other.

          Of course what about Fedex?

          More Expensive. 2 lost packages in nearly 20 years. No damages. A few delays.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2010 @02:11AM (#34371744)

            My favorite tracking log entry:
            Delayed- train derailment.

          • by geoskd (321194) on Monday November 29, 2010 @07:35AM (#34373068)

            Company purchased a Persian rug for the front of the office (insured of course) and we received it with two holes straight through the rug that exactly match one of those little loading trucks.

            I find it interesting that you claim UPS was the carrier because there are several glaring problems with your Story:

            First, UPS did not handle packages above 120Lbs back when drives and drive assemblies were the size and weight you refer to. Crated materials were explicitly excluded until recently. That means that your drive assembly was handled by another carrier, most likely a freight forwarding company, but not UPS (UPS bought Overnight about 5 years ago, and that was their first real foray into freight).

            Second, In all of the UPS facilities that I have ever been in, UPS does not use Fork trucks for moving any packages. They only use those for equipment maintenance, if they even have one at that particular facility. Freight forwarding companies use them extensively for moving pallet loads around. A Persian rug big enough for an office setting would also exceed UPS size restrictions, so again, it looks like your claim is either against another carrier, or in the case of the rug, possibly the shipper.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by EdIII (1114411)

              Well... I know I am not lying, which is what you see to be accusing me of.

              The computer is without question. I was physically there during delivery. It was a UPS truck, a UPS driver, etc. Pretty easy to conclude from the big UPS letters on the side of the truck. I never said the computer was over 120 lbs either. You assumed that. These drives were big, 5.25", long, and took up two bays each, but that does not get the computer to 120 lbs. I am a big guy and I was the one who lifted it to the table, but

    • by Drishmung (458368) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @11:21PM (#34370912)
      You do know you can mail live bees?

      When I worked for the Post Office, I came to the conclusion that the only way to send fragile stuff any distance was to hand carry it, or make it relatively indestructible.

      Point in case: overseas surface mail. A fragile package (marked as such) would be carefully placed, right side up, in a mail bag, under the watchful eye of a supervisor. After which (there being no 'fragile' overseas surface mail service), the rest of the packages would be thrown in on top of it from up to 20ft away. The full mail bag would then be consigned to cold, unfeeling machinery which would transport it around the building, ending with a 10ft drop into a chute leading to the loading bay. There, strong men---no doubt caring, thoughtful and gentle as kittens given the opportunity---would toss the bags as far as they could into the back of a truck, whence it was delivered to the docks and thence to a ship, where it got a special low rate because it was used as packing to stop the rest of the cargo from shifting in high seas.

      The point is that very soon in its journey, any possible 'FRAGILE' label is useless, as the package has been aggregated into a larger more economic mass, and that aggregate gets treated pretty much just like any other piece of cargo.

      The only solutions are

      • Encase it in Carbonite
      • Hand carry it
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by arb phd slp (1144717)

        My brother kept bees in high school and he did purchase bees in this way. The packages tend to hum audibly. The carriers actually do handle those boxes rather gingerly.

        • by BetterSense (1398915) on Monday November 29, 2010 @01:18PM (#34375934)
          I'm a beekeeper. Bees come in the mail by the pound, packaged in small wooden crates. Imagine a wood crate about the size of a shoebox. On two opposite faces of the box, the sides are not wood, but instead are stapled-on window screen, with no reinforcing ribs or anything. So you can see straight through the box and see all the bees crawling around in there. You can also see their little legs sticking through the screen when they walk around. If you pick it up with your hand touching either of the sides that are screen, you can definitely feel the little bee-legs caressing your hand. The whole thing hums angrily when you shake it or set it down too hard. It goes right through the good ole' USPS that way. The hilarity of it never gets old to me.
  • Interesting but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Again (1351325) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @09:59PM (#34370312)
    The test is interesting but in my opinion the data set is too small to draw any real conclusions. It would be nice to see this test done at least a few times per mail carrier.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RJFerret (1279530)

      I can tell you a couple decades ago, in the 80s, before paintball became a common activity, a local paintball store had their deliveries shipped marked both "fragile" and unmarked--they quickly learned to not mark anything fragile to reduce breakage/costs.

