Using international courier services used to be seen as a luxury for domestic customers and an unavoidable expense for many businesses. The same can also be said of international air travel. Just like the latter, the past 15 years has seen an incredible sea change in the way people regard both of these. Just as budget airlines have made overseas flights accessible to all, nowadays a wide range of international courier services are available at highly affordable prices. People are using courier services to send presents to friends and family, shipping out purchases on eBay and, of course, for all manner of business deliveries.
Part of this increase in affordable international courier services is down to greatly increased competition which, while excellent for the consumer in terms of price, has led to a confusing array of couriers on the market. Just a quick Google search for “parcel delivery” will yield pages of results, all claiming to be able to deliver from your postcode to almost any region worldwide. Such a dizzying level of choice can often leave the consumer with more questions than answers.
As with all things consumer, the more information you have the better, and in the case of the hundreds of low-cost courier services available online – all promising a premium service at the lowest prices – it really pays to know how such services structure their pricing for different kinds of delivery. Naturally, the very first thing that comes into play is the size and weight of any package requiring delivery. The key phrase to remember here is “volumetric weight”.
Volumetric weight is the total figure achieved when putting together a package’s weight on the scales along with its length, width and breadth. Bigger, bulkier parcels have a higher level of encumbrance, whatever their weight, which means that sometimes it can cost more to have a lighter but larger parcel delivered, than a smaller, more compact item. There’s also the added factor of space taken up in delivery vans and cargo planes and ships’ holds – a delivery company will be seeking to maximize the number of packages per trip.
Fortunately, courier services online have a ready calculator which allows you to enter the details of your package and see the exact cost of the delivery. When using these, it is very important to make the measurements and weights as accurate as possible, as the quote you will receive will be much more accurate itself, and by doing so you will prevent possible confusion – and excess charges – later on. While taking the measurements and entering the details, also take care that you’re using the same units as the courier service, as it can be extremely confusing and time-wasting to take all the measurements in feet, inches and pounds only to find the delivery service has been reckoning everything using meters, centimeters and kilos!
Most courier services demand that all parcels and packages are prepared in a regularly sized and reinforced box, for safety and ease of transport. From the customers’ point of view, this is a good idea for two reasons. Firstly, the courier facility will measure all packages to the nearest regularly-shaped equivalent, for fitting in their vans and storage areas. Irregular shapes or unusual parcel shapes such as circles and triangles will be treated as if they were themselves inside a square box – so you will effectively be paying extra for the transportation of thin air!
Secondly, regular-shaped packages are safer to transport because they can be packed more securely, greatly lessening their chance of being damaged in transit. If you’re transporting especially fragile or valuable goods, most companies also offer the option of paying extra for contents insurance on that package, with minimum and maximum amounts covered.
A couple of final things to remember when measuring and boxing your package for a courier service: be aware that you will need to round up any fractions, rather than round them down, because the delivery agent will measure every package along their longest point, to take account of the maximum room they will be taking up in the van or lorry – so if your parcel is 26.7cm high, declare it as 28cm, and so forth.
The other thing that you should be prepared to do is print out the package labels yourself. The lowest cost companies, after calculating the delivery price, will ask you for details of the home and delivery addresses, before providing you with a PDF file containing several labels for printing. These show the names and addresses, along with bar codes which the delivery agent will scan upon pick-up and others will also scan during the package’s journey. These enable you to track the progress of the package online as well as providing proof of receipt in the event of it going astray. Be extra careful when measuring and entering information at every stage of the process in order to prevent unnecessary delays and losses.
Being prepared will make it a lot easier to compare prices and quotes from competing companies, and if you regularly require packages delivered, you will most likely soon come to find a courier delivery service that you find both reliable and great value. It is surprising how quickly large packages can be delivered between countries – even some far from the original address – and such services are a godsend to anyone taking advantage of those aforementioned cheap flights with their low baggage allowances, for instance.
Robert Joseph works as a Depot Manager at Parcel Hero – an international courier company specializing worldwide parcel deliveries.