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Topic: Bad economy equals bad packaging

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Subject: Bad economy equals bad packaging
Date Posted: 11/15/2008 3:24 PM ET
Member Since: 1/15/2008
Posts: 204
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Lately I've been receiving a greater amount of damaged books (mostly water damage) from various sources due to flimsy packaging. One person wrapped a book in a single sheet of thin Christmas paper...it got soaked to the bone. The excuse I receive most is that they can't afford protective envelopes because of the economy. That's understandable. But think about the people getting screwed by receiving unpostable books in this bad economy.

I think it would be great if we made an attempt at recycling sturdy or padded envelopes that we receive. Many of the unpostables I'm receiving are relatively new releases with hundreds of wishers. It's a shame that they can't be reposted, thereby reducing the wishlist lines.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 3:35 PM ET
Member Since: 12/3/2005
Posts: 3,397
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Considering that PBS recommends just using 2 sheets of paper, how is it the sender's fault if an item gets soaked?  Waterproofing is not a requirement.  Sounds like it's a problem with the postal service if a lot of your mail is drenched.  I receive my mail at a PO box and have not once in 700+ books ever received one that the packaging was water damaged (rec'd some that packaging was dry, clean and book was just sent in poor condition).  You can offer those unpostables as free with an order from your shelf so that they can still be passed on.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 3:44 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2005
Posts: 10,741
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I use Tyvek polymailers most of the time. I also reuse every bubble mailer I get if I don't have to destroy it to open it. I can't imagine shipping a book in nothing but wrapping paper - even without the risk of water damage, it seems like it could be torn off way too easily resulting in the book being separated from the packaging. I have received some books very securely wrapped in 2 or 3 layers of newspaper but they also had LOTS of tape!

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 4:35 PM ET
Member Since: 7/12/2008
Posts: 1,181
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I bought a very large roll of brown mailing paper pretty cheap and since it's so wide, I can generally cut a piece about 8-9 inches high and use it for at least two books (three if they are smallish MMPB). The brown paper is pretty heavy and wraps books very well. It helps to use copious amounts of packing tape.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 4:41 PM ET
Member Since: 5/5/2008
Posts: 988
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I wrap mine in plastic wrap and then newspaper.  You wouldn't believe the comments I've had.  All good!

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 5:26 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 798
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I'm sorry, but I think "the economy" is a pretty poor excuse for not wrapping books well.  I reuse everything other than paper that comes to me. Even brown paper grocercy bags are better than wrapping paper.  I know a lot of people have lost their jobs and are struggling, but if they truly cannot afford to wrap a package decently, should they even spending the money on a swap site? I think books become a luxury at that point, not a necessity.

Sorry, but "the economy" as an excuse for not wrapping packages decently sounds pretty pathetic to me...

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 5:54 PM ET
Member Since: 1/15/2008
Posts: 1,748
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I agree, that's lame! One could get a big ol roll of plastic for a few bucks that would last for hundreds of book and tape that up well and just tape the label on there. There's no rule that a package can't be seethrough. If someone really can't afford a few dollars or to first wrap in a plastic grocery bag that you get FREE when you buy groceries, then you shouldn't even be on here.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 6:11 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2007
Posts: 15,225
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I personally cannot stand using bubble envelopes to mail books. They just never fit right. I reuse what I get, but don't like doing it. I usually use a recycled slit-open airpac and brown postal paper (or the PBS mailer on single MMPs) and have never had a book get damaged by the PO.

The wrapping instructions do say that giftwrapping paper is not a good material for wrapping and would have pointed that out to the sender.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 6:26 PM ET
Member Since: 2/5/2007
Posts: 30,805
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I have used wrapping paper a lot for sending books and never had a single complaint.  Of course, I'm one of those "tapers" so the paper never gets torn.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 6:45 PM ET
Member Since: 1/15/2008
Posts: 204
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"Considering that PBS recommends just using 2 sheets of paper, how is it the sender's fault if an item gets soaked?"

It's not the sender's fault...that's why senders refuse to return points in such situations. The packaging requirements should be changed. They are much too liberal. It's crazy rules like 2 sheets of copy paper that could bring down the quality of a trade site. If a good packager receives enough damaged books due to flimsy packaging, they might just follow suit and refuse to return points too. 

