This box protects your $3,000 bike during shipping

Bikesharing gives independence to these teens
Bikesharing gives independence to these teens

Making bikes is big business thanks to a global cycling craze, with some models costing thousands of dollars.

But manufacturers selling online risk heavy losses because their bikes are often damaged during shipping. One Dutch company, Vanmoof, says the problem was affecting 25% of its orders.

"We were suffering massive delivery damages, especially in the U.S., and facing major expenses for returns, replacements and refunds -- it was a real mess," Taco Carlier, Vanmoof's co-founder, told CNNMoney.

"Sometimes it was just a few scratches, sometimes catastrophic damage, as if a truck had run over the bike."

Related: How Seattle morphed from bikeshare failure to industry leader

With their business at risk, Vanmoof's founders came up with a novel way of protecting their city bikes, which they ship to customers already assembled in large cardboard boxes.

"We asked ourselves, what do Americans really love? What would prompt couriers to be delicate with a parcel?" said Carlier. "That's when we thought of a flat screen TV, because our box is the same size and shape as that of a really huge TV."

So last year Vanmoof began printing the silhouette of a TV on its boxes. Damages plummeted by at least 80%.

"It was really amazing," said Carlier. "We barely get any complaints anymore."

vanmoof bike box

Vanmoof's bikes cost as much as $3,000 and the 8-year old company wants 90% of its sales to be online by 2020.

It had previously tried to reduce damage by changing shipping companies, but that made little difference.

Carlier points out that there is a notice on every parcel that declares the actual contents, and says customers and couriers have reacted positively to the new packaging.

Related: China accused of flooding Europe with cheap e-bikes

vanmoof bike 2

The only problem is maintaining the deception.

"We tried to do that for as long as we could, until a journalist in our store in New York tweeted about it and revealed it to the world," said Carlier.

Publicity naturally followed, but Carlier said he hasn't seen any uptick in transit damage -- he just hopes nobody steals the idea: "The more companies do this, the less effective it will be."

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