Your questions about packaging and labels

Packaging and protection

How is my parcel handled in transit?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask and it is vital to understand two things: 1) the journey your parcel goes through, and 2) how to protect your parcel along the way from damage or loss.

When you take a long car journey in winter the vehicle gets you from A to B, but you make sure you have warm clothing, food and a torch in case you need it. Shipping your parcel is no different, making sure you prepare it for the journey ahead ready for the courier company to then securely transport it from one place to the other. Firstly, here are corrections to some common misconceptions:

- Your parcel is not handled by humans in the most part

- Your parcel does not go directly from A to B

- Your parcel does not sit amongst tens of other parcels, it sits among thousands

One main hub from one courier company can handle 25,000 parcels every hour. Just think how many parcels there are being processed in all of the hubs and depots across the country for all the different courier companies. This is the network your parcel will travel through and it must be properly prepared.

Transportation

Your parcel will pass from articulated lorries to vans, through conveyor belts and down shoots, it will be lifted and slide from trays, and may be transported around depots in a metal cage. It is also handled by sorting staff as it makes its way between sorting depots up and down the country, diverted in to the correct pathways for its destination like a ball in a pinball machine.

A courier delivery network is therefore not suitable for fragile items like glass, or valuables that are on the prohibited list and may benefit from a more personal service. It is designed for well-packaged, clearly labelled items that need to reach their destination quickly and with a proof of signature. In the same way you would not send an open envelope full of cash through the postal system, you would not send a porcelain doll through a courier network.

Transported

Here's some detailed advice on how to make sure your parcel is ready to be delivered in to the courier network:

Packaging

We offer clear advice on packaging, guiding you through the process step by step. It is important to not only use a new and sturdy box, but also to package the item within the box using plenty of padding. You should not consider packaging an extra cost, but a necessary investment in to the safe keeping of your parcel. Your parcel will be stacked amongst thousands of other parcels and if it is not packaged properly it will not withstand the weight.

Stacked

Labels

We offer clear advice on labelling, talking you through the different types of shipping labels and how to attach them to your parcels. Once the parcel leaves your address the labels you send with it are the only information a courier company has to go on to know where it has come from and where it is going to. The label must have the correct information on it and be clearly readable by a scanning machine, otherwise it may be misrouted or left unclaimed.

Scanner

How do I package my parcel to protect it from damage?

It's vital that your goods are packed well in preparation for shipments going via any courier service. That way, if they do get damaged (thankfully, it's rare) you can make a claim against the courier network and we will manage this for you.

Parcels sent via courier networks are passed between conveyor belts and handled by robots, so your parcel needs to be robust enough to withstand automated handling. We provide cover against loss or damage on every shipment you send as part of our customer service focus and you can buy extra cover should you need it. nb. Fragile items are on the prohibited items list.

Not the sender?

It is your responsibility to make sure the sender understands the packaging requirements for the courier service you book.

P4D Tip

Take photos of your shipment before you send it. If you need to make a claim against the courier company you can send these on to us to prove that your goods were adequately packed and the box of a high quality. The label with the booking number should be visible in your photo to avoid any dispute.

Here are recommended suppliers of packaging: Buy packaging.

Bubble wrap

Courier companies deliver tens of thousands of parcels every day to destinations all around the world. You need to prepare your parcel for the journey because it won't be singled out. Wrap every item you send in bubble wrap and if you're sending more than one item make sure you wrap them individually. If you don't wrap them individually the items may knock against one another in transit and damage one another.

Invest in the right box

It might seem like an unnecessary expense, but investing in a high quality, corrugated box could be the difference between your parcel arriving with or without damage. Packaging is king. A flimsy, ripped and unsubstantial box simply won't stand up to conveyor belts. If you're running a business look out for the Box Makers Certificate (BMC) when buying boxes in bulk.

Cushioning

You've wrapped your items individually in bubble wrap, you have a good box, now you need to secure your items inside the box, so they can't move around when they're being passed between conveyor belts. In essence, the box should be large enough to hold the contents separately inside with plenty of space around them, so they don't touch each other and they don't touch the side of the box.

