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Why do so many experienced autograph sellers not know how to package properly?

I'm not talking about inexperienced sellers here. I'm talking about sellers with feedback in the thousands who feel that putting a photo in a semi-rigid envelope barely larger than the photo with just a sleeve or perhaps some semi-rigid cardboard around the sleeve is enough protection for an autographed photo.

I've been buying more online lately, a lot of it to fill holes in my Sopranos collection. And it's been truly disheartening to see what a high percentage of sellers don't use sufficient protection. I've taken to adding a note about packaging as bulletproof as possible because of past issues. Doesn't seem to matter with poor packers. I'd say it's about a 50/50 split between those who package adequately and those that don't. Now that doesn't mean that 50% of my packages get damaged. Sometimes USPS is good to me even when items are poorly packaged, but that's no more than 50/50 either. 

I've been collecting since the early nineties and been a small time dealer for over three years. I've sold over 500 autographed items and have never once had a shipping complaint. Not once. I ship using a box with several pieces of bubble wrap and the photo or other flat item goes inside a sleeve with a semi-rigid backing board. I will occasionally recycle a box if it is sturdy enough, works size-wize and is in decent condition. But usually I use boxes I buy. I feel like I make my shipments as bulletproof as possible and buyers are happy. 

Another way that is maybe not quite as good but still protects well is putting the item in a top loader and using rigid cardboard around the item, preferably with a bubble envelope. 

Even just shipping in a sleeve with two reasonably thick pieces of rigid cardboard surrounding is usually good enough.

But...what so many of these sellers I've dealt with don't understand is if you ship flat you have to make sure that the envelope and protection are not only sturdy enough but also large enough to protect the corners. The post office is notorious about dinging corners. And I understand. No kid gloves at USPS. Over and over packages get thrown into bins, slammed down conveyor belts, thrown onto planes, thrown into trucks, etc

Truth be told, although I've had a handful of moderately heavy to badly damaged items, most of the stuff I've gotten damaged has been minor or relatively minor corner damage. But still, any unnecessary shipping damage due to insufficient packaging bugs the heck out of me.

Anybody else here had shipping issues? 

OK, I feel better now that I've ranted out some of my prednisone edginess...LOL! 

 

Views: 466

Comment by Scott Paul on March 22, 2024 at 4:23pm

I bought a very scarce signed John Qualen photograph from the 1940s.  The seller did not even sandwich it in-between two pieces of cardboard.  Merely stuffed it in a manilla envelope and shipped it.   He did not even write "Do Not Bend."   When it arrived, the mailman wedged it in my mailbox making a noticeable horizonal crease in the middle.  While not near the signature it bothers me every time I see it.  

I have bought from you many times and can attest that your packaging is the best I have encountered.   For many autographs I would be glad to pay extra for a box rather than an envelope. In the mid-70s and early 80s I used to buy mostly historical autographs and documents.  He also was very careful he would put them in an envelope then sandwich with cardboard then wrap and tape with newspaper then put in a box!   

Comment by meggs on March 22, 2024 at 6:13pm

I feel your pain, Scott, and thank you for the kind words! 

I didn't realize John Qualen was rare, but you and I are probably among the few who can can picture that unforgettable face with the name. He's one of those unheralded character actors who most people can't name but if they've watched any old movies or TV they immediately know the face because he was in a lot of stuff and always gave a stellar performance. I remember him hilariously interacting with Mr. Ed in that silly but great fun old 60's TV show. He also was in  what many consider the greatest movie of all time, Casablanca.

I better shutup now before I start reminiscing about Charles Lane, Dabbs Greer, Elisha Cook Jr. and so many of those other great character actors of old. 

Another thing that adds to my shipping issues is that we are on what USPS calls an auxiliary route which basically means we don't have a regular carrier. Over the course of a couple months we'll have a dozen different people delivering our mail. Some days one person will deliver the whole route. Other days multiple carriers will deliver parts of the route either before or after doing another route. Delivery time is all over the place. A lot of times I'm working at my desk with a window overlooking the front of the house so I always make it a point to go out and talk to them if I see them pull up and carry down the outgoing bag(s) we have because we have a daily pickup with my wife's business. Most are fine and conscientous folks but you just aren't going to get the same service when you constantly have different carriers. 

