Amazon and eBay best practices?
April 11, 2008 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I need advice for selling my used stuff online via eBay and Amazon--more specifically, the shipping and order management part of it.

I've been selling on eBay for a while and feel pretty comfortable with most of the process (taking pictures of the item, creating an auction template, when to list, etc.) In a flash of brilliance early this a.m., I signed up for an Amazon seller's account and listed a bunch of CDs I had been planning to sell and much to my surprise, I have already sold some! So far, so good.

All of this is very low-volume: I have at most 5 eBay auctions a week, and right now I only have about 30 things listed on Amazon. I'm using GarageSale to create and manage my eBay auctions, and Delicious Library to organize my Amazon sales. For eBay, I ordered a bunch of USPS Priority Mail boxes, quote a flat rate for shipping within the U.S., pack the items as the auction ends its nearing date and then once I get paid via PayPal (and the money is immediately whisked away into my checking account) I hand-address the packages and bring them down to the local P.O. to ship (always with delivery confirmation, and sometimes the buyer will pay for insurance). So far I've been pretty good at 'guestimating' shipping costs and haven't had any complaints from buyers.

This has been going well so far--all of my auctions end Sunday nights and by the time I go to the P.O. on Tuesday mornings, usually all of the buyers have paid. Sometimes I have to make a second trip to the P.O. later in the week, but I live less than 5 minutes walking distance and rarely wait in line for more than 10 minutes if I go on a weekday morning, so I don't really mind.

My question(s): What's the best way to ship books and CDs, given that Amazon gives you around $3 to do so? Should I start using some kind of online postage payment system (Endicia? Whatever PayPal offers?) for either eBay or Amazon, or both? Is it worth it to buy things like scales or special printers? I have an HP Ink Jet printer, use Macs (Leopard) exclusively, and use PayPal (at least for eBay). As mentioned above I also use GarageSale and Delicious Library, and would love anything that integrates well with what I already have. How do I make my life easier, especially given that I have also just started selling on Amazon?

I've looked up previous questions about selling on eBay and Amazon, but if you have additional tips for using either (especially Amazon!), mostly with regards to shipping and order management, I'd love to hear them. I've also waded through the seller forums at both sites, but they seem geared toward people who do this for a living, and I'm just trying to clear out some storage space while also potentially making a few bucks.
posted by cosmic osmo to Shopping (7 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
What's the best way to ship books and CDs, given that Amazon gives you around $3 to do so?

Don't think about it that way. Take the amount you want to get for the CD, add your shipping cost, then set your price so that, after Amazon does all their adding and subtracting of fees, that's the amount you have left over. Don't worry about how Amazon breaks it down -- AFAICT, their Marketplace shipping fees don't relate to anything in reality.
posted by winston at 12:15 PM on April 11, 2008

I used to use Endicia when I was regularly selling books on Amazon and eBay, and thought it was great -- it saved me time and helped me stay organized.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:37 PM on April 11, 2008

Media mail?
posted by k8t at 1:01 PM on April 11, 2008

FWIW, don't ship internationally for Amazon sales. I just shipped a book and I got $12 credit. Actual cost of shipping was $20.50 (and no delivery confirmation). Never ever doing that again.
posted by special-k at 1:36 PM on April 11, 2008

What's the best way to ship books and CDs, given that Amazon gives you around $3 to do so?

$3 is enough to ship a standard CD in a bubble mailer (postage is usually $1.81, first class. 1st class is cheaper than media mail for single CDs) or a book (it's usually $2.13 for paperbacks and $3 something for hardbacks, media mail). I recommend getting self-seal bubble mailers in 250-count boxes from Ebay -- you can get the price down to 12 or 14 cents per #0 (CD sized) envelope this way. None of the postage services or fancy bits of equipment are worth the cost for small sellers. I do what you do: just take them to the PO and wait in line, and you'll get the best deal. About the most sophisticated thing I have is a stamp with my return address on it. :) IMHO delivery confirmation is also not worth the money unless you're selling a big ($50+) order.

