Because of their size, shipping of most aquariums at Midwest Custom Aquarium is done via LTL (less than load) freight carriers. These are the large 18 wheel truck/trailers, not the smaller parcel carriers such as UPS/FedEx. Only very small items (usually not aquaria) are shipped UPS/FedEx. There is a much greater risk of damage when shipping with parcel carriers as everything is moved by hand . Usually thrown, dropped, kicked, dropkicked, piledrived, etc. Everything moving by freight carrier is shipped on a pallet and moved by forklift, reducing the chances of damage.
We ship a lot of tanks and have to deal with damage only very rarely. Once every 3-4 years at most. We have found a way of packaging/shipping that seems to work very well for us. Because we ship a lot, we have accounts with freight companies and get very good rates. Of course, you are welcome to set up your own shipping if you can do better, we do not add in a margin on shipping costs so it makes no difference to us. All products are shipped FOB (free on board) from our shop address on the contact page. We have never charged to package tanks for safe shipment and don’t plan to start.
Shipping to the nearest freight terminal (warehouse) for pickup: It is recommended that you have your aquarium shipped to the nearest shipping dock/terminal, where you can pick it up. This is the warehouse that the carriers use to load/unload/transfer shipments. Most larger cities have them. If you are a long ways from a larger city this may not be the best option. The only requirement will be that you have access to a vehicle or trailer capable of hauling the aquarium back with you. They will load the freight onto your vehicle via forklift so you shouldn’t need to bring any help. Typically, when the package arrives at their warehouse, they will notify you that it is available for pick-up. This will usually be the least expensive option, and gives you greater flexibility with regards to a time frame for picking up your tank as well as more time to inspect it for damage.
Shipping to a business address with loading dock or forklift: In the eyes of the freight carrier, a business address is an address that has either a loading dock or forklift capable of removing the freight from the truck and that has enough space to allow a large truck to get in/out. They usually will not call the consignee (you) to set up a delivery time and will assume there are regular hours and somebody will be there to accept the shipment. Same cost as having it shipped to the warehouse for pickup.
Shipping to a business address without a loading dock or forklift: This is an address that keeps normal business hours and will have somebody on hand to accept freight, as they usually will not call to make a delivery appointment. In some instances such as a very small tank a couple people can unload the freight by hand. Most times a liftgate truck will be necessary to lower the package down to the ground so it can be removed. They will charge an additional fee for switching freight over to a liftgate truck.
Shipping to a residential address: If none of the above will work and you need it to go to a residential address, no problem. Most carriers will call you to make a delivery appointment. This gives you the chance to arrange to have help available if needed. The freight carrier is responsible for what is known as “curbside” delivery. This means they just need to get the freight down and off the truck, usually in the driveway or other convenient spot. They are not responsible for moving it into the garage, house, etc. Once off the truck consider movement of the package your responsibility. You need to be sure that a large truck is capable of getting in/out of your address. Residential deliveries will require a liftgate truck. There will be extra charges for residential delivery as well as for a liftgate truck.
IMPORTANT! WHEN YOUR TANK ARRIVES……
Unfortunately, once a tank leaves our shop we no longer have any control over what happens to it. Damage to tanks is rare but it can happen. MAKE SURE YOU INSPECT YOUR TANK BEFORE SIGNING FOR IT! Do not let the driver (or warehouse personnel if picking it up) insist on your signature first. This is your right, do not let the driver tell you the package is fine and try and rush you. Look over the packaging very carefully and if there is any damage to the outside packaging, look closely at the area to determine if it has affected the tank in any way. If you suspect anything, it is strongly advised that you remove the packaging and give the tank a thorough inspection
If you sign for a tank because you are in a hurry (or because the driver is) before checking it over, you may be out of luck if you open it later only to find that it is damaged.
If you do happen to find any damage to the aquarium REFUSE IT and call us immediately so we can determine the best course of action at the time. Write down any damage, whether to the packaging or to the tank, on the drivers paperwork, or make sure he/she does. Do not let anybody talk you into signing for it, leaving it there, and working it out later with the shipper. If you refuse a shipment, give us a call right away with the details.
Again, most tanks are shipped smoothly and the above is only mentioned to help you from making common mistakes, and to assure that you get the product you paid for without damage.