View Full Version : B&H Packing Material

John Cook
17-Sep-2004, 11:16
Yesterday I received a very cordial e-mail from Mr. Henry Posner at B&H informing me that they are discontinuing the dreaded plastic bags and returning to foam peanuts to pack their shipments. Neat!

David R Munson
17-Sep-2004, 11:19
Heh. I've always thought the plastic bags were a better idea than foam peanuts. Seemed to do the job fine and you could recycle them to boot. And foam peanuts are just an instantaneous mess. Ah well - to each his own (packing material).

John Cook
17-Sep-2004, 11:28
While I wholeheartedly agree that peanuts create a royal mess, I gather you have not received a carton from B&H lately. The last three cartons we got were not merely dented. They were absolutely squashed, with the paper tape burst in both directions. UPS must be doing airdrops these days. Without parachutes.

Michael Veit
17-Sep-2004, 11:29
The plastic bags were a vast improvement, IMO. Peanuts are the curse that I have to collect (mostly off the floor) and store until I can drag my butt to local shipping place for reuse. I hate the damned things.

Diane Maher
17-Sep-2004, 11:50
My cats want to play with/try to eat the peanuts so I have to shoo them away before dumping the peanuts into the trash. Most of the stuff I've been getting from there has been in peanuts anyway. I don't recall seeing the plastic bags very often. I wonder if they are going to use the peanuts that can be dissolved in water? That would be nice.

Ralph Barker
17-Sep-2004, 12:06
While I rather liked the recyclability of the air-pillow strips, they obviously don't provide sufficient internal support for the packages to survive the gorillas at UPS. Peanuts are a pain, but at least the goods arrive undamaged . . . most of the time. In San Jose, at least, the municipal recycling program accepts peanuts if placed in plastic bags. So, if your's doesn't, you might want to lobby them for better service. Or, just take them back to your local "Brown Store" for re-use.

Personally, I'm saving all of mine for a gallery showing. Yep, it's going to be a "peanut gallery". ;-)

Gem Singer
17-Sep-2004, 12:13
Last week, when the UPS delivery guy rang my dorbell and handed me the box containing my shipment of Ilford film and chemicals from B&H, I asked if he was ashamed of the condition of the packing box. It was absolutely demolished. However, thanks to the air bags inside, the film boxes and chemical bottles were not damaged at all.

The UPS delivery guy pointed out that the boxes were made of a corrigated cardboard material that was much thinner and weaker than UPS standards. That type of material won't stand up to the normal stacking and handling as it passes through the UPS distribution centers and loaded onto the delivery trucks.

Using plastic peanuts, instead of air bags, probably won't solve B&H's problem. We will be seeing UPS trucks heading down the road with a stream of plastic peanuts streaming out behind, as those flimsy boxes continue to collapse under the load.

17-Sep-2004, 12:39
I have to agree with the UPS guy and Eugene. A few years ago B&H switched to a much lighter gauge cardboard, as a result the boxes collapse. I have had to return several damaged boxes of paper. It seems that saving a few cents on cardboard was a bad decision for B&H. If they gave me an option of better packaging for a dollar more per shipment, I would sign for it.

David R Munson
17-Sep-2004, 12:51
I haven't had much problem with damaged boxes, but I mostly just order things like two bricks of film and a lens hood at one time or something like that. Maybe the smaller boxes are a little tougher than the bigger ones. I order from them every couple of months and have never had a problem with a damaged shipment or anything like that.

17-Sep-2004, 14:55
i haven't had any problems lately with shipments from b&h. while the peanuts go all over the place, and the pillows just sit there - i just dump all that packing material into a big bag/box and re-use it whenever i need to ship something to someone. i kind of like the peanuts i have to say, it is more fun to have to dig through a bunch of static-charged junk before i can find my stuff :)

its too bad they don't use the "earth friendly" ones that taste like stale capt'n crunch. that stuff isn't bad when the cupboards are bare and they are the only thing left to eat. too bad they aren't "atkin's friendly"

Henry Ambrose
17-Sep-2004, 16:48
I just got an order from B&H.

The box was about twice the size needed and it was really smashed. The damage is not UPS's fault, it is probably the worst packing job I've witnessed. I hope that beyond changing materials Mr. Posner will have a little "how to pack boxes" seminar for the folks in the warehouse.

