Shipping stuff for a move?
May 5, 2019 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Hello! I'm planning to move from Cincinnati to Boston by shipping my stuff with Fedex Ground. Questions inside.

First of all, how should I weigh my packages? I was planning on just buying a human scale. What brand of shipping tape do you recommend? If Uline is morally problematic, as I learned here, where should I buy my boxes? (I don't have a car, so I can't really go somewhere in town.) Any other tips to make the move go smoothly? Thank you.
posted by 8603 to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
They have boxes at FedEx and FedEx office. A lot of storage places also sell boxes. They can weight the stuff when you take it to ship it. You probably already know this, but unless you have an incredibly small amount of stuff, FedEx is going to cost a ton.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:48 AM on May 5, 2019

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit--just to clarify, I'm going to have them pick up the stuff at my apartment with labels already on it.
posted by 8603 at 7:50 AM on May 5, 2019

A human scale is fine. Best is if a human steps on it without and then with the package to see the difference, since otherwise the package can wobble and/or obscure the readout panel. Unfortunately this might require a rather light-but-strong human, or a scale that goes fairly high, so keep that in mind when making your selection.

When selecting your boxes, aim for quality over cheapness if you can. Boxes designed for shipping are usually sturdier than those designed for moving, and are leagues above random free liquor store boxes. Depends on what you're putting in them though, of course; clothes can go in the cheap boxes, or even in luggage (as in, unboxed) if you have it. Tape you'll want to be at a price-point where you'll use it generously. When I was preparing boxes for FedEx shipments, we were taught to "H-tape" them top and bottom, i.e. fold the flaps normally (not criss-crossed, where you tuck the final corner under the other), and then tape both along the open edges and across the middle to make an H.
posted by teremala at 8:11 AM on May 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Home Depot sells boxes that are pretty good quality and reasonably priced for that quality.
posted by solotoro at 8:19 AM on May 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 3M Scotch makes tape called "Heavy Duty Shipping Packing Tape". It comes with a simple red plastic dispenser, 55 yards. Cheaper tape will just rip and peel unevenly and drive you crazy. You can buy larger rolls but then you need one of those complicated dispensers or use a knife which you will put down somewhere and constantly have to find.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:01 AM on May 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have packed and shipped more books than I care to think about. For single use, generic shipping boxes should be okay. If you have a nearby bookstore, sometimes they have excellent boxes. Buy clear plastic shipping tape, you need to tape the bottom and top seams lengthwise, and smooth it down on the sides. You really don't need gobs of tape, or premium tape. If you overfill a box, you may want to tape it all the way around the girth.

Your boxes will be on conveyor belts and sorting machines,and get bounced and jostled. For pots & pans or loose stuff, pad empty space with crumpled newspaper or packing paper. I have gotten packing peanuts free on craigslist, and put them in plastic grocery bags for this. For anything breakable, use packing foam and/or bubblewrap.

Books, cds, dvds can be shipped media rate, but you do have to take them to the USPS.
posted by theora55 at 2:17 PM on May 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like Uhaul boxes for good quality and a reasonable price. They also let you return any unused boxes for a full refund.
posted by COD at 3:21 PM on May 5, 2019

I've found that spirits boxes from liquor stores are normally much stronger (as contents more valuable).

I usually try to stick labels (e.g. K for kitchen etc to save writing time) on each face to I can find them at other end, currently I have ~50 boxes unpacked and it really saves time.

A roll of bubblewrap (and scissors) saves a lot of time - we've had a 1m wide x 50 roll and been working thru it as we move each time (@ least 11x - hopefully last for a while now).
posted by unearthed at 3:54 PM on May 5, 2019

I've found that spirits boxes from liquor stores are normally much stronger

Absolutely true but check with Fedex or whichever shipper you are using because the post office, for example, absolutely will not ship liquor boxes unless you totally obscure the fact that they are liquor boxes.
posted by jessamyn at 8:33 PM on May 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. Home Depot has very affordable moving boxes. They come in standard and heavy duty.

2. Check the FedEx Dimensional Weight Calculator. You'll get charged a minimum amount for large boxes, even if they're very light. Definitely calculate this in advance, otherwise you might get surprise bills later if you only calculate the physical weight.

3. Can you find a FedEx discount? If not, consider using UPS. You can get a pretty significant UPS discount by signing up with eBay UPS Shipping (may take many days to actually get your account enabled). To get the discounted eBay UPS shipping rate, ship through PayPal using this URL:

4. How much stuff do you have? FedEx Ground Multiweight and UPS Hundredweight Service both offer discounts for many packages going to the same place at the same time. But you'll likely have to get that rate enabled on your shipping account. This too may take many days.
posted by reeddavid at 12:39 AM on May 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just an update for those keeping score at home. Per solotoro's advice, I purchased Home Depot shipping boxes and they're working well. I am using heavy duty for books and regular duty for non-books. Per TWinbrook8, I got 3M Scotch Heavy Duty Shipping Packing Tape and it, too, is working well.

The cheapest option so far is the eBay UPS discount, which comes out to about $0.66-$0.77 per pound if you purchase through the PayPal link above as specified. You have to purchase pickup separately, which seems reasonable, about $11 for 12 boxes (not done packing yet).

I supposedly got an eBay discount for Fedex, but the quotes were still very expensive, over $2 per pound.

Media Mail is about $0.62 per pound, so UPS is competitive with that, plus you don't have to carry your stuff to the post office.
posted by 8603 at 1:46 PM on May 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Another update. Turns out my eBay Fedex discount hadn't been activated yet, but now that it's activated, it's still more expensive than UPS at $0.93/lb, which includes a $36 home pickup charge. Be sure to use the Dimensional Weight calculator linked above.

To register for the eBay Fedex discount, go here and click Overview on the left.
posted by 8603 at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2019

Response by poster: Another update.

I am shipping 645.4 lbs. of stuff for $433.38, or $0.67 per pound. This is via UPS Ground using the eBay discount as noted above and a promo code "easy" that popped up on their website. I was able to get the eBay rate using the regular UPS website; it's not necessary to use the PayPal link from reeddavid's comment. The UPS website has various features that PayPal does not.

I have one large wardrobe box that I haven't weighed yet. 24" x 24" x 34" high, $12.68 at Home Depot.

I got boxes at Home Depot for $1.68 apiece plus home delivery charges. Heavy duty small for books, pots, and pans; regular duty large for everything else, mostly clothes and fragile items. They accept returns of unused boxes, supposedly without a receipt. I got 3 rolls (163.8 yards) of 3M Scotch "Heavy Duty Shipping Packing Tape" from Home Depot for $10.98, or 6.7 cents per yard. This was more than enough to tape up 16 boxes. I already had a standard red dispenser. The tape may lift up after a day or so unless you press it down really well.

I got a Taylor glass digital scale for $19.99 at Target. It weighs 5.2 lbs., which I'm going to add to the weight of the last box once I throw it in.

I scheduled pickup on the UPS website for between $6 and $7. The status shows "your pickup request is being processed," but per a phone call to UPS, this is normal until the pickup actually happens; no further action is needed from me.
posted by 8603 at 9:28 AM on June 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Further updates...

It took 2 days (Monday-Wednesday) to ship from Cincinnati to Boston.

UPS picked up from inside my apartment, but delivered to my lobby only, a major bummer.

The Home Depot heavy duty boxes were fine, but regular duty were badly torn up.

The tape was adequate in that my packages did arrive intact, but it came unstuck in a lot of places. I will use a different kind of tape next time if at all possible.
posted by 8603 at 3:58 PM on June 5, 2019

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