Shipping label. All that really matters about your package

A shipping label (consignment note) is a document that at the same time serves as an identity card for your package and instructions for how to deal with it. The label particular allows you to deliver a parcel, to track its movement, to return it to the sender, or to see what the billing status of a parcel is. Any mistake while completing the consignment note may result in various unpleasant consequences – including loss of the shipment.

In practice, although each carrier has its own shipping label, all of them have similar content and the same main goal, which is the most efficient parcel delivery.

What data does the label contain?

The most important information is the tracking number which is unique for every parcel. The sequence of characters and digits enables error-free and instant identification of the parcel and the ability to track it via appropriate online applications.

The next two most important pieces of information on each shipping label are the sender’s address and the delivery address (address and company name, or name and surname of a private person).

The fourth most visible feature of each shipping label is a large bar code, sometimes accompanied by a QR code. Both allow you to store a large amount of information on a relatively small area. The information is readable with a scanner or – in the case of QR codes – with an appropriate smartphone application.

In addition, all shipping labels contain information about the shipment weight, its content declared by the sender and the number of parcels in the shipment.

Most courier companies also insert boxes on the shipping labels where you may put in information about the insurance, the delivery options or class (e.g. express) or the customer’s (sender’s) number.

The label may contain any data the customer has entered into the shipping company’s system, provided that the customer has consented to data processing (declaration required by the law concerning personal data protection).

It will be delivered in line with the label you filled in and stuck on

Irrespective of the courier company, the form of the document and its particulars, as well as the procedure for creating a label are basically the same. First you enter all the relevant data online via the appropriate application, and then you receive an email with a ready-to-print  PDF format label.

It seems that in a system designed like this, you cannot fail. This is true, at least for e-commerce shipments. The sender’s details are inserted automatically as they are in the courier company’s system, and the delivery address has been inserted by the customer while ordering the goods (although it could be wrong, but you have no influence over that).

Regardless of system security, it’s worth taking some time to thoroughly check all the data entered, because the outcome of a mistake can be very unpleasant. The most frequent consequences are delayed deliveries and returns. The worst possibility is the loss of the shipment –  particularly severe when its content was valuable and not properly insured.

It is also worth noting that even correctly entered data in shipping documents may be insufficient for efficient delivery – the label itself is also important. A label printed on an non-durable material or with easy to rub off print may be damaged (spoilt, smudged data) while sorting packages.

It is also essential to stick the label to the package carefully. If it is creased, the codes may be illegible for automatic readers, which will delay the sorting and delivery process, and you may pay additional charges.

Ensuring the lasting legibility of a label is extremely important, because it is the only document that enables identification of the package. If the label is unreadable, it will be very difficult not only to find the package (to track its location), but also to prove the ownership of the “unlabelled” package.