Avoid common mistakes and create more professional packages
Shipping label “fails” can easily cause your package to be delayed, or worse, lost in transit. While losing a personal package can be emotionally devastating, losing work packages can cost you time and money. Fortunately, we have a long history of making labels and we apply that experience to solving label fails every day.
Whether you’re new to shipping or new to creating and printing your own shipping labels, this article is for you. First and foremost, we’ll help you spot common shipping label fails and learn how to avoid them so that your packages arrive safely and on time. We’ll also share our best tips for creating more professional-looking shipping labels.
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How to avoid printing with skewed or cut off information
Start with shipping labels that are optimized for DIY printing. We designed Avery shipping labels with Sure Feed® technology to move more smoothly through average desktop and office printers. Our patented unique “grip” strip helps you print with fewer misalignments, paper jams, and wasted labels.
If you still have issues printing here’s what to be on the lookout for:
First, open the “Properties” or “Preferences” tab in the printer dialog. Then choose the “Label,” setting. If there is no label setting, then “Heavyweight,” “Cardstock,” or “Photo” will also work. For more detailed help, check out our step-by-step instructions for choosing the best printer settings for labels.
Wrong size label
Sizes for shipping labels can vary between carriers/services. However, you can quickly find the right size for shipping with our guide to choosing the right shipping label. Our guide includes sizes for UPS®, USPS®, Fedex®, Amazon®, Ebay®, Etsy®, Stamps.com® and more.
How to avoid shipping labels that don’t stay on
It’s easy to blame this particular shipping label fail entirely on adhesives, but that’s not always the whole story. We engineer Avery labels with Ultrahold® adhesive to hold better than generic labels, so that’s a great place to start. If your shipping labels still fail to stay on or the edges keep peeling up, check these issues:
The package surface is not clean
Old boxes stored in garages or sheds, pet hair, and lint are all common culprits. Solution: A quick wipe with a microfiber cloth will remove dust, pet hair, and lint. Store boxes that you intend to reuse somewhere safe from dampness and/or oils and grease.
The surface is not even
Strong adhesives don’t matter if they can’t make contact with the package surface. Solution: Place shipping labels on the most prominent flat portion of the package so that the label makes full contact. Avoid seams, box openings, and wrinkles/folds on soft packaging.
The label is not meant for shipping
Some labels are designed to be easily removed and they’re simply not meant to stick to surfaces permanently. Solution: Double-check that you’re using shipping labels with permanent adhesive and not removable labels.
The adhesive hasn’t set
Repositionable shipping labels are removable for a short time, then the adhesive sets and becomes permanent. Solution: Make sure you let repositionable labels sit until the adhesive becomes permanent before shipping your package.
Myth: clear tape keeps shipping labels stuck on and protects them. While that sounds good in theory, it's risky. First of all, the tape is only sticking to a very small surface area of the package compared to an adhesive label. Secondly, the glare from the tape can interfere with barcode scanning and delay your package. Not to mention, it looks messy and unprofessional. If you’re worried about your package getting wet, it’s better to just use a waterproof shipping label.
Troubleshooting shipping labels that smudge or smear
A few different things can cause smudged or smeared shipping label fails. Here are the most likely causes, starting with the most common:
Some shipping labels are specially engineered to work with both laser and inkjet printers, but many are designed to work with one or the other. If the ink on your shipping labels just never seems to dry after printing, there’s a good chance the labels and printer don’t match up.
If you’re not sure what kind of printer you have, this article can help you figure out if you have a laser or inkjet printer.
Winter and rainy seasons can wreak havoc on your shipping labels. For this reason, we make our waterproof shipping labels from a durable polyester film that can withstand rain and snow. Even if the skies are clear in your area, you never know what type of weather your package might encounter if it has a long way to travel.
Reprinting on custom-printed labels
Do not try to run custom-printed labels through your printer. For one thing, you just can’t be sure if the material is compatible with your printer. Using the wrong material in your printer causes all kinds of problems (including smeared ink). Moreover, custom-printed labels often have a special topcoat. Even if the material is compatible the topcoat may prevent ink from fully transferring on a reprint.
How to avoid barcode scanning errors
Barcode scanners work by shining light on a barcode, then “reading” the barcode based on how the light is reflected. This works because the light and dark parts of the barcode reflect light differently. To sum up, the way the contrasting sections reflect light is what makes barcodes “readable” by machines (the barcode scanner).
Disrupting the contrast or shape of barcode labels can quickly lead to shipping label fails that cause delayed or even lost packages. Here are the main issues that can affect barcode scanning on shipping labels:
Using ink too similar to your label color
Barcode scanners require high contrast to properly scan. Stick to bright white, pastel, or neon shipping labels with black ink.
Bleed-through from what’s underneath
Reusing packaging is great for the environment and a great way to ship on a budget. However, when information from leftover labels bleeds through, the light from a barcode scanner can reflect differences in those areas.
Instead of taking a chance on bleed-through use Avery shipping labels with Trueblock® technology. Trueblock is a special backing that completely blocks everything underneath, including permanent marker ink, images, and old barcodes.
Wrinkles and creases
Wrinkles and creases on or near the barcode area of a shipping label distort the information the scanner is trying to read. Place your shipping labels on the flattest surface of your package and avoid seams, box openings, and wrinkles/folds on soft packaging.
Never fold or bend shipping labels on the edges of boxes and always place barcodes lengthwise on tube packaging. Bent, folded, or wrapped barcodes cause the light from scanners to reflect in several directions, often away from the scanner entirely.
How to apply shipping labels perfectly every time
First, pick out the most prominent flat surface of the package. Be sure it doesn’t include seams, tape, or openings. Next, wipe down the area with a paper towel or cloth to remove pet hair, lint, dust, or other debris.
After the surface is wiped down, peel off the shipping label backing and hold the label by its outer edges. Then place the label on your package starting with one edge and roll the rest of the shipping label onto the package to avoid wrinkles. Finally, firmly press down the shipping label from edge to edge to make sure it’s secure.
Let Avery solve your shipping label fails
Without a doubt, Avery shipping labels are the best place to start to avoid shipping label fails. We put decades of research and development behind every label to set you up for success. We also make purchasing easier with in-store retail packs, blank labels by the sheet, and our WePrint® custom printing services.
Nevertheless, life happens and problems do pop up from time to time. You can find tons of answers to common questions in the Avery Help Center, drop us a comment with your question, or learn more about labeling basics on our blog.
And of course, you can always call our excellent Customer Care Team as well— they’re happy to walk through any issue and problem-solve for you.
2 thoughts on “Common Shipping Label Fails and How to Solve Them”
Thank you for this most informative article. I was surprised to learn that it matters regarding label placement on a tube package.
Glad we could help!
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