      It's like a heading "DON'T READ THIS". Nothing will draw attention to it more.

      If you don't want to get "special" treatment, don't draw attention to yourself, as any vulnerable prey will attest.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        I'm pretty sure that a chesty woman with any sort of writing on here shirt will get attention much more quickly. I've always sort of wondered on what basis they get upset for people looking. If you don't want to get looked at putting writing on the shirt is probably not the wisest approach.
    • Agreed! And the report is woefully incomplete. You never report means without some sort of estimate of the standard deviation/standard error associated with the measurement. I can't tell if the difference in the average number of spikes is meaningful or not without knowing how tightly the results were clustered.

      (My guess is "not very tightly," given that it sounds like the highest and lowest numbers of spikes (average) were the same planes, basically. That suggests that their method is flawed or that th

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        You must have missed the part at the very beginning of the article where they stated they did not have the time or the budget to get results that are anywhere statistically significant.

        What moron gives a standard deviation/standard error when they know their sample size is too small to be statistically significant anyway?

        This was just an "I wonder" kind of test. They get some surprising results, but you cannot draw any conclusions from them. You can't even say whether UPS, FedEx, or USPS handle packages t

  • Package Penetration (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:04PM (#34370362)

    It would be interesting to include penetration of the box. I've had multiple UPS packages with large circular holes punched in the side and through a significant portion of the box as if it had lost a jousting match. I always wondered if it was the result of the sorting machinery getting out of hand.

    On a side note, has anyone noticed Amazon switching to obscure brand carriers (OnTrac/Ensenda/Lasership) for shipping even 2-day Prime and overnight? These guys are basically non-uniformed individuals driving their personal vehicles to deliver, or more often, failing to deliver. I bet these same tests done for these carriers would be a real horror show.

    • by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot&stango,org> on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:24PM (#34370540) Homepage Journal

      It would be interesting to include penetration of the box. I've had multiple UPS packages with large circular holes punched in the side and through a significant portion of the box as if it had lost a jousting match.

      At my last job, about 10 years ago, UPS dropped off a 21" CRT. The dead center of one side of the box had a hole in it the shape and size of one fork of a forklift, and there was the pleasant tinkling sound of broken glass when the box was moved. Unfortunately the receptionist who signed for it didn't notice that when it was dropped off. We didn't even bother to open the box, we just called the vendor and arranged a swap.

      The president's office at that company was very close to where the UPS trucks would park when delivering to the building. One day I was in there working on her laptop when they pulled up outside. The driver went in the back, and then one by one I saw the packages for our building come arcing out and hitting the ground outside the truck.

      After those incidents I stopped using UPS whenever possible. When I cannot avoid using them, I use an absurd amount of padding and insure the package up the wazoo.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hedwards (940851)
        That's not typical from my experience. Neither UPS nor Fed Ex typically operate like that. Sure it probably does happen, but not often and they'll likely get dealt with. The problem though is that UPS is strongly union and getting rid of a driver is really difficult they'll quite literally stop delivering to the building if the driver isn't being taken care of.

        But, in my experience I used to run a loading dock at a highrise, and none of the drivers for UPS, Fed Ex or any of the major delivery companies e
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Reziac (43301) *

          I used to have to go down to UPS's regional sorting facility in Pacoima (Los Angeles) to pick up packages. The sorting conveyors were clearly visible from the pickup window. Two interesting points:

          -- Boxes fell as far as ~30 feet in the course of being shifted from one conveyor belt to another.

          -- There was a HUGE pile (probably 30-40 feet across and 15 feet high) of obviously smashed boxes (in all shapes and sizes) shoved into the back corner beyond the conveyors, clearly having been put there via forklift.

  • USPS... gentle? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lyinhart (1352173) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:04PM (#34370368)
    At first glance, the USPS being the most gentle seems to be surprising. But after further thought, I'm not the least bit surprised. I'm guessing that the private companies have more machines handling their packages and of course machines don't particularly care about being gentle with the box of cookies your grandma baked. The USPS on the other hand has been sort of notorious for hanging on to its considerable workforce (which is one of the reasons they're in their current financial situation), some of whom handle packages in lieu of automation.
    • by rolfwind (528248)

      OTOH, this:

      'One disheartening result was that our package received more abuse when marked "Fragile" or "This Side Up."

      was absolutely no surprise to me. Especially after seeing on youtube how some FedEx/UPS people handle normal packages, I can only expect that "Fragile" is a red flag to certain people who take a special sadistic delight in destroying stuff.

