Storage Auctions

My Ebay Shipping Tips ++ Much More!!

My Ebay Shipping Tips ++ Much More!!
« on: February 26, 2013, 09:09:21 AM »
I saw several posts about Ebay shipping, and since the one I would've picked first to respond to was 3 pages long, I decided to just start my own. 

I've some limited experience with storage auctions.  We've bought several, none over $100 and the lowest was $20.  I've sold more than enough out of all of them to more than make my money back, but we were mostly just learning & having fun.  We founds lots of cool stuff for our own use, & for prices like that I've shared a lot with friends.  I'm about to get back into them, I've practiced & I'm still gonna have fun, but I'll be more focused on business this time.

Anyhoo, what I HAVE done a lot of is selling stuff on ebay.  I've put my time into learning about shipping & I know it can be tricky.  I'm detail oriented by nature & it still took quite a bit of time to learn.  I thought I'd take a minute & share a few things that I thought might be helpful for some.  I've enjoyed fine-tuning details about shipping/packing costs as well as Ebay/Paypal fees.  It can make a big difference, both in actual cost plus helping your item sell when there are more like it available.

When I first started & realized that USPS would not only give me free boxes, but actually deliver them with a smile to my door, I ordered about every free box/envelope they had to offer.  Over time, I've learned which are my favorites, which ones I use often enough to justify keeping them in my 'lil box stock, & which ones have gathered dust until I finally had to throw away what I couldn't figure out some other use for.

The cheapest option for shipping anything but a gift card is most times going to be USPS First Class (up to 13oz).  Prices start at $1.64 for like 4oz & max at maybe $3.15 for 13 ozs.  I keep 3 sizes of plain brown manila envelopes, they have their own space on one shelf.  Without buying a zillion at a time, I've found them no cheaper than Wal-Mart.  They're less than $1 for 6 of them except the biggest, & its not much more.  I usually get a few packages of whatever I might be running low on whenever I'm in WalMart, & being able to buy them conveniently & in small quantities make it easy to control shipping supply storage space (which trust me, can easily get out of hand). I try to keep at least a dozen or so of all 3 sizes, varying sometimes with different things I've found to sell.  I tear that metal clasp off of them before I put them on the shelf, use the smallest size possible & tape it very well.

Btw, tape is one thing I'll spend a little extra for.  I used to get the cheap stuff, then bought a few of a better quality for a rebate offer & have never looked back.  I get that at WalMart too, its like $2.96 for a 50ft throwaway roll.  Its thicker & goes on so much easier & smoother.  Saves time, looks better & not nearly as aggravating.  Inner packaging, however, I'm at my cheapest.  I save bubble wrap & stuff from my own purchases, & will use newspaper whenever possible.  Bubble wrap is expensive, makes my shipping costs way higher, so I look for any reasonable alternative.

Weigh everything before you list it or you're gonna get really jacked up before long.  If you're at all serious about selling on ebay, go ahead & spend the money for a decent scale.  I bought one on Ebay from a seller who seemed to sell nothing but scales.  Very reasonably priced, seems like less than $20 but I'm not sure.  Mine is an easy to store size, will weigh up to 50lbs, and has been using the same battery for close to 2 years now.  One drawback is that larger boxes make it kinda hard to see the weight, but that wasn't a big problem for me. 

Back to shipping, the manilla envelopes average .15 to .20 each & are very lightweight.  Keep the packing as lightweight & inexpensive as possible & hope for under 13oz.  Delivery confirmation is included in First Class pricing & its almost as fast as Priority Mail.  The price will be the same for all 48 states, so I can add around .25 for supplies & have a flat cost.  I also try to add enough to cover Ebay & Paypal fees that apply to the total cost of any item, including shipping.  My goal is to break even on shipping or a little better.  I'm cool making a few bucks if I can get away with it, but I don't like sellers who inflate shipping costs so i'm careful about how my own appear. 

