Selling on eBay – Part III

on Jan 8, 2008 in Musings | 27 comments

Selling on eBay – Part I (Taking Pictures)
Selling on eBay – Part II (Auction Template)

Shipping, holey moley. I think I’ve now packaged up every conceivable type of box and envelope the USPS offers. I also have a UPS account, it generally doesn’t stack up competitively until the weight hits 7 or 8 pounds. Even then I compare to see how much can be stuffed into a flat rate box.

I’m going to run down a list of things I think and things I know:

  • My philosophy on selling anything online is that I want my customers to pay as close to the exact cost of the shipping as possible. Postage and packaging. There’s no bigger turn off for me than getting overcharged when I order by mail. It just makes sense to understand all the options and package things up the cheapest way possible.
  • An item under 13 ounces ships First Class. The rates are the same anywhere you send it.
  • An item over 13 ounces ships via Priority Mail. This is where lots of options kick in.
  • An item between 13 ounces but less than or equal to 1 pound costs $4.60 anywhere you send it in the US.
  • An item over 1 pound takes on all sorts of funky attributes, all dependent on how far the package is going. It’s much cheaper for me to mail a package to Seattle than to the East Coast. Use the calculator on the USPS website to determine the rate. eBay’s calculator works for this as well. If your item weighs more than 13 ounces you can specify the exact weight on your shipping options and let their calculator determine the shipping cost based on the buyer’s zip code.
  • The flat rate mailers are one way to fix a buyer’s cost below what they might pay in other ways.
  • The flat rate envelope can hold a lot of fabric. I did one today that I crammed 1 pound 6 ounces into. The flat rate is $4.60. Had it gone into a different envelope the cost to MA would have been $7.50. I confirmed with the post office that you can use tape across the top of the envelope to secure it. It can also be big, fat, and stuffed to the gizzards as long as the top will close over the contents.
  • Same is true for the flat rate boxes. There are two different shapes for $8.95, the big 3 3/8″ depth rectangle actually has more square inches of space than the 5.5″ depth box.
  • The post office will give you Priority Mail boxes and envelopes free!
  • Don’t forget to consider the weight of your packaging and how that can run up the cost of priority shipping. I always send it in an envelope if I can since it weighs significantly less than a box.
  • International shipping is very straight forward. Don’t limit your customer base by not shipping everywhere. Canada is similar to domestic rates until the weight goes over 1 pound. Everywhere else in the world starts out expensive and just gets more so the heavier the package.
  • First class international mail gets a simple green customs form. Heavy priority packages get a long and involved version. If you need to do the long form definitely print your postage out via the Paypal interface. You’ll get a discount and it automatically pulls in all the addresses and descriptions from your eBay invoice. You print it out on your laser jet, take it to the post office along with the package, they stamp it, put it in a plastic envelope and adhere it to your package.
  • I use stamps.com to print my postage. There’s a lot of features I find useful (free delivery confirmation on priority packages, tracking, history, and print on demand). I eat the $15 monthly fee because the convenience far outweighs the cost. I found the Paypal interface too cumbersome to use except for heavy international customs packages. There’s a lot of information on the eBay forums about shipping products.
  • Why do postage at home? You can drop the pre-paid packages into the self-service mail machine and not wait in line. Packages with customs forms do need to go to the counter. I’ve gotten to know all my post office peeps very well and now I just catch someone’s eye and hand them my stamped envelope with the green customs form completed and attached (I avoid eye contact with the customers standing in line wondering how I just did what I did). I also bought the counter folks bon bons for Christmas (you can give postal employees a gift up to $25 per year, I can’t imagine anyone that deserves it more!)
  • Still with me… always get delivery confirmation. It costs practically nothing and will save headaches on the back end. The comments I received on my first post shared very good reasons why you should always use this service.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about packaging and then a final post telling you what you really want to know, how much money did I make!