We're into the final stretch, with only a handful of days left until matching! We thought we should take this opportunity to talk about shipping gifts.
General shipping tips
Make the recipient address very clear. When you retrieve your match, you will get the address.Hand written contents are great, but having the postal service wonder if that "S" is a "S" or a "5" might cause delivery issues.
Keep a receipt or some form of proof of shipping. Hanging onto the receipt ensures that if there are any issues with delivery, you have proof, and somewhere to start in tracking it down.
You are not required to tell your giftee who you are, but you should include a return address. If, for some reason, your gift can not be delivered to your giftee, you don't want it disappearing on the return to you.
Pack your gifts as if it will be dropped at some point in its travels. We make no accusations, just stating a possibility.
Check the delivery cut off dates for your carrier of choice. Keep in mind those dates are a guaranteed to arrive by Christmas date. It is possible to ship after that date and still have it arrive on time. I know that leaves some tight timelines if you want to guarantee delivery by Christmas, but everything is so late this year. If you can't get your gifts shipped by those deadlines, that's fine—we only require you to have the package in the mail by EOD on the 19th—this is just a friendly reminder since many people want their match to be able to receive their gift by Christmas.
"Tracking" is not always tracking. Some services are not required to scan the package unless signature for delivery is requested. That means that if you check tracking, it might stick in a "tracking number issued" state, even well after the gift is delivered.
Padded envelopes get pretty big and can still count as letter mail, not parcel post. Exact dimensions will vary from place to place, but you can often fit more in a padded envelope than in a small box and it only costs 15 cents more to ship.
Extra notes for international shipping
International shipping has a few gotchas; we've listed a few of the most common below.
After getting your giftee, but before shopping, check postal rates. The size of the box or just a few extra ounces can add big dollar signs to international shipping. If you know you're trying to keep the shipping costs in an acceptable range for you, knowing the size and weight limitations before shopping will help greatly.
Customs forms numbers are tracking numbers. If you are not given an explicit tracking number for international shipping, try using the number from the customs form.
If you are buying straight from a retailer international to the recipient, they usually do not mark it as a gift. Which means your giftee will have a higher chance of paying customs fees.
If at all possible, do NOT use a courier service for international gifts. Courier services (e.g. UPS, FedEx, DHL) are more likely to charge customs fees and a handling fee to the recipient.
Tracking may stop once your gift leaves the originating country, or, may only update on the destination country's postal service website. We've yet to find a definitive pattern on this, but it may depend entirely on the destination country's policies.
Drop shipping, aka buying online and shipping straight to your giftee
You are more than welcome to buy your gift from an online retailer. If you do, a few things to remember:
Some places do not include gift messages when they ship an order. If you are not prompted to provide a gift message, you might want to drop your giftee a note letting them know it's coming. You wouldn't want the box sitting on their table for a few days while they scratch their head, wondering where it came from.
If the retailer is in a different country than your giftee, your giftee might have to pay customs fees. Many retailers can not mark the contents as a gift, even if it is a gift.
Some people appreciate a personal touch. If you're shipping straight from the retailer to your giftee, consider sending them a card or something small to give that personal touch. At the very least, if the retailer provides an option, include a gift message to let your match know it's from their Secret Santa and why you picked it out for them.
Tracking numbers are not required. It is possible that tracking isn't available for your gift. It is not mandatory for your santa to supply tracking, so if there's no tracking number there's nothing to do but wait for a surprise!