What Is a Packing Slip and Does Your Package Need One?

What Is a Packing Slip and Does Your Package Need One? Every package shipped via a postal or courier company needs shipping documents, but what exactly documents are required depends on the situation. For example, some packages need a packing slip, while others don’t. What is a packing slip and how to figure out whether your package needs one?

A packing slip is a document listing all items that are shipped in a package. It is similar to some other shipping documents, such as an invoice, a delivery note or a customs declaration, but it serves a unique purpose. Packing slips are used by online retailers to optimize their packing and shipping process and ensure customer satisfaction.

What information does a packing slip include? There is no standardized packing slip form; each e-commerce business designs its packing slips as it sees fit. However, most packing slips include the following information:

  • Order number and date
  • Seller’s (sender’s) information
  • Billing name and address
  • Shipping name and address
  • Itemized list of shipped items (SKU number, name/description, quantity, price, cost)
  • Subtotal, shipping cost, tax (if applicable) and total order cost
  • Shipping method and tracking number
  • Any special instructions, notes, and other relevant details etc.

The main purpose of a packing slip is to ensure that the order is correct and complete. During the packing process, packing slips are used as a checklist to make sure all items are packed before the order is sealed, labeled, and shipped. Once the addressee receives the order, they can use the packing slip to confirm everything has arrived safely or to identify missing or damaged items.

Depending on the situation, a packing slip may also perform other functions. For example, when an order is split into separate shipments because of its size or due to different items being shipped from different warehouses, a packing slip can help the seller stay organized and keep track of all items in the order more easily.

As we’ve mentioned, a packing slip is similar to an invoice and a customs declaration, because all three documents include an itemized list of shipped items and can look nearly identical. However, these three documents serve different purposes. An invoice is a financial document that contains payment information relevant to the order; it intended for the payer. A packing slip, on the other hand, denotes the physical goods being received and is intended for the recipient. In case the payer and the recipient are the same person, they may receive both documents.

A customs declaration is a document required for international shipments; it gives details of goods that are being imported and is intended for the customs authorities of the destination country. One of the main differences between a packing slip and a customs declaration is that a packing slip is placed inside the package, whereas a customs declaration is affixed to the package. More often than not, an international shipping label doubles as a customs declaration.

And then there’s a delivery note. A delivery note serves the same purpose as a packing slip, i.e. lists the items that were delivered (with quantity), but a list of items is all it contains; there is no financial details or other additional information. Most online retailers prefer to include packing slips inside orders because they are more detailed than delivery notes.

So, how to figure out whether your package needs a packing slip? The answer is pretty straightforward. Packing slips are used by e-commerce businesses, so if you’re a private individual, a packing slip is not required. An international package does require an itemized list of the items that are being shipped, but this list will be included in the shipping label/customs declaration.

If you’re running an e-commerce business, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to include packing slips with orders; they surely make packing and shipping easier, but some retailers think that an invoice is enough.