The Packing Slip: a Valuable Document or Mass Waste Product?

As the holidays are quickly approaching, many retailers are already mobilizing their pack and ship assembly lines. One item that is always included in that fresh new box waiting on your doorstep or in your office is the packing slip.

Sometimes it is nice to get an overview of what you ordered; perhaps you need to verify multiple supplies. However, this little piece of paper is likely going straight in the recycle bin, never even given a half glance. 

This begs the question – do we still need to be including packing slips? 

We will look at this from various perspectives so you can make an informed decision on how to ship your merchandise this holiday season.

What Is a Packing Slip?

A packing slip is a document created by the shipper that includes a complete list of items included in the parcel. This document can consist of SKU numbers, weights, dimensions, and quantities. 

The packing slip, also known as the shipping list, manifest, or waybill, can come in handy when your shipment comes in multiple containers. You can quickly reference which box contains the appropriate merchandise. 

The waybill is helpful for internal purposes and quality checks. Catching any discrepancies before the seller ships the items is very important for a company’s reputation. Even one error could affect future purchases from a buyer. 

Lastly, a packing slip is thoroughly scrutinized when shipping an item overseas. Many countries include a value-added tax or VAT on merchandise ordered from another country. Customs can estimate the value within the shipment very quickly by referencing the manifest. 

Packing Slip vs. Invoice

The packing slip describes the physical products in the container, whereas the invoice describes the financial transaction behind the sale of these goods. 

The purpose of an invoice is to inform the buyer’s accounting department of how much to pay and when it is due. The invoice also serves as a record for the seller to keep track of outstanding unpaid shipments. 

Both packing slips and invoices list the items that have shipped and the quantities of the items. However, suppose an item’s availability is delayed two weeks. In that case, this information will likely appear only on the packing slip because this is only relevant to the receiving department that handles the inventory, not the accounting department. 

If a purchase order was used, then accounting will need to be aware as the invoice amount won’t agree with the purchase order amount.

Branding Purpose

Whether the packing slip serves a purpose is still a debated issue. Thus, it is necessary to point out that younger generations have unleashed a phenomenon known as unboxing. This is a process of recording the moment when a product is opened and removed from the original packaging in which it was sold. 

These products range from clothing, electronics, tools, beauty products, and the list goes on. Google announced that the global, aggregate time spent watching unboxing videos on YouTube equated to watching the movie “Love Actually” 20 million times. 

Just like that, a new marketing and social media branding tool was created. 

The packing slip has the potential to get a lot of views. Retailers worldwide have already begun using this to their advantage. Some companies will now include their packing slip in a gift envelope, and some add a nice note in Natalia font or even include glitter and confetti. 

Although you don’t have to go all out, simply adding your business’s logo can bridge a branding gap that wasn’t available ten years ago. That is definitely thinking outside the box!


Many consumers and merchants have indeed paid less attention to this piece of paper over time. Even Amazon has eliminated packing slips with some single-boxed containers. Plus, relying on electronic communication certainly has its environmental advantages. 

One thing is for sure; we live in an ever-increasingly digital world. There were over 2 billion online shoppers in 2020 alone. Nearly 85% of consumers across the globe have made a purchase online. 

That number is not slowing down. New statistics predict eCommerce sales to increase to $6.5 Trillion by 2023. Amazon is estimated to account for half of all eCommerce sales by the end of the year. 

While packing slips are not mandatory, it is the safer course to include one. Many organizations consider this document as one way to manage a customer’s expectations positively. When we look at the industry potential, it is an excellent approach to take the path that encourages the most confidence with consumers. 


Are you looking for accounting software to automatically include tracking information on your shipping labels and purchase orders? Visit us at FINSYNC for this holiday season. 


Helping small businesses is our core mission at FINSYNC.

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