8 ways to prevent reverse logistics headaches this holiday season

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If you’re a Dangerous Goods specialist at a retailer that ships electronics, you’re probably more nervous this holiday season than a 3rd-string quarterback on 4th-and-20. And it’s all due to four words:

Lithium batteries. Reverse logistics.

We really don’t need to say any more about the headaches lithium batteries have caused shippers over the last couple of years. But two stories in particular generated the kinds of headlines no shipper wants to see:

  • The hoverboard boom. These contraptions were so popular last holiday season that cut-rate competitors rushed to market with substandard batteries—and the term “hoverboard boom” gained an ugly double meaning.
  • The great phone recall, in which the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer shipped a hugely popular new model with defective, highly flammable batteries.

The great phone recall also shed light on the hassles—to consumers and retailers alike—of reverse logistics. Your customers don’t know anything about compliance, and they don’t want to know. All they want is an easy return experience. But if they ship their returns without the correct labeling or packaging, they could find them right back on their doorsteps. And who will they blame? You.

Since almost 10% of US purchases get returned, you’d better be ready to deal with reverse logistics headaches. Here are our top 8 headache prevention suggestions:

  1. Use Special Permit Packaging. Labelmaster now offers packaging that allows defective small cells, batteries and battery products to be shipped via ground in fiberboard packaging, without having to declare them as Class 9 fully regulated shipments. (It’s based on a special permit from the Department of Transportation that grants relief from 49 CFR §173.185(f) requirements.)

Our in-stock and customized Special Permit Packagings are perfect for consumer return shipments—ask your Labelmaster Account Manager for more details.

  1. Stay hydrated. Your brain is 80% water. Dehydration causes your brain tissue to lose water, shrinkand pull away from your skull. Headaches aside, the last thing you need this time of year is a shrunken brain, so make sure you drink your two liters of water a day. No, coffee doesn’t count.
  1. Train your customer service people. Anyone in customer service for an retailer that ships electronics should know how to explain battery shipping basics to customers. Start with “Guess what? You’re shipping hazmat.”
  1. Get the right pillows. Sleeping with your neck and spine out of alignment puts stress on your neck muscles, which protest having to hold your head upright all day by passing along the pain. Good pillows can also prevent snoring, so maybe getting them for your spouse can actually prevent more headaches for you.
  1. Institute a no-return policy. If your customers only need to return relatively inexpensive batteries, you might actually find it less stressful to send them replacements without requiring a return. Of course, you should also pass along instructions for disposing of the batteries properly—this is another subject for your customer service training.
  1. Eat more often. You may get headaches when your blood sugar level surges and crashes, so some doctors recommend eating more often. Of course, you have to eat less each time, and each mini-meal should be full of healthy stuff—extra donuts between breakfast and lunch won’t prevent headaches.
  1. Do your IT personnel understand the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180)? Our software and expert advice help explain the most complex shipping scenarios and requirements, and help train your teams on the software, so you can ship products with the correct reverse logistics processes already in place.
  1. Watch less football. Between that missed overtime field goal and the three beers you drank to try to forget it, football can only make your holiday headaches worse.

Make sure all your holiday shipments are safe and in full compliance with a full line of solutions from Labelmaster—a full-service provider of goods and services for hazardous materials and Dangerous Goods professionals, shippers, transport operators and EH&S providers.

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