Shipping can be confusing to a lot of new ebay sellers. People usually have a lot of questions like- How should I package my items? Which option to use? Where can I get boxes? Do I need to buy insurance for the packages? How do I buy labels?
Though the shipping process can be overwhelming at first, eBay does a good job at simplifying it. You can buy and print the labels directly from ebay, and you will also get a small discount from the USPS (United States Postal Service) since the Post Office and eBay have a partnership.
This partnership also makes shipping internationally a piece of cake. All you have to do is buy the postage from ebay (buyer pays all custom costs, taxes, fees, etc), and then ship the package to the international USPS location.
eBay then takes care of the international shipping and getting through customs. Because international shipping is so easy it’s a good idea to offer it on all of your items.
For 95% of my items I use the USPS to ship. The only times that I use Fedex is when I’m shipping a very heavy and bulky item. I almost never use UPS.
There are a lot of shipping options with the USPS, so you need to know which service to use. Here’s a brief overview of the ones that you’ll use most:
- First Class Postage: This option can be used for any item weighing one pound or less (if you buy the label through ebay. If you buy the label at the Post Office the item needs to be 13 ounces or less). This option is a great value- it costs a little more than $5 to ship a one pound item! The cost of First Class Mail is only dependent on the weight of the package, not the distance it’s traveling. Shipping a 12 ounce shirt from Boston to New York from costs the same as shipping the shirt from Boston to California. Selling light things (like clothing) is good because you can use this service to ship most items.
- USPS Priority Mail: This option is good for items that are heavier than 1 pound, but less than 10 pounds. It’s more expensive than First Class Postage, but still is a good value. This option ensures that the item will get to your buyer in two to three days. Also, you get an automatic $50 of insurance when you ship with Priority Mail.
- USPS Parcel Select: Shipping a heavy (~10 pounds or more), bulky, or very large package through Priority Mail can be expensive, so Parcel Select is a good option to use in these scenarios. It can be a really slow service (5 or more days to arrive), so I rarely use it, but it can be good for large and heavy packages. If you’re thinking about using this option be sure to check the Fedex rates because they might be cheaper!
- USPS Media Mail: This option is very cheap. Last week I sent 12 pounds of books to a customer in California, and it only cost me around $7 because I shipped them using Media Mail. This option can only be used for shipping media– hence the name. So what qualifies as media? Books, CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes are a few things that qualify. The Postal Service has the legal right to open any package that’s shipped through Media Mail to discourage people from abusing this option to ship non-media things.
- USPS Flat Rate Boxes: The Post Office offers Small, Medium, and Large Flat Rate boxes for free (you can get them online or in a Post Office). Though I’ve never used the Small Flat Rate Box. The Medium and Large Flat Rate boxes cost a flat $13 and $17 regardless of their how heavy the item is or where it’s going- it just needs to fit inside the box. Using these options is great because it can end up being cheaper than regular Priority Mail.
Should I Offer Free Shipping?
I mainly sell clothing, so I usually offer free shipping because most of my items can be sent through First Class Mail.
I like free shipping because (allegedly) it makes your listing show up higher on the eBay search page. Also, it makes your item more appealing to the buyer.
If your item is 3 pounds or less, than it might be a good idea to offer free shipping. But, anything weighing over 3 pounds will probably cost more than $10 to ship. So, at this weight, I make the buyer pay for it.
Don’t Go Postal
The Post Office is the butt of many jokes about government inefficiency, but I think they’re an effective organization.
Since I print my postage directly from eBay, I don’t have to wait in line at the Post Office. Instead, I just leave my packages at the end of the counter because they already have postage. Leaving my packages on that counter requires trust. I need to trust that the Post Office worker will scan my package in, and then ship it out for me.
I’ve never had a problem with packages not getting scanned by the workers.
The shipping step of eBay can seem confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it really quickly.