      I have had hundreds of packages the last years, but the only one was beaten up was marked fragile. Luckily, the photographic lamps survived inside, but

    • by PPH (736903) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:47PM (#34370716)

      At first glance, the USPS being the most gentle seems to be surprising.

      Not really. Slow speed == low rates of acceleration == less damage.

      The geezer who took my package at the USPS window this morning probably hasn't made it to the 'outgoing' bin yet.

  • I just imagine it is handled with the same care as the opening scene of Ace Ventura.
    DHL is the worst, I had electronics shipped from China and the box came soaked with water. Never have had a good experience with them.
  • No surprise here (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:15PM (#34370466)
    As anyone who has ever worked at an airport, delivery service, or any other place involving shipping or delivery would know, "Fragile" translates to "Throw me" in thrower-speech. In fact, I usually warn against labeling it as such and instead suggest ways to add padding.
    • Are people who work in such places just spiteful?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nidi62 (1525137)
        Not necessarily. When you have a flight scheduled to go out in 15-20 minutes and have had 30-40 bags gate checked, you don't have time to carry them down the stairs one by one. You have to just throw them down the chute. You don't have the time to think about what's in them. Of course, I am sure there are some out there that are just spiteful.
      • by Tridus (79566)

        Ever watched the guys at the airport who load and unload luggage? Same deal. They don't give a shit, it's not their stuff and there's no accountability for mishandling cargo.

      • Re:Wait, why? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Eskarel (565631) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @11:09PM (#34370850)

        Not exactly.

        What they are is generally is people who are paid badly and whose only required qualification is the ability to lift a certain weight. Which translates to "muscular 18-25 year old males with no education". Think of any 18-25 year old males you know or to what you were like back then if you were. Personally I was a dickhead, and your average UPS employee is probably worse.

        I knew a guy who used to work in one of those places and he said that they used to have competitions as to who could break more fragile packages. They're bored, they're stupid, and they're not looking for a lot of career advancement.

      • Re:Wait, why? (Score:5, Informative)

        by CoderBob (858156) on Monday November 29, 2010 @01:40AM (#34371610)

        When I worked the loading docks for FedEx in college, it isn't a question of spite. It's overuse of the "Fragile" stickers without adequate packaging.

        Take, for example, the current crop of TVs. Some idiot orders one from buy.com or walmart.com, and a 52" TV that is delivered to the stores, 3 at a time, banded to a skid, is instead just picked up, a shipping label slapped on it, and out the door to the UPS/FedEx/other small parcel carrier of choice. These items are not packaged correctly for that kind of shipment- which is why, if you read the fine print, most carriers are not liable for damages to them.

        Or, for a more "WTFBBQ?" example, let's say I'm shipping, to you, restaurant-grade plates. Nice, solid, plates, dishwasher safe. If you were a restaurant supply business that gets these in regularly with the "FRAGILE" markings all over the package, you laugh at the labeling. Inside, there is a latticework of corrugated cardboard, if you're lucky double-walled, that seperates each plate into a compartment. There is no other packaging. No bubble wrap. Nothing to hold structural integrity. There is about 50 pounds of china in this package, and each plate is separated from it's neighbor by.... a piece of cardboard.

        After watching packages like that come through, over and over again, people quit caring about "FRAGILE". If the shipper can't be bothered to package something in a manner that it would survive a 3 to 5 foot drop (depending on carrier) the carrier isn't liable anyway. People tend to put more and more stickers on things that are packaged poorly. If it's packaged well, short of getting run over by the delivery van, it shouldn't be damaged in shipping. Not that accidents don't happen- FedEx, for instance, uses conveyor systems to get packages from trailers to the delivery vans, and the system allows for "sorters" to push packages off one conveyor down chutes to a second. In theory there should be no damage here, again, but sometimes packages will jam in the conveyor, or stick in the chutes, and before the busy handler notices there is a 145 pound UPS battery pack jammed up against your mother's crystal. It happens.

