VanMoof sells bicycles. But printed on their shipping boxes is… a flat screen TV? Yes, and there’s a really good reason.

The Dutch company is working toward a goal of 90% online sales by 2020. And online sales equals lots of shipping. But as many makers know, you can have the best product in the world utterly destroyed by a poor shipping experience… what good is a busted bike at your door?

“Anyone in the ecom world knows you’re only as good as your shipping partner,” wrote VanMoof creative director Bex Rad. “Your covetable products, your frictionless website, your killer brand—they all count for nothing when your delivery partner drops the ball.”

The company tried all kinds of shipping partners. The big ones, the little ones, the specialty-niche ones, the boutique-y ones, you name it. Still, they didn’t like how many bikes would still arrive “looking like they’d been through a metal-munching combine harvester.

One of VanMoof’s “reasons to buy” is that their bikes arrive “ready to ride in minutes.” And since the bike is nearly fully assembled, it arrives in a HUGE box. A huge, NARROW box. A huge, narrow box… that is similar in shape to a box for a flat-screen TV.

VanMoof co-founder Ties Carlier noted this similarity, and suggested a simple-seeming fix: Since flat-screen TVs generally arrive in great condition, what about printing a flat-screen on the sides of the bicycle boxes?

“Here at VanMoof HQ we’re all about making tiny hacks that have a huge impact.”

Now, there is nothing to indicate that the box actually contains a flat-screen TV, other than the outline of one. There’s also an image of a bicycle on the box and, of course, the name of the company. Regardless, this one change resulted in a 70-80% drop in shipping damage.

The company had been hoping to keep this a bit quiet, but when Twitter knows, everyone knows:

Has news of this secret made the tactic less effective? Thus far, no: “Our damage rate has gone even lower since the news came out,” VanMoof marketing director Dave Shoemack told Co.Exist. “It seems that we now get special treatment!”

After it was revealed on Twitter, the bicycle company owned up to their bit of subterfuge on Facebook and in the company blog post referenced above. Publications and individuals alike deemed the disguised boxes “clever,” “brilliant,” and “a genius design trick.”

Who needs boatloads of bubble wrap?

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Beth Voigt

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and public transit and is still on her first smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around.

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