2nd to First Class, I think are Priority Mail Flat Rate Padded Envelopes.  While you're at WalMart buying tape & manilla envelopes, notice that padded envelopes are $2 each, give or take.  These are among the free options from, cost like $5.10 to ship anywhere in the U.S, & have like 1-3 days shipping time.  If I see that any item that I could fit in a manilla envelope is going to weigh more that 13oz, or if it really needs bubble wrap that I don't want to buy, I'll just go ahead & use these.  So many things will fit in these & they're very convenient.  I never used Parcel Post anyway, Priority Mail always ended up being as cheap if not cheaper, plus I didn't have to find my own box or envelope.  So I'm looking at $5.10 for anything I can fit in these, no packaging costs, plus around 20% factored in for the house.  (Paypal & Ebay fees average around 10% each, depending on what it is)  Another easy flat cost.

Btw, lots of times, especially with fixed price listings, I just add my shipping cost into the price of the item & advertise it with Free Shipping, which I think puts ur item closer to the top when people search & also seems to be a factor that draws buyers.  I don't always do it, depends a lot on what other people selling similar items are doing, but I do it a lot & have noticed a difference.  One reason not to would be if you wanted to offer a shipping discount for multiple purchases.  Be careful with this one, the settings for offering discounts can be tricky & once some crazy setting that I never thought to check combined some items that I hadn't meant to be combined & came up with a much lower cost than I could ship them for.  I didn't want to ask my buyer to pay more & I tried several options & didn't lose any money, but I ended up making maybe $5 for several items that I had hardly any money in, but had been expecting to get around $40 for.

Speaking of, Media Mail is very useful sometimes.  I've sold lots & lots of books & magazines, those are mainly what I would offer shipping discounts for.  They fit perfectly in the manilla envelopes, a lot of them were too heavy for First Class, but really too cheap for Priority Mail.  The more it weighs anyway, Media Mail could easily be a little less than First Class, but notice that there's an extra charge for delivery confirmation with Media Mail, plus its a lot slower.  I could afford to offer like, from $1 to $1.50 discount on shipping for more than one magazine especially, because, unless its like a Martha Stewart Wedding that weighs 18lbs, its hardly any more to ship as many magazines as will fit in the same envelope as it was for just the one.  Media Mail is way more reasonable than Parcel Post ever thought about being, and is really the only way to make shipping some things even worth it.  I've also always thought the list of items acceptable for Media Mail pricing was kinda vague, & a time or two might've talked myself into making it even greyer when it made a REALLY BIG difference in how much my profit margin was going to be.  I didn't do it much, though.  I don't think they check contents much, especially with the lighter items, but they do check sometimes & I've never knoiwn what those x-ray things could see.  No way I could lie & say I thought it was ok to ship an inflatable pool or handheld vac that way, & I didn't want to be embarraseed because even if I'm caught, I'm still gonna hafta go back to the post office, so I tried not to let myself be tempted too much. 

The other free items from USPS that I make sure to keep are Regional Rate Flat Boxes & regular Flat Rate boxes.  Almost every time, no matter where in the US its going, the Regional Rate box will be at least the same price, usually cheaper than a regular Flat Rate box the same size.  I make sure I keep at least a dozen of each Regional Rates box, 2 different shaped size A & 2 different shaped size B.  The inside of each is the same amount, but one is square & the other flat & rectangular.  I keep all the regular Flat Rate boxes too, for the every now & then, but not many of each because of storage space.  Any other Priority Mail box, no matter how free, is never useful at all.  Priority Mail is just too high unless its a Flat Rate price.  I hardly ever use calculated shipping in the US, because you have to pick a particular box before you see where its going & that's the opposite of the best way to do it.  And if you pick the generic Priority Mail option using calculated shipping, it'll quote the highest possible price, not taking Flat Rate options into it at all.  People like me will turn their noses up at you for daring to so blatently overcharge, & won't look any further at your item even if its something we still kinda want.  I figure what the cheapest flat rate cost will be using the furtherest option & add enough to cover fees & that's my price, whether I add it into the item & call it Free or seperate it as the shipping cost.  For the rare person who might ask me if I could do any better on shipping for wherever they are, I'm always glad to check & if I can knock off some & still cover my costs, I'm always happy to.  I really do think its insulting to charge any more than necessary for shipping, I mostly just want to make sure I don't lose money, so that whatever I get for my item can be whatever I got for my item. 

