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What is a Packing Slip?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Also known as delivery lists or bills of parcel, packing slips are documents that accompany goods when they are delivered. In most cases, the document is placed inside the pouch, box, or other container that is used for the shipment. When multiple containers are included in the single shipment, the seller will often seal the slip in a clear plastic pouch and affix it to the exterior of one of the boxes.

There are several other names that are used to identify the packing slip. In some countries, the document is referred to as a delivery docket or an unpacking note. Identifying the slip as a customer receipt is also fairly common. The exact term used will sometimes vary, based on the type of goods that are shipped as well as the cultural preference of the area where the shipper resides.

This document is designed to aid recipients of the shipment in confirming that all items that were supposed to be included in the shipment have actually arrived. While slip designs vary somewhat, most will include a description of each item included, as well as the quantity of each item shipped. If the shipment does not completely fill the customer’s order, it will often include data regarding the status of those other items. For example, one for a delivery of books from a book club would identify the name and quantity of each book included in the shipment, while also noting any books related to the customer order that were not shipped, giving those items a status of “back ordered.” This allows the recipient to know that the shipment is only a partial fulfillment of the order, and another package can be expected at a later date.

In some cases, the packing slip will also include information regarding the charges associated with each item. Data like the unit price of each item, the extended price for each type of item if multiple units were shipped, any shipping and handling charges assessed, and any taxes applied are often found on this type of detailed document. The detail is helpful, since it allows the recipient to check those figures against any price quotes extended by the seller prior to the placement of the order.

While a packing slip can provide a great deal of detail, it normally does not serve as a bill of lading or an invoice. Those documents may also accompany the shipment, or be received electronically or by post at a later date. In business settings, employees charged with overseeing shipping and receiving functions will often use the slip to check off the items received, then forward it to the accounts payable department. The detail contained on the document is compared to the detail on the invoice before payment for the order is approved. Assuming the comparison does not yield any discrepancies, the invoice is approved and payment is remitted to the seller.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon992626 — On Sep 20, 2015

Thank you for the good explanation.

By anon926328 — On Jan 18, 2014

I always expect to find a packing slip or invoice (marked 'Paid in Full' if appropriate) with every package I receive, whether for business or personal items. It is a simple courtesy, one which many eBay and Amazon sellers, it seems, cannot be bothered to extend to their customers. As I regard it as discourteous to not include one or the other, and is a form of communication, sellers who do not include one get marked down in their ratings.

My main concern over not including something that describes the contents of a package is that, should a package lose its contents, the carriers may not be able to associate the two and get the item/s to the intended recipient. Instead, the customer will be forced to go through the 'item not received' process with the seller, which could seriously inconvenience a customer.

By reader888 — On Feb 21, 2011

I'm starting my own business, and will be doing a lot of shipping of products to other people. When shipping, are packing slips required by law? Or is this just a convenience that businesses supply for the people receiving their products?

By jlmk — On Feb 19, 2011

I order a lot of stuff online, so I am very happy that packing slips are always included in the boxes I receive. It's the only way I know if everything that was supposed to be in the box was actually there.

I don't ever remember every single item that I ordered. Without the packing slip, if something was accidentally left out of the box, I probably wouldn't even notice!

I'm thinking about selling some things online, and I want to include packing slips when I ship stuff to other people. If I find it so helpful, I'm sure other people will too. Is there somewhere I can find some sort of packing slip template?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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