Shipping Photochemicals

B&H No longer shipping … the chatter begins.

I could only think in terms of me, and now I think I understand…

They say everything can be replaced. They say that every distance is not near.  RZ(Bob Dylan)

B&H claims ‘scrupulous’ attention

How To Comply:

Package, and label fully. By reading the manufacturer’s SDS section 14, you will see what the shipping needs are. For most small quantities the ORM exclusion holds. When I asked KodakAlaris ‘how to ship,’ they said to keep (dektol, D-76) in their original packaging and ship with an outerbox that would be accepted by the carrier. Any labeling should just repeat that on the packets of the chemical if the quantity required. NOTE: Hydroquinone, the ingredient in question, is reportable in 100lb amounts. Even that amount can be shipped, just subject to placarding.

UPDATE: (Dec. 20,2016)

B&H has returned to shipping some chemicals. Their online representative (via APUG) asserted they didn’t change from a long standing process. This statement was easily, directly in conflict with many of the thread participant’s experiences. Mine too: Nov 16 I can buy X,Y,Z – Nov 22 those products can only be purchased in the store. Then, after several weeks, my phone calls, (others probably as well) B&H added back many of the darkroom chemicals. They have not added all back. I estimate that of 130 chemicals available in November 2016, 17 are no longer considered shippable by B&H.

Ilford and KodakAlaris have answered my email questions within 30hours, providing me answers that fill in some of the errors that B&H has fallen into. From KA the direct answer that Dektol and D-76 fall under the same shipping requirements. If you can ship one, you can ship the other. This isn’t the position of B&H (12/20/16)

Ilford responded with a paper that looks like something B&H used without reading the preamble, instead cutting Ilford/Harman products along the table lines; shipping some, but not the others, even though they contain the same essential ingredients and are subject to the same hazards handling and labeling. Thus, they don’t ship many of the powder forms of chemistry. So it goes… drewage strikes again. A simple label would save B&H from violation. Conveniently, B&H has opted to ship the most used darkroom chemicals, while deeming the less frequently used to the mystery of “momma don’t ‘low”


The Issue

The darkroom process is a chemical process – without chemicals, the darkroom, all the equipment, all those emulsions, all are useless; only someplace taking up space. Chemical photography requires chemistry. The day of the internet is the day of enhanced mail order, this means it is enhance shipping and handling. The link isn’t digital, it is the transport industry. The truck is the obvious, the above ground, the easily seen portion, behind all this is the box. That lowly folded paper object made of paper. The box holds the chemicals that feeds us.

The internet provided an easy purchase method, easy enough to keep the low impact segment of photography serviced. An established retail store, longtime supplier to amateur photographers, B&H hit the internet retail operation quickly, and early. They became a major online supplier of supplies, therefore, their change of policy is enough of a change to shake a small community. It did.


People reacted from their own base knowledge, since it is partial and very limited; we discover base reaction, or fundamental points of view. It wasn’t long before  upset turned to anger- anger at Unions, Spanish speaking warehouses, Government regulations… even the ‘dishonest’ representative of B&H – dishonest since, several assumed, this is an economic decision that they will not acknowledge.

in the absence of information, let’s imagine, make up an explaining answer.

to bad things, we respond with our beliefs about what causes bad things: government, union, Spanish speakers … lying businessmen can’t possibly be telling us the truth. Maybe not the whole truth

the problem is that we have put all our eggs in one basket, the cheapest one, one that skimps on the boxes for those eggs.

The internet turned every shopper into a receiver in the supply chain. The landlord of eCom is the shipping company. The secret vendor in this world is the packaging industry.

First topics

Announcement. Complaint. Then, oddly, this clear followup statement. Someone made the effort to contact B&H. He reported:

The fellow in the darkroom department said that UPS just changed its regulations and that shipping chemistry was no longer allowed. He said that it was a permanent change.

Which of course isn’t correct. UPS didn’t change regulations. UPS is kind enough to post, months in advance, notice of shipping changes. Changes occur January 1 … just the way these things are done.

cycle of included items:  manufacturer, insurer . box maker … regulator.. carrier.. shipper . you. The manufacturer determines the classification of the material. How it can be properly shipped. The shipper, in this case B&H just has to follow the guidance of the manufacturer, Ilford, Kodak, etc. The shipper also will have a contract with the carrier – UPS, Fedex, DHL..

Broken Boxes Cause Claims

The chemicals aren’t dangerous, but they will ruin a shipment of silk blouses. That claim pisses off the UPS adjuster.

Packages often arrive damaged. The boxes fail because of content movement, and edge failure. The packing is useless. It was the wrong choice for the contents. The difference is in the shipper – their choice of box and, most importantly, their method of packing. This is even true of Amazon, a major shipper, so big that it would be trivial to buy proper boxes and automated packing equipment. They don’t.

2 book shipments. one amazon, the other a bookstore only.

Notice that Amazon has used a large box with only a single deflated airpac, while the book seller uses paper rolled to size for the contents, keeping them from breaking the box from inside, while also able to maintain the box shape even after corner drops.

The eBay amateur shipper has very high Shipping & Handling fees, yet the package arrives in tatters.

eBay seller’s custom packing

Broken boxes provide the investigator with key evidence of responsibility. Those ecom shippers with wide product range are the worst at undamaged shipments. Volume hasn’t increased their understanding of this key element of the business.

We Are The Reason

you want cheap shipping

you accept crap packing because it is what you would do. the eBay effect. Hell even amazon is based upon the 2 legs of ecom: cheap, and fast

this is how we’ve gotten to this fragile point. B&H will be hit again. I’m prepared. I now stock up more, have alternate suppliers and will, if I have to, buy enough to use truck which always moves.

What Am I Doing?

What am I doing? I have switched by chemical purchases, of necessity. My recent fixer order was placed with Adorama, which arrived in 4 separate shipments, one box each; only one of the boxes arrived undamaged. I expect that Adorama will also fall victim to the changes that overtook B&H. My critical supplies come from Freestyle, Bostick & Sullivan, and direct from emulsion coaters in Europe. None of these seems in jeopardy of a delivery failure. Each of them packs well, delivers promptly and without error… a bit more money, but I consider that an insurance premium. A life insurance that I’ll never profit from. Common emulsions I’ll order from B&H, making sure that I order all of one size a day or two apart, eg: 11×14 one day; roll film another; sheet film, etc.

I also order to fill a box knowing that the B&H warehouse doesn’t have the best boxes, and doesn’t seem to understand how packaging for shipment works

And when this all dries out; I won’t miss it at all, since I make pictures. Making pictures isn’t limited to one single process.

I’ve changed my order system from relying on B&H to companies with greater consistency. The laws covering transport didn’t change, despite the drewage of B&H.