Shipping...What You Need to Know


DFO Veteran
Nov 6, 2005
Reaction score
close to l.a. in so cal
i was going to respond to 2 other posts but i figured this might be best. if the mods think this needs to be deleted then so be it.

this is not a "how to pack drums" post as we all know to pack well so it makes it to someone safely, not to mention everyone has their own way of doing things and generally use what they can buy or have on hand to pack with. this is more of a "what you need to know when shipping" post and is not meant to bring anyone down or a deterrence to ship something.

though many have not had issues in shipping (incl myself) others have had nothing but nightmares dealing with a lost or damaged drums or item in general. especially if they have to go thru ebay. i've read all the complaints on all the forums and unfortunately its not something that fixable unless a package is packed well.

i have worked for drum companies building and shipping, and i now work for a shipping company. to generalize for all shipping companies, not every employee is a bad worker and i'm not saying one company is better than another.

that said, and to put it bluntly...60% - 70% of the employees who load the trailers and cans (that go into planes) are kids who don't even know how to work. its a manual labor job and they don't care...its just a job.

i am purposely generalizing here as i need to keep my job, but if you know how your package gets delivered then it may give you some ammunition to help you pack better or if you have to deal with a damaged package.

as a side note..inspect EVERYTHING you get shipped to you. drums, guitars, electronics... even paperwork.

i may update this as i thin of things but perhaps this may help alittle.

the obvious:

- tape up the package well: it doesn't matter if its a box or letter / envelope, tape it up so its rock solid so it doesn't open in transit. everything runs on conveyors to get from one place to another and things can small things can fall thru the cracks, get stuck or get damaged. DO NOT USE WATER TAPE. this is tape you run thru water to adhere. it guarantees your package will fall apart in transit.

- if a box opens in transit: if you have small items inside...bag'em. little things like to fall out of boxes and unless someone knows were it came from (which they usually don't...see labels) consider it lost. it will get trashed. unless the box kinda opens in one area and someone can put the stuff back in and tape it up.

- tape over your shipping labels: these can come off or get ripped off easily. remember its just a sticker so taping over the shipping label can be the difference between receiving it or it getting lost. also, put the shipping label in a place were its visable. sounds odd but many don't. and DO not place the label over the box flaps unless you tape over the entire box seam AND label. labels can get folded over if the box collapses, making the label unscanable.

- labels in general:
= if you use a used box (like many do because sometimes we have to make a box...) peel off all other labels, especially other shipping labels. shipping labels do not expire (so i'm told) so if someone sees your box with a old new york shipping label and scans it (when it should go to idaho) guess box is going to new york. and do not black out a old label with a marker. though this is technically ok there's a lot of info that can be read on a label so its best to just take it off.

= take off all hasmat labels: do NOT cover these labels with another label. in the shipping world these labels tell the shipper what's allowed to be in the box and requre special care or transit requirements if needed. if you cover a hasmat label it will go right back to you because a shipper doesn't know what exactly is in the box.

= i encourage any "fragile" or "this way up" stickers (and tape over them as these too can fall off) but most people don't pay attention to them even though they're required to. they're also taught to "learn to turn", meaning to turn a box on its side if needed to pack a trailer or can safely.

- i personally like to use free packing material. mainly because i can get it free AND i don't have to charge extra for it. that means asking a store for their boxes or pulling them out of the trash. i specifically look for foam which is lite weight and sturdy. there's many different types of foam so i can't go into specifics but this stuff has never failed me and i can cut it to shape and it sometimes conforms to the item while protecting the item.

the process:

- packages generally go from you, to the truck, to the building, sorted by conveyors (or by hand for smalls and bulk items such as bass drum boxes for example) to trailers and cans (for planes), travel and then the process is reversed.

- packages come down the slides for a can or trailer to be packed. as an example, a trailer can be up to 54 feet long. that means you can have approx 54' of slide full of packages coming down up against one another and the employee "builds a wall" out of the packages to ensure a safe trip. heavy bulk items should come by carts instead of slides (such as blocks of steel, bbq's, long tubes, rugs, etc...)

- employees load cans and trailers by hand in a way that should be safe for transit. again not all employees are bad workers but not everyone is good at it. its like playing tetris for 5 hours. if you pack well its definitely helps. they start from the bottom and work their way to the top, heavy or large boxes on the bottom, lite on top. "smalls" (such as envelopes, small boxes, bubbler mailers, etc...) go into large bags and scanned as one piece instead of 15 individual pcs.

- this means that (for example) your bass drum box should be on the bottom of that wall as its the biggest box and acts as part of the support (along with the rest of the row) this means you should give extra care in the way you pack them. other may turn them on their side or they might come down the slides (which they shouldn't) and i'm not saying it WILL get damaged but just letting you know how the process works.
Last edited:


Dec 8, 2019
Reaction score
Fresno, CA
I'll add to this... Specifically addressing smaller packages. When I say smaller, I mean smaller than a rack tom.

Much of the "handling" is done by automation. That means your package can travel from a to b with a surprisingly few number of human touches. So just remember, machines just do what they do. The nature of machines.

Larger is better.
If you are packing/sending three drum lugs ( or similar) think about the machines. Even though you can pack these up and the package will be the size of a deck of cards, you probably shouldn't.

Small packages can fall into the spaces between belts or machine parts and be destroyed or lost. They shouldn't and they typically don't, but the chance is MUCH greater. When this happens the item is lost or destroyed.

Just because it fits doesn't mean you should pack it that way
A new Iphone will fit in a large envelope. Chances are it will not survive the machines. I've seen this more than once.

Same for small parts or trinkets. You can't just stick them in an envelope, even a padded one. They will never (rarely) make it.

The machines do what they do.
Think of them like Arnold in the Terminator. In this case, they aren't out to get you. But they don't feel pain, they don't feel remorse, they just do what they do, and they never stop.

Last edited: