All Things Shipping
Jan 3, 2024

What Is Discreet Shipping? - Discreet Packaging Defined

The growing popularity of “unboxing” videos has led many e-commerce merchants to reimagine their packaging approach, utilizing everything from branded boxes to customized fill and other shipping materials to create a memorable experience for recipients.

But for some sellers, all of this attention isn’t just unnecessary—it’s unwanted. In the case of some sensitive products, discretion is everything. Take the example of buying a diamond engagement ring online. Not only would you not want to announce to your neighbors that you’ve had a high-value item delivered, but you may also want to prevent your significant other from picking up the package and immediately realizing what’s inside!

Discreet shipping solves these and other related challenges. But what is it exactly, and when and how should you use it? Let’s take a closer look.

What Does Discreet Shipping Mean?

Discreet shipping—also known as discreet packaging or quiet shipping—refers to the practice of concealing a package’s origin and/or contents throughout the shipping process.

Discreet shipping commonly uses unbranded shipping boxes and bubble mailers to avoid revealing the source of the shipment. However, discreet shipping can also include using alternative contact information on the shipping label (such as the name and address of a distribution center instead of the merchant’s location) to conceal the shipper’s information.

Shippers of sensitive items may also use packaging materials that deliberately misrepresent the shape of the parcel, deaden the sound of its contents, and conceal its value. Not only are these strategies more discreet, but they may also minimize porch piracy by preventing packages from looking like appealing targets.

When to Use Discreet Shipping

One of the most common use cases for discreet shipping is the adult novelty toy industry. Retailers such as LELO and Adam & Eve actively promote their discreet packaging options, as consumers are more likely to be comfortable ordering their items if they’re confident the contents of their shipments won’t be revealed.

Other items that could benefit from discreet shipping practices include:

  • Medical supplies, medical equipment, and medications (especially items associated with sensitive medical conditions)
  • Items that could inadvertently disclose a medical condition, such as a pregnancy or cancer diagnosis
  • Medical tests
  • High-value items, such as jewelry, shoes, and electronics
  • Home security equipment, for homeowners who don’t want to reveal their protection details
  • Holiday presents or gifts intended to be a surprise to recipients

Elements of a Discreet Package

Some of the elements that may be involved in discreet packaging include:

  • Plain white or brown cardboard mailers
  • Generic tape (or even tape that mimics that of popular retailers like Amazon so that discreet packages can essentially hide in plain sight)
  • Shipping labels without identifiable company names, logos, or other brand markings
  • Shipping boxes and bubble mailers without custom graphics or slogans that could be associated with the brand
  • Shipping in free USPS boxes and bubble mailers to camouflage your items with other shipments

Other Ways To Ship Packages Quietly

Discreet packaging is one quiet shipping strategy—but it’s far from your only option. For example, shipping to PO Boxes, shipping lockers, or the partnered stores of individual carriers like FedEx and USPS prevents your sensitive deliveries from sitting unattended at your recipients’ homes.

Similarly, requiring an adult signature ensures your sensitive package will be given directly to an adult in the home. Depending on the carrier and shipping software you use, enabling customers to include additional shipping instructions—such as dropping off on a different side of the house or inside a garage or fence door—can also keep packages from being left in public view.

Which Carriers Offer Discreet Shipping?

Because discreet shipping is largely a function of packaging, it is possible to ship discreetly with most major carriers. For example:


In addition to making free, USPS-branded packaging materials available, USPS allows deliveries to PO Boxes through its First Class, Priority, and Priority Express services. Be aware, however, that a number of scam services operate using the name “USPS Discreet Mail Service.” To ensure your discreet packages reach their destinations safely, it’s best to purchase shipping through one of USPS’s standard services.


Unfortunately, this carrier does not allow delivery to PO Boxes, which limits the viability of this quiet shipping strategy. It’s also important to note that FedEx restricts the shipment of some sensitive items, such as vaping devices. To ship discreetly through FedEx, select a shipping service that includes parcel tracking, and opt for an “Adult signature required” or “Direct signature required” add-on.


Like FedEx, UPS doesn’t deliver to PO Boxes, but recipients can arrange to pick up their packages at UPS locations. This provides customers with an added level of security above and beyond having parcels left on their porch. Tracking and signature confirmation add-ons can also help ensure your sensitive items make it to your customers.


Amazon’s “Ships in Product Packaging” program is intended to reduce the waste associated with packing commercial products in another layer of Amazon-specific packaging.

While some products are automatically excluded from the program (including “intimate or high-value items, fragile items, collectibles, or where handling the item may be dangerous to Amazon workers and/or our delivery partners such as items with sharp edges,” according to Amazon), consumers also typically have the choice to opt into more discreet packaging options at check-out, as seen below:

Can You Ship Discreetly When Shipping Internationally?

It’s worth noting that the guidance above is aimed specifically at domestic shippers. But what do you do if you want to ship discreet packages internationally?

There are some discreet shipping practices that transcend destination. Whether you’re shipping domestically or internationally, for example, you can make use of unbranded, discreet packaging materials and limit the use of branded elements that could call attention to your company.

One major difference between the two, however, is in the disclosures required for international customs declarations. In nearly all cases, you’ll need to document the specific contents of your packages—whether or not the items are sensitive in nature. You may also be required to include your company’s name and physical location on your customs documentation.

While it may be tempting to try to get around these restrictions in order to offer a truly discreet experience, it’s never a good idea to deliberately run afoul of customs law. Provide the required information, but also make it clear to your customers what will and won’t be disclosed during the shipping process.

How Shippo Can Help with Discreet Shipping

If you ship sensitive items, Shippo can help. Not only can you use your own discreet packaging when sending parcels through Shippo, but you can also add signature confirmation to your deliveries to ensure your items are handed directly to an adult. Pharmaceutical brands trust Shippo with their discreet deliveries, but merchants in all industries can benefit—don’t forget that saving big comes standard on all discreet shipments with Shippo.

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Sarah Gage
is a Michigan-based freelance writer covering business, marketing, and technology topics. She is also the owner of Content Conquered, a B2B-focused content marketing consultancy.

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