Multiple CDs can be shipped media mail, usually for less than $5 for 6 CDs in the case. If you intend to sell multi-CD orders overseas, or you want to send large quantities of CDs dirt cheap, you should learn the trick of packing them without the cases, as the cases make shipping expensive. I do them like so:

Remove the CDs from the cases, and stack them on top of a sheet of saran wrap/clingfilm. Make sure there is NO silver showing on either end (i.e. put the CD on each end of the stack with its label side toward the wrap). Pull the wrap in tight so that the CDs become a single solid block, then fold the wrap over the top and tape it down.
Remove the traycards and booklets from the cases, and stack them inside a spare sheet of paper. Don't alternate them traycard-booklet-traycard, because they can end up getting bent. Instead, just put in all the booklets and then all the traycards. Fold the paper in half, then fold the ends in to make a packet around the printed matter. Tape the ends shut.
Take a piece of sturdy cardboard (cut-up leftover USPS or Amazon boxes are perfect) about the same size as the packet, and tape the paper packet to it. Then tape the CD stack to the packet. Then tape a small sheet of bubble wrap over the CD stack. If you do it right, the whole thing will fit into a #0 bubble mailer. It costs about $3.50-5 to send 4-6 CDs via Airmail to most overseas countries this way. For comparison, it'll be about that much to send just one CD if you send it in the case. Be sure to mention in the auction that you're going to send them this way. It shouldn't be a problem; most people who buy CDs from other countries are familiar with it.
posted by vorfeed at 2:50 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

My packaging method, using on recycled materials (except the white glue :)   ), from a previous question:
For shipping, depending on the object, you don't really need to make a full box.
  1. Choose the largest direction of your object (x), and measure the distance around the object in the other two directions (y). For example, for an 8x2x2 box x=8 and y=8.
  2. Find a piece of corrugate that is 6" wider than x and 1-2" longer than y (14" x 10" for our example).
  3. Line up one of the long edges of your object with the 14" edge of the corrugate, in the middle (3" overhand on each side).
  4. Start rolling your object up in the corrugate. When you are done there should be a 1" overhanging flap.
  5. Glue the flap down with white glue, and hold it in place with elastics, or binder clips (remember, there is some overhand), or whatever, and let dry.
  6. Form pieces to plug the ends of the roll. For the example, they would be 2"x4", a 2"x2" centre, with 1" flaps on each side.
  7. Glue the flaps, and insert the plug into the end of the roll on each side.
The cross section will be something like this:
    --------------      ] object [    -------------
The key benefit, it can be dropped on either end with very little effect to your object. Problem, it can't take punctures well, because your object doesn't have any buffer from the corrugate. Another problem, a drop that just happens to impact along the long edge won't be absorbed by packaging, so something very brittle might not survive very well.

I developed this after looking at books mailed by Indigo (a large book seller in Canada). The technique is great for books because drops on corners, which would otherwise cause a lot of damage, are absorbed by the overhang. At the same time, drops along the long surfaces/edges wouldn't harm a book, so the lack of padding in that direction isn't an issue.
posted by Chuckles at 6:56 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: An update, in case anyone is interested in the future (judging by the favorites-to-comments ratio, this is a definite possibility):

I finished listing all of my CDs on Amazon (a few hundred) and within 24 hours had received 20 orders--at this rate, I figure I might as well invest some money into this project just to make my life a little easier if I end up selling all of them. So I went out (or surfed around) and bought:
- CD bubble mailers in bulk from eBay, at around $0.13/ea. shipped for 250
- A DYMO LabelWriter 400, ~$100
- A digital postal scale, ~$40
- I also signed up for Endicia, which is free for the first month and $15.95 thereafter

Already I am pleased and impressed with Endicia's service and the DYMO labelwriter. I was planning to sell it, along with the postal scale (on eBay, of course!) after this project is done just to reduce costs even further, but I might hang on to it instead. It's a very nice product, interfaces well with Endicia, and makes my packages look way way more professional than they did before. Now I can just drop the CDs in a blue mailbox, which is really convenient.

I haven't gotten into books yet, but I did find this method of packaging them: b-flute method, and this product from Office Max that looks like it might work in lieu of rolls of plain corrugated cardboard: Redi-Seal Corrugated Wrap. Now I just have to make nice with the workers at my local P.O. (unfortunately unlikely, but I can dream) so they'll let me drop off prepaid packages without waiting in line.
posted by cosmic osmo at 3:04 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

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