Shipping Nightmares (Lessons Learned)

Recently I have had some concerns about how Glowforge will ship it’s large and very delicate package through UPS or FedEX. Adding to my concern was legal language in the Terms and Conditions that pretty much states that Glowforge’s damage responsibility ends when they hand our package to the shipper. So I investigated and the language is reasonably common. Luckily most companies will just ignore the legal language to ensure customer satisfaction. They work with the customers and will usually ship replacement parts while working with the shipper to resolve the issue. I have no reason to believe that Glowforge will be the exception. That said, there is an interesting process necessary to safely ship something that weighs 70lbs and is quite large. If the package were just a little larger shipping companies would employ lift gates, pallets, tie down straps, etc. But with Glowforge we’re probably dealing with the volume shippers UPS or Fedex. Here are a couple interesting links and comments from the head of Inventables, currently shipping similarly sized desktop equipment.

A link discussing Carvey shipping tests-

These are the standard ISTA 3A Shipping Tests that were used:

Jan 16th Carvey damage discussion-
“UPS has destroyed many of the Carvey machines we have shipped. I’ll be posting pictures but if I gave you a baseball bat I don’t know if you could do what they have done to the machines. I think one they must have used a fork lift and rather than picked it up forced the forklift through the center of the box. A few of them they shattered the acrylic into pieces. We are filing claims but we were nervous to continue shipping like this. It is absolutely unacceptable”

“Last week we tested adding straps and even more foam supports on the inside of the box. We are hoping by adding straps the UPS personnel will use them to carry the box instead of puncturing the box or simply shoving it off the back of the truck. The new packaging approach was successful with the tests we ran last week and we will continue shipping on Monday the Kickstarters in addition to replacing all the people who we sent machines to that have been destroyed by UPS.”

Continued frustration: Feb 14th -“We have been in communication with UPS on all this damage. UPS has taken responsibility and is paying for the replacements and the replacement shipping costs. Before we shipped any units we went through the tough ISTA3a shipping test with UPS where they drop the box 18 times. It failed the first time, we adjusted the packing and it passed the second time. It’s not every unit but when there is abuse it’s bad. We had one customer witness the abuse and the UPS driver said “sorry”. The handlers don’t like the box because it is heavy. We added straps to the outside to make it easier for them to carry and pay the extra fee for heavy items that require a two person lift but they ignore their own rules and just charge the fee but don’t deliver the service. They aren’t even using the cart in the truck many times. We had a customer observe the driver “roll” it up to the door. We are happy to fix, replace, or repair any unit that was damaged in transit.Despite the fact that UPS admitted it is their fault for doing this to the boxes we are switching from acrylic to polycarbonate for the front window. We don’t want customers going through this hassle."

rpegg - My intent here is just to let y’all know the process is not always foolproof and takes time to get it right. I trust everyone will be satisfied with the results.


Good topic for discussion. I would also like to add that foreign customers also have to deal with brokerage fees from these firms. Here in Canada the worst culprit by far is UPS. I have had to pay the value of the product being shipped again in brokerage fees to UPS on more than one occasion.


that’s why they’re called “oops”

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Man tell me about it. I actively go out of my way to avoid UPS if it’s coming from outside Canada, to the point where I’ll do without it if the only way to get an item is that shipping method.

If you start reading about shipping problems you end up with nightmares. I have never heard of a GOOD residential delivery shipping company. If you think about the way they do business, and how much the need to trust a vastly distributed and essentially autonomous work force, it starts to make sense.

I am hoping that Glowforge springs for Pelican cases for all of us. :slight_smile:


haha… yeah! In a custom GF aqua-marine color. And it could be used as a table for operating the glowforge as well.


About 5 years ago I bought a Grizzly G0619 milling machine, the shipping weight of which was in excess of 400 lbs. (U.S. lbs., not Canadian lbs.). The freight charge was just a little under $300. I can’t remember the freight forwarder, but it as a commercial delivery (e.g., not your usual deliver to the house UPS or Fedex).

The milling machine was on a skid (obvious I guess) When it arrived, the carrier had a lift truck and a power gate which was used to lift it off the carrier’s truck. Every thing on the truck was on a skid. The lift truck moved it into my garage. Not even so much as a crease in the cardboard! And, that is from U.S. to Canada.

Point being, it can be done without damage if you package it right and use the right type of carrier.

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Tell us about Canadian pounds. Do they vary with your dollar?


Yeah the shippers of large bulk items are generally pretty good. The residential delivery folks are put on a clock, measured in every way possible; how much time is the truck running at the delivery address, how many left turns, etc. Pump it in and pump it out. To keep costs down for domestic shipments Glowforge will need to go with one of the common residential carriers. That will force the company to spend significant resources and time working out the packaging issues. International shipping is a completely different animal. Hopefully, package testing is able to be done in parallel with the development processes.

