We live in the city where Mail Boxes Etc. (MBE) is headquartered, and
have done a fair amount of work with them across the country. We ship
high ticket clocks and musical devices cross-country from a myriad of
locations on a continual basis. What we've learned specifically about
MBE is that each franchisee, in spite of the apparent backup by the
parent corporation, does his or her "own thing". Some do it conscien-
tiously and well; others ... well... not quite so well.
We've found that the key to safely shipping any UPS-sized clock or
musical device is double-boxing. And the higher the value of the
contents, the heavier the construction of the packing materials.
We recommend that any component that can potentially "break loose"
be packed separately, or be held in place by wedged-in blocks of
The same applies to both clocks and mechanical music devices. One
suggestion, for any packer, is to require use of "double-walled" boxes.
They cost a bit more, but can save your bacon! When two layers of
double-walled boxes are used, with appropriate packing materials and
precautions, the item should arrive at its destination unscathed.
Where larger (or more valuable) items are involved, we always have them
crated. United Parcel Service (UPS) doesn't like crates and thus will
not generally carry them because of the difficulty in handling and the
physical bulk they represent.
There are independent crater/packers all around the nation who
routinely crate and pack high-ticket instrumentation, antiquities, etc.
They are the contractors whom the little packaging stores generally use
for crating. But you can deal with them directly.
We suggest, where feasible, boxing the item using traditional packaging
materials, then crating around the boxed item. The crater should
always use heavy (1.5" to 2" thick) Styrofoam sheets inside the crate
on all sides of the inner box. Some will be equipped to "foam-in-
place" the boxed contents. In San Diego, our packer also has that
capability for double-boxed items, where the inner box is suspended in
foam within the outer box. Some UPS-direct stations can do this for
you as well.
The commercial alternatives to UPS are air freight or trucking (and
there are a lot of gorillas in that business who will make the MBE/UPS
combination look sterling).
The carrier of choice for us has become Delta Air Cargo, a service of
Delta Airlines. They are incredible to work with and have never failed
us yet on either safe or on-time delivery. If there is a Delta station
within a reasonable distance of the shipper and destination, they just
can't be beat.
It is best to make arrangements with the local station rather than
calling the "800" phone number. The 800-number folks are a bit black
and white on what they will and will not do. The local station people
are a lot more open to customer service. They also have a trucking
service that will carry items from the airport to their destination for
around $10 per 100 pounds -- very inexpensive. Talk with the local
station about these services (we are not a Delta shareholder!).
We use their 3- or 4-day service because of the highly competitive
rates (around $.60/pound or thereabouts) and because they have always
had the crate available at the destination one hour after the flight
arrival on the _second_ day ... amazing. The 3-4-day rate allows them
to "bump" the item if there are higher-priority items that require the
space. Perhaps from some stations in major metropolitan areas it could
take the full 3-4 days, but that has not been our experience in San
Diego, Houston, Philadelphia, Portland, Chicago and other locations.
These guys have become a tremendous "business partner" to us.
Hope that's helpful to those saddled with the chore of shipping.