Double up

To prevent your goods from touching the sides of the box, create walls inside the box. Put in a thin layer of cushioning like polystyrene, for example, in the bottom of the box and place over the top of it a layer of corrugated cardboard. Insert more cardboard panels near the edges of the box and fill the gap with cushioning. Put your goods inside the box and surround them with cushioning. Place another layer of cardboard over the top of them before finishing off with another thin layer of cushioning before sealing the box.

Seal it shut

Shut the box tight with strong, plastic tape that won't split under pressure, or paper tape that is water activated. Don't be stingy with the tape. It should be at least 50mm wide to offer greater support.

Keep it clean

Strings, cord, ribbons, and other practical or decorative packing features may look nicer, but they create havoc with the automated sorting equipment used by international couriers. Also make sure the shipping labels and address label doesn't sit over a fold or seam of the box - make sure it's on a flat part of the box where it won't become obscured if tape comes away or a fold in the box becomes more prominent.

Send parcels separately

If you have two parcels to send to the same place that can't go in to one box, send them as two separate parcels - never strap them together. If you sent two parcels as one and one came away, this could result in a loss and you won't be compensated. As far as the courier company is concerned, there was one parcel and one parcel was delivered, so if you have two parcels, send them separately.

How do I package a bike?

Box your bike

You'll need to disassemble some of your bike's parts and place it in a box with protective packaging ready for transportation.

Specifically, remove the saddle and seat post, handlebars, front wheel, and pedals. All parts must be individually wrapped for protection and placed inside a large box to accommodate them. In line with our general packaging guidelines, which also apply for packing bikes, padding should be packed into the box to ensure no parts of the bike moves inside the box during transportation.

Our friends at Stallion Cycles provide a step by step guide with images.

Should I send fragile items via a courier service?

Fragile items are not suitable for a courier service because your parcels are handled in the most part by robots, not humans.

Handling in transit

We have detailed FAQs on how your parcels are handled in transit and advice on how to package and label your parcel appropriately if you are sending an item that is not prohibited, but needs robust protection.

Insurance

Fragile items are on the prohibited items list and are not covered for damage.

View the prohibited list

Where can I buy packaging materials?

Recommended suppliers

To save you the trouble of searching the Internet for a reliable packaging provider, we have a list of recommended suppliers.

View the list

Suggestions

P4D welcomes feedback on these suppliers and suggestions for others.

Is environmentally friendly packaging available?

P4D runs a carbon offsetting scheme that allows all of our customers to reduce their carbon footprint. We also encourage our customers to pack their goods with environmentally friendly packaging, if they wish. There are plenty of ideas out there.

Recommended suppliers

There are packaging suppliers that provide eco-friendly alternatives for boxing and packing your goods, but also follow eco-friendly practices themselves.

See our list of recommended suppliers

How do I package my item for a Dropshop

DPD Drop Shops

The Customer shall ensure that each Parcel complies with the weight, measurements and length applicable to that Parcel as set out in the relevant definition of Parcel. Parcel packaging, labelling and documentation responsibility for the inner and outer packaging and labeling rests exclusively with the Customer and should be made in accordance with the Service Provider requirements as specified on its website. The Customer undertakes and warrants that: (i) the goods have been properly and sufficiently packaged and labelled for the intended destination, in accordance with the requirements, restrictions and limitations set out in the present Conditions and as appropriate to any operations or transaction affecting the Parcel and the characteristics of the goods, and so that the Parcel will not be lost or damaged whilst being transported, or cause injury or damage to the Service Provider's staff, the Service Provider's subcontractors, or any property or other goods. The Customer acknowledges that transportation requires packaging which protects the goods for a transportation by road and/or by air and against the stresses caused by automatic sorting equipment and mechanical handling (drop height of 80 cm on the edge, corner or side), as well as against different climatic and/or atmospheric pressure conditions and packaging which does not permit access to the content without leaving any trace; (ii) the Customer has checked whether commercial/sales packaging meets these requirements and that the packaging and Parcel are not damaged and/or do not show indication of damage, leakage or emission of odor. Words printed on the packaging, such as "Fragile" or "top/bottom" cannot be taken into consideration by the Service Provider and do not release the Customer from its duties;.

Labelling

When will my labels be available?

Depending on the courier and the service, either the courier will provide labels upon collection or you will need to print your own labels.

Labels are available to download and print from your order confirmation page. You can re-visit this page at any time by following the link in your order confirmation email.

