Congratulations! Your item sold and you need to ship it. Not a terribly exciting or difficult task. But, if you do the job half way and skip on cushioning your item, incorrectly label, use the wrong container, you could risk damaging the contents during shipping or worse, sending it to the wrong buyer. Either way, your packing and shipping practices play a huge part in your success as your buyers are going to echo their sentiments (good or bad) in your Feedback. Poor feedback equals poor sales. If you ever took the time to look at feedback, the majority of comments have to do with packing and shipping. Even if you think you know how to pack and ship, humor us and read through this section – you just may learn something that you can apply at a later time.
Essential Packing Supplies
If you are, or plan to be, an active seller, you need to have some basic supplies handy. Nothing wastes more time than to constantly have to run back and forth buying supplies. We recommend you set aside an area for packing items up; a place where you can keep all your supplies in one place. Having an organized area to take care of business makes conducting business a much easier and pleasant task.
Let’s go through a proper packing supplies checklist:
- Packing tape – clear or brown or both
- Bubble wrap – large or small bubbles depending on your products
- Styrofoam peanuts, old newspaper, other cushioning materials
- Box cutter or utility knife
- Postal scale
- Magic Marker
- Shipping labels
- Return address labels
You would do good to have both clear and brown tape on hand. It’s inexpensive and can be used in different ways. For one, clear tape works great for sealing boxes shut and for covering labels. Brown tape is usually more flexible than the clear and works great for covering old labels (if your are reusing an old box) and markings. Brown tape is also good for sealing boxes and since it tends to be thinner and more flexible, may work better with odd containers.
Cushioning your item to protect against damage is very important! Don’t skip on properly protecting your shipment. Use the proper type and amount of filler to surround your items. Styrofoam peanuts work great; they are lightweigt (thus reducing shipping weight) and don’t leave stains like newspaper can. Unfortunately, they are not free and it takes storage space to hold them. Newspaper works well too, doesn’t take as much storage space but does add to overall weight of the box. The rest of the supplies are self explanatory.
Where to find boxes and packing materials
If you primarily ship United States Postal Service (USPS), you can get Priority Mail and Express Mail boxes, envelopes, tubes, labels, return receipts, stickers and more for absolutely free! You can pick up some of these at your local post office but usually your choice in what they have in stock is limited. You can also order online, even in bulk, and have it delivered (usually for free!).
If you don’t plan to use USPS Priority or Express mail, you can still purchase a variety of boxes, envelopes and other supplies at the post office however, their selection is fairly limited and their prices a bit higher. You can save money by using major office supply stores such as Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, etc. They offer a large selection and better prices.
There are a number of online suppliers of office supplies, such as uline.com, that offer very good pricing on their supplies and you can get everything you need in one place, ordering from the convenience of your home. You can even buy your shipping supplies from eBay stores that specialize in packing supplies. Simply do a search on eBay for “shipping supplies” or “boxes.”
Lastly, you can always use boxes you have around the house or go collecting at your local stores. Most retailers have no problem getting rid of all their excess boxes. You might even be able to get free Styrofoam peanuts too.Boxes can be reused over and over as long as they remain structurally sound and sturdy enough to protect what you are shipping. However, if you’re reusing a box, cover all the old labels and markings with a heavy black marker or adhesive labels.
Choosing the Right Shipping Container
Now that you have all your supplies collected, all you have to do is box up your item and seal it up. Easy, huh? Not so fast – the consequences of choosing the wrong shipping container can be both disastrous and unnecessarily expensive.
First, do you need a box or an envelope? If you have a large item to ship, it’s a no-brainer. What about something smaller and flatter, such as a laser disk or a coin?
Your choice in packaging should be based on the item’s fragility. If the item can bend or break, use a box; if not, you’re probably okay to use an envelope.
Whatever your choice, pick a container that will be large enough to hold your item without the need to force it or bend it. In other words, your item should not be touching the sides of the container. There should be enough room in the container that you can stuff packing all around your item. On the other hand, your box shouldn’t be so big that your item can move all around in it. Too big off a box will also add to the shipping cost due to increased weight and size.
Your shipping boxes should be made of heavy, corrugated cardboard and have all it’s flaps intact. Single layer cardboard boxes such as shoe boxes are not going to protect your item properly. Also, make sure that you are not exceeding the boxes maximum gross weight, which is usually printed on the bottom.
Note: One of the nice, things about using the free boxes provided by the USPS is that they come in many sizes and shapes, they are made of the correct materials, they have adhesive closures, they look good and they are free. Do you want to receive something you bought in a second-hand box? Your customers probably don’t either.
With so many box sizes available, sometimes you find that you need something somewhere between the size boxes you have. Here are your choices:
First, you can cut down the box to a smaller size by cutting down the corners of the box to make it shorter and then cut off the ends of the flaps as needed. Sometimes it is hard to fold unscored flaps, so you might want to make your own scores by shallowly slicing a knife where you want to bend the box closed.
Second, you can combine two smaller boxes. Let’s say your box is 18 inches long and your item is 24 inches long, just take two boxes and insert to open end of one box inside the open end of the other. Make sure you use enough packing tape to keep the boxes together. The last thing you need is your custom box coming apart during shipping.