I also NEVER put the actual cost of shipping on my labels.  Ebay & Paypal fees are a perfectly valid reason for me to increase my actual cost, & if I can't figure it exactly I'm always going to use the highest price so I won't end up losing.  Just because I know there's nothing wrong with it, though, doesn't mean I'm gonna waste my time explaining it to every buyer, some of whom wouldn't even listen to the reason & would just leave bad feedback.  If anyone asks me, I'll explain whatever, but I'm not going to be the one bringing it up.

Another awesome reason to go with a Priority Mail Flat Rate box is that not only is it free, its also new.  I'm never going to pay for a box, there are too many to be had at stores or wherever, but knowing I'm mainly going to be using the one kind keeps me from having to keep a bunch of used boxes that have been broken down but will still take up more room than brand new boxes.  Priority Mail is always faster & it looks so much nicer.  Far more professional than a box that still advertises what it originally held, has had tape removed & reapplied, & usually takes way more tape altogether.  For the occasional thing I need a box for, I can take a second & find one rather than have to keep a big stack taking up a corner I could use for something else.  Space, besides cost, is also another huge reason for me not to stock bubble wrap or peanuts.  Enough wadded up newspaper, which I buy anyway, will hold anything as securely in place as peanuts & take up FAR less room, since packing peanuts won't fold up to store nearly as neatly as newspapers.  I don't think it looks any worse & I've never gotton the first complaint.  I'm careful about packing because I don't want to replace things or refund money, & also because any buyer will appreciate what they just paid for being respectfully shipped.  Who wants to let themselves get excited about buying something they want, wait for it to come in the mail, only to have it be damaged when they open it.  Even if they didn't blame me, I don't like the idea of building anyone up only to make them sad, so I watch myself to make sure I dont get too carried away with being frugal.

i've never used FedEx at all, I skimmed the prices, wasn't impressed, & have never really given it another chance, so there may be things I'm missing there.  I'll use UPS for the occasional very large item, but don't really find it that useful either.  I'm not a bestseller, although I have been, but either way I've compared prices & never found a shipping label that was available thru Ebay to be anything but more expensive at the post office, not to mention taking it there & having to come back & manually enter the tracking number.  I don't do scheduled pickups.  We're pretty rural, so its easy for me to either be there with my packages when the mail lady comes thru.  I've left boxes of packages propped on top of our mailboxes if I knew they wouldn't be there long.  I'm nice to the mail lady & she's nice to me.

I knew this was going to end up a book, but I've really enjoyed writing it.  : )  One very last thing I'll point out to keep an eye on is the different fees Ebay has for different listings.  Sometimes it makes enough difference to at least think about changes, sometimes not.  Like, for a regular seller without a store subscription, Ebay fees for an auction are a flat 9%.  The first 50 auctions are free, & I've never gone over that, so I don't even factor that in.  For a fixed price auction, though, fees are as low as 7% for most electronics & as high as 12 or 13% for books & magazines, & also for video games.  For most things, I really prefer to use fixed price listings even though I have to pay for them.  With the exception of maybe computers or lots of used kids clothing, I've found I often get a much higher price from a fixed price listing.  Especially with new items, I guess, people seem to have a lot more confidence buying from a fixed price listing rather than an auction, plus its not always fun or practical to wait for an auction to end, not to mention that fixed price listings have the immediate pay button, so there's never any wonder about payment.  I think BuyItNows attached to an auction suck, I'm either going to set a price or have an auction, no in-between & definately no Best Offer buttons.  Might as well just come out & say my item really isn't worth what I listed it for, I'm just hoping for whatever anyone is dumb enough to offer me.  I bought something that way once, but it was a lot of items I wanted kinda different.  I don't like to dicker & I don't like to be dickered with, so that's never an option for me.