I'm pleased to report that the vast majority of books I receive are well protected. But it has been stormy here all week, and it was just a bad time to get books with insufficient layers and a lack of tape or saran wrap.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 7:11 PM ET
Member Since: 1/1/2006
Posts: 547
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One thing you have to understand is that the 2 sheets of copy paper work great and are perfectly fine for wrapping WHEN the package is wrapped tightly.  I mail a lot of MMPs and receive a lot of them too.  I wrap in plastic wrap and then in the 2 sheets of paper.  Never had a problem.  But I wrap tight and use good tape.  Most of the MMPs that I have received have been without the extra layer of plastic.  When the sender used packing tape with their 2 sheets of paper, I have not had any problems with the PO damaging my book.  Honestly, even the books with the crap tape have survived well.

Where you have the problems is when people don't wrap their 2 sheets tightly and things get caught in machinces.  Then there are the fools who think they can send any book with the single sheet wrapper.  Are they nuts? 

Honestly, I think that PBS should contact their top 50 senders and have them each do a wrapping tutorial.   And new members need to view at least 5 of the tutorials before they can mail their first book.  And if you can't afford "wrapping materials", either think outside your box or put your account on hold.  But that doesn't mean that you have to buy premium quality wrapping materials to be a member.  Buy LUNCH BAGS.  I can wrap 100 trade books with a roll of Saran Wrap and a bag of lunch bags.  Total cost about $6.


Date Posted: 11/15/2008 7:35 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,136
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I don't understand the reluctance to use plastic wrap.  It just makes sense--mail is outside a lot of the time when it's being transported, it rains and snows out there--I would not send a book out into the world without protective plastic!  For those who don't want to spend money on plastic wrap or have environmental objections to the use of additional plastic, ask your neighbors or co-workers to save their grocery bags for you--this way you'll be reusing something free that would be thrown out anyway.  And yes, the packing tape is important too.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 7:49 PM ET
Member Since: 10/30/2006
Posts: 8,426
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Last Edited on: 12/24/08 5:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/15/2008 10:05 PM ET
Member Since: 4/17/2008
Posts: 1,194
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Where do you all live that your mail is getting wet on a regular basis. I personally would be complaining to the post office if my mail was wet as often as is stated in several posts here. In all the years I have been receiving mail I think I've had wet mail maybe twice.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 10:52 PM ET
Member Since: 4/6/2007
Posts: 1,429
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We live out in the country with rural mailboxes.  They are not watertight and on a stormy, rainy, windy day, mail is going to get wet.  That's just the way it is. 

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 10:53 PM ET
Member Since: 7/23/2005
Posts: 7,553
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For paperbacks, I cut down the plastic bags from grocery stores, wrap the books in the cut down plastic bags and then wrap them in wallpaper.  The plastic bags are free and I purchase discontinued rolls of wallpaper for $1.00 a roll.  (The cost used to be 25 cents, but the shop owner is now donating 75 cents to his favorite charity.. I'm ok with that.).  I can wrap a heck of a lot of books with one roll of wallpaper.

Hardcover books are either wrapped with a layer of bubblewrap (often recycled from work) and wallpaper. Or I recycle bubble envelopes from books I've received from here.  In a pinch, I will use a new bubble envelope (I purchase those in bulk for troop mailings).

For multiple orders, I've used cut down cereal boxes, pasta boxes (dried pasta, LOL),  fruit roll up boxes, etc. and recycled boxes from work. Sometimes it just takes a little more thinking.  I think the wrapping paper thing would have worked if the book had been totally wrapped with tape, for a 'snugger', more protective fit?

Just a thought for any new peeps, please... if you're considering wrapping your books in newspaper, please wrap them in some kind of plastic first. The newsprint tends to transfer itself all over the books.  It's kind of gross.

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 10:53 PM ET
Member Since: 8/18/2005
Posts: 7,977
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Last Edited on: 5/20/10 3:09 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 11/16/2008 12:01 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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If you are getting mail that is damaged by weather, file a complain to the PO.  You should NOT be getting wet mail.  I live in Portland where it rains 6-7 mos out of the year and I have never received wet mail.

Not being able to afford decent packaging is no excuse for improperly wrapping a book sent here.  If people can't find substantial wrapping materials (like reusable plastic bags) , they need to stop swapping.



