By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
Kimberly Collins hasn’t had a shipping loss claim in four years yet has somehow managed to rack up three in the last month. She’s not alone; many peers are sharing similar tales of recent shipping loss woes with her.
“One of my retail jeweler clients in the Bay area received a package that had been ripped open with no contents in the box,” says the owner of Kimberly Collins Gems.
For sure, shipping losses are nothing new. According to the Jewelers Security Alliance (JSA), “Theft of jewelry goods when shipping is the single most frequent crime committed against the jewelry industry.” JSA receives hundreds of annual reports on this crime, where boxes shipped with major carriers arrive sliced open, empty, or with partial contents removed, and some unscrupulous employees even tape boxes shut or transfer remaining contents to a new box using the same original sender’s label.
“[Shipping theft] is a continuous issue,” confirms John Kennedy, JSA president.
To avoid falling victim to shipping theft, consider these tips from industry experts.
Use Boxes for Shipping—Not Envelopes
Envelopes can indicate smaller contents like jewelry. In fact, 2022 claims data from Jewelers Mutual (JM) reveals that envelopes are “on average 30%–50% more likely to result in a shipping claim than boxes,” says Payton Blessing, JM marketing specialist. You want to disguise contents when shipping. “Make it seem like you’re shipping a big object like shoes,” explains Kennedy.
Use Initials on Boxes and Make No Mention of Jewelry or Gems
This is one of the easiest steps to take: conceal your business name and box contents. For example, Yen’s Jewelry & Accessories becomes Yens. “You don’t want to give thieves any hints,” says Eric Yen, one of the company owners. According to JM, using recognizable jewelry words or brand names not only increases the likelihood of loss but can also void your insurance coverage.
This is a longtime practice in jewelry that should be utilized by all. A box within a box adds an extra layer of security and deters quick theft among shipping staffers who are slicing open packages in hubs. Thieves move on to easier targets. Yen goes a step further, adhering shipping labels to both interior and exterior boxes. It’s a move that aided him when his firm’s one and only package did go missing. When a customer didn’t receive the goods, Yen called the shipper, who found the package in a hub lost and found; the outer box had been tampered with, but the inner box, with another label in place, identified Yen and his client as shipper and receiver.
Pad Box Contents
Use ample packing material like bubble wrap, tissue paper, or crumpled newspaper to ensure contents do not rattle and box weight is not indicative of small contents. Alternatively, when in receipt of a securely delivered package, be sure to thoroughly check all contents to avoid throwing something out. “Hang onto packaging for a few days until you’re sure you have everything,” says Kennedy. “We see people throwing things out all the time.”
Use Tape (and Custom Tape) Liberally
Sure, boxes have self-adhesive to close flaps, but they’re not that strong nor do they really deter theft. Packing tape, on the other hand, makes it difficult for thieves to quickly slice open boxes. A clever variant of this move? Ordering custom tape (think Uline) with intentionally misleading messaging. One of Yen’s accounts has been using bright yellow packing tape emblazoned Urological Services for the past 20 years. “It deters people from thinking it’s a high-value package,” observes Yen.
Ship Quickly—Don’t Let Packages Linger in Hubs Over Weekends
The longer a package sits in a shipping hub, the greater the opportunities for theft to occur. Overnight or two-day service statistically increases the chances of packages reaching intended destinations. “The longer jewelry goods remain undelivered, the greater is the risk they will be stolen,” notes Kennedy.
Hand Packages to Shipping Staffers Directly and/or get Receipts for Drop-Offs
Make sure couriers scan packages in your presence, and if you’re handing it to a staffer in a shipping carrier office, get a receipt. To eliminate contact with additional individuals who could increase risk for theft, don’t use drop boxes or third-party locations such as drug stores.
Use Armored Guard Services or Break Shipments into Two Packages for Super High-Value Contents
This move can increase security on goods and mitigate losses on “extremely high-value or irreplaceable goods,” according to JSA.
Be Wary of Requests for Package Information
Thieves have no shame—some will call your business and impersonate recipients or courier personnel. They do so to claim a problem with shipments and extract the legitimate tracking information from you over the phone or via email. When in doubt, call your recipient directly “to ensure he or she is the one requesting information,” says JM’s Blessing.
Refuse Delivery on Packages with Clear Evidence of Tampering
If a delivered package has any signs of tampering, don’t accept it. Then call the package shipper and report the occurrence to the carrier. And if losses continue to occur with the shipper, use a different one—at least for a while. “Change carriers,” urges Kennedy. “It’s amazing how many people will keep using a carrier when multiple losses occur.”