If you have ever ordered a package, chances are you have seen a packing list.  Typically, you will see it either in a pouching attached to the outside of your package or tucked down inside the package.  There are a variety of names for the packing list: waybill, packing list or shipping list – all mean the same thing.

What is the packing list?

The packing list is just that: a precise count of the products included in your product order.  You will know what to expect, and let handlers know what is inside.  This ensures appropriate handling of your product package.

You will get the number of items per box, general dimensions and weight.  There are normally no prices on the packing list.

When your products arrive at customs, the packing list is a legal document to help clear customs.  Typically, the packing list is also a requirement from CBP, transportation agencies and others who will handle the package outside of you.


How does a packing list differ from an invoice?

The packing list and invoice are often included from the manufacturer or sourcing agency to the buyer.  However, there are two documents serve two different purposes.  Invoices are standard for business to business transactions, whereas packing lists are not.

A packing list is only necessary for products.

The invoice and packing list  also differ between who will receive each.  The invoice goes to the person or department responsible for payment.  Chinese products are invoiced before products are shipped.  You will receive a packing list when you receive your products without an invoice.

The packing list goes to the the receiving department where the products are recorded for inventory purpose.

If you are a small business owner, you are likely both the accounting department where invoices are paid, and the receiving department where products arrive, are documented and shipped out to customers.


Why are packing lists important?

The packing list is a document that can help generate a positive relationship between international buyers and sellers of products and in particular, Chinese products.

The documents have important data for you as the buyer.  Here is a list of why the packing list matters:

  • Provides accurate product count before export
  • Sustains the derivation of the offshore price of the products
  • Creates a quality control phase for products
  • Has the information for C/O of the products
  • Track a variety of products from one invoice
  • Allows law enforcement agencies to document transactions in different parts of the country
  • Ensures safe delivery and minimizes risk during transportation
  • Provides logistics for bookings to different countries
  • Allow importation of the products into the country
  • Recoup monetary losses from damaged products
  • Verifies the products received
  • Clears any misunderstandings
  • Lowers conflict of interest
  • Assist compensation under message of a loan

Packing list template

There is not a single packing list form that anyone uses.  Instead, it will be dependent on the products and business.  However, you will have some of the exact same information on each packing list no matter what products you source from China and Sourcing Nova.


Common information on all packing lists

It is very important that no matter what or how the packing list is structured, it is important to have this same information.  This way if you are receiving products from different manufacturers, you will know what information should be on the packing list.  Common information includes:

  • Dates order was placed and filled
  • Commercial invoice number
  • Buyer’s information – name, address, email and phone
  • Seller’s information – name, address, email and phone
  • List of ordered products – itemized
  • Quanity
  • Weight – package and individual product
  • Pricing information
  • Manufacturer logo
  • Origin of production and destination
  • If wood is used for packing, there will be fumigation or heat treating certifications


Do you really need a packing list?

As a small business owner, it is understandable if you feel a packing list is unnecessary.  It means keeping up with more and more paperwork.  Clearly, it is something that will only be looked at one time and filed away never to be seen again.

This is a very serious mistake.  It is very wise to keep all of your packing lists, invoices and other paperwork.  You should keep up with your packing lists for the following reasons:


  • Find lost cargo – Packages will be lost and misplaced. This is an unfortunate fact.  There is a department for dead letters within the U.S. Postal Service, who does search for missing and lost mail.  There are times a package may get wet or address marred, making the address difficult to read.  In such an event, postal employees may open and look for an address for delivery.
  • Contents – What you ordered, when you ordered and from where you ordered. Ordering products online is very popular, you are likely to receive various products from manufacturers via Sourcing Nova.  This way you can also check off what you have vs. what you are waiting to receive.
  • Customs – Your Chinese products will arrive at customs for review, duty and tariff determinations. The customs agent can get a good idea of what is in the package without having to open the package to find a packing list.
  • Proof – The packing list can suffice as a Bill of Lading and contains the information on the C/O.
  • Automated Export System – The Electronic Export Information section uses details from the packing list.
  • MSDS – Material Safety Data Sheet – If the goods are hazardous or dangerous, it is noted on the packing list.
  • Booking – The packing list will help create a booking for international shipping plus the international Bill of Lading.
  • Import database – Customs can use the packing list to enter products into a database
  • Reimbursement – It can support reimbursement on a letter of credit.


Final thoughts

Many do not give a packing list a second glance, but the reason is most people are the final destination of a product with a packing list.  However, as you are a business person looking for high quality products coming from China, it is important for you to keep a record of your packing lists as part of your accounting and inventory management.

Have you decided on products you want to source from China?  Sourcing Nova is your partner in China for all of your product needs.  Contact us today, and let’s get started.