Tips for painless eBay packaging and shipping
June 19, 2013 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I have a few things I need to eBay. I'm a very casual seller. For me the biggest pains are packing and shipping. Hints?

I'm looking for:
Easiest most painless way to guess postage fees, and then buy said postage?
Easiest shipping solution (Fedx, USPS, UPS?)
Easiest (and best if free) way to acquire boxes and such.
Any packing advice?

Stuff I'm selling, if that helps
Carbon bike handlebars
A Minolta SRT 101 with classic, rare lens (bundle or separate?)
Unopened box of MacPaint and MacWrite
Some Nikon lenses
Other junk about the same size.
posted by cccorlew to Work & Money (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I have a longish stick with a nail protruding from one end that I use to harvest boxes from the dumpster behind our local Barnes and Noble.
posted by mecran01 at 11:36 AM on June 19, 2013

Find a nearby shipping/package shop and pre-ogle the box options. Ideally, you can find a box with a set postage rate associated (USPS and FedEx, at least have such) so that you can cite it up front. Otherwise, take the things you want to sell and have them weighed with a box to determine an approximate range. Charge the buyer for boxes as part of shipping, so you don't scrounge and get crappier protection for what you send.

All the other answers will vary with the dimensions of what you send and where you're sending it. You could print out the rates from the various web sites and do your weighing at home, but there's going to be fudge factor there.
posted by acm at 11:36 AM on June 19, 2013

I like the One Rate USPS boxes. The box is free, the shipping cost is a flat rate.

You can call the post office and they'll even deliver the boxes!

I too am a casual seller and I find this is the easiest way to do it.

Also, get insurance and tracking on those boxes! It's worth it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:39 AM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you ship USPS Priority, they will provide boxes for you gratis. In the past, I've also used boxes from my place of employment, from a liquor store around the corner, and Amazon boxes that I've stashed away for this purpose.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:39 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and for packing: I reuse the material Amazon has sent, mainly. I've also used old newspapers (lol print amirite) and old plastic grocery or shopping bags.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:41 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get a postal scale, some Avery shipping labels for your printer, and familiarize yourself with the PayPal Multi-Order Shipping tool (I can't get it to work in Chrome so I switch to Firefox to use it). The Priority Mail flat rate boxes that you can get for free at the Post Office are great too if you want to ship Priority Mail, but I think for items of the size you are thinking, Parcel Post would be better, since you would need the "large" flat rate box, which is pretty pricey to ship Priority Mail.
posted by matildaben at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2013

If you're gonna go matildaben's route, is (always) having a pretty decent promo where you get a scale (yours to keep) etc. for a limited trial. If you listen to a podcast, do a search for their promo code so they get a little love.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:57 AM on June 19, 2013

Don't guess - shipping can be really expensive, way more than you'd think. Also, eBay and Paypal take 13% of the shipping fee. So you can lose a lot of money if you underestimate.

So to keep from guessing, don't list something until you have a box for it. Put it in the box with some reasonable packing materials, weigh it, and round up (to account for tape, label, scale inaccuracies, etc.). A postage scale is a good thing to have and it can be the last thing you sell on eBay if you want. A kitchen scale also works if what you have isn't super heavy.

USPS is the easiest in my experience because you don't need an account. The flat rate boxes are OK but pricey, and to stay competitive with other sellers you should use a cheaper method if you can. Sometimes regular Priority Mail (not flat rate) can be cheaper, so calculate it both ways. You can order Priority Mail supplies online. First Class is the way to go for anything 13 oz. or under. It is basically the same class of service but FAR cheaper. You will need your own box or bubble envelope if you go First Class or Parcel Post (or Media Mail for books), but sometimes you come out ahead even if you have to buy a box.

I am an occasional seller, so I just save a reasonable variety of boxes and padded envelopes from Amazon shipments and whatnot. Always always save bubble wrap! Peanuts and the big air pockets can also come in handy, but I usually don't keep them because I have enough packaging clutter as it is.
posted by payoto at 12:16 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Be sure to ship things that are paid for separately in separate boxes so you have a tracking number for each. If you want to ship things together (that you've sold separately) make sure the buyer pays as one payment through Paypal. This will help you if you have a dispute as you'll have the correct number of tracking numbers.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 12:28 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Regarding liquor boxes, you must remove/cover all traces of liquor brand identity or USPS will reject the package. In a similar vein, I know UPS won't accept packages that use FedEx-provided packing materials.
posted by carmicha at 12:47 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite] is always running ads with promotions about printing shipping labels from your computer and getting a free scale (or is it postage meter?). Google around for promo codes.
posted by radioamy at 1:45 PM on June 19, 2013

The person I know who sells stuff on Ebay prepares the listing, then takes the item, packages it up for sale and takes it to the Post Office beforehand, and they tell her exactly what the postage is. So she includes that in the listing, and the item is all ready to be shipped as soon as the auction closes and payment is received.

It does mean multiple trips to the Post Office, but it eliminates guesses about postage, and/or problems finding the right packaging. This way also if you need to buy a box to fit an unusually-shaped item, you can pass that cost along in the S&H.
posted by ambrosia at 2:04 PM on June 19, 2013

I bought myself a postal scale, a tape gun, and a tape measure. I keep them in one box. I save the boxes of anything I buy online. Any time I want to sell something I grab a flattened box, rebuild it, put the item I'm going to sell in it with packing material (crumpled newspaper works well), tape it up, weigh it, measure it, write the weight/measurements/contents on a corner of the box (small and short so no one will know it's doubloons), and THEN post it on eBay.

This way all I have to do when the item sells is print out the shipping label from eBay/Paypal's integrated shipping system, tape it on the box, and drop it at the PO or UPS, or schedule a pickup.
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:41 PM on June 19, 2013

I sell on eBay relatively frequently. So far most of what I've been selling has been clothing and other non-fragile items. Most buyers either choose USPS first class mail or priority mail. If the former, I package it in a manilla envelope, padded mailer, or the like, and take it to the post office to be shipped first class. If the latter, I have a stockpile of priority mail mailers in different sizes, so I pack the item into one of those and likewise drop it at the post office. In both situations, I pay for postage via paypal through eBay and use eBay's pre-paid shipping labels. Then I drop the items at the post office.

All of the above said, I'm able to do all my shipping during work hours, so I'm not too bothered about whether I'm doing it in the most convenient manner possible. And nobody has asked for UPS or FedEx shipping.
posted by Sara C. at 4:46 PM on June 19, 2013

Nthing USPS flat rate boxes- they're free, really easy to use, and you don't have to calculate rates!
posted by drhydro at 12:00 AM on June 20, 2013

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