        Add in people who ship lawnmowers with oil already in the engine- "THIS SIDE UP". Well, newsflash: it has to go in the delivery van. There is only so much room in one of these, and if your box doesn't FIT under the shelves in the back "THIS SIDE UP", and doesn't fit in the aisle between the shelves where the driver can get around it, it WILL end up on a side, probably leaking oil into parts of the motor it shouldn't be in. Far too many shippers don't actually know how packages are handled once they leave their facilities and just assume "cheaper is better".

        If I seem bitter about this, it's because I've seen a lot of it. I've been the guy sorting between conveyors and had a poorly packaged box spill shards of glass all over. I've watched co-workers take a bath in acid because some idiot didn't know how to package his hazardous materials for shipping. I've had a printer from a major manufacturer get shipped in the nice shiny cardboard box you see it in at the store, with the single strip of cheap tape holding the box shut fall out of the bottom of the box when I picked it up. I've lost count of how many times I've seen someone cram a box that was too small for the contents just so they wouldn't pay the upcharge for the next size up oversize shipping. Or hardcover books shipped in cheap, paper envelopes that are just a half inch too small- so the corners of the books tear the paper, regardless of handling. Shippers tend to look at it from an overall business perspective. It's the Fight Club recall thing all over- if the cost of better packaging is more than the cost of dealing with damaged goods, they'll keep the craptastic packaging.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I get that. I do. People package stuff wrong -- under-packaged, over-packaged, or just stupidly packaged. If I want it to get there safely, I shouldn't count on "fragile", I should package properly.

          What I don't get is why you'd warn against labeling that way, or why you'd treat a potentially-poorly-packaged "fragile" package worse than a normal one, other than bitterness.

    • They are impact sensors. They almost make tilt sensors, temperature sensors, and so on. They are extremely reliable little things that can be purchased at a variety of levels for when they go off. They are good enough Mythbusters likes to use them.

      So in the event a package really is sensitive not only should you pad it (hey, mistakes happen) but stick a ShockWatch on it. The handlers ought to know well enough to be careful with it when there's an indicator in place. If not, well then when it gets where it i

  • I Mark Mine (Score:5, Funny)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:24PM (#34370542) Homepage Journal
    "Do Not Impale With Spear". So far none of the packages that I've sent this way have been impaled with spears.
  • The number of times they tested the same route with the same carrier was 0. The results are meaningless.

    • The number of times they tested the same route with the same carrier was 0. The results are meaningless.

      Nice one, Sherlock. They did say that in TFA:

      "The parcel was shipped a dozen times (we had neither the time nor the budget to make the hundreds of trips necessary for statistical significance), a modest experiment to see how the device performed and gather enough data to draw broad conclusions."

      Fortunately this wasn't submitted for a peer review journal.

  • by Technician (215283) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:34PM (#34370616)

    When you plaster this on the outside of the package, I find the damage is less.

    http://www.agmcontainer.com/shock_indicators/shock_indicators_labels.htm [agmcontainer.com]

    The companies are good at trying to avoid claims. Some monkeys like to see what the tripped indicator looks like and test them, tripping the outside indicators, but not tripping ones inside the box.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The inside story I got about these things is that the shipping workers often take them off and put on new ones. I work in a University lab where we ship lots of stuff out for repairs, so my sources are reliable, I think.

  • by alanshot (541117) <.rurick. .at. .techondemand.net.> on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:37PM (#34370636)

    ESPECIALLY with two man lift rated boxes, UPS is FAR worse than others.

    we use UPS daily at my company to receive shipments because they are fastest from "Brown". Unfortunately, boxes of all sizes and shapes arrive in less than perfect condition, and several % of them arrive actually opened (and some missing product).

    Fedex, not a single problem. (although we receive less than 5% of our shipments from them so its not a fair shake)

    From our regular UPS driver: they use LOTS of temp help, and lots of automation. both are HELL on boxes as they get flipped and tossed around, and most times THROWN from place to place. (he tells me this as he is in his truck, standing/walking ON somebody else's boxes to reach some of our stuff)

    Case in point:

    We ordered a dozen new servers from dell. they arrived via fedex, (78lbs each) each in a box big enough for a 5' tall person to fit inside in the fetal position. each box had a convenient built in pallet made of cardboard for easy transport with rabbit jacks or fork trucks. Each arrived in pristine condition.