Date Posted: 11/16/2008 12:27 AM ET
Member Since: 11/4/2008
Posts: 1
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I just sent out my first 6 books and then I came on the forums to read to find this post.  Now I'm scared!  I read the instructions and watched the PBS video on proper packaging.  I wrapped the first few books in saran wrap and then just took the 2 pieces of printer paper and taped them to the book.  Then I took packaging tape and wrapped the entire book with it. 

After doing that with the first few books, I skipped the saran wrap thinking that since I was wrapping the entire outside of the package with packing tape that should make it waterproof.  Am I correct in thinking that?  After reading this thread it doesn't even seem like most people use the 2 pieces of copy paper that PBS recommends.  I hope my books make it okay.  :o(

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 12:44 AM ET
Member Since: 7/18/2008
Posts: 1,051
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Bad packaging is mostly just laziness in my opinion. It's not hard to make sure it's secure.

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 1:05 AM ET
Member Since: 10/23/2005
Posts: 7,719
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Even with money getting tight, there is more than enough reuseable crap that comes in my mailbox on a regular basis to keep me in wrapping supplies. I used to stand over my garbage pail to open mail. I now stand over a basket where I keep my book wrapping stuff.

I have only purchased a total of 5 bubble mailers, when they were in the clearance rack for a nickel a piece. And I have mailed nearly 300 books, including BOB trades. The rest of my books go out in plastic lined paper.

The plastic comes from magazines, my newspaper, the Avon catalog, celophane wrappers from samples, plastic grocery bags if any get into my house, leftover celophane party favor bags, plastic bags that sweaters come in, plastic bags that my monitor came in, plastic bags that greeting cards come in, tyvek wrappers that equipment is sent to work in. The supply is limitless.

The outer paper layer comes from the bubble mailers I receive from my PBS orders, manilla envelopes from advertisements (cut the clasp out, they can scratch books and recipients), envelopes that calendars come in, the old calendar pages themselves, the wrappers from reams of printer paper, brown grocery store bags, old manilla file folders someone at work was tossing, I even used an old dust jacket from a Hard Cover book I couldnt find, and yes old inside-out wrapping paper, wrapped around and around the book about 5 times.

The only thing I spend money on is tape, I either buy the cheap wrapping tape and use twice as much or I buy the good tape and use less. But good taping, as others have said, is the best assurance that book packages will arrive intact.

I dont think the excuse that times are tough would wash with me, the problem isnt not enough money to buy supplies, it is not enough willingness to find material that will do the job.

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 10:27 AM ET
Member Since: 12/9/2007
Posts: 9,601
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L.G. and Diane,  It's very easy to say to complain to your post office.  Have you ever done that successfully?  About delivery?  If you have, then you are the first I've heard about getting satisfaction from such a complaint.  Mail carriers almost always will do what they want without any correction or interference - and I have plenty of neighbors to testify to that.  Mail gets wet easily.  Bills dry out.  Books do, too, but then they are unpostable.  It is entirely foreseeable that a book in just a layer or 2 of bond paper will get damaged.  Wet and/or torn wrappers happen frequently.  And if the wrappers are torn you can bet that getting wet isn't hard.  I live on a rural route, too.  Our carrier delivers to clusters of rural mailboxes by the side of a very high traffic state road that is only 2 lanes with no shoulder on the sides.  It's dangerous for him.  He hurries so he cuts his risk of getting hit by speeding and stupid drivers.  I can't fault him too much if he doesn't quite close up the boxes (remember it is a cluster of boxes - up to 15 at a time).  And even when the boxes are closed up - it doesn't take a lot of wind to get rain into the boxes never mind while he's got them open to put mail in.  I've had more books arrive with only parts of their wrappers than wet books, but that's only because it wasn't raining at the time.  I got a book last week that was wrapped in one sheet (8.5"x11") of the PBS wrapper and it didn't cover the entire book at all.  It was taped to the book.  It's also the only time I've received a book with Scotch "magic" tape  all over it that survived.  I was shocked.

