In response to the the scary nature of the newly aggressive FedEx and UPS shipping personnel, I've decided to start a thread that addresses the need for concealing the contents of your wine shipments. Here's what I do:
1. I try to avoid using a single bottle wine shipper. Too easy to detect as this size has become so common. If I have to ship a single bottle, I'll usually use a two bottle shipper, and add an empty bottle. I know it ain't cost effective, but it helps.
2. Wrap the styrofoam container in several sheets of newspaper, as well as the bottles to avoid "sqeakyness". Squeakyness has gotten me caught before...now it doesn't.
3. Add a small container of loose jellybeans to your wine shipment to mask that god awful liquid sloshing sound. This also helps if your super sleuth UPS employee decides to rattle your package. The point--your package doesn't sound like liquid filled bottles.
4. Find a reliable shipping store that knows you! Build a rapport, so your shipments become trusted. This was hugely important for me. Now I don't even get the slightest uncomfortable question.
5. Insulate, insulate, insulate. Use wadded newsprint or small bubble wrap in every gap or crevice that might make sound and give your contents away. (see above)
6. Avoid writing things on your packages like 'fragile', or 'this way up'. This brings way too much attention to your contents, and you will get the obvious questions about glass. Unless you're a good liar, avoid this question. By the way, I've found that writing these things has no bearing on how your package is handled. I've written these words too many times and STILL had damaged goods. If you have to write something, draw an arrow indicating which direction is up.
7. When asked about contents, I always say that I am shipping artworks. Being an artist myself, helps me keep the illusion, and plus, wines are an art form. I feel completely comfortable saying this, and I avoid telling a complete lie!
8. I try to use duct tape to seal my packages on the outside. If you make your packages look hard to get into, your shipping personnel are more reluctant to do a spot check. Nobody wants to open duct tape, it's difficult, and it truly looks like tampering. Your store clerk may not have the guts.
9. Busy shipping stores are good! Your store clerk is less likely to confront you when there are many other patrons in line. Plus, they are concerned with getting you out quickly, rather than snoop about your package contents. Now, it may be a hassle to wait in line, but it can be worth it if you are a worry wart.
10. Be willing to walk out of the shipping store. If asked to open your package, just leave. Say that you spent hours carefully wrapping your contents and you feel it's unnecessary. Sometimes this will persuade your clerk to let you slide, or at worst, you find another shipping store.