TIPS AND TRICKS OF EBAY SHIPPING
After the auction has ended and the buyer has paid, it is time to pack and ship the item to the buyer. Usually, this is a straight forward task, but there are some pitfalls that you should avoid. The last thing you want is to spend a lot of time dealing with angry buyers when their item is lost or arrives damaged.
UPS and USPS are the only shipping service that has been integrated into eBay. This means eBay's shipping calculator is fully aware of the shipping rates for both services. Listings can be configured to have the shipper be UPS, USPS or both (the buyer can choose which service to use).
The advantage of using USPS is they provide free priority shipping boxes. For items weighing 3 pounds or less, it is usually cheaper and faster to ship USPS priority mail than UPS ground. Also if your item is extremely fragile or can be easily crushed, you should ship priority mail. UPS ships very heavy items that can end up being stacked on top of your package. Because of this, many packages end up being crushed to some degree when they are delivered. Of course for very heavy items, UPS is the most economical method of shipping.
EBAY SHIPPING TIPS
Here are some tips for shipping on eBay:
- Get a shipping scale. You need to know exactly how much a package weighs so you can calculate the postage. They are relatively inexpensive. All you really need is a scale that can weigh accurately up to 35 pounds. Anything heavier, you can get by with your bathroom scale. The best place to get a shipping scale is from the eBay seller oldwillknott---(great-scales!).
- Always state the shipping costs in your listings. EBay has a built-in shipping calculator. All you need to enter is the total weight of the package (including the box and packing materials), your zip code, shipping service, and handling fee. EBay will automatically calculate the cost of shipping based on the buyer's location. USPS and UPS are the only shipping types currently supported by eBay's shipping calculator.
- Don't overcharge for shipping. Buyers avoid listings that have excessive handling fees. Do charge a reasonable handling fee to cover your cost of materials and your time to pack the item. You can charge a separate handling fee for international buyers to cover the additional customs overhead.
- Always include a packing slip in the package. You never know if something bad will happen to your package and the shipping label is torn off or is unreadable. As long as there is a packing slip, the shipper can still deliver the package or send it back to you. Click on the following link for an example of a packing slip.
- Use delivery confirmation on all packages. Shady eBay buyers will think twice before claiming they didn't receive your package. If the package really does get lost, you have a way to track it down.
- Use signature confirmation for items $250 or more paid using PayPal. Unscrupulous buyers will claim the item was never received and PayPal will take the money out of your account and give it back to the buyer, no questions asked, unless signature confirmation was used.
- Buy shipping insurance for expensive items, even if the buyer didn't pay for it. Things can get damaged or lost during shipping. Protect yourself from taking a big loss if the buyer wants their money back.
- Keep tracking information for at least 45 days after the payment has been received.
- Use USPS priority flat rate shipping boxes for items weighing more than 2 pounds if possible.
While not required, consider purchasing a Zebra LP 2844 thermal label printer. If you do a lot of shipping, it will make printing labels much easier. The labels are self adhesive and can be ordered free from UPS. You can find them on eBay. The printer is designed to print 6" x 4" UPS and USPS shipping labels. If you have a UPS account, you can order labels for the printer for free. The labels are self adhesive, so you just peel them off and stick it on the box.
If you are doing a lot of shipping using the post office, you should consider signing up with www.stamps.com. You can print shipping labels right from your PC. Delivery confirmation is free for priority packages. Insurance can be bought without having to go to the post office. They also log and track all your packages. If a buyer has questions about where the package is, you can quickly look it up.
A really nice feature is the ability to hide the postage amount on the label. EBay buyers get particularly annoyed when the postage shown on the label is less than the amount they paid. This can sometimes cause the buyer to leave you negative feedback. You can avoid all these problems by having the postage amount hidden on the label.
If the buyer pays using PayPal, you can use their integrated shipping tool. When you go to print the label, the buyer's shipping address is automatically added to the label along with the weight and insurance if applicable. This saves you the trouble of entering the information yourself. Once the label is printed, you can print a packing slip with all the key information pre-filled. The postage amount can be hidden on the label. You can print both USPS and UPS labels using Paypal.
The downside of using PayPal to print shipping labels is you can't print a shipping label unless the item was paid using PayPal. If the buyer pays with a money order, you are out of luck.
The USPS has a free label printing software called Click-N-Ship. Unfortunately, the shipping classes are limited to Express Mail, Priority Mail and International Mail. The other shipping classes such as Media Mail are not supported. The postage amount can't be hidden, so the buyer will see the exact amount of postage paid. The software does not support thermal label printers like the Zebra LP 2844.
You can print UPS shipping labels from the UPS website. It is free to sign up for an account. Packages can be dropped off at any UPS store or authorized outlet. You can also drop off your package with any UPS driver. For a fee, you can schedule a UPS truck to pick up your packages. They will even provide you with free shipping labels.
PACK YOUR ITEMS PROPERLY
The most cost effective method of packing your packages is to use bubble wrap along with a void fill material such as packing peanuts.
The first step is to wrap your items in bubble wrap. Take apart and wrap pieces individually that could be damaged during shipping. Then fill the box about 1/3 full with packing peanuts. Place the bubble wrapped items in the center of the box and then fill the remaining area with packing peanuts.
Depending on the item, you want at least two inches of clearance between the item and each side of the box. Really fragile items like a heavy vase will require more clearance. You need to have adequate cushioning to protect the item in case the box is dropped or punctured.
Seal the box with packing tape. Using tape not designed for packing could allow the box to open during transit. After the box is sealed, give it a good shake. If you can hear things rattling around or shifting, you need to open the package and repack it.
If you need to purchase packing supplies, www.uline.com is the best place to get them. They have the best prices anywhere and huge selection of everything you will ever need for shipping. If you live near one of their distribution centers, you can get your shipments in one day. The only downside is you have to order minimum quantities of things like boxes and bubble wrap. However, if you ship a decent volume of items, this should not be a problem.
Low volume sellers that can't take advantage of the bulk discounts from Uline can find smaller quantities of shipping supplies on eBay. There are many sellers that specialize in only shipping supplies. It takes a bit of time to figure out which seller has the cheapest merchandise, but it is worth the effort. Don't forget to factor in the shipping cost.
FREE PACKING SUPPLIES
If you are operating on a shoe-string budget, you need to conserve cost wherever you can. One way is to find free sources of packing supplies. The easiest thing you can do is use crumpled newspaper as void fill instead of packing peanuts. The downside to using newspaper is it is heavier, so shipping costs will be higher. Another problem is it leaves ink on whatever it touches. This isn't a problem if the item is completely wrapped in bubble wrap. The biggest problem with newspaper is it has poor cushioning properties. Fragile things will almost certainly break using newspaper.
Check in the free section of Craigslist for free packing supplies. People that have finished moving will often post their boxes and bubble wrap for free. You can also post that you are looking for packing supplies. Freecycle.org is another forum to look for free packing supplies. You can post there as well.
If you use a large amount of packing peanuts, consider joining the Plastic Loose Fill Council. For $30 a year, they will add you to their database of drop-off sites. People in your area will then bring you packing peanuts to recycle. The $30 is about the cost of one bag of new peanuts. It is well worth the expense. Also check with your local county or city government offices. They may have a recycling directory you could join.
Contact local businesses in the area. Many businesses have packing materials that they need to dispose of. You can help them out by taking the materials off their hands. Of course, there is always dumpster diving. Small strip malls are an ideal place to find boxes in the recycling dumpster. Just make sure the box is in pretty good shape. A beat up used box doesn't offer much protection during shipping.