“No One Cares If You Write ‘Fragile'” And Other Tips From A Former UPS Worker

With millions of people prepping to ship off gifts to loved ones and familial obligations around the globe, the holidays are prime time for UPS and FedEx. With that glut of parcels, many containing precious items, there comes the heightened chance that your package will be crushed, dropped, kicked, dropkicked, and otherwise run through the wringer. But a former UPS employee says there are ways to minimize the likelihood of damage.

In a humorous but helpful post on Cracked.com, Sarah Ohlms — a self-described former “Yuletide package-loading zombie for UPS” — offers some insight and tips from her time tossing boxes on to trucks at the company.

Here are some of the highlights:

Don’t Write “Fragile” on the Box
Just because you, like just about everyone else shipping something that could break, write the word “fragile” on the side of your package doesn’t mean the folks at UPS will put it on a special, pillow-covered conveyor belt that leads to a special truck where fragile packages are protected by air bags and armed guards.

Sarah points to the 2010 Popular Mechanics test that put sensors inside of packages and measured how much trauma they suffered en route. Some of the packages were marked fragile and in the end, those “received more abuse.”

“Why? Well, sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but some people in this world are just terrible,” writes Sarah. “And those people will actually treat your package worse if you write “fragile” on it. Maybe they felt that their ability to do their job was being challenged.”

She says the only way to get true white-glove service from UPS is to fork over extra cash to have your parcel escorted through the shipping process as a “high value” package.

Don’t Reuse Boxes
Another possible reason that people disregard the “fragile” note — it was placed on the package by the person who previously used that same box.

Something else people leave on reused boxes: the old shipping labels.

“No, we have no way of knowing which is which,” writes Sarah, “when the packages tumble down to the sorters and loaders, if they see a label on whatever side of the box happens to be up, that’s where the box is going.”

She says that, when confronted with two labels, she usually goes with whichever one is cleaner, “as I figure it’s been through the system fewer times, making it newer… But even then, there’s no guarantee that your box will end up anywhere at all.”

Camouflage It as a Heartwarming Gift
While “fragile” may just end up getting your package tossed in a river, Sarah says that she has a soft spot for parcels that have a personal touch.

“My default is to curse every package that comes down that slide. Anything that sticks out is going to brighten my day,” she writes. “So if you want your package handled a little more tenderly, give it to your small child (or a friend’s child — anyone’s child will do) and let them write on it in crayon.”

It may not get your package treated like a Faberge egg, but it might help remind the UPS employee that this is a package sent by a real human.

“I see all the crayon scribbles and poorly spelled adulation for mom, or grandpa, or whoever the hell, and all I can picture is a toddler sending his beloved teddy bear to grandma on the raisin ranch because she only has days to live,” explains Sarah. “And I’ll be goddamned if I’ll let anything happen to that teddy!”

5 Reasons Packages Get Destroyed (Learned Working at UPS) [Cracked.com]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.