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Exhibit Damaged While Shipping? A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

A picture is worth a thousand wordsIn the midst of a recent freight issue between a show decorator and one of my clients, I realized the importance of photo documentation. 

Our office institutes what we call a “snapshot program.”  The program insures that we have photo documentation of various stages within the pre-, at-, and post-show process, allowing us to provide a clearer overall story even when items are not directly in our possession and control.  While I strongly recommend hiring a service team to handle installation/dismantle and freight for your event, I understand that not all exhibitors require pre-show prep, installation & dismantle services, etc…based on exhibit size and materials as well as available budget.

When freight is damaged, lost, etc… everyone begins the blame game and the exhibitor and their exhibit house tend to end up with the short end of the stick.  Don’t let this happen to you; show up to the table with a couple ACES in your hand!

Below are 5 important FREIGHT photographs that I recommend you take for every event:

Exhibitor “SnapShot” Program:

1. Prior to shipping your trade show exhibit, take a photograph of the contents of the shipping cases.
This photograph allows you to not only account for the items within the shipping case, it also will allow you to see if the cases have been handled poorly or tipped during shipping.

2. Prior to shipping your exhibit, wrap the case (especially where the lid closes) with shrink-wrap and snap a picture.
This photograph allows you to know whether the case has been opened or tampered with from the time it leaves your shipping dock to the time it arrives at your booth space.

3. Upon arrival at the exhibit space, prior to installation, photograph the items in the shipment.
Photograph the cases both unopened and with the lids open to document piece count and the condition of the assets.  By comparing these photos with the ones taken prior to shipping the items to the show, you will be able to see if mishandling or tampering occurred during the time you were not in possession of your assets.

4. At conclusion of dismantle and packing of exhibit items, photograph the items packed in the cases (as described in photograph 1) as well as the cases once closed, labeled, and secured with shrink-wrap (as described in photograph 2).

5. Snap a picture of the cases upon delivery to your facility after the show, both closed and open.

Freight carriers and show decorators are not used to receiving photo documentation to this degree; therefore, they are more likely to straighten up and listen to the issue you are working through.  Taking control of your assets will help others begin to take responsibility!

Learn more ins and outs of the trade show world with the 75- page Trade Show Marketing Idea Kit.  The Kit covers setting objectives to lead management, and everything in between.

About the Author

Laurie Hight was an Exhibit Design Consultant at Skyline Exhibit Source in Nashville, Tennesee.

9 responses to “Exhibit Damaged While Shipping? A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

  1. I also would recommend calling your carrier ASAP as they may want to send out an inspector to look at the damaged booth. Insure you keep a copy of your signed Bill of Lading from your carrier as if decorator signs off undamaged you will have documentation to show, to show management and the decorator to assign responsibility. I also would recommend transit insurance if you have an expensive custom booth.

    1. Great points Dan! It is very important that you note damages on the Bill of Lading and have the driver sign-off; this procedure has saved us on several occasions and helps expedite the freight claim process. Also, if you arrive at your exhibit space and observe damages, request a show decorator representative immediately to file a claim.

      Out of curiousity, for transit insurance, do you add a separate insurance plan in addition to your standard insurance or just add insurance through the carrier?

  2. This is a great article, I will send it to one of our clients who recently got one of his crate 24 damaged and is now stuck with the bill for replacement. I’m sure it’s a new procedure they will integrate to their tradeshow program.

  3. Indeed – we sent one of our large format signs to Europe last year. When it returned to the States, I was left with a damaged sign, and the cost of having union workers on ladders hand-cleaning the damage inflicted by European installers. Lesson learned – take note and photograph how installers are treating your booth before and after the show.

  4. If you are reading this, you probably care enough already and reading the rest of this comment is probably a waste of your time, but…
    As someone who manages exhibitors’ consignments, especially those being shipped internationally, may I make a small interjection in defense of carriers? Yes, I am sometimes shocked to see how consignments are handled, but I am frequently surprised by the lack of protection and care exhibitors take with their packing.
    In these cases it is not surprising that damage occurs. I often re-pack consignments entrusted to me (at my cost) just to avoid the animosity and grief at or after a show.
    Some simple thoughts to keep in mind next time you pack:
    – If you are despatching goods, ensure that display materials and equipment are packed in rigid cases (zip-up bags offer NO protection, and I consider them inadequate for freight).
    – If practicable, get large-format sign printing done locally to your show. It will save a fortune in shipping, and reduce the risk of damage considerably. In this age of the internet, this is much more easy and controllable than it used to be.
    – Pack publicity and display stock in double-walled cardboard boxes packed to the top (with scrunched up newspaper, if necessary) and sealed across the join of the flaps and around the edges formed by the closed flaps – they then will not collapse when stacked.

  5. We had an issue recently where one of our mirage cases was damaged and our frame lost. After a long battle with the carrier we did secure payment under the insurance we paid for.

    Now, what we do is we tie-wrap the latches on our Mirage’s shut – we tie from the holes on the latches down to the handle with heavy duty tie-wraps you can get at Home Depot or Lowes in the electrical section, and take pictures of them tie-wrapped shut. Wash-rinse-repeat on the return trip back to us.

    So far, knock on wood, no additional issues have occurred.

    1. Hello John,

      Sorry you had to go through the worm hole to get paid by your carrier. Not fun! You could also use locks to secure the latches, too. That’s what the holes in the latches are designed for, although your solution is very clever — no need to worry about remembering keys or combinations!

  6. We ship machinery to our shows. In both of the last two shows, the crates have been dropped on their side. This caused a lot of damage to the machines. They are both about 300lb machines. The problem I get is finger pointing between the freight carrier, and the drayage management. Nobody takes credit.

  7. Great article and definitely a must-do for exhibitors. It’s always good to have clear records.

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