Balikbayan boxes are synonymous to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Imagine the joy and excitement of family members back home when the “package” finally reaches home. Everyone is definitely anxious to open the box. So are you trying to surprise our family in the Philippines with that trademark “package”, “door-to-door box” or “balikbayan box” for the first time? Here are tips to help OFWs or foreign immigrants ensure safe and efficient delivery of our surprise goodies.
Think about the practicality, necessity and usefulness of items.
Some OFWs think of sending packaged noodles, bath soap or toothpaste to loved ones because they are cheap, on top of making them feel they’re also immersed with life abroad. Think of balikbayan boxes as supersized postal envelopes chosen by Filipinos because of value for money and large volume of items it can handle. But at the same time think about how useful a child’s five pairs of shoes if they don’t fit, your favorite local dish will be spoiled after weeks in transit or when winter clothing looks like a mockery to the tropical weather. These boxes have to travel and cost OFW money to make that happen. But if we think they make folks back home happy, then squeeze them into the box.
Estimate the volume of goods before picking the box
Door-to-door cargo boxes come in different sizes (some companies call them bulilit, regular, medium, jumbo, super jumbo) and by estimating the volume of items you intend to send you’ll figure out which box is best suited. Would you prefer a small box whose rate is cheaper but can accommodate the fewest number of goods or use the relatively expensive jumbo boxes but you’ll be forced to buy more items just to fill them.
Choose a reliable freight forwarder
Ask friends what their door-to-door cargo forwarder is. Some of them would refer their favored ones that delivered their boxes intact at the expected time. They will also occasionally remind you to avoid certain companies at all costs: firms that mishandle balikbayan boxes that contents were broken; worse, there are companies that failed to deliver the box to its rightful recipients. In some cases, freight forwarders also issue insurance in case of damaged or lost boxes. Some companies ask for nominal deposit deducted to your shipping fee when they give you the box; others are happy to give you free boxes.
Also think of what items you are confident of sending through this door-to-door forwarded method. Highly valuable items may not be advisable; jewelries can easily be tucked inside your hand carry baggage or can be delivered separately via more credible couriers to reduce risk of losing them.
(Side note: To startup operators of balikbayan boxes, word of mouth marketing is the most effective strategy so taking care of your clients will turn them into sales staff.)
Assume all things you will send are fragile
As we are not aware how our boxes are handled on their way to destination, let’s assume that they’ll be in for a rough ride. This means we have to ensure that they are neatly and securely packed inside the box. Some would surround the box with foam or bubble packaging. Others use blankets or thick fabric as cushions at the bottom and top of the box. Take extra care for glasses that may break (wrap them), shampoo or lotion that may spill (tape the cap).
If necessary, place these goods in small packages (plastic bags, etc) so it is also possible to label them with the name of intended recipient.
Wrap the whole box
To help secure the box after sealing it, wrap the box entirely with tape, which is usually handed by couriers along with the box. This means labeling of recipient name has to come after the whole wrapping process. Hopefully, we can say our balikbayan box is airtight and water-proof.
Label your balikbayan box well
Write the full name of recipient and ensure the correct delivery address is printed on the sides of the box. Provide phone number in case local courier partners in the Philippines cannot find it, a number can be called to seek directions. Otherwise, maps and other hints on finding the recipient location also helps.
If we can’t trust our handwriting, printing it on a white sheet is an option. Just be sure that we also wrap it with transparent tape so it will not be torn or damaged when wet.
Write a list of items completely in the declaration sheet
This does not mean we are bragging of what’s inside (if we’re sending expensive items like perfumes), but it’s a way to evaluate how fragile the box is, help forwarder staff to assess the value for insurance purposes, and for our family members to verify that they got what was listed in that sheet.
Call the balikbayan box company for pickup
In most cases companies are happy to send staff to pickup our boxes for free. Some companies only pick larger ones for free (obviously they make more money with large boxes we send) while charge smaller boxes with small fee. That still sounds fair; we don’t want to be taking the cab to deliver our box and hurt our backs in the process.
Once we pay for the shipping costs, let us remember to get the receipt and ask when the box will arrive so we could notify our recipients when to expect the surprise package. In case of disputes or lost boxes, the receipt will be our proof of claim for compensation in case, unfortunately, something goes wrong.