The film and paper was simply laid in the bottom of the box with nothing under it and those plastic air bags on top. And it was loosely packed so everything could slide around - even after the box was smashed down to about three fourths of its original size. Several of the paper packages were crushed on the corners. As far as I can tell a poorly trained monkey could have packed it better.

Merchandise should go in bubble wrap or a biodegradeable equivalent to protect the contents and its factory packaging, then into a box with general packing materials to isolate the contents from the box.

Its not that hard to do.

Andre Noble
17-Sep-2004, 17:05
B&H shipped damaged FP4+ sheet film here. Got it last week. Packing box completely bashed open and re-taped. One $60.00 box of sheet film also smashed open. (If not for ILFORD's outstanding triple boxing and packaging, I would have returned it made B&H eat that loss.)

I've received a single 0.05 ounce nut from B&H in a large box w/padding. There is some authentic fool running the shipping over at B&H. They are bleeding the company of serious CA$H.

Matthew Cordery
17-Sep-2004, 18:11
Well, you guys haven't made me worry about my new enlarger next week...nope, not at all. :-P

Rich Long
17-Sep-2004, 19:55
I have different problem with the B&H "air pillows". I'm sure the boxes are fine when they're packed in NY at sea level. But when they're delivered to my house at 6,500 feet elevation (Colorado Springs), the pillows have expanded so much that the boxes are round and the tape is often broken in several places. I've never had a box burst open before delivery, but it's been pretty close a couple of times. I don't like the mess of the peanuts, but they won't expand at altitude.

Andre Noble
17-Sep-2004, 20:01
Mathew, I've got a true horror story to tell you about a 4x5 enlarger shipment I received from B&H. Honest.

Gem Singer
17-Sep-2004, 20:26
The air "pillows" in the shipping box expanded due to the heat here in Dallas. The temperature inside of the delivery truck was very high. The box had assumed a rounded shape, and the tape was bursting open at the seams. Had Ilford's future not been in doubt, I would have waited for cooler weather to arrive before ordering film. I don't know who convinced B&H to use those plastic air bags, but I'm certainly glad they realized their mistake and are now taking steps to make the necessary correction.

Andre Noble
18-Sep-2004, 00:00
I gave one to a little kid walking by and told her it was a pillow for her doll. She really liked it.

Don Miller
19-Sep-2004, 08:49
B&H has really gone down hill. Crushed packages, packages cut open from the side by someone looking for valuable items (it was just printer cartridges so apparently not worth the thieves time), and charges on my credit card for expensive items that their system showed in stock but were on backorder.

They've gone from my first choice to the store of last resort. I'm not sure if they can't handle their growth or the owners have made enough money that they don't worry about the "details" anymore.

Michael E. Gordon
20-Sep-2004, 09:43
Eugene said: "The UPS delivery guy pointed out that the boxes were made of a corrigated cardboard material that was much thinner and weaker than UPS standards."

Yeah, they always say that. They'll do anything to get out of paying claims despite their gorilla tactics.

"That type of material won't stand up to the normal stacking and handling as it passes through the UPS distribution centers and loaded onto the delivery trucks."

That's just it; there is no such thing as "normal stacking and handling" with UPS - they thrash and mangle everything. I've had direct involvement with UPS shipping and claims for plenty of years, and they will always deny responsibility and try to pin it on the shipper's packaging. I absolutely cannot stand UPS, and would rather drive an extra twenty miles to a FedEx facility.

Gem Singer
20-Sep-2004, 11:29

I receive several deliveries a month from Jim, at Midwest Photo Exchange. I usually ask that my item be shipped via Fedex Express Saver. Many times, my item left Columbus, Ohio on Friday afternoon and I received it, here in Dallas, TX, before noon on Monday. I have developed a friendship with the Fedex delivery guy. He always takes the time to stop and chat. We have wonderful conversations every time he appears at my front door.

On the other hand, B&H now uses UPS, exclusively, for its delivery service. Normal UPS delivery times take much longer than Fedex, even from a nearby location. UPS brown trucks get awfully hot here in the Texas sun. Fedex white trucks remain much cooler inside. UPS does not handle packages with care. You see, I also have also lost faith in UPS. However, in this case, UPS is correct. B&H's corrigated boxes are sub-standard, and their packing department has been using the wrong type of padding material. To their credit, B&H recognized the problem and have taken steps to correct it.

