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Scared Shipless – What Happens When Bottles Break in the Mail?

fragileI bumped into an old friend who works at a pretty large facility for a major international shipping company.  He’s a big beer and whiskey guy and we started chatting about how his company reacts to people shipping liquor and bottles breaking in the mail.  Here’s what he shared with me. (I’m paraphrasing – but it’s pretty close to the actual discussion)

DISCLAIMER: This was specific to his experiences and isn’t any sort of official response from the company. Experiences may vary by location and his may not be typical.  This should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form.  Check with authorities in your local jurisdiction before selling or shipping liquor.

Me:  A lot of people get nervous about shipping bourbon.
Him:  (laughs)  Why?
Me:  They worry about getting caught and getting in trouble.
Him:  (laughs again)  In trouble?  For shipping a bottle of bourbon?  Why?
Me: I thought you guys were on the lookout for that stuff.  That’s why people put rattles in the package to hide it.
Him:  (realizing I’m serious)  Do you realize how many boxes we touch a day?  Nobody is trying to figure out what’s inside and nobody is listening to how the box sounds.  In fact, if someone on my team stopped working, held a box up to his ear, and told me to listen, I’d probably send him home.  It just doesn’t work like that.  There’s too much to do.
Me:  What if a bottle breaks?
Him:  That’s different.  But not in an “alert the authorities” way.  It’s more like a “shit – now I have to deal with this mess” way.  If we can, we’ll occasionally wrap the box and send it along.  If it’s a complete loss, we’ll head down a different path to process the fact that it can’t be delivered.
Me: Do you report it or call someone?
Him: (laughs again)  Report a leaking box? To who? No, we don’t report a leaking box of bourbon beyond the normal stuff we do for damaged shipments.  There’s some extra work involved for damaged or undeliverable shipments, but it usually has to do with the account or insurance.  If we’re really concerned about it, then we might shut down the person’s shipping account and we might not pay for damages, but nothing more than that.  At least I’ve never heard of us doing anything more than that for broken bottles.
Me:  So you guys aren’t on constant lookout for shipped bottles?
Him: (laughs again).  Not at all.  In fact, I didn’t really think about it until you asked.  It’s just not part of our normal day.  Might be different in other states, but I’ve never heard of us reporting anyone for shipping single bottles.  But the best way to avoid any issues is to pack it well.  If you’re into shipping bottles, splurge on a few bottle shipping cartons.  They work.  On the other hand, if you throw the bottle in a padded envelope with some duct tape and expect it to arrive safely, you deserve to get in trouble. (chuckles)

So, while that’s not legal advice or an official company position, it does give me a better understanding of what’s going on while a bottle is working its way across the country.  Although I do wonder about the need for rattles now.  Sounds like all you need is a well packed box.  Next time, pay more for extra bubble wrap and you should be good to go. 🙂

Have you had any issues with shipping?  Know something specific about the laws here? 
Please share them.  Help us learn!