    I shipped them out to my branch offices, and drove to meet them. They arrived in OK condition at each site between Nashville and Pensacola. I installed them, and placed the old servers (which were nearly identical in size, shape, etc) in the boxes and instructed our people to ship them back to my office.

    as they started arriving, each and every last one was destroyed. luckilly most servers were still intact, and only one actually came OUT of the box when they split open, causing damage. the rest was all cosmetic.

    the best we could determine is during the flips our boxes went through as they were "rolled" around by one guy instead of being lifted by two it ended up on its back. then at some point as it was laying upside down, some brain surgeon saw the pallet bottom and thought to himself, "hey, look! Handles!" Unfortunately the box was not designed that way, and as soon as you jerk on the "pallet", the whole box bottom comes off (I demonstrated on a brand new one that I hadnt shipped out yet). If you were lucky enough to be attempting to fling the box to its next spot, the server would come spilling out all over the warehouse floor.

    so brown, you are cheap, but im not a fan.

    \and dont get me started on the a**raping Brown charges for ebay shipping vs corporate customers.
    \\UPS/ebay/paypal wanted to charge me $120 to ship an 80lb box.
    \\\I shipped it using my company's account and reimbursed them for the $25 they were charged as a corp account. BS!!!

  • expect a 5' drop (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kyril (1097)

    Advice I've heard is that, especially during the holiday shipping rush, expect your package may take at least one 5' fall, as the fastest way to get a truck unpacked is to take a stack of boxes and spill it. We ship too much crap for them to have time to treat packages properly--and if we didn't ship so much, they'd still treat the packages quite briskly because we're too stingy to pay for proper handling.

  • They put a forklift fork through the front of my 1U server that was coming back from being repaired. After making a lot of fuss, sending photos etc they refunded the shipping costs to the guys that repaired it - leaving me with a forked server and no change to the original repair bill.
  • Simple (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Sunday November 28, 2010 @10:51PM (#34370738)
    Put "Fragile, Glass" and "Biohazard" stickers on it.
  • They would need to do many more trips to gain any statistical significance.

  • US Postal Service (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JakFrost (139885) on Monday November 29, 2010 @12:13AM (#34371232)

    US Postal Service - Great Domestic & International Service for Me

    For selling all my stuff on eBay and shipping sold items to Europe I've been using USPS for the last few years since they offered their online service and I've never had a problem. I must have shipped around 100-packages of weights between 1-40 lbs to many states and also to Brazil, UK, Hungary, Germany, Romania, and other countries without any issues or damaged parts. Their tracking is a bit slow, maybe a day behind the actual package, but it is good enough for me. Their shipping rates undermine UPS and FedEx every single time, sometimes by 50-100% of the rate. I package my stuff very well reusing the packaging materials from Newegg and Amazon packages that I use, including peanuts, air padded bags, the little and big plastic bubble wrap, and even newspapers. I usually use Priority but I've used Express occasionally when required. I'm happy with their service and the folks who bought my various eBay things were all happy with the shipping prices and delivery times. The online label printing and filling out of the customs forms makes my shipping very easy and my interaction at the post office is very short when I just hand the people the packages at the counter after I tell them it's already pre-paid. Sometimes I get the skip the waiting line. I've requested refunds from USPS for the shipping labels on packages that couldn't make the weight or size restrictions for international packages and I've always received the refund on my postage after about a 7-day waiting period. So I highly recommend them.

    US Postal Service - Print Shipping Labels [usps.com]

    UPS Story #1 - Dropped Server & Refused Insurance Coverage
    My one single shipping story with UPS was when I sold a 80 lb Compaq ProLiant 5500 Dual Pentium Pro server to a buyer in California. He received it damaged after it was dropped on it's corner so hard that the entire frame of the server was scewed and many of the parts inside were cracked or popped and broke out of their sockets. The server was DOA. UPS inspected the server and the package at his location and determined that the package was improperly packed and the refused the insurance coverage on it. I went back to the professional shipping center which packaged the server and they apologized to me, told me that UPS has screwed them before like that by refusing insurance coverage, and they refunded my shipping costs and the cost of the old server from the eBay sale. I refunded all the money back to the buyer. That's my personal story with UPS.

