How do items break in shipping?

Every Friday, we answer a common question about fulfillment, shipping, or business. This week’s question comes from one of the board gamers who entered our giveaway contest for a copy of the board game Scythe. Today we will answer the following question: “how do items break in shipping?”

10 Common Reasons Why Items Break in Shipping

You wait for a few days to receive something you bought online. When the box finally arrives, your eager anticipation reaches its apex. The box looks like it’s seen better days, and your heart sinks a little. When you open the box, your fears are confirmed.

If you’re an online shopper, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re an eCommerce store owner, you probably feel the pain even more acutely. As many as 20% of eCommerce items are returned, compared to the 8-10% rate experienced by brick-and-mortar stores. How many of those returns are due to breakages?

All this begs the question: why on earth do items break in shipping in the first place? Turns out, there a lot of reasons.

  1. When items are shipped – whether to the fulfillment warehouse or to the customer’s house – road conditions cause items to jostle around. This, in turn, damages the items inside the packages. This simple reality is no more avoidable than a giant pothole on a major freeway exit.
  2. When it rains, it pours. Packages are often exposed to heat, humidity, water, and sunlight. Cardboard, tape, and bubble wrap can only hold off the elements so long.
  3. To a lesser extent, warehouse conditions can also be unfavorable for the same reason transportation.
  4. When heavy items are carelessly stacked on top of lighter items in trucks, the lighter items can be crushed.
  5. If a box containing liquids ruptures inside of a truck, it can leak onto other boxes.
  6. If items are improperly packaged, they can be damaged for any of the above reasons.
  7. People handle packages all the time in warehouses. Every once in a while, a well-meaning warehouse worker will drop the package and shatter the contents inside.
  8. Since people are involved in the shipping process, all kinds of bizarre things can go wrong.
  9. Of course, machines aren’t perfect. The very machines that sort mail can also damage its contents when malfunctioning.
  10. Lastly, some packages will inevitably be stolen by porch pirates.

8 Ways to Keep Items from Breaking in Shipping

If you’re running a small business, the idea of goods being broken in transit probably scares you. You’re not completely subject to the tender mercies of global shipping, though.

Here are a few ways you can keep items from breaking in shipping.

  1. Use the right size box so that contents don’t rattle around inside.
  2. Make sure boxes are brand new and well-sealed.
  3. Fill empty space in packages with bubble wrap and other cushioning materials.
  4. Mark fragile items as fragile.
  5. Research transportation companies and only do business with ones that have a good reputation.
  6. Find a great fulfillment company who will be careful with your inventory.
  7. Have a policy for stolen packages.
  8. If all else fails, make returns easy.

Final Thoughts

Items break when shipping for lots of different reasons. It’s a wonder that more don’t break, even!

But if you ship a lot of packages – you’re not helpless. There are a lot of things you can do to reduce the costs incurred by replacing or throwing away broken items 🙂

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