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Fri Sept 7 2012 12:38:24

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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Packing and shipping..for many, those are the ugly twin stepsisters of selling online. Most of us have gotten a groove down...the usual materials handy when we need them; a basic idea  in our heads of what certain items will cost to ship; and a postal scale to be sure.

But have you ever had a real challenge? What's the hardest thing you've ever had to ship?

This may also be the biggest thing. Some years back, David Steiner found a unique way to deal with his ginormous solid cast-aluminum metal tractor toy: going Greyhound. This shipping method for super-big and/or heavy items also occurred to me when I sold one of the most cumbersome items I've ever dealt with: a chandelier with crystals.

But Greyhound has some limitations, as David points out. Among others, the buyer will have to go pick up the item; you'll have to drive to a Greyhound terminal; and it does have size limitations -- "measurements of length, width, and height shall not exceed either: A) 33" x 33" x 48" or B) 24" x 53" x 74". Maximum weight per piece is 100 pounds."

Sometimes just finding a box can be most of the challenge. I recently sold a (very cool) vintage Martin guitar -- close to the same type Bob Dylan played -- for a friend. It sold for a healthy sum to a real aficionado. But then I realized I had to package the durn thing. Where to find a box big enough?

But sometimes there really is such a thing as a free lunch...er, box. The owner of our nearby neighborhood music store took me down into his store's basement where they kept all the guitar shipments, and I got a big cardboard box specifically meant for a guitar, for free. (OK, so it's true that over the years we had spent a fortune renting and buying various musical instruments there for our kids, none of which they still play today, but still...).

So sometimes it pays just to ask.

How about you? What has your biggest packing and/or shipping challenge been, and how did you conquer it? Were there any disastrous mistakes, such as breakage of a very expensive item? Post a comment here!




Comments (19) | Permalink

Readers Comments

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: AC_in_Mich This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 7 12:49:44 2012

We've found unique places to go for unusual boxes, and I have to admit to saving boxes I see that are of unusual dimensions.  A Mattress box works great for bicycles, Lamp boxes can handle larger items.

The toughest thing we had to pack was a fancy, handmade beaded collector table that had sold for $8,000 on ebay.  Thank god it came apart into 4 sections!

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
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Fri Sep 7 12:57:03 2012

Hi AC...a mattress box and lamp boxes..great idea! Any tips on the unique places you go to find them? (I've been known to get many from my neighbors, curbside, or from local businesses). I can get free boxes every Thursday from the liquor store but I'd have to black out/wrap over any liquor logos etc.

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: AC_in_Mich This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 7 15:21:07 2012

We go to the local furniture stores, electronic, appliance and sporting good stores.  Some places, like Walmart, have their own recycling.

We have another place that will buy our peanuts, styrofoam etc that we package up for $4.00 a garbage bag, so that works out great, too!

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: sueb22 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 7 15:22:39 2012

A while back I had to ship a ginormous clock, the midcentury style with all the spokes coming out of it, from PA to CA.  With foam over the mirror and a whole roll of bubble and a bag of peanuts, it became too big for the box I was using and the next size up which I had to buy was too big for USPS.  Now I had to use Fed Ex.  Needless to say, my nice sale wound up in the negative column and when the customer got it, she said it didn't work ( which it did in my house).  Total loss on my part, both the clock and the packing material and the shipping!
Now I try and sell books and jewelry and clothes. Nothing so big!

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Fri Sep 7 16:49:47 2012

Many years ago I sold on eBay a framed rock music poster for $75. As I started to pack it, I noticed what appeared to be a tiny crack in the glass. I put my finger on it (to see if I could feel the crack), and instantly that tiny mark turned into a crack the length of the glass and with little "branches" in all directions. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I immediately e-mailed the buyer to say it would take another couple of days to mail because I had to replace the glass. I went out and got a sheet of plexiglass and cut it to size, and then packed and mailed the poster. I ended up losing money on the sale, but I did have a happy buyer.

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: JordanMalik.com This user has validated their user name.
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Sat Sep 8 16:12:31 2012

I've had to ship some gi-normous toys before, and the boxes at Uhaul (i.e. the 'Wardrobe' boxes) are very sturdy and they're readily available (think of how many Uhaul locations are around the country). They run $9 to $11 or so but I just build the price of that (and the shipping charges due to the sheer size of them) into the selling price of the toy.

-Jordan Malik
JordanMalik.com & ResellToys.com

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Sun Sep 9 09:25:37 2012

The hardest I've done was a steam locomotive whistle packed & shipped off to to the UK.

It came within 1 lb of max weight for USPS and pretty close to the girth requirements. Shipping was around $200, but considerably less than than UPS or FedEx.

Fortunately, since it was all metal, I just got some red styro insulation & built the cradle to hold it. A quick trip to a UPS Mail store got a suitable box (at retail).

The great part is that the new owner was going to use the whistle on the various steam locomotives preserved and operating there. It produces a much, much different sound and intensity that what the Brits are used to. I wonder if the Queen's train had a chance to hear it....

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Sun Sep 9 13:57:31 2012

Undoubtedly the time I shipped a drop safe to a dodgy Miami buyer. It was the last purchase he made before he went NARU, I shipped before payment... and the money order actually cleared!

Then there was this generator I shipped down to Puerto Rico, a great big 7KW, I built a nest of spring water bottles around it for shock protection then packed the whole shebang in a refridgerator box.