Print availability

Courier

UK service

International

Drop Off

Yodel

Immediately

-

-

FedEx

-

Day before collection

-

DHL

-

Immediately

-

TNT

Immediately

Immediately

-

Parcelforce

(Provided by courier)

(Provided by courier)

Immediately

Palletways

(Provided by courier)

(Provided by courier)

-

Imports

The courier provides the labels for imports (DHL and TNT).

How do I label my parcel?

Every parcel you ship must have a shipping label attached to it, which is referred to by the courier companies as a waybill. It is essentially an address label, but contains other bar-coded information that the courier company needs to get your parcel quickly to its destination. The destination of your parcel and the courier company you book with will determine whether or not you need to print your own waybill. If shipping internationally you must also attach a Commercial Invoice to your parcel.

It is important to get the labelling process right since your parcel will travel through a complex parcel delivery system, handled mostly by robots. If your labels are incorrect, are obscured or not attached properly to your parcel, there is a greater risk it will get lost in the system. It is vital that you understand how your parcels are handled in transit.

Procedure

When you book in your parcel for delivery you must double check the delivery address you have entered before confirming the order, making sure there are no typos in the address field and the postcode is correct. It is your responsibility to book this through correctly because the information you provide is used to generate the waybill, which determines where your parcel is delivered to.

At the end of the booking process online you'll see an order confirmation page, which tells you which labels you need to print. Here you'll see whether or not you need to print a waybill. You'll receive an order confirmation email with a link to this same order confirmation page, should you need to re-visit it later on.

Waybills are not always produced immediately: Check your service.

The address you supply for the order confirmation email is where the order confirmation and waybill emails go to. You must forward on the labels to the person who has the parcel if this email does not go directly to them.

Printing and attaching a waybill

If you need to print your own waybill, ideally you will print it on a sticky A5 label (portrait) using a laser printer, although we appreciate many customers will not have this equipment available and there are alternative methods. We recommend laser print because this does not smudge if it gets wet - say the driver collects in the rain, and sticky labels do not come away from the parcel in transit.

Waybill

If you can't print the digital label on to a sticky label, you can print it on plain A4 paper and then put the label in a clear sticky-backed document envelope and attach this to your parcel. You can buy these 'documents enclosed' envelopes in bulk from any standard stationery shop.

Document wallet

If you cannot use these methods, stick the waybill firmly to the parcel with plenty of tape around the edges of the paper, making sure the paper is secured firmly in place and the ends of the tape are not sticking up.

When sticking waybills to your parcel make sure there are no creases or tears in the sticky label or envelope and that the waybill is not obscured or covered by any other sticker. Remove or cover over old shipping labels is re-using a box. The entire waybill must be visible because it will be scanned by a robot on a conveyor belt and not sorted by a person by hand. If an old label is still visible this may be scanned by mistake and the parcel mis-sorted. You should use the labels we provide to ensure the order and payment is traced back to P4D in case there is a problem.

If you do not need to print a waybill yourself, your parcel still needs this shipping label, but the driver will print and attach it to your parcel upon collection.

Back up procedure

Whether you print your own waybill or the driver provides it for you, we recommend that you still hand-write the delivery address on to your parcel. This is an extra precaution in case there is a problem with the waybill or it becomes detached from your parcel. Hand-write the delivery address on to your parcel using a marker pen, writing clearly and in capital letters. If you are sending a number of parcels, we provide a complementary packing slip with every order that you can print and attach to your parcels.

Address

What is a waybill?

A waybill is the shipping label that contains details of the delivery address and other bar-coded information that a courier company needs to be able to deliver your parcel to its destination. Waybills are not always immediately available for print: Check your service.

Waybill example

Labelling your parcel correctly

Every parcel must have a waybill attached to it and we have very clear information on the process that you should familiarise yourself with before booking.

What is the packing slip?

We include a complementary packing slip for your receiver, you do not have to use it, but many of our customers find it useful.

We recommend you print and place this slip inside your parcel, not only for courtesy to your receiver, but also because it acts as yet another precaution against your shipment getting lost in the system - even though this is very rare, it is still a recommended step to take as it would help the courier company determine where the parcel is coming from and where it is going to should the worst situation arise.

Packing slip

 Have we missed something important? Email us with your question, so we can add it to the list.

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