As an online seller, you already know that the next few months between now and December 24th are going to require a great deal of work. It’s not your first rodeo, and you are very aware of the preparation it takes to get your store, stock and shipping management ready for the holidays. But what do you do when the absolute worst situations imaginable take you by surprise?

When it comes to the terrible and unexpected, it’s best to learn from the experiences of others. Here are the best of the worst shipping horror stories we could find.

“I once won an auction on eBay for a lot of over 45 baby clothes, mostly from name brands. When the box finally arrived in Hawaii nearly two months later, a large hole had been ripped in one corner and all but four pieces were gone. Whoever snatched the goods was kind enough to leave an empty can of chewing tobacco in their place. It took me months to file a claim through PayPal and finally get a partial refund.”

-Anecdote provided by Teri Haux, article by Seth Fiegerman,

“If I tried I could not make these things up…Someone bought a liter of AVEDA conditioner from me. I wrapped it in bubblewrap, then newspaper, put it in a shoe box, wrapped it with a paper bag and shipped it with the Amazon label. This is what she wrote me yesterday…”You sent me a package wrapped in a shoe box. It was packaged poorly. It was set on top of my mailbox. We were scared to open it as it looked unusual. We called the cops. They called the bomb squad because they thought it COULD be a bomb. In the process the product was lost because it had to be destroyed in the process of the cops resolving this issue. The labeling was on the back side only and was not showing. It was packaged very unprofessionally creating suspicion. I am very upset and I lost the product. The least I expect from you is for you to re-send my product, which you owe me and more than that as it scared my family.”

– Amazon seller uptown_rags, Amazon Seller Forum

Don’t panic – here’s how we suggest protecting yourself:

Protect Yourself

  • Buy shipping insurance for items that are expensive or valuable (old, antique, one-of-a-kind, etc.). Always use tracking.
  • Consider insuring more packages than you might any other given month. If something were to go wrong and a customer’s package goes missing or arrives severely damaged, it’s likely they’ll be more upset because it was a gift – they could very possibly leave a scathing review.
  • File a claim for the buyer. Don’t make them jump through unnecessary hoops. Be proactive, file a claim with the USPS, call your nearest post office (or the one nearest them) to find out what happened.

Package Properly

  • Take extra precaution and use proper materials. This includes-
    • Packing tape
    • Cardboard boxes
    • Bubble envelopes
    • Cardboard backed envelopes
    • Bubble wrap & foam peanuts
  • Especially for the holidays, overdo padding. Do not run the risk of anything being damaged, should your parcel end up being mishandled.

Be Proactive

  • Make sure your shipping policies are clear. If you ship in 1-2 days, be sure buyers understand that means it leaves your possession in 1-2 days – not arrives on their doorstep in that time.
  • Get supplies now. Do not run out (and then panic) when you’re neck-deep in the holiday frenzy. Run a weekly inventory of how many shipping supplies you have on had, and make sure you’re on track to be able to handle the influx of coming orders.

Just for kicks, here is the absolute worst (and most hysterical) shipping mishap I have ever heard of:

“When Emily the cat went missing a month ago, her owners looked for their wandering pet where she had ended up before — the local animal shelter. But this week they learned Emily sailed to France. Lesley McElhiney figures her cat went prowling around a paper warehouse near home and ended up in a cargo container that went by ship across the Atlantic Ocean and was trucked to Nancy, a city in northeastern France near the border with Germany. Employees at a French lamination company found her in the container, checked her tags and called Emily’s veterinarian back in the U.S.”

An actual photo of Emily en route to America after being found in France. She traveled first class (100% serious). Source: CBS News Online.

An actual photo of Emily en route to America after being found in France. She traveled first class (100% serious). Source: CBS News Online.

USA Today, The Associated Press. Originally published 10/28/2005.

There is really nothing you can do to avoid something as bewildering as this. But if I opened a package on Christmas morning and a cat jumped out, I would consider it a Christmas miracle and leave the seller positive feedback.

What is the worst shipping experience you’ve ever had? Or how do you typically prepare for holiday shipping? Let us know in the comments. If you have any questions about ecomdash’s shipping automation software and postage provision through and Endicia, please feel free to contact us.

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