Small Tip #8

A lot of sales take place on the newsgroup, and in most cases, the person you're dealing with is far away. Other than the typical problems, like arranging the sale, how to send the money/item, trusting the other person will do the same, etc, chances are an item of some sort is factored into the transaction, and that item will need to be shipped. Here's a few shipping tips from me, and a compilation of most of the shipping tips that I found in Google.

Things you'll most likely need:

Bubble wrap: Bubble wrap comes in several varieties, from small bubbles (thin) to large, 1" bubbles (thick). For shipping, I almost always use the thick stuff. Also, for electronics, you'll want to use anti-static bubble wrap, which is in either pink or green (green signifies that it is also bio-degradable).

Tape: Packaging or mailing tape. Most packaging tapes you see in the stores are going to be able to do the job. Just make sure you use a sufficient amount.

Boxes and cardboard: These can be either difficult or easy to obtain, based on the item you are shipping. The larger and more awkward the item, the harder it is to find these. Scrounge whatever and whenever you can.

Filler: Filler can be anything from newspaper to packing peanuts. However, know when you use what type. Styrofoam packing peanuts are an electro- static hazard, while newspaper is not. Whatever you do, if you use packing peanuts, make sure whatever you're sending is wrapped up first.

Static bags: These are not entirely necessary, but it is nice to be able to ship PCBs and chips in these if available.

Ok, on to the packing tips:

Chips: EPROMS, RAMS, etc. are simple enough. Just remember, DO NOT protect the legs by putting them in styrofoam; static electricity can damage chips. Use the anti-static black foam if you have to protect the legs. For larger quantities, you can use long plastic chip holders (I don't know the technical name for them) and cork the ends. Or you can just put them in an anti-static bag and put them in a padded envelope.

Marquees: Wrap the marquee in thick bubble wrap. A relatively large (maybe 16" x 30") piece of cardboard should suffice. If you have an even larger sheet of cardboard, you can simply place the marquee (wrapped in bubble wrap), and fold and cut the cardboard around it. Wrap tightly. Make sure the corners are sufficiently protected if it's a glass item.

Monitor bezels: You'll need large pieces of cardboard for these. A collapsed box also works well for these. For glass ones, you'll want to triple layer it; bubble wrap it first, then put ridged pieces of cardboard on both sides (slightly larger than the monitor glass). You may want to use multiple sheets of cardboard, or even thin plywood. Tape them in place around the monitor glass, then wrap again in bubble wrap before putting the final cardboard around it. I learned the above lesson the hardway :-(. If you have a short flat box that it will fit in, that should work even better, but line the bottom and top AND sides with multiple layers of bubble wrap if it's a glass monitor bezel.

Control panels: These are awkward beasts sometimes because you've got joysticks and such sticking out everywhere, and finding a box for these is not trivial. Wrap in bubble wrap, and put lots of filler in the box to keep it from shifting during transit.

PCBs: A static bag around it would be great; then you can use pretty much anything as filler. If you're not so lucky, wrap it with anti-static bubble wrap. One person on the newsgroup recommended using pizza boxes for shipping PCBs, so I tried it. I went to a nearby pizza place and was able to purchase 25 (cheap), and they worked great for the PCBs I was shipping (I would imagine it might be difficult to locate pizza boxes for classic Atari and Williams boards). Sometimes they would just give them to me for free because it was such a strange request :-). You'll want to turn the boxes inside out for shipping purposes. Also, US post office now gives away free boxes as long as you use them for US post office shipments only.

Whole games: Pallet, cardboard, ratchet strap it to the pallet, then shrinkwrap it. For cocktails, just ASSUME they are going to load something on top of it, so go overboard on protecting the top glass (plywood, extra thick padding, etc). Some shippers demand to have the entire game crated, so off to the hardware store you go to pick up a few sheets of lumber.

Monitors: I've never shipped a monitor, but I'd guess you'd want a sturdy box it would fit into, HEAVILY pad the bottom with a sheet of styrofoam and bubble wrap, and place the monitor in tube down. However, it would probably be smarter to look for a monitor locally than having someone ship one to you.

Artwork: Control panel overlays and side art are fairly valuable at this stage of the game, so you'll want to avoid ANYTHING which would cause an unwanted wrinkle or fold. For overlays, you can use the same tip used above for glass monitor bezels (minus the bubble wrap). For side art, it's usually best to tube it. A narrow rectangular box should work just as well.

General tips: Anything that needs labeled should be labeled. If it's fragile, mark the package as so. If it's glass, mark the package that way. If it isn't supposed to be crushed, bent, turned upside down, etc, put that on the package in bold letters.

I'll leave the mode of transport as an exercise for the reader.

Cardboard (boxes and sheets)
Packaging tape
Bubble wrap
Filler (newspaper, packing peanuts, etc)
Anti-static bags (optional)

Try one of the following:
Associated Bag Company, 1-800-926-6100
Consolidated Plastics Company, 1-800-362-1000
National Bag Company, Inc., 1-800-247-6000
Apparently they have bubble wrap, anti-static bags and such available. Haven't tried any of these; got these from Deja News.

Your local shipping/moving company should have a source of bubble wrap. Even your local coin-op distributor may have some or point you in the right direction for packaging materials.

Advanced tip
If what you're shipping will be difficult to replace, you may want to insure it. If it's that valuable, however, you may want to consider spending the extra time and effort to package it sufficiently (or pay the person shipping it additional to have it packaged to your specifications). Also make sure the FROM: and TO: labels are printed large and are accurate. Making a claim for lost or damaged packages through UPS or USPS is a pain, so help them to NOT screw up. Remember, more packing never hurts. When's the last time you saw a post that read: "It took me nearly half an hour to open the package because everything was sealed and wrapped nice and neat! Curse them!" :-)

Why all the anti-static hoopla? Well, it's a controversial subject, but but some people feel that ESD (electro static discharge) from things like plastic bags, styrofoam and packing peanuts can damage PCBs and ICs by sending small "shocks" into the devices. However, some people say phooey and swear that styrofoam packing peanuts or clear bubble wrap never hurt anything. You can see the whole discussion on Google by searching in for "ESD". In my opinion, though I've never seen ESD cause any damage, I wouldn't risk a Quantum board over it.

Scott W recommends as a source for packaging materials, among other things. You can request a catalog and order on-line.

He also says the stuff for wrapping arcade games should be referred to as stretch wrap instead of shrink wrap.

Gregory K says the IC holder I'm talking about above is called an anti- static IC rail.

Joey O and Al K say that shipped monitor should be bolted to a piece of wood to prevent them from rocking during shipping.

Joey also warns that if you want to insure something, check into the details of the insurance you are buying. Verify that the packaging you used will qualify for an insurance claim.

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