2012-05-10 / Lifestyles

Performing open-box surgery

Lois A. Corcoran

When it comes to mailing packages, there’s a right way and a wrong way -- and I routinely choose the left.

For starters, it takes forever to find the proper sized box. Every one I round up proves half an inch short. It’s tempting to carve a hole in the side and let the item poke out.

I cushion my whatsit with bubble wrap but recently heard of a more environmentally friendly option. A video at Howcast.com suggests padding with air-popped popcorn. Hold the butter.

One should also remove batteries from items being sent and pack them separately. This, I learned when the clock I packaged sounded more like a bomb.

USPS.com recommends that we “close and shake the box to see whether you have enough cushioning.” You know you need more when you hear glass breaking.

The next step involves sealing the package, thus I tape mine up like a mummy. Soon, my gaze falls upon the letter that should have been inserted. Or I include the letter, but can’t recall the recipient’s address. Either results in open-box surgery.

My sister tells of the Christmas season she packaged gifts to mail but was too tired to address them. When at last she returned to the task, she forgot which ones went to whom. In the end she resorted to breaking and entering.

Somehow my packages never resemble the crisp parcel I saw in that Howcast video. It featured a double corrugated box, as recommended by the U.S. Postal Service, and a professional looking chap sealed it with two-inch wide packing tape.

Furthermore, the label was perfectly centered, and the address appeared in straight, even letters.

By contrast, I use whatever gaudy box happens to fit. I wrap the living daylights out of it with a roll of duct tape. And the address I write runs uphill, downhill, or makes like a mountain range.

It’s embarrassing to hold this eyesore while waiting for a clerk. To determine postage, I should just log online to avoid STANDING on line at the post office.

But then I’d miss hearing the employees recite their famous spiel. “Anything fragile, liquid, perishable or potentially hazardous?”

“Just a smidgeon of nitro,” I say. “Why do you ask?”

And after choosing from a dozen delivery options, I fork over far more cash than the item is worth.

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