Comment by JMS1223 on March 22, 2024 at 6:36pm

Totally know that feeling. We have an excellent regular guy but he’s going to be retiring soon and when he does we will be on the auxiliary route since we won’t have a regular carrier. I am NOT looking forward to this at all. My sister currently has this (substitutes every day) and has been in this situation for over a year and it’s awful. One time for six weeks she didn’t get any of her mail at all because the substitutes either couldn’t deliver to her complex so late at night or they were very understaffed and couldn’t find a carrier to do her route. Another time they failed to deliver packages for about a week since they couldn’t figure out where packages went. The sad thing is she usually gets her mail as late as 9pm on a semi-routine basis. 

Comment by JMS1223 on March 22, 2024 at 6:44pm

I should also mention the time I learned that one of our neighborhood’s substitute mail carriers was too lazy to bring a hardcover textbook improperly packaged in a bubble mailer to the door so instead they cram the textbook into a small metal mailbox and he had to bend it with quite strong force to get it in there. The next day, our regular guy was back and noticed the crammed package in the mailbox and told me about how it took him a good ten minutes trying to get it out. The mailbox was bent up and damaged and of course the textbook was destroyed. I don’t know what my neighbor ended up doing about it but I am sure they were mad. 

Comment by Scott Paul on March 22, 2024 at 7:04pm

I would not call Qualen especially rare but signed photographs of him from about the time he was in Casablanca are scarce.  He played the "Jinx" in a very funny episode of The Andy Griffith Show.  I have  several of  Charles Lane, Dabbs Greer and Elisha Cook Jr.   Greer I also have a nice TLS.  The first two were TAGS alumni and Cook I wanted for my Rosemary's Baby collection.  Buying autographs through the mail is a bit of gamble since until they arrive you are never truly certain what the condition will be.  Packages are often left unprotected I had to dig one out of snow thankfully it was cold enough it did not get wet.  

Comment by meggs on March 22, 2024 at 8:36pm

I feel bad for you, JMS. Being on an auxiliary route is a challenge in many ways. Be prepared for more misdirected mail. Most of the carriers are competent but when they are not used to the route mistakes will inevitably happen more. 

On the other hand, most of the supervisors have never been carriers and don't understand what the carriers deal with. Get to know any carrier well enough and you will hear plenty of negative supervisor stories. 

Comment by meggs on March 22, 2024 at 8:48pm

I remember that episode well Scott, it was a funny one and that was the typical John Qualen persona in so many of his performances. I'm a huge TAGS fan too, at least through 1965. I have to be honest and say when the show got further along in it's run and the focus was more on the characters of Aunt Bee, Clara, Emmitt, Howard, Millie, Goober, etc. I didn't enjoy the episodes nearly as much. I thought they still put out a good one occasionally in the later years though. 

Comment by Josh Board NEW & Improved on March 22, 2024 at 9:01pm

I've always been pleasantly surprised when purchasing thru the mail. There have been times I MYSELF damaged them while opening them carelessly.

And to this day, I still think about a time, maybe 15 years ago, that I sold an EASY E signed album (rapper from NWA). Someone bought it from me, and I packaged it horribly, and they were extremely upset. I think about that ALL THE TIME, because from that, when sending signed albums to someone (I've sold maybe 50 since that time), I take a cardboard box, cut it so it's an inch around the album on all sides and taped, and then packaged with bubble rap.

Comment by meggs on March 22, 2024 at 11:00pm

Josh, you have been a truly lucky man. And you will be even luckier in the future if you don't experience what is referred to as "reverting to the mean"

Comment by Findbooks on March 23, 2024 at 10:39am

Just be glad that you don't buy a lot of books! OMG - the stories I could tell you.

AND, I would say at least 50% of so-called professionals do not know how to pack a book adequately for international shipping.

My absolute worst experience - a large, heavy (2 kilos) new book, wrapped solely in a Tescos shopping bag, name and address written in crayon on the bag. Completely destroyed of course.

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