How to Pack
Ever receive an item just sitting in a box with no packing? Were you happy about that? Of course not! Don’t disappoint your buyers by using shoddy packing practices. A loose item is bound to get damaged by bouncing around during shipping. However, you want to be a successful seller on eBay, so you need to carefully pack you items to minimize any chances of your goods getting damaged from droping or rough handling and from changing weather conditions.
Try some of these packing tips for shipping:
- Always try to ship an item in it’s original box or packaging. That original container was made for that product, use it!
- If you are shipping media, such as DVDs, CDs, etc. there are item specific packaging you can buy.
- Always use cushioning around your item whether it be peanuts, newspaper, bubble wrap, or any combination
- Don’t skimp on the cushioning around your item. Pack it in good to prevent your item shifting around in the box. Cushioning should be on all sides of your item.
- Place your item in the center of the box by padding underneath it, not just around it.
- When shipping several items in a box, wrap each item individually and pack in between each item to keep items from hitting or rubbing against each other.
How to Pack (Continued)
- When shipping fragile items, such as figurines, glass, ceramics, etc., pack each item in it’s own box then pack those boxes in a larger box with cushioning between each of those boxes.
- If your item has protruding parts, cover them with extra padding.
- Stuff glassware or any other hollow items, such as vases, with newspaper or other material. This provides an extra level of cushioning.
- When shipping jars or other items with lids, either separate the lid from the base with bubble wrap or tissue or pack the lid in a separate small box.
- When shipping framed photographs or artwork, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately. Do not let artwork come in direct contact with paper or cardboard.
- Wrap paper items in some sort of plastic bag or wrap to protect against wetness.
- Take batteries out of electronic equipment before shipping.
- Computer parts need to be packed in an electrostatic discharge bag and need to be well padded. Do not use Styrofoam peanuts for filler as they build up a damaging static charge.
When you’ve finished packing, give your box a gentle shake. Did you hear anything moving around? If you can hear or feel anything moving around in there, add more packing before sealing the box.
Packing for international customers really isn’t any different than domestic shipping. You will want to pack you item as securely as possible as most likely your package will get even rougher treatment on its long journey. The biggest difference you will find is in the paperwork but we’ll cover that a little later.
Seal Your Package
Your box is packed, now you have to seal it. Properly sealing your box is essential. Be sure you use the correct tape that is designed for shipping and always seal both the top and bottom of the box. Cover all seams of the box with tape.
Label Your Package
The first thing a buyer sees when they receive their item is the box and the label. Is your label handwritten? Printed? How professional is it?
Kinds of labels
If you are using USPS Priority/Express, you can order Priority/Express labels for free (or pick them up at your local post office). Otherwise you will need to purchase your own.
Standard labels for shipping are usually the basic 4-inch x 6-inch blank, white labels. Anything smaller is difficult to work with and anything larger is just wasting space. These labels are available are any office supply store or USPS.
Note: If you use the USPS labels, however, they must be used with the appropriate service. For example, if you use a USPS Priority label, the package must also be sent USPS Priority mail. You could always snip off the part of the label that says USPS Priority, but you didn’t hear it from me.
You can create and print out your own labels from your PC using Microsoft Word or even better, go to Avery.com and download their free label making software and label templates. You can also have a service such as FedEx Kinko’s can print out a roll of labels for you for a nominal charge.
Tips on Making Good Labels
- Write, type or print the complete address neatly.
- Always use complete address information, such as St., Dr., Blvd
Include the buyer’s apartment or suite number, if applicable.
- Use the correct directions, such as N, E, S, W or combination.
- Use the correct ZIP code and, when possible, add the four digit add-on. Be sure to hypenate the ZIP+4.
- Always use the correct two state abbreviation.
- When addressing at a P.O. box or rural route destination, include the buyer’s telephone number on the label.
- When shipping outside the United States, include a contact name, telephone number and postal code on the label.
- Always include your return address.
- If you are using the USPS extra services such as Priority Mail, Insurance, etc., note this above the destination address and also to the right of the return address.
- Always place the address label on the top of the box. If you use a packing invoice, try to place it on the same surface as the address label.
- Don’t place a label over a seam or closure.
- Cover labels with clear tape to protect against moisture or rain causing your ink to run and smear. However, avoid covering bar codes with tape.
Print a Label thru eBay and PayPal:
If you are shipping via the U.S. Postal Service or UPS, you print labels on your home computer, including prepaid labels. Skip standing in line at the post office and go direct and do it yourself. You can easily print out these labels from eBay and pay for them using PayPal.
Note: These self-printed labels print on a half a normal 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet of paper. A good alternative is to print on a two-per-page weatherproof self-adhesive mailing label, like the Avery #5526. In addition, printing your own USPS labels gets your delivery confirmation, at no additional charge.
Once your label is affixed to your package, all you have left is to get it to the Post Office or hand it off to your local postal worker on his or her rounds.
End of e-BOOK: Pack It Up!