In the last two posts we talked about why a printer and packing supplies are essential tools for your ebay business. In this post we’re going to talk about why we need a scale and how to find a good one. If this part of the post sounds boring to you then be sure to read the second half of the post since it will tell you how to pick the correct shipping option.
After something sells on ebay we need to weigh the item since the size and weight of a package (and the distance it’s traveling) are the factors in the shipping price. We could guess the weight (and I have many times when I don’t have my scale), and ebay is good at estimating the weight, but a scale is still needed. If we underestimate the weight of the package and underpay on postage, then the person who gets the package (the buyer on ebay) will have to pay the shipping costs for the actual weight and size when they get the package.
I bought my scale from ebay three years ago and it still works well. I lost the power cord about 6 months ago, but the scale can also run on batteries so that’s how I’ve been using it. My scale still works perfectly, so I’m not going to get rid of it until it breaks, but I will get a different type of scale next time I buy one. The major flaw of my current scale is that when a big box hangs over the edges of the scale it blocks the digital screen, so I can’t see the weight. I eventually figure out the correct weight, but it would be much easier if the digital screen was on a separate cord rather then attached to the scale because this way big boxes wouldn’t obscure the view of the screen.
This is the scale that I’m going to get next time. The screen and scale are separate so it’s a much better design. This scale is also accurate to the .1 ounce, and can weigh packages up to 110 pounds.
Make sure your scale can measure in ounces and pounds up to 1 decimal place. Some things may weigh 3.5 ounces and we have to know about the extra .5 ounces so we ship it as 4 ounces. Also make sure your scale can measure up to 100 pounds. The heaviest thing that I’ve ever shipped was a retro Fisher Price McDonalds Drive Thru Window:
I had to weigh this thing on my bathroom scale, since it blocked the screen of my postage scale. This thing weighed a hundred pounds and cost me about $85 to ship (the buyer paid for shipping). It took a ton of tape and many cut up cardboard boxes to pack this thing. Thankfully it arrived safely to the buyer.
The final things you want to make sure your scale has are a power cord, as well as a battery compartment. You will usually have access to electricty when your weighing your items, but it’s good for your scale to be able to run on batteries just in case. Buying rechargeable batteries for your scale can save you a lot of money in the long run.
You should buy your postage straight from ebay. The Postal Service and ebay have teamed up so you can pay and print postage right from your computer (we also get a small discount for doing it this way). After printing and attaching the shipping label you can simply drop off your prepaid package at the end of the Post Office counter without having to wait in line. You will save dozens of hours a month by not having to wait in the Post Office line since it moves as fast as molasses.
It can be confusing to figure out the ebay shipping process. How do you know what is the right option to use? Should you use USPS (United States Postal Service), UPS, or Fedex? Be sure to carefully read this section as I’m going to answer these questions and many more. I addressed how to pack and ship items in another post, so see part 2 of this series if you’re unsure how to pack things.
I use USPS to ship 95% of my items. I only use Fedex when I’m shipping something very heavy, or very large. I practically never use UPS as Fedex is usually cheaper.
The Post Office has a lot of shipping options. It may be overwhelming the first few times you need to ship something from ebay, but you’ll quickly learn the options. You’ll only end up consistently using about ¼ of the options, so you won’t even need to know about most of them. Best yet, ebay shows the price for all of the options so you can choose the cheapest one- so even if you don’t know what the different options mean you could still pick the best option since the prices are shown.
The options that the Post Office offers and are important to know are First Class Mail, Priority Mail, Flat Rate Shipping, Parcel Select, and Media Mail. Let’s go through each one individually.
- First Class Package: This option can only be used for things weighing one pound or less (if you buy your postage direct from ebay) or 13 ounces (if you buy postage from the Post Office). We get an additional 3 ounces for purchasing postage through ebay, which is another advantage for buying postage online.
- Priority Mail: You will be using this option most frequently. It’s the fastest shipping service, and is usually the best deal for things weighing more than one pound.
- Flat Rate Priority Mail: There are three sizes of standard flat rate boxes- small, medium and large. Each one of these boxes has a flat fee to ship, regardless of the distance and weight. This is a good option if you’re shipping something far away or really heavy since it may be cheaper than regular Priority Mail.
- Parcel Select: Parcel select is used for things that are really heavy or very large. It’s a slower service compared to Priority Mail. If you’re going to use Parcel Select to ship your item then you should also check the Fedex rates since they’re comparable and sometimes cheaper than Parcel Select.
- Media Mail: As the name suggests, you can only use this option to mail media. Things that carry information like books, CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes, and media that holds digital information are eligible for Media Mail. Media Mail is the cheapest option by far, and some people try to take advantage of the price by using it to ship things other than media. It’s not a good idea to do this since the Post Office has the right to open any package being sent Media Mail (to make sure people aren’t abusing it).
In this post we learned what to look for in a postage scale, as well as the different shipping options offered by ebay and how to pick the right choice. Go onto the next post to learn about the 4th essential tool for ebay!