One of the worst things about working everyday at Ebullition is that I am forced to constantly tell people that the records or CDs they have sent me were destroyed. Literally, thousands of records come to us destroyed. At least once or twice every week I have to inform someone that the box they sent us arrived damaged.
Most of the time people blame the post office or the shipping company involved.
In my opinion 99% of the boxes that come to us are improperly packaged.
It is true that all of the shipping companies treat parcels badly. However, blaming them is not a solution. Blame doesn't repair broken CD cases or mend crushed LP jackets.
The only logical solution is to pack boxes with the knowledge that they will be dropped, thrown, tossed, kicked, rolled and generally treated poorly.
I once witnessed a woman at the post office try to ship a glass mug in a padded envelope. The clerk told her it would be destroyed. She sent it anyway.
In many ways that is how the punk community behaves with regards to this issue. There are also some pressing plants that can't seem to see their role in the carnage.
I had to struggle with this issue. I had to learn. I have been shipping stuff for 20 years and I have made many mistakes. At this point most of what we ship arrives in decent shape, but that takes patience and thought. No matter what sometimes boxes get wrecked. Damage can't be avoided 100% of the time but it can be avoid 99% of the time. There is no reason why thousands of records should arrive damaged at Ebullition each year.
This is my attempt to put a stop to that problem.
By putting this together I am trying to help people save money. This advice isn't meant to help me. It is meant to help you. If you are in a band or are starting a record label then do yourself a favor and learn how to properly send records and CDs. It will save you money and headache.
Hint #1: packing tape
Packing tape is very, very cheap. People that come in my office often laugh at me for using what they consider to be too much tape.
They are wrong.
A roll of packing tape costs less than $2. It would be better to use an entire roll of packing tape on a box then to have the contents of that box lost or destroyed. In my opinion there is no such thing as too much tape.
Try an experiment. Get two pieces of notebook paper. Tear one in half. Now take the other piece of notebook paper and secure a piece of packing tape to one side of the paper in both directions. Now try tearing that piece of notebook paper in half. You will see the difference.
Packing tape keeps the box secure and it helps the box to retain it's form as a box. It also keeps rain and other liquids from getting inside the box.
Here is a photo of a box that I recently received. You can see that the edges of the box came apart where no packing tape was present. The sender did put a small amount of packing tape on the box, and that kept it from coming completely apart.
Here is another example of what happens to a box edge with no packing tape. As you can see the top edge that was taped stayed together, but the side with no tape was ripped open.
There are two tricks to properly taping a box.
First of all, tape every single edge. Every single edge should be taped. Every single edge. That means that every edge is completely covered in tape.
Repeat after me, "Every single edge!"
Secondly, you should go completely around the box with tape in BOTH directions. Tape is strong but it is twice as strong when layered in two directions. So tape every edge then go around each side so that the tape forms a crossing pattern.
Here is an example of a properly taped box.
Lots of tape on all edges = good job!!
Here is another angle on the same box.
Packing tape is your friend. You can't have too many friends, and you certainly can't use too much tape!
I have received completely empty boxes before. The sender taped down the top of the box. The box came open at the bottom, go figure, and 200 7" records were lost.
A roll of packing tape is very cheap.
Hint #2: Double Box
Every box should be double boxed. That means having 2 boxes. One that your records or CDs go into and then take that box and put it inside another box.
This way if the outside box splits open, or gets a hole in it, or gets wet then the inner box will still protect the contents.
I don't have any photos for this. It is pretty simple: double box.
If a record label doesn't do this then I will stop ordering from that label because everything they ship me will look like crap.
Hint #3: Packing Material
Packing material is used to protect the contents of the box. It seems obvious, but in reality many people don't understand the purpose of packing material.
I get hundreds of boxes every year where the sender used the records to protect the packing material. I am not joking.
Here is a photo to prove it. Can you say, "Duh."
If this box gets damaged then the records will be destroyed but the packing material will be in great shape.
That must be some valuable packing material!
That isn't funny. Stupid. Careless. But not funny. Thousands of dollars are lost each year by people that make this mistake.
The contents that you are shipping go in the center of the box, and the packing material should go towards the outside.
Packing material is essentially a shock absorber. It is designed to take the hit when the parcel is dropped, kicked, smashed, thrown, sat on, stepped on, or what have you.
Most of the damage will come from the bottom and top. So in general it is a good idea to put packing material at both the top and bottom of the box. Keep it tight. You don't want things flying around inside your box.
Hint #4: Corners
The corners are the most likely part of a box to be crushed. The boxes will be dropped on the corners. I would say that 99% of all damage takes place in the corners. Try to keep the valuable things out of the corners.
Here is the corner of a box I received today.
Keep valuables out of those corners!
Corners need the most protection, so put the packing material there, or cut corners off of other boxes and put them into the box to give extra support.
Here is a photo of a box with extra corners.
I have one of these vegan frozen burritos for lunch each day. Yummy. I buy them by the case to save money, and then I cut up the boxes to make corner protectors.
Hint #5: Priority
Not all boxes have mixed contents, but when they do there is a priority to
consider. Put the items that are the hardest to damage or the easiest to replace/fix in the most dangerous part of the box.
For example CD cases can be replaced, 7" covers are cheaper to replace and can sometimes be smoothed out. But LP jackets are very hard to replace.
Put the CDs and 7"s at the top and bottom, and put the LPs in the center. The CDs and 7"S can go at both the bottom and top while avoiding the corners, while LPs tend to span the whole width of the box.
Protect the LPs!!! Protect the LPs!!!
Hint #6: LPs should lay flat
Another test experiment for you. Take an LP that you don't care about. Hold it vertically in your hand and drop it from eye level. Most likely it fell on the edge or corner and was damaged.
Now take the same LP, hold it horizontally, and then drop it from eye level. Most likely it won't be damaged because it fell down flat.
Boxes of LPs tend to fall on their bottom edges. If the records are all standing vertically then every single record edge will slam the ground every time it is dropped.
It is far better to send LPs laying flat. If the box is damaged then only a few of the records will be crushed. If the records are all standing vertically then every single record will be damaged instead.
Sometimes the sides of boxes are what gets damaged, but for the most part it is the bottom and top. I find that packing the records laying flat really helps out in minimizing damage.
I hope this helps. No matter what you do damage will still happen, but if you prepare your boxes for the worst then 9 out of 10 times your box will survive the worst.
Good luck and I hope I never have to write you to tell you that your box was destroyed.