I've learned my own packaging lessons from watching what I get in the mail.  Plastic is definitely a good thing.  Stronger paper than printer paper is needed.  Lots of good packaging tape is necessary.  I've not had one complaint (knock on wood) yet about my wrapping.  So I would imagine that I'm doing okay.  I certainly do want feedback if there is a problem.  I reuse everything I get except for the printer paper wrappers and the manila envelopes - they aren't strong enough either.  And if the paper grocery bags get the least bit of strain the fibers pull apart and the book is exposed.  So I use Tyvek which I cut into 2 wrappers, or I use the poly mailers which are cheap.  And I still pre-wrap in plastic to make sure the book stays tightly packaged no matter what.  In the end what I want is to get a book that I can re-post.  And that's how I send them out - so they can be re-posted.



Cathy A. (Cathy) - ,
Date Posted: 11/16/2008 11:27 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2005
Posts: 4,150
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Rebecca, don't worry about your packaging.

For Mass Market Paperback books that are less than an inch thick, the most common packaging method is no plastic wrap, 2 sheets of printer paper, and packing tape along the seam and ends. This works just fine almost 100% of the time, regardless of what you read in this thread. According to my Transaction Archive, I have mailed 312 books now. I have never packed a paperback any other way, and only 1 has arrived damaged by USPS (and it was not wet, it was apparently twisted or folded into a very small mailbox). I have also received over 300 books, most of which were wrapped in 2 sheets of paper (about 30% also in plastic) and not one of them has been damaged by USPS (or saved from damage by that extra layer of plastic).

If you pack a book using this PBS recommended wrapping method and it gets damaged or wet in transit, it is the USPS' fault, and you are not obligated to refund the requestor's credit. If you want to wrap in plastic or tape the package to death, you certainly can, but you are absolutely not required to do so. If you see requestor conditions on a request asking you to use plastic, that's the only case where you must do so, but you are also free to decline that request with no repercussions.

For thick paperbacks or hardcover books, you have to wrap differently. You can use a cut up brown paper grocery bag, or manila envelopes, or bubble mailers, or whatever you have. The main thing is to make sure that the book can't slide around in the packaging or the corners will poke through. You also have to tape in such a way that the ends and sides can't be torn by the machinery.

Just take a look at the books you get from here before you open them. You'll quickly see which packaging survives the mail system and which doesn't.

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 12:12 PM ET
Member Since: 9/2/2006
Posts: 4,110
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Well I have to say I've sent out and recieved lots of books wrapped only in the PBS wrapper with no complaint.  Now I did wrap my books in saran wrap as well, but I have often gotten books just in the wrapper with out incident.  That being said, I rarely do that anymore mostly because I was fortunate to by a lot of 100 Tyvek evnvelopes on Ebay for a low price I think they cost me less than 15 cents apiece, they are big enough to hold most hardcover, for PB I just double them over.  I chose to go that route because I was going through massive amounts of tape, taping the labels on taping the package shut... I really am not saving much cash wise, but aggravation wise it is worth it, because I know there is no way the PO will be able to damage or get the book wet short of wilful distruction by a disgruntled PO worker ; )

I have to agree with Ruth, complaining to the PO is practically pointless.  I have to complain everytime our regular gal is out sick or on vacation, we live on Condado drive, which is just around the corner from Coranado drive and there is a house there with the exact house number.  You would be surprised how often I have had to walk over and get my mail and found that the postal work has scratched out the street name and "corrected" it to reflect where they delivered it to.   Complaints have been met with mostly denial and have been told unless I actually see the worker make the "correction" how do I know it was them.  As far as our Postmaster is concerned they don't make mistakes, and any dificulties I might be having I must remedy myself.


Date Posted: 11/16/2008 12:41 PM ET
Member Since: 7/13/2008
Posts: 42
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I send mostly paperbacks and there has never been a prob with my wrapping.

By the way, where I live, they are going to start making you pay for your plastic grocery bags at the store, so using those for PBS wrapping is out. (Most everyone is switching over to taking their own tote bag to the store.)

I wrap my books in plastic, then the 2 sheets of plain copy paper, and packing tape along the seams and edges.

Guess what fits paperbacks perfectly?  Fold-lock top pleated sandwich bags.  Not the zip-locks, which are often not wide enough.

A box of the fold-lock top pleated sandwich bags is about $2.19 for 150.  You just cut the down-fold along the edge so that it also folds up, use a piece of tape to close it over the book and you're good for the plastic part.