The one I figured was bound to get trashed was a 4ft x 4ft neon Rolling Rock beer sign in working condition... I padded the entire unit in a styrofoam block custom-cut with a heated steak knife, then built a wooden crate around it and bubble wrapped the whole mess to high heaven before boxing it up. To my amazement the thing made it Parcel Post. Me and the guy were both psyched!

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: unusual1 This user has validated their user name.
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Sun Sep 9 16:10:25 2012

Many, many years ago when I still sold on ebay I had four chairs and a double bridge table to ship to California from NY. It went in three separate boxes. I used DHL or UPS, don't remember any more. It was insured and I didn't really have any problems. But I have my own accounts for UPS, Fedex and DHL and Greyhound. I no longer sell anything that cant go in a small box. It is just not worth the trouble now.

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 9 19:37:44 2012

Yes, shipping can be a challenge........and........Of course eBarf expects All of this effort for free!

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: teddychan This user has validated their user name.
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Sun Sep 9 23:27:18 2012

A pair of stadium seats from the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympics. They were connected and very bulky and heavy.

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: JoyfulA This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 10 02:27:22 2012

a saxophone and an accordion, but wrapping them was not hard. I just took them to the UPS store and let the people who know what they're doing do it.

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: dkkdolls This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Sep 10 02:40:20 2012

I've had 3 challenges all big. The first was one an oversized cradle that I had to put boxes together to make a box big enough and go by UPS. The next one was a doll house to Germany that was too big to ship there and I had to keep reshaping the package to make it the right size. The third one was a guitar. I had its flimsy odd shaped box. However, a former friend of mind helped me to get a guitar size packing box out of his trash to use for that one. I decided I did not want to ship guitars again as the neck presents a problem. I have a giant doll house and keyboard now that I dare not list anywhere because I do not want to ship them. Oh, yes, I once sold an antique piano on Ebay, but it was about 40 miles away and I found a good piano mover to professionally deliver it. In any case, these are all things, I'd rather not ship. At least most Himstedt dolls had boxes and packing boxes and were easy to deal with except for size. Donna

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: AngelaTC This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 10 08:49:08 2012

My hardest to ship was a life-size Watto, the junk dealing Star Wars character.  He was about 3 feet tall, but came with a 6 foot stand.  We fabricated a box, which was technically a hair too big for Fed Ex, but they took it anyway.  

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: LadyElizabeth This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 10 09:06:58 2012

A large, stained glass panel. Whenever I have something odd sized, I don't list it until I have a box, which in this case, took a few weeks. Finally, I put out a request on a local email list, and someone had a baby's crib mattress box, which was the perfect size. Once it sold, it took me over an hour to package it, then decided to buy two pieces of plywood for extra protection, which took another hour or so. By the time I was done, it was too bulky for me to get it into my car, to transport it to FedEx, so I had to ask my neighbor to help me.  

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: DonC This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Sep 10 10:25:02 2012

I've shipped a few odd ball items. I do my best to make sure the package and contents can handle a couple of drops from four feet.

Motorcycle engines are a challenge. I typically attach them to a piece of plywood, place that in a stout corrugated box, fill the empty spaces with Styrofoam, place that box in another box also padded with Styrofoam. Every one made the trip with no complaints.  

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: DonC This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Sep 10 10:25:19 2012

I've shipped a few odd ball items. I do my best to make sure the package and contents can handle a couple of drops from four feet.

Motorcycle engines are a challenge. I typically attach them to a piece of plywood, place that in a stout corrugated box, fill the empty spaces with Styrofoam, place that box in another box also padded with Styrofoam. Every one made the trip with no complaints.  

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 10 21:36:04 2012

I shipped an antique  porcelain Toile print lamp and shade to Hawaii from NY.  The lamp was pretty fragile and because I really REALLY loved it I wanted to make extra sure it arrived safely.  I did the bubble wrap and then I wrapped it in a thick off-cut of egg crate mattress foam a friend offered.  Used empty soda bottles in the corners as blocking.  IT did get there safely but I sent an email ahead of it to alert the buyer to the mattress foam's unused state---didn't want them to think some one had been sleeping on their items packing!  

Arrived in great shape.  

A "banana boat" made of milk glass also posed a packing dilemma and I think that,  aside from guitars,  skis are the WORST.  Now new skis are bad enough but old wooden skis with the extra long and delicate pointy tips are the worst.  YOu have to pray that you can find a box big and long enough--most of these are way longer than the skis of today---and WIDE enough to accept the tips and packaging and the old style bindings.  I sell these all the time and have to pretty much hand craft every box.  

Sometimes I am lucky and a local ski place will give or sell (depends on who is working that day) boxes to me.  OR I have found that the large "Moving box" size from Wally World for under $2 will work IF I cut it lengthwise and get taping.  I build in the   box price before I list the item and I do NOT use "free shipping".  EVER.

What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?   What's the Hardest Thing You've Had to Ship?

by: SnapPost This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 11 14:07:34 2012

My hardest thing to ship was a Christmas dish set for 12! It was sold as a fundraiser for a nonporfit that I worked for. After boasting to the director that I am an eBay ''superhero'' that can sell anything she asked me to sell these.  I did, but I also swore to myself that I will never deal with selling something that is so complicated to ship.  We ended up dividing it to a few boxes and I personally wrapped each dish three times.  But, it got to its destination safely with no breaks.  

I'm always jealous of the jewelry sellers. LOL

Suzanne



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