Oh yeah, I know that that wasn't "just one more thing", but just one more REALLY IMPORTANT thing that took me a minute to really learn, but is well worth reading this whole post if it helps you like it did me.  HAVE CONFIDANCE IN WHAT YOU'RE SELLING!!  I tend to undervalue whatever I have, to underprice something thinking it won't sell if I don't.  I've even felt obligagted to offer something discounted just because I had gotten it myself at such a discount.  WTH??  No way I'm doing that anymore, that's what I do for my friends, not for people I don't know & will never see & who will wonder what's wrong with my item if I offer it too cheap anyway.  I still try to have one of the best prices for whatever I'm selling, but I'm careful about the margin.  If its too low people will skip it & buy the same thing for twice as much.  Its frustrated me zillions of times to realize I sold several of an item for one price, while another seller listed the same thing quite a bit higher & people chose theirs over mine.  Its a yucky feeling to know if you'ld only asked for more you would have gotten more.  Take a minute with whatever you're selling & research what similar items have sold for.  Check the margin of difference between what the same item will sell for in an auction versus what other sellers are getting using fixed price listings.  And if I do decide an auction is the way to go, if I know it'll make me sick to have to sell whatever item for less than a certain price, then I make that price the start of my auction, because I like not selling something more than I like feeling sick.  I don't do reserves, I think they're sneaky, but I've no problem setting a bottom price.  It didn't take me many auctions starting out at .99 selling for practically nothing when I could have gotton WAY more to figure that one out.  People who routinely start valuable items off with .99 start prices know what they're doing one way or another.  If you're not positive you know what you're doing, then you probably don't & you're taking a risk.  Also, set your auctions to end somewhere between 7 & 10 on a weekend if you can.  Not nearly as many people sitting in front of a computer, thinking about buying a laptop at 10AM on a weekday as there are on Friday or Saturday night.  It makes a world of difference.  Most casual buyers don't want to bid on something & then wait 7 days to see if they've won or if they need to start over with something else.  Its bad enough to have to wait on the mail, much less a week of uncertainty.  For an item like electronics, or anything popular enough that people might get caught up in bidding on (check how many bids an item got while reasearching prices), you want to schedule those where its easy for people to get caught up in the ending of the auction.  Let 'em find it at 7pm, barely have time to think about it while at the same time seeing that a lot of other people think its worth bidding on, then by 10pm when it ends they'll likely have impulsively bid more than they might have in other circumstances.  Hell, this is a storage auction forum, there's noone here who has never gotton caught up in an auction & knows what it feels like!!  All you have to do to get the most money is to give other people the opportunity to have fun & get caught up in your own auction.  : )

THE END  -  Tracy  : )  Nice to meet you all, & if we meet in real like, be forewarned that I ramble the same way I just did on here.  Also, if I come back here & see anything smart-mouthed, I'll be happy to spend another few hrs, because you'll notice I didn't touch on International shipping/selling at all.  : )  Thanks for being my captive audience.

Offline rulesforrebels

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Re: My Ebay Shipping Tips ++ Much More!!
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2013, 10:19:50 AM »
great tips definately recommend getting a postage scale thats the best advice you can give. im surprised by how many people decide to sell on ebay and dont have one. estimating your going to leave your buyers paying for partial shipping you didn't pay for when it arrives or your going to wind up overpaying yourself by several bucks each time. just guessing under by an ounce or two can mean a buck or two more per package. considering you can get a decent postage scale for around $15 it pays for itself quickly.

another tip, everyone thinks media mail is the cheapest but first class is often cheaper and fasteer than media mail on lighter items.

always send with delivery confirmation if not all the buyer has to say is i didnt get it and they get their money back.

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