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Until recently we had gallons as well, but our American friends were embarrassed because ours were bigger. So, being Canadian, we changed to litres so our neighbours to the south’s feelings would be spared. :smile:

Don’t get me started on the dollar. . .


You know I assume that was said in jest. But it’s actually not a bad idea and could be a great thing for trade shows. Adjustable height pop out legs and a smooth top. Throw a table cloth over it and you are in business.


Shipping is where items are most vulnerable, and will experience the roughest handling in it’s life.
The carrier accepts liability for damage, not Glowforge. If it is damaged in transit, glowforge files a freight claim with the carrier. Nowhere in this is the customer exposed to any responsibility. Your hopes may be dashed, but not your wallet.
Glowforge’s damage responsibility ends when the carrier accepts the load but the carrier is then responsible to Glowforge to deliver the item as it was received. If it’s not, the agreement has been breached.

I don’t know, but in the Carvey example, I expect the original containers and interior protection were inadequate, and the resultant damage reflects the learning curve of the company.
Most often the packaging is going to be disposable, and naturally manufacturers want not to spend any more than absolutely necessary to preserve their profit margin. Someone made that call and then had to suffer the consequences.
Learning the hard way is actually more expensive than springing for the premium shipping protection in the first place.

Merchandise, including heavy/fragile equipment is shipped globally everyday, which means damage occurs regularly. Even the best packaging won’t stop a forklift blade, and accidents happen.
If my unit was damaged in transit I would document the discrepancy on the freight bill, make a copy of it and email it to support@glow Their contract with the carrier was not fulfilled, so they would file the freight claim.
If the damage is serious, I would refuse delivery. If it was a serviceable I would accept delivery and sign the freight bill with the noted exception of the damage, and expect Glowforge to ship the replacement components, and they would recoup their expenses through the freight claim.
It is a routine procedure in the freight industry.
If any of this senerio is outside of Glowforge’s intention, I expect @dan will straighten me out.

This is based on my experience with hundreds of companies and shipping within the states. @areader154 - Glad I don’t have to worry about international customs and brokerage fees!

@rpegg, based on the small pelican boxes I use for my dive gear, I would expect $500 for one large enough to accommodate these lasers, if not more.


The 3D printer I bought had a shipping weight of about 55 lbs, was designed in Poland, and delivered by DHL from China with no damage at all. It had an impressive amount of foam padding inside that looked well designed, made, and placed, so it seems possible to ship heavy and sensitive items with minimal damage. Getting the right team of people involved in packaging engineering and logistics will probably be critical.

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For the price we paid for shipping I made the assumption it included insurance on the package. Usually insurance is a fraction of replacement cost. We ship some 30,000 dollar units annually for inspection and calibration and always purchase insurance on them. If glowforge would do that it would cover them as well as us from defects from shipping.

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My intent was not to express concern about shipping/delivery risk, just to inform that the package design and testing process is an evolutionary one. Design it, test it, fix it, test it… That takes time and I would be surprised if the first batch of units shipped didn’t result in some redesign of the packaging.

@elsman18 I have absolutely no doubt that should anything happen in shipping, insurance or some other contractual language with the shipper would make us whole again.
@printolaser , legally shipping damage is our responsibility to work out with the shipper. I checked and apparently although transfer of responsibility language is fairly common, almost all companies work out problems with the shipper on your behalf. I’m sure Glowforge will do the same. But if you doubt what I say, below is the actual language in the Glowforge Terms and Conditions. Again, I believe it is just boiler plate protection language that is rarely enforced in real life because companies always try to keep the customers happy.

Transfer of Risk and Title. Risk of loss of the Product passes to you on Glowforge’s delivery of the Product to the carrier, and you are responsible for any loss or damage to the Product from that point. Claims against a carrier for damage during shipping are your responsibility.”

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So I recently got a E3D BigBox 3D printer. In their testing they literally threw them down a flight of stairs to demonstrate how tough they were (kind of funny video). And yep, you guessed it, many of us had cracked perspex on arrival (and 5mm perspex is very tough stuff). This was packed flat (unassembled) with a huge amount of rigid foam and peanuts. That was via international fedex priority. They had to redesign shipping twice during the big shipping of the new model. And they are an extant experienced company that shipped components all over the world already!


Or just hand deliver them like they did your beta…lol


No,I didn’t doubt you, like you said the wording is pretty well industry wide (thank the lawyers) just I never saw a reputable company that values their rep and their customer leave the customer twisting in the wind.
I would very much like Dan to elaborate on that.

I am several thousand units back, so if there were a high incidence of damage, I might elect to pick it up myself, or arrange my own shipping.

I got a good laugh the other night from you in the hangout when you asked "Who has read the TOS?.. awkward silence… then laughter.


I think that may be one of those things that would be pretty hard for the GF team to know exactly how they would address before that type of a problem actually landed at the doorstep.

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Yes, I own nothing (emphasis on NOTHING) that I would spring with cash for a Pelican case or even the cheaper alternatives. But then I’m not in business and don’t throw things on airplanes.