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How I ship fish

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#21 Guest_gzeiger_*

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Posted 17 December 2013 - 01:09 AM

You're using a Flat Rate box... isn't the shipping cost the same regardless of weight?

I really question the value of the insurance given the low loss rate and high cost in time of pursuing a claim. You'd have to be losing about one in six shipments to warrant buying insurance at $4 for $50 coverage. Above you said the actual loss rate is more like one in 40 (which is consistent with my experience).

#22 Guest_Erica Lyons_*

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Posted 17 December 2013 - 07:56 AM

The tracking number and $50 insurance is free if you ship USPS priority mail at most post offices.
At my favorite post office it cost $2 extra, so I stopped going to them and started going to a different one and the $50 insurance is free.
The $100 insurance costs $4 extra. I bought it because it's mid/late December, and if the post office were to lose a package, this time of year is more likely. As an update, the fish arrived safely and every one survived.

#23 Guest_jetajockey_*

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Posted 27 December 2013 - 06:11 AM

I did a brief and completely unscientific test of a few packing materials including styro peanuts and that blow in cellulose material. They varied in effectveness, with a true styro-lined container being the best at keeping the elements at bay. I ship a lot of plants this way, and have shipped many fish this way as well. I use the 3/4" styro sheets from HD, they have some that are already precut into approx 20x36 or so sections. The nice thing about that is a) it fits in my SUV, and b) I can use a template and cut the stack of 6 all at once with a hot wire or a really sharp knife. Another even better insulator is fiberglass insulation. It's much easier to deal with as far as prepping packages goes, but the obvious drawback is that some people are allergic to it, and it's also really itchy and annoying. I used it for a few months as my primary method of insulation and the complaints were just far too many for my liking.

About heat packs: I think they are important, but primarily with tropicals. These subtropical and temperate climate fish are fine in low temps so the heat pack isn't really necessary unless you are expecting some serious extreme temps. If you decide to use a heat pack, get the 72 hour ones. The reason for this is because the 72 hour heat packs have a lower peak temperature. I also always put a piece of styrofoam between the heat pack and fish bags, as well as wrap the heat pack in a sheet or two of newspaper.

I've used breather bags a few times, and from what I understand they are new and improved, but the older ones I had issues with leaking, so I got away from them. I just double bag with 3mil bags.

The USPS seems to do a relatively good job at keeping the packages semi-climate controlled, unlike my experience with UPS. Nearly every DOA issue I've ever had shipping fish was a result of the purchaser not picking up the package shortly after it was delivered to their house (i.e. left out in the weather).

Regarding insurance, all priority packages now have $50 of insurance on them, for free (as mentioned). I've only had to file one insurance claim since this new change has come about, but the process was pretty simple (it's done completely online) and I had a check arrive in the mail within 2 weeks.

Also, you can save a substantial amount of money in shipping by utilizing Click N Ship via paypal or USPS. All you need is a relatively accurate scale and a printer.

When it comes to cost, it depends on what boxes you use for Priority. Flat rate boxes are typically only good for really heavy shipments. Otherwise use regional rate a or b (these have a 15lb maximum, plenty for fish shipping), or just ship priority by weight. Priority by weight goes in 1lb increments. For example, the base rate is 0 oz-1lb. The next bracket starts at 1lb 1oz and goes up to 2lb. And so on and so forth. That means to get the most bang for your buck, you'll want to be on the high end of your bracket when you weigh the package, since it costs the same whether its 1.1lb or 2.0lb, for example. The other big factor in determining your Priority by weight cost is shipping zones. Basically, the further away the package has to travel (by zone), the more it costs. You can experiment with this by going on the USPS site and playing with the 'calculate cost and time' calculator. Try putting your zip code, and the destination zip as somewhere on the opposite side of the country. Then try the same thing again with the destination zip in your general region.

Hope this helps!

#24 Guest_gitano_*

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 05:25 PM

Thanks, Erica. Good stuff.

