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Why “fragile” shipping means “unable to survive a 4ft drop”

September 23, 2013

Could your next shipment survive a 4-foot drop? Computer equipment, crystal glasses, fine china, flat screen TVs — these items all have one thing in common: they’re fragile. But it’s not just these items that fall under the “fragile shipping” category when it comes to distributing them. In fact, simple things like lamps and wooden statues could fall victim to damage, too.

In reality, simply labeling the product "fragile" is almost meaningless, and any packaged item that can’t survive at least a 4-foot drop without being compromised is considered fragile. Unless you like shot put enthusiasts handling your shipments or honey badger-type cargo unloaders tossing your items around, it’s better to take a few precautions.

Marking your items “fragile” is a way to protect your products and inform warehouse workers that they require more protection. However, marking something as fragile is not a guarantee of anything, and occasionally, a bad apple might disregard the heads up. The way to ensure your arrive at their destination undamaged is to use proper packaging. Here are some quick tips to avoid the nasty consequences of rough treatment:

The 5-point drop test
Doing this test on your packaging ensures that your products will be able to withstand typical impacts during shipping and handling. A typical drop test consists of five drops:

  • flat on base
  • flat on top
  • flat on longest side
  • flat on shortest side
  • on a corner


The shake test
Any shippable product must be able to withstand a full minute vigorous shaking (FMVS) test without any contents breaking. (Great cocktail practice!)

Choose good shipping materials
Reusing a box is fine as long as it’s clean, and more importantly — strong. Other items you can reuse: packaging peanuts, bubble wrap, packing paper. Remember to use good packing tape, too!

Which side up?
Take a moment to help identify which side is up for your packages so they don’t get stuck upside down or sideways.

You can also check out our support page on packaging best practices for more info.

Safe shipping!

Dimitri Onistsuk

Dimitri Onistsuk is the marketing director at Shipwire, and is in charge of figuring out what knobs to turn in order to spread the word about the leader in order fulfillment. During his years working in ecommerce, shipping, and fulfillment, he has helped countless merchants sell stuff to their global customers.