Is holiday mailing on your to-do list? You may think you know how to wrap a package to get it safely through the mail, but Jacque Craig, with Consumer Affairs for the U.S. Postal Service in Alaska, says too often people don’t take the time to wrap packages properly.

That’s a problem, according to Craig, because packages get bumped and jostled during the sorting process and a poorly wrapped box is in danger of coming apart and not reaching its intended destination.

A poorly wrapped package may not make it


Craig advises starting with a sturdy box. It’s okay to reuse an old box, but make sure old labels are blacked out or removed. The exception are alcohol boxes, which Craig said can’t be shipped through the U.S. mail.

The next step is packing properly. The contents should have a snug fit. Use bubble wrap, newspaper or other packing material to take up empty space.

“Because the less movement, the better chance that there is not going to be anything happening,” Craig said.

But before you close the lid, Craig highly recommends adding something else.

“Put an address, a to-and-from label, inside the box with whatever you’re shipping. Because if, for instance, the outside to-and-from gets damaged, gets peeled off, something gets wet and it smears and they don’t know where it goes — when the box is opened at our Mail Recovery Center, the address is there.”

Use the correct tape to wrap a package


Then there’s the all-important question of tape, an item Craig said you can never use too much of when wrapping a package you intend to mail.

Craig said any type of tape made for packages is OK, but there are some types that should never be used. Those include scotch tape, painter’s tape, masking tape, even duct tape.

“Duct tape, I know they say it works for everything — not for shipping packages,” Craig said.

Craig said duct tape's tendency to stick to everything is a problem. It’s possible for it to get caught up in the sorting equipment or even adhere to another package.

“If it peels up even just a little bit, it’s going to catch on to something else, and then it’s going to tear it completely off the box.”

Once you’ve taped the box securely, labeling is the next important step. Craig said the return address and the mailing address should be clear and legible, preferably written in black marker on the same side of the box.

Craig said it’s best not to guess at the zip code. If you're unsure, wait till you get to the post office and the clerk can provide it then.

When it comes to getting packages safely through the system, Craig said, it’s really pretty easy.

“Make sure it’s taped well, packaged well and it’s going to get there where it needs to go.”

For further peace of mind, she recommends purchasing extra insurance that will cover damage or loss, especially if the item is important to you.

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