    UPS Story #2 - Friends Working As UPS Inspectors And Their Anecdotes

    My friend was hired by a third-party company to inspect UPS packages for size and weight mislabeling and then charging the shippers additional costs. He worked their for a year or more and told me the stories that took place on the unloading floor. When the conveyors would jam up or stop working the packages would be pushed as hard as possible and kicked through the bottlenecks. Some conveyors ran high and some low to meet up and a bunch of packages would fall off the high conveyors from a good 10-foot height just to be thrown back onto the low conveyors. If any package on the floor broke open it would be looked through for valuable goods and ransacked. Around the holiday seasons when the package volume would increase and a lot of temporary workers were hired any packages from known popular company brands like Oakley or Rayban sunglasses would be routinely opened and ransacked, any electronic packages were also likely to be opened. The metal detectors used for employee entrance and exists for the shippers would be easily bypassed by a reach-around to friends, or by stashing the stuff and hiding it just to pick it up later or have one of the regular works with a truck pick them up. When heavy boxes with ammunition were dropped on the floor and bullets would spill out they would just tape them up and ship them off,

    • Re:US Postal Service (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:55AM (#34372174)

      Americans, if you're shipping to a private address in Europe, please please use the USPS, or at least provide an option so your customers can chose USPS if they wish. The corresponding European delivery services, the various post offices, tend to actually deliver the goods. In my experience, UPS, Fedex, et al, invariably fail to do so, so your customer has to spend half a day going to a wharehouse in the middle of nowhere to pick up the package. This has happened to me in the UK, Ireland, Belgium & France. I avoid buying physical goods from the US because there's a high risk I'll lose half a day's income to delivery companies that don't deliver.

  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Monday November 29, 2010 @02:00AM (#34371690)

    One disheartening result was that our package received more abuse when marked "Fragile" or "This Side Up."

    I'm sure that the package would be handled much more carefully if you stamped "Fragile" and "This Side Up" on it in Arabic.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Monday November 29, 2010 @03:03AM (#34371962)

    The device they created was capable of measuring acceleration, orientation and temperature. But the task wasn't a slam-dunk. "Having a processor constantly awake and writing to an SD card takes a toll on a battery," Brettle says. "But by modifying our LabVIEW code, we were able to put the processor to sleep and selectively write to the SD card. That got us 74 hours of battery life." That's enough juice to gather data from a three-day trip. We were in business.

    This thing was powered by an Energizer Energi To Go XP18000, which has an 18000 mAh capacity, and could only run for a little over three days?! What's happened to embedded designers? Maybe it was just a constraint of having to use an evaluation board, which isn't made for low-power battery operation.

    Decently-written article, BTW. Usually magazines have articles full of grade-school humor, because the "journalist" can't keep serious for more than a couple of sentences at a time.

  • by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Monday November 29, 2010 @06:25AM (#34372740)
    Psychological field test:
    • Spread an abundance of toys into an otherwise empty room.
    • Introduce a kid into the room.
    • Tell the kid he can play with any toy EXCEPT the one you point out.
    • Leave the room.
    • Observe.
    • Be disappointed by the result.
    • Repeat with different kids until utterly appalled by humanity.

    Alternative test:

    • Use fruits instead of toys.
    • Use a woman instead of a kid.
    • Exclude the apple.
    • Let humanity redeem itself through ridiculous penitence.

    The moral: Actively NOT doing something primarily needs you to contemplate performing the actual task. And then you have to suffer the abstinence.

  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Monday November 29, 2010 @01:02PM (#34375734)

    Nearly 30 years ago I stumbled on a way to ship items without any damage happening. I needed to bring back two boxes of stuff from my grandparents. I didn't look to closely at the two boxes, but the airport sure did. "Does this box really have sulfuric acid?" Huh? Oh, that's just the box. Don't worry. It was left over from treating the swimming pool.

    At baggage at my destination, the sulfuric acid box was pristine. Not a scratch, dent, or tear. The corners were perfect. The regular box was beat to hell and barely holding together.

    I doubt you could even use a left over pool chemical box anymore.

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