I have hand-carried fish from the North Slope of the Brooks Range to Lawrence, KS, and I find your general comments about "moving" fish consistent with my experience. While I have not shipped as many live "things" as most of the commenters in this thread have, I have had day-old birds (chickens and ducks) sent via USPS to Alaska for many years, and have no complaints whatsoever.


Edited by gitano, 12 January 2014 - 05:26 PM.

#25 Guest_Erica Lyons_*

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Posted 15 January 2014 - 08:27 PM

This method has failed twice now (two bags of dead fish, L144 plecos) recently so I thought I would comment on it. I should mention that I was shipping to a place where the temperature was below freezing. The second shipment, the day's high was actually still below freezing.

1st ship: USPS lost it, heat pack ran out, customer sent pictures of dead fish in bag and a picture of light ray thermometer reading freezing, I shipped out more fish and filed for reimbursement, received reimbursement.
My conclusion: Understandable. This is why I buy insurance. No harm, no foul (well, except to the dead fish).
2nd ship: USPS delivered on time, bag arrived at light ray thermometer temperature of 50 degrees. High temperature was below freezing. I gave them a full refund.
My conclusion: Wow, I guess it really is very cold. Both times I used not only cellulose insulation but also a styrofoam lined box and a heat pack. I'm not sure how I could have insulated it more. *shrugs* Huh. So I reimbursed them the full amount, including shipping. It's not their fault I didn't deliver them fish.

Posted Image

*shrugs* Yup, that is indeed what is says on the heat pack. Do not use if temperature is below freezing. It was telling the truth. This might be the first time I've ever shipped somewhere where the high was below freezing, so maybe that's why I didn't notice before. Noted.

#26 Guest_Erica Lyons_*

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Posted 15 January 2014 - 08:52 PM

The customer saw that I gave them a full refund and had this response,

"Thank you for the refund. You went above and beyond what was necessary. I am leaving positive feedback on AB for you.
Will watch your offerings and hope to purchase from you once it warms.

It's never a bad idea to leave a customer happy :)

#27 Guest_Erica Lyons_*

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Posted 07 April 2014 - 01:36 PM

The postage all recently changed prices when tracking number became automatic. I figured I would post some examples I have paid recently for shipping + tracking number.
Shipping from North Carolina to:
PA: $6.59
NY: $6.85
KS: $8.75
NE: $8.75
CA: $11.25
AZ: $11.25
WA: $11.25

I hope that gives everybody an accurate up to date estimate for what shipping will cost.
I use about three inches of water in a 'Texas Tube' bag from MVPaquatics (shipping supplies section of aquabid.com), double bagged, in cellulose fiber (still using that same initial purchase of cellulose insulation from Home Depot, by the way, six months later after shipping around one to three boxes a week on average), in a cube shaped priority speed box from USPS.

#28 Guest_jetajockey_*

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Posted 08 April 2014 - 01:28 AM

Tracking on priority has been included for a few years now, however they did recently add a $50 insurance to all priority shipments not long ago.

One other option that seems to help in really cold places is having the package set 'hold for pickup' so that it rules out the chance of the mail truck being too cold or the package being left out in the elements.

Another big issue with the heat packs is oxygen, the 7x7x6 boxes don't afford much room for air so the packs don't work to their full potential.

I ship mostly plants now, so lower temps aren't a huge deal for me, but with the fish I do ship I've just gotten to where I will only ship express/overnight if the highs are below freezing in the destination.

#29 Guest_Erica Lyons_*

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Posted 08 April 2014 - 08:41 AM

with the fish I do ship I've just gotten to where I will only ship express/overnight if the highs are below freezing in the destination.

Yeah, that's definitely where my system breaks down. It doesn't seem to be a problem for my native species (heterandria formosa, elassoma species), but those L144 south american plecos just couldn't handle 50 degrees.

And yeah, for post #27, I meant "here are new price estimates with tracking number and $50 insurance". Those are actual amounts I've paid in the past month.

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