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Originally published in Business People-Vermont in 2004.

Shipping Solutions

Ten tips to help businesses save time, trouble and money

by Len Rubin

Shipping mistakes can be costly, both to your bottom line and in the time it takes the shipment to reach its destination. Len Rubin of Unishippers in Burlington has put together 10 ways companies can reduce common shipping mistakes.

1. Ship online. The number one way to avoid shipping mistakes is to take advantage of the multitude of online shipping options. Besides being faster, these applications can reduce extra fees because of incomplete required fields or information that is hard to read because it was handwritten.

2. Proper documentation. The shipping industry has recently experienced an increase in regulations and restrictions. From the domestic "known shipper" issue to various export documents required for international shipments, there's a lot to remember. Luckily, there are many Web sites available to help from carrier specific ones (such as or to independent shipping ones (such as

3. Record the weight. Weigh every package and record that amount in pounds, or in the carrier's preferred measurement. Don't guess. If the weight is incorrect and the shipment needs to be re-weighed, the carrier will charge an extra fee in addition to the fee for the appropriate weight class.

4. Use correct ZIP codes. ZIP codes all across the country are continually changing, and new ones are being added daily. Make sure you have the correct ZIP code for your shipment. While some programs do this automatically, when in doubt, call the receiver or visit and use the "Find a ZIP Code" feature.

5. Have correct NMFC numbers for freight. Every item in the world is grouped into one of 18 classes and has a specific item number within that class. Unexpected charges can be assessed for using the wrong code. You can learn more about the NMFC classification by visiting its website,

6. Packaging. Use sturdy boxes free from punctures, tears, rips or corner damage. If the carrier provides packaging, it's wise to use it. All carriers charge an "exception handling" fee for odd-sized items such as those shipped in crates, pails or circular boxes. When shipping oversize documents such as blueprints, use the triangular tube rather than a round document tube to avoid this fee.

7. Inbound shipments. If you pay for shipping costs on shipments you receive from other businesses, check and make sure your discounts apply to them. We frequently find that discounts are applied to the shipments you send and not the ones you receive.

8. Send in bulk. The greatest discounts on both domestic and international mail come through bulk mailings, in many cases up to 35 percent savings. Greater cost savings can be achieved if you presort your mail before its leaves your facility.

9. Insure the shipment. Occasionally, shipments are lost or damaged. If you are shipping something valuable, insure it. When selecting insurance, make sure it covers the entire journey and the specific item(s), contains acceptable exclusions or exceptions, and goes beyond the carrier liability limit.

10. Avoid meaningless contracts. There's a growing trend in the industry to require business customers to sign a shipping "contract" in exchange for reduced rates. Not contracts, but merely pricing agreements, these tend to contain flaws. The most common ones are rates' increasing quickly for not hitting your minimums, but decreasing slowly for surpassing them; additional accounts or locations that aren't included in the discounts unless you specifically add them; not covering all services; and extra fees associated with oversize charges. Make sure you read and discuss these contracts thoroughly before signing them. •

Len Rubin is owner of Unishippers in Burlington.

Originally published in November 2004 Business People-Vermont

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