Addressing a package may seem like a basic business activity. However, certain mistakes, such as writing an address parallel to the shorter end of the package, may add extra costs to your bottom line. Other errors to avoid include writing on tape, placing a label on a seam or placing barcodes in inappropriate locations on the parcel. All can cause shipping delays or impede delivery.
Writing the Address
Whenever possible, a business should err on the side of professional presentation with either customized self-adhesive labels or pre-printed shipping labels. When an odd-size package necessitates a handwritten address, use a permanent marker and write the address on the largest side of the item. The address should be written like this: the recipient's name on the first line; a business name on the second line, if applicable; street address on the third line with apartment or suite numbers, if space allows; and the city, state and ZIP code on the last line. If your package is too small to fit a suite number next to the street address, drop the information to a new line. Always use the two-letter state abbreviations when addressing mail.
All three major package handlers, USPS, FedEx and UPS, allow customers to craft shipping labels and prepay postage. If your business ships packages regularly, services such as USPS Click 'N Ship help create a streamlined presentation for your package by incorporating additional services, such as insurance and delivery confirmation, into one shipping label and barcode. These labels can be added to the largest side of your package and placed in the middle of the box with the information running parallel to the longest side.
When you are adding services, such as certified mail or insurance, to a hand-addressed package, the preprinted barcodes for these services should be placed in the top middle of your parcel, directly above the destination address. The return address for your business can still be placed in the upper left hand corner, and a clerk at the post office will place your postage meter strip in the upper right hand corner. The proper placement of these barcodes helps ensure they are scanned while they pass through automated sorting machinery, allowing you to track your merchandise every step of the way.
Placing your shipment label parallel to your package's longest side isn't just an aesthetic enhancement. With certain items, it can actually result in a cost savings. For example, if your business is shipping a thin, softcover book eligible for shipment as a First Class flat, placing the label incorrectly would require the item to ship as a First Class parcel at a higher rate. Additional considerations include not marking on tape because the writing can smear, and not placing shipping labels on the seam of a package. If the seam bursts during shipment, your label may be damaged, delaying shipment.
Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.