Henry Posner
20-Sep-2004, 12:18
First, we greatly appreciate all the feedback here and equally appreciate your business. We certainly regret ANY time a customer's dissatisfied with any aspect of a B&H transaction, whether while under our control or after the customer's parcel has been handed off to the shipper.

Regarding peanuts vs air bags. Right now we use peanuts in our Manhattan warehouse and air bags at our Brooklyn facility. We adpoted the (more expensive) air bags in response to customer feedback (a lot of which came from dpreview.com and photo.net). Since then we've learned that more customers seem to strongly prefer the peanuts so we're planning to use them in both locations. They ARE a "royal mess" but they seem to do a better job and they're easier to pack around all six sides of a merchandise box.

Regarding UPS handling - we're in contact with our UPS management liaisons daily and I will share ANY feedback I get from a customer with them. FWIW, since we've begun using UPS as our preferred vendor, damaged, lost and late parcels are all down.

"The UPS delivery guy pointed out that the boxes were made of a corrigated cardboard material that was much thinner and weaker than UPS standards." I am sorry but the UPS guy has NO IDEA. Our entire shipping operation was vetted by them when we switched to UPS and they're in both warehouses all the time. If they had an issue, they'd have said so.

"A few years ago B&H switched to a much lighter gauge cardboard..." No, we did not. The switch to air bags has been the issue.

"its too bad they don't use the "earth friendly" ones that taste like stale capt'n crunch" We investigated this option. The products you mention are considerably less effective, degrade into dust more easily, fail when exposed to moisture/humidity and attrach vermin.

"I have different problem with the B&H "air pillows". I'm sure the boxes are fine when they're packed in NY at sea level. But when they're delivered to my house at 6,500 feet elevation (Colorado Springs), the pillows have expanded so much that the boxes are round and the tape is often broken in several places." We learned that temperature changes from the warehouse to loading dock are also an issue -- one of the reasons we're going back to peanuts.

Here's what's important -- we REALLY care about your opinion. That's why we have people like me doing stuff like this. And, ANY customer is welcome to e-mail me any time about any B&H or UPS issue (or about almost anything else for that matter).

Henry PosnerB&H Photo-Video, Inc.

Gem Singer
20-Sep-2004, 14:03
Thanks for your personal concern Henry. I'm certain that you will be able solve this problem to everybody's satisfaction. Many of us have been dealing with B&H for a good many years, and we consider B&H to be our primary source of photographic materials and supplies. I sincerely hope B&H will continue to maintain the reputation for having the best price and most reliable service in the world, for many more years.

Please consider offering the option of shipping via Fedex Express. Especially for paper and film. The Fedex delivery trucks get here faster and are able to maintain cooler internal temperatures in the Texas heat. Also, consider double boxing those items that need more crush resistance.

Have a very happy, healthy, and successful New Year. (Now, if you can just teach your telephone order takers to say "please" and "thank you". Well, maybe next year.)

20-Sep-2004, 14:20
There's got to be a better way. I really hated B&Hs use of only FedEx until I sampled their UPS shipping (but at least they'll leave stuff on the porch without having to wait around all day to sign). I just got a Busch Pressman (from a Texas seller) sent by Priority USPS which was apparently used to hold up a building during Hurricane Ivan. Fortunately they had put it in a little box inside a huge box and filled it with peanuts, so it mostly was okay. They're all bad, and they all charge too much!

20-Sep-2004, 14:53
Hey Henry how about using the starch peanuts that disolve in water, and use boxes that fit the merchandise. I just got 10 rolls of film and some quick loads in a box that was a good 6 times bigger than the merchandise called for.

Barry Trabitz
20-Sep-2004, 15:16
Just to add to the UPS saga. I was in NYC and purchased over $1,000 worth of material. Film, Paper, Chemicals, and a point and shoot digital ( the grandchildren were going to visit.) These were to be shipped to my home in Connecticut.

