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mystery packages

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Mike Cohen
mystery packages
on Sep 18, 2009 at 6:00:13 pm

Know your shipping service. The web and FTP has allowed us to curtail our use of priority shipping for client review copies, however we still need to send out our orders and received media from clients.

Shipping services vary from efficient to the Ace Ventura mangled package variety. Getting shipments from overseas is always interesting, not only because of the funky stamps, but envelopes in places like Europe and the Middle East are made of oddly textured paper, not the usual plastic and cardboard that we are accustomed to.

I have to laugh when someone sends a priority package from around the world, but they take a DVD, with no protective case, and just stick it in the envelope loose. Half the time the disc is unplayable or cracked. And sometimes the sender has not checked their disc before mailing. However if someone has burned a multi session disc without closing, or a RW disc, it can have the same effect.

For the seemingly unplayable discs (cyclic redundancy errors or RW or multisession) I have found a free utility that sometimes recovers the data.
Just google/bing/yahoo "unstoppable data recovery" .

And finally, a few times a year I get a mystery package with no return address and odd packing materials. I usually open these outside!

Here is one I got today. I assume the bag has only been used once or twice:

Mike Cohen

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Todd Terry
Re: mystery packages
on Sep 18, 2009 at 6:14:55 pm

Nice!.... I need to get some of those bags.

Seriously, for shipping we really depend on Federal Express.

We used to do tons of dub shipping via UPS, until about a decade ago when the drivers went to strike for a couple of weeks and we had to switch to FedEx. We've never looked back.

FedEx has probably handled about a zillion dubs for us. Their people are so good that once when we were closed one day, our regular driver Marty actually brought a package to my house ("Y'all were closed but this was priority and I thought you might need it").

I've never had a package lost or delayed with FedEx, except once during a particularly brutal winter when the Memphis airport was in the middle of a blizzard.

When shooting on location we ship gear by FedEx as well in numerous Pelican cases. I fly with my primes in hand as carry-on (I never check the lenses as baggage... they are far more valuable than any other piece of equipment and never leave my sight) but everything else is FedExed. We ship cases "Hold at FedEx" and send them to the location nearest the destination airport, hotel, or shoot location. They can be a fair bit more expensive than shipping by other methods, but I always know exactly where my stuff is at any moment, and it always arrives.

My one gripe is with their shipping software. FedEx feels the need to update it or come out with a completely new version every few months it seems... and their "improvements" invariably result in something that is clunkier, more complicated, and difficult to use. Ten years ago the FedEx shipping software could be operated by a third-grader and worked flawlessly and effortlessly. Now, not so much.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mike Cohen
Shipping Scenarios
on Sep 18, 2009 at 7:54:29 pm

We have daily regular pickups from FedEx and UPS, as well as a morning delivery most days.

There is also a FedEx and UPS office 15 minutes from here.

FedEx has bought us 3 Dell computers over the years, based upon volume of shipping over the previous year, so that's been a plus.

We have had a bigger issue with freight shippers. When we ship our exhibit booth around the US and Canada, we try to use one reliable shipper, but the reliable part can be difficult. You ask for a truck with a lift gate, and they send you one without. Our loading dock is Uhaul height, not 18 wheeler height.

Then there is shipping freight to and from Canada and convention centers. Sometimes the shipment first goes to a warehouse then to a graving yard or some such thing for staging. You gotta make sure every box is labeled, even if shrink wrapped in a pallet. And make sure your return shipping paperwork is in order, otherwise the convention center will use their own shipper at higher cost and less efficiency.

We use a customs agent in Canada for such purposes.

Recently we purchased one of these - works great for shipping freight and is much sturdier than a wooden pallet:

A good way to ship production gear, say for a multi camera shoot - ship it to the receiving dock at your location or hotel.

Another shipping scenario is to hotels. For instance, we may ship most of our gear to a convention center, but late additions such as posters, brochures or new products go to the hotel. Smaller hotels keep packages behind the registration desk. Larger hotels have their own shipping department. For instance, a frequent place for us the the Hyatt in Chicago. To get a package, you go down about 6 levels underground, beyond the tunnels where Batman races the tumbler, to the shipping department. There, a little man in a little booth gets you your package. Then of course you need to lug your boxes upstairs, to a taxi then through the cavernous McCormick place.
Another good reason to pack one of these with your underwear:

Mike Cohen

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Nick Griffin
Re: mystery packages
on Sep 19, 2009 at 7:56:40 pm

[Todd Terry] "I've never had a package lost or delayed with FedEx, except once during a particularly brutal winter"

Todd, my friend, you are fortunate. We use FedEx almost exclusively for a number of reasons, but have over the years experienced a few losses. Especially on International. Last year a shipment of materials for a trade show in Argentina D R O P P E D O F F T H E F A C E O F T H E E A R T H. FedEx has no record of the package even existing after it arrived in Memphis. Nothing. Nadda. Client didn't have his stuff and fortunately for us accepted that FedEx, not us, had dropped the ball. I'm thinking our package is on some dessert island with Tom Hanks.

Like you I routinely ship gear for shoots ahead with FedEx, but no longer trust them with cameras and hand carry that with the attention you give your primes. A few years back I shipped what, at the time, had been our primary camera -- a Beta Camcorder inside the giant coffin-sized Sony shipping case -- and it arrived having been dropped so hard that there was $900 of damage to the deck mechanism. FedEx fought the claim but eventually gave in to my argument of "Well if the insurance that I paid for with you when I shipped this doesn't cover this kind of damage then WHAT THE HELL AM I PAYING FOR???"

Speaking of which I recently upped and changed our umbrella policy so that it covers "items in transit" and we no longer have to buy FedEx's coverage. I believe that change for a year was a little under $200 so it's MUCH cheaper than the insurance sold by the carrier.

One thing I will say in FedEx favor over UPS is that, at least in MY part of the world, the drivers of FedEx are MUCH more friendly, considerate and professional. UPS around here seems happy to almost throw packages off the truck as they drive by. (But that's just my opinion, your mileage may vary.)

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Jason Jenkins
Re: mystery packages
on Sep 19, 2009 at 11:10:40 pm

[Nick Griffin] "UPS around here seems happy to almost throw packages off the truck as they drive by. (But that's just my opinion, your mileage may vary.)"

I agree. I always pronounce UPS as "OOPS"!

Jason Jenkins

Flowmotion Media

Video production... with style!

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Ron Lindeboom
Re: mystery packages
on Sep 20, 2009 at 12:10:57 am

[Nick Griffin] "FedEx has no record of the package even existing after it arrived in Memphis. Nothing. Nadda. Client didn't have his stuff and fortunately for us accepted that FedEx, not us, had dropped the ball. I'm thinking our package is on some desert island with Tom Hanks."

Nick fails to mention that the staff at Griffin Communications now refers to the whole episode as "The Wilson Event." Office water-cooler banter at Griffcom usually ends up with something akin to "I think we can cast away any hope of ever seeing that package again, eh?"


In our experience, we have found FedEx to be far more reliable than either UPS or the US Post Office.

Your mileage may vary,

Ron Lindeboom

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Emre Tufekci S.O.A.
Re: mystery packages
on Sep 20, 2009 at 4:36:56 pm

Since we are in the vicinity of talking about mystery packages you need to read this article:

This actually happened in our community, he is my mayor and lives 2 streets down my house.

Because of this we inspect every package before we take it inside and verify that we ordered merchandise.

I recommend the same caution to everybody as this seems to be happening all around the country.

Emre Tufekci

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