FedEx or UPS shipping when you know everything except the weight
March 14, 2021 12:06 AM   Subscribe

I stored a few boxes of personal items with a friend several years ago with plans to come back and get the boxes when I finished grad school. Because of the pandemic, I’m not able to travel to get the boxes and they’ve overstayed their welcome. Problem: We don’t know the weight

My friend, who lives alone, doesn’t feel comfortable weighing the boxes alone. I’m hesitant to push the question because my friend had a head injury in recent years and I think their wariness may be ability based (i.e. balancing on a household scale while holding a box)

I’d like to schedule a pick-up at my friend’s house to minimize the burden for my friend but I don’t know the weight of the boxes. I can figure out every other dimension.

I just want to call a service to take care of it. I figure I can prepare a label for my friend to print with my own billing information and have FedEx/UPS pick the boxes up and if the shipper changes the billing and charges my account, that’s okay. I also want to ensure social distancing for my friend. What are my options? What will FedEx Ground or UPS do if the estimated weight is too low? (e.g. let's say I list 10 pounds and it's 40-50?)

The boxes are standard heavy plastic storage boxes like people use in attics and garages. They could be up to 70 pounds, but most likely are somewhere between 25-40 pounds. I can guarantee that there is nothing prohibited in the boxes because I did consider that shipping might be a possibility when I packed them. There's nothing particularly valuable or fragile in the boxes. Some things are slightly sentimental is all, but the world won't end if something gets lost.

What are my options? Is there a courier (Richmond, VA) that will pick up and just take care of everything?
posted by Skwirl to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
An answer I got from UPS when I asked a similar question (I had to get some boxes of various stuff together to ship to a trade show, some of the stuff to go in the boxes hadn't arrived to me yet, but I had a deadline to book for collection the next day) - it doesn't matter if it's over-estimated, as long as it's not under-estimated. So if you're confident that they aren't more than x pounds, just book for x pounds. Also, in my experience, even if you under-estimate, they won't just send the packages back to the original address, they will hold them and bill you for the difference (I used to ship lots of stuff every day and this happened more than once).

If you are shipping internationally the discrepancy might make it more likely for the packages to be inspected at customs, but even if that's the case, all that means is a bit of a delay if everything is legal and above-board.
posted by cilantro at 4:37 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This would be my approach:
  1. Set up a UPS account number that is tied to your credit card on the UPS website
  2. Call a local UPS store and tell them that you will be having a bunch of boxes dropped off, and that they need to be prepared for shipping and shipped to you, and that you will be paying for them through your account.
  3. Hire a local courier service to pick up the boxes and get them to the UPS.Richmond Express seems like an option.
UPS will do package pick up, but the challenge there is that I don't think that your "standard plastic storage boxes" are going to work for actual shipping, and they will have to be put inside of larger cardboard boxes. This is where the UPS store will help, because you can just hand them an object and say "please ship this" and they will figure out how to make that happen. Before setting up the local courier service, I would call the UPS store. My local UPS store started as a Mailboxes etc, and still has connections to local and regional curiors. That store may be able to just take care of everything for you.

Be prepared for this to be expensive.
posted by rockindata at 4:39 AM on March 14, 2021 [17 favorites]

Seconding cilantro in that it can be an estimate (preferably an over-estimate). UPS will double-check the weidht and charge you based on what THEY discover the weight is; they will not penalize you if it doesn't match what you claimed. (if you UNDER-estimate, they will of course charge you the overage).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:14 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I agree with rockindata, I would start by calling a couple of UPS stores and/or independent shipping centers (the kind that handle UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.) near your friend's home/the current location of the boxes and seeing whether they have recommendations. These places are mostly independently-owned mom-and-pop operations so if one can't/won't help you out, another might be able to. Carytown Pack & Ship seems like a potential option. (These places always have terrible reviews on Yelp, etc., in my experience... not sure how much weight you would want to put on that.)
posted by mskyle at 6:16 AM on March 14, 2021

If you know the dimensions the first thing to check is that they fit inside the UPS limits if you exceed those the price jumps from expensive to stupidly expensive. So in that case it will pay to buy smaller boxes and repackage everything, otherwise what rockindata said.
posted by Lanark at 6:27 AM on March 14, 2021

Fed-Ex Office will also do all this for you. In my experience the service is more consistent at Fed Ex Office, maybe because they are company employees and not franchisees.
posted by COD at 6:39 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

My anecdata: when I call FedEx's 800 number to schedule a pickup at my work, they ask if any of the packages weigh more than 100 pounds. That's it.
posted by kuanes at 7:29 AM on March 14, 2021

What are the dimensions? If they’re bulky enough their size alone may determine how much it’ll cost to ship. Couriers have a concept of “dimensional weight” which is (length x width x height) / 139, using inches. You get charged based on whatever is larger, the dimensional weight or the actual weight in pounds.
posted by zsazsa at 7:34 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

How many plastic totes are there? You may be better off calling a moving/shipping company to pick them up and deliver to your location.
posted by tman99 at 9:53 AM on March 14, 2021

Best answer: This feels like a natural task for one of the gig services like Taskrabbit. Hire someone to show up at your friend's place, grab all the boxes, make sure everything's sealed, addressed, etc. and take to UPS/FedEx/USPS.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:00 AM on March 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Can your friend lift the boxes at all? UPS/FedEx drivers are not allowed to come inside so someone would have to move the boxes to the door anyway. If your friend can lift the boxes, they can give you a weight estimate and as noted in other comments you can add 10 or 20 pounds to that to be sure the number you're giving isn't under the actual weight.
posted by entropyiswinning at 1:11 PM on March 14, 2021

Can it be posted to MeFi Jobs or TaskRabbit; has the friend had their Covid vax?
posted by theora55 at 2:10 PM on March 14, 2021

Back when I worked at a place that had a FedEx account and shipped Overnight like it was nothing, I was told to write a nominal weight on the waybill and the real weight would get picked up as it went through the system.
posted by Standard Orange at 11:29 PM on March 14, 2021

Contact a certified personal organizer/home organizer/professional organizer... (search in AskMe for recommendations). They will go to your friend's home and handle everything worry-free.

Maybe TaskRabbit and MeFi Jobs could provide the same service but these are not professional certifications.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:25 AM on March 15, 2021

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