Shipping Artwork, Who To Use?

I came across this article in Popular Mechanics a while back about which carrier is the kindest to your packages. No surprise for me: USPS.

In fact I have been using USPS to ship my artwork for over a decade and have never had any issues at all. FedEx and UPS on the other hand? Don’t get me started on the horror stories! People always think I’m weird shipping USPS for art, but I guess there’s just a stigma or assumption attached that if you don’t pay the money for one of the other carriers, then bad things will happen. Bad things happen to packages no matter who you use. In the years I’ve used USPS, my work has never been damaged, it arrives early, it’s cheaper, and it gets through customs to places like Canada and Australia in no time. Not so with UPS, where packages will get held for weeks sometimes! For real, anytime someone tells me they sent me something by UPS or FedEx I want to shake them furiously and scream, “why would you do such a thing!”

On the plus side, I have a husband who spent many years working in logistics; I learned early about all of this stuff and he warned me that this statement is all too true…

One disheartening result was that our package received more abuse when marked “Fragile” or “This Side Up.” The carriers flipped the package more, and it registered above-average acceleration spikes during trips for which we requested careful treatment.

Putting those labels on is like an invitation for them to play catch with your packages. Yep, they all do it on purpose. Insurance is sort of a scam in these situations, in that they will only reimburse you for what it cost to make the art. But as long as you have tracking and delivery confirmation, I don’t know what else you possibly need. The only downside of USPS is the size limitation. I work small, so this isn’t an issue for me, but if your package is rather large, then you have no choice but to use FedEx or UPS among other independent carriers who specialize in art transport.

Now a question for you all: Who do you use to ship artwork back and forth from the US to Europe? And how long does it take? I’ve been surprised how fast things seem to get to Australia just by USPS, but I hear stories of shipping work to England taking forever. Using an actual art crating company also means it will sit at customs forever — something to factor in. I’ll be shipping to Germany and England this spring, so this gal needs a heads-up!

5 thoughts on “Shipping Artwork, Who To Use?”

  1. You state that insurance only pays for the cost to make the art. Hmmm….I had a couple of art pieces lost in the mail/UPS and they refunded the full amount of the insured value of the art.

    Side note: With new security rules recently imposed by the US. govt. shipping to the US has added about 2+ weeks for a package to pass customs/security.

    1. That is extremely rare, as everyone else I know got the runaround and had a fraction refunded for damages. I think it depends too, on if you went thru UPS or the UPS Store, as they are not the same company. Everyone should read the fine print on the insurance either way. Crawford & Company who handle their claims have been sued thousands of times because the excuse they usually use is that the artwork wasn’t carefully packaged so it isn’t their fault — even if they packed it themselves.

  2. Interesting. I always use UPS as it is easy to arrange pickups.
    The one time I used USPS the curator said “we don’t usually get art through the mail” like it was weird.
    I work small too and I hate FedEx. Maybe I’ll switch to USPS.

  3. In my few pieces that I’ve sent out, I went with USPS also. I’ve had no problems thus far. I used to work for a packing and shipping place and UPS used to cram those package in their trucks as tight as they could. Have you seen how those brown trucks drive?!! They are maniacs and I’ve lived in D.C., granted I was 5 but still. They plow their way through all the back roads back here and I swear they nearly drive as crazy as the bus drivers.

  4. A little update: I just used USPS to ship artwork to Australia again, and S. Africa. Everything got there shockingly fast, no damage, and my total cost shipping 2 small framed paintings to S. Africa was $25!

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