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A Dutch bike maker came up with this ingenious idea to reduce shipping damage

With “too many” of its shipped bicycles arriving at customers’ doors “looking like they’d been through a metal-munching combine harvester,” Dutch bike firm VanMoof wondered what on earth it could do to get handlers to be a little more gentle with its two-wheelers.

And with an ambition to make 90 percent of its sales online by 2020, it was understandably important for the company to find a reliable shipper to take care of its bikes, which cost up to $2,500 and offer tech such as electric motors, anti-theft tracking, and integrated lights.

It’d tried out a slew of shippers  – “the big ones, the niche ones, the expensive ones, the startup-ey ones” – but all to no avail.

And then someone had an ingenious idea.

Noticing that the boxes it used for shipping its bikes were about the same size as those used to transport larger flatscreen TVs, and figuring that shippers were likely to be much more careful when handling such a product, an employee suggested the simple idea of printing the image of a TV on the side of the package.

The result? A reduction in shipping-related damage by a whopping 70 to 80 percent.

Having been rumbled earlier this month by Wall Street Journal writer Jason Gay, VanMoof creative director Bex Rad posted a short piece online about the company’s clever new approach to shipping.

“Anyone in the e-commerce world knows you’re only as good as your shipping partner,” Rad wrote. “Your covetable products, your frictionless website, your killer brand –  they all count for nothing when your delivery partner drops the ball.”

Related: VanMoof’s “unstealable” smartbike comes with a surprising promise

For Amsterdam-based VanMoof, the redesigned box is clearly paying dividends, with shipping staff prompted to show a little more care toward the pricey two-wheelers. Which they think are TVs.

Rad, however, knows the idea is likely to have a short shelf life.

“We were hoping to keep this small tweak quiet, but thanks to Twitter, the secret’s out,” she wrote, adding, “Just don’t tell FedEx.”