The proliferation of used or vintage instruments and gear being sold online through the various outlets like ebay, reverb and criagslist has the average musician becoming a mini-shipping center. I’ve become intimately familiar with how the different carriers work. I’ve used USPS, FedEx, and UPS to ship packages and I’ve learned a few things about how to maximize your buck.
Step 1 – Where to start – THE BOX
This may be the most important step. The right box is the difference between a boring delivery (like a boring plane ride!) or a nightmare. The average guitar box dimension is 40x16x8. The average bass box dimension is 50x20x8. That size box will accommodate a gig bag or hard shell case with copious amounts space for bubble wrap and/or stryo-peanuts. The rule of thumb is: ‘if you think you have used enough packing material….keep going’.
Because of that, you must package your items well. The last thing you want to do is file a shipping claim. The communications with the buyer and the courier can take many hours out of your life. If your claimed is denied you may have to refund the buyer and now you own a damaged instrument. Who needs that?
You may ask, ‘where do I find the right box? The best place is your local guitar shop. They receive and discard boxes every day. Also if you every receive a guitar or bass bass box you should save it for a rainy day. Recycling is also the most responsible thing we can do for our planet!
19″ rack mountable pro audio needs the appropriate box as well. In fact, you’ll add point$ to your sale if you advertise, “in original box with all box candies”. Rack ears have a tendency to get bent during shipping without the proper box and packing. I save all of the packing peanuts and bubble wrap that I receive for future packaging. The rule of thumb here is, ‘can the unit survive a shoulder height drop?’
Step 2- Which courier should use – UPS, FEDEX or USPS?
That depends on so many factors.
Damage Control: Each situation is going to be judged by your dynamics in your area. For some people their local USPS mail carrier may the worse choice because of mishandling of over worked employees. For others, the same holds true for UPS or FEDEX. So by trial and error you’ll figure out which service works best for you in your area. Many times the buyer will request you don’t use a particular service. Usually that’s because of their personal experiences.
Price: When it comes down to price it’s pretty hard to beat USPS. They are pretty much always going to be less expensive than UPS or FEDEX. I personally find that USPS-Priority Mail is my “go to” choice. Cross country shipping is killer. I do a lot of shipping to the Left Coast and USPS is by far cheaper.
How do I ship? – ground or air: This depends on how large/heavy the package, what’s the value is and how far it’s going. If its really large or heavy (like a 410 bass cabinet) USPS-Parcel Post may be the best way. Warning: It’s a really SLOW service. I have seen an instrument take 10 business days to be delivered intra-state. Don’t expect accurate tracking until the package arrives at the buyers post office for local delivery. If it’s really expensive then it’s definitely going in the air. Likewise if it is a small package going cross country then it’s in better off in the air.
International Shipping: Again this is a case by case scenario. Some countries like China or Japan have very strong mail options. While the mail doesn’t work very well in some countries like Italy. Other countries in Europe still have a strong DHL presence. It’s always best to give your buyer a shipping quote.
Courier Relationships – If you are going to be ‘faithful’ to a particular courier then it’s best to setup an account. This will allow you to get better discounts and print labels on line.
Step 3 – Do I insure?
Always, every time. In most cases the buyer is paying for shipping. Just work the insurance price into the freight cost. If you are paying for shipping just bite the bullet. USPS insures automatically up to certain $ amount. I implore you to insure no matter what.
The Bottom Line:
Shipping like a pro is not that difficult. My mission statement is that I ship in manner that reflects how I would like to receive a package. It’s about details and communication. I always forward tracking # ASAP to my buyers. This is just a professional courtesy I extend.
Keep in mind that you can do every thing right and a package can still be damaged or lost. So don’t forget, Sleep Well……. INSURE EVERYTHING!!!!!!
+ Use recycled packing materials and pack my items extremely well so that there’s no rattling at all.
+ Use the best carrier and service for your particular dynamic. Cost v.s. Time v.s. Damage Possibilty
+ Share tracking #’s ASAP
+ Always insure