Deciphering Small Package Terms & Conditions

Have you read every word of your carrier's service guide? We didn't think so. But have no fear! Unishippers has 30+ years of experience in all things shipping and we've put together some of the most commonly-referenced small package shipping terms and conditions and how they may be applicable to your business's shipping.

Service Guarantee

Many carriers have a service guarantee that promise on-time delivery of shipments based on the service level the shipper selects. If the carrier has a service failure (the shipment isn't delivered on time), the shipper can request a refund. However, there are conditions and exclusions that service guarantees are subject to, including, but not limited to:

  • A package addressed to a P.O. Box is typically not covered by service guarantees
  • Carriers often make service guarantee modifications during peak shipping times, such as holidays
  • Service guarantees do not apply to packages that are subject to large or oversize package surcharges or additional handling fees or to packages that exceed maximum weight and size limits

If you need to request a refund due to a service guarantee failure, you must file an official refund request with the carrier within 15 calendar days of the scheduled delivery date.

Dimensional Weight

Both UPS® and FedEx use the greater of the dimensional weight or the actual weight of a package as the billable weight (the weight used to calculate your rate). The way a carrier determines dim weight can vary and the calculations are a bit complex.

Bottom line: always be sure to enter in the correct dimensions and weight when preparing your shipment. That way, the carrier's system can automatically calculate the dim weight for you and determine what the billable weight should be.

If you don't enter in the correct dimensions and weight, the carrier has the right to audit the shipment, verify the weight and dimensions, and make appropriate adjustments to your shipping charges.

Items Not Accepted for Transport/Prohibited Items

There are items that small package carriers typically do not accept for transportation. If found in their systems, the carriers reserve the right to return the shipment at the shipper's risk and expense. Below are a few examples of the types of items that are typically not accepted for transport.

  • Coins, cash, currency, bonds, postage stamps, money orders, and negotiable instruments (such as drafts, bills of exchange, or promissory notes, but excluding checks)
  • Counterfeit goods (also commonly referred to as "fake goods" or "knock offs")
  • Common fireworks
  • Marijuana
  • Unset previous stones and industrial diamonds

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. If you are unsure that an item you are shipping is prohibited, check with the carrier's service guide for a comprehensive list.

Hazardous Materials

Also referred to as HAZMAT or "Dangerous Goods," these items have strict shipment requirements and restrictions.  In fact, the Federal Government determines what materials are considered hazardous under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 C.F.R.).

If you are shipping hazardous materials, you must indicate that you are doing so, provide a Dangerous Goods class and make sure that the shipment is properly packaged, marked and labeled in accordance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations. It is highly recommended that you contact the carrier well ahead of time if you need to ship hazardous materials for the first time, as many carriers require that you sign a contract specifically related to transporting HAZMAT materials.

Not sure how to figure out what your Dangerous Goods class is? Contact Unishippers for help.

Perishable Commodities

Items that require refrigeration (or other environmental control) like food, live animals, flowers, biological materials and beverages are considered perishable commodities. Perishable commodities are accepted for transport solely at the shipper's risk for any damage arising from the perishable nature of the item. And take note, you will not be able to file a claim for any damage arising from the transport of perishables due to exposure to heat or cold or the perishable nature of the item.

It is recommended (and for some carriers a requirement) that your shipment is packaged for a minimum transit time of 12 or 24 hours (domestic and international, respectively) greater than the shipment's delivery commitment time.

Limits of Liability

Every carrier has a maximum liability for loss or damage for each shipment, this is also known as the carrier's limits of liability. For many parcel carriers, the carrier's maximum liability for loss or damage is limited to $100 on shipments with no declared value — regardless of the actual value of the shipment. If your shipment exceeds $100 in value, you may want to consider declaring the actual value of your shipment. Doing so will trigger the automatic purchase of shipment insurance for a small additional charge.

Need a shipping expert on your team? Navigating through complex shipping rules and regulations can take precious time and resources away from a company. Unishippers has been handling the logistics of 125,000+ businesses for more than 30 years — and we can help your business, too.

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