We recently had a new employee ship a package via UPS to a US Post Office box and it was a very important shipment. UPS does not generally deliver to a USPS box. We were lucky and this was a concert venue that gets lots of packages and UPS automatically reroutes them (with a charge) and delivers to the venue. It got me thinking about what knowledge I need to transfer to this new employee about shipping. There is nothing more disappointing than successfully completing the decoration of garments right on schedule, and then having the work not arrive on time to the customer.
Fedex, UPS, the US Postal Service, courier services, and trucking companies all try to make their services so easy that an idiot can use them. It doesn’t mean you should be an idiot about using any of them.
Some tips and some things that need highlighting:
- Find out not only what date a shipment is due, but what time they need it. If that non-profit leaves their office at 4:30 to go to their event but it is holiday season and the UPS driver gets to them at 7:30PM, you will have a very unhappy situation.
- Early A.M. services may seem like a solution when sometimes it is a trap. If you send something for 8 A.M. and the driver can’t get in the building or nobody is there to sign for it and then your customer may not get it until the end of the day or the next day. You spend all the money and make that effort only to cause more delay which is not a good thing.
- Make sure the service you are counting on is available where you are sending the package. Early A.M. and Saturday UPS deliveries are examples of services you might think would be available everywhere but are not.
- Watch out during snow season and hurricane season in particular as the carriers throw out all their guarantees on delivery when they can blame the weather.
- Fees on guaranteed ground or expedited shipping are not refunded unless you ask for them, it doesn’t happen automatically, you have to file to get them. If you are too distracted to consistently remember to do this, you can sign up for an on-line service that never forgets to file but takes a healthy cut. Hey, half of something is better than 100% of nothing.
- Fedex ground service can seem like a good deal but it is not a professional driver, it usually is just some dude or dudette driving around in their car and this isn’t always the best.
- We all usually have access to our UPS and Fedex tracking of packages, but seem to forget when it comes to Common Carrier. Make sure you get the PRO # on an LTL shipment to track that. It will always appear on the copy of the Bill of Lading after the driver picks up.
- When possible give your customer tracking numbers right away either automatically in your system or even manually just sending them an email. You honestly sent their package on time, so give them the proof you did. Also they seem always to be nervous and bugging you for when it will get delivered, with the tracking numbers they can just look it up themselves.
- When shipping common carrier on pallet(s) make sure at the destination they have a loading dock or fork truck or else your load may not be deliverable and/or you get extra charges and delays for them sending out a truck with a liftgate.
- UPS used to be lax, but now they are super vigilant and may charge you based on the dimensions of your box versus the weight. They charge the one which is the higher price.
- Particularly for USPS you may want to use their packaging as the rates may be less than your own packaging.
- The US Postal Service often gets a bad rap, they are the best option in many situations and are easier to use these days as well as costing less.
- If re-using a box, put another piece of tape on the bottom, as boxes will generally make one trip fine but often not make two trips.
- Don’t count on your usual speed of delivery at Holiday time.
- All the delivery systems seem to ask you if you are closed on the lame holidays like Columbus Day and the day after Thanksgiving and then ignore what you tell them. Don’t count on your packages arriving to somebody you know is open as the carriers say they are sorry, rake in millions for not bringing all those packages out for another day, and claim the delivery location was closed. I have seen this repeatedly happen no matter what UPS or Fedex tell you.
- Damn, your local supplier is closed and you really need something desperately. There is sometimes a solution. For everyone not in Pacific time, get accounts in time zones to the West of you and you might still have time to order something and have it sent for the next day.
- Develop emergency contacts with couriers and even better with folks you can directly pay to drive using your vehicle or theirs. Nothing ever beats handing packages to the person that is going to directly bring it to the destination. There is way less room for error that way and many times it has saved us.
- If you do lots of time sensitive work it makes sense to work out same day service airport to airport. This cannot be done on an emergency basis. Post 9/11 you need to have an account already to use these services. So either get your own account now that you may need to use later, or make a friend with someone who has such an account.
- Either try and negotiate your own discount, or look into whether your PPAI, ASI, SGIA or other memberships may entitle you to a discount on either ground and/or expedited services.
- Look into the SanMar (PSST) and AlphaBroder (Mpact) services that give you free inbound services for you and/or your customers. They can be a very good deal for you in many cases.
- Weigh your packages carefully as not only will you have less surprises as to the charge, you later can use that information to prove that you indeed did send three dozen not two dozen jackets to the customer now claiming they only see two dozen arrived.