When I arrived home on a Sunday, Two large boxes from B&H were sitting in my driveway. They had been delivered the day before and just dropped. It was just starting to rain as we arrived home. Fortunately, I got the boxes in before they soaked through.

Obviously, no one signed for the delivery. One would expect that deliveries would not be made this way. No concern for weather damage or theft. I wonder how UPS deals with the insurance claims B&H must make.

Ole Tjugen
21-Sep-2004, 01:46
I haven't bought from B&H as i can remember, but just wanted to add that most European suppliers now use biodegradable peanuts. I believe they're made from corn in some way (should we call them "popcorn"?). It saves me the problem of disposing of them, I just bury them well in the compost heap and let nature take care of it!

Diane Maher
21-Sep-2004, 11:13
I believe they are made of corn starch. At work, I used to wash them down the sink. I can live with the peanuts. If anything, I know of a guy at work who recycles them.

Don Miller
21-Sep-2004, 15:07
Well Eugene, you can't buy too much from B&H because fedex has been an (expensive) option for over 1 year.

They switched to UPS to make money for themselves, not to provide better or less expensive service to their customers. And while Henry may say "we REALLY care about you opinion", B&H still has my $1600 from a lens they said they had in stock but didn't. And I'll bet six months from now they'll still be charging customers in a similar manner.

There are smaller places with real service and good prices where one is actually treated as a valued customer.

Gem Singer
21-Sep-2004, 20:07

I have purchased fifteen Fujinon lenses and four LF cameras from Jim, at Midwest Photo Exchange, during the past two years. In fact, Fuji lens number sixteen is on it's way to me as we speak. Jim ships everything via Fedex Express Saver, which I receive within two, or three days. So far, everything has arrived on time and in one piece. Jim certainly treats me like a valued customer, because I am a valued customer.

Since Jim does not handle the type of film, paper, and chemicals that I normally use, I usually purchase those items from B&H. I also purchased a 35mm Canon outfit for my granddaughter and a Fuji digital camera for my wife from B&H during the past year. Their price couldn't be matched anywhere. Everything I ordered from B&H was shipped via UPS ground and arrived un-damaged and on time. When I asked about Fedex Express, the B&H telephone order taker said that they now only ship via UPS.

It's only recently, since B&H began using plastic air bags instead of plastic peanuts that the difficulties with shipping began to happen. Crushed shipping containers, expanded boxes bursting at the seams, etc.

I can see that you have an axe to grind with B&H regarding your lens, but what does that have to do with this discussion about B&H's packing and shipping problems? I'm sure that Henry is doing his best to solve your problem.

Sal Santamaura
22-Sep-2004, 09:44
"Everything I ordered from B&H was shipped via UPS ground..."

How did you manage to accomplish that? UPS ground is not an option listed by B&H, only UPS air. Thus, any number of darkroom chemicals are identified as "available only in our store." In accordance with DOT regulations, smaller sizes of most of them could be shipped by surface methods but not via air.

Gem Singer
22-Sep-2004, 10:02

The terminology that I used was the same as UPS used when I was using them to ship the goods that my company manufactured. I am referring to their standard 4-day method of shipping, as compared to the premium (faster) methods that UPS also offers. They used to call it "4-day ground". Don't take the word "ground" literally in this case.

Gem Singer
22-Sep-2004, 10:24

I just looked at KEH's website. They still refer to their standard method of shipping as "3-day Ground UPS". (www.keh.com). Their premium method is called "2-day UPS". Both go by air for some part of their journey. Of course, 2-day arrives sooner and is a more expensive way to ship.

The US Postal service now calls it "Priority Mail", instead of "Air Mail". At some time during the delivery procedure, a truck has to be used. Perhaps it should be called "Air-Truck Mail".

It seems that the restrictions on shipping photo chemicals by air only applies to certain categories of chemicals, not to all of them.

Sal Santamaura
22-Sep-2004, 10:42
Regardless what terminology KEH or anyone else uses, UPS' descriptions of services it offers can be found here (http://www.ups.com/content/us/en/resources/select/index.html)

The only domestic purely ground service, which would be usable for most chemicals, is what UPS calls "Ground." If Henry Posner is still reading, please add UPS Ground to your shipping options so we can purchase more chemicals by mail/phone/Web, not just in the store.