This is an ebook that I wrote (and recently revised) on packing and shipping glassware of all kinds. I wanted to post it here so that any sellers out there that wants some tips, can use it. This ebook is available for free PDF download here: http://www.box.net/shared/sl6pdegsup
Good Things Come in Great Packages
By Sandy Faust
Yes, packing and shipping sounds like a very simple thing to do; wrap it, put it in a box, label it and ship it off. Is it really that simple? Well, yes and no. If you are shipping bricks, no worries. However, if you are shipping glassware or fragile items as I am, you need to take extra precautions when packing, and I am going to give you a few tips that I have learned along the way.
We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started. All of the things I have to tell you are very simple and easy to accomplish. I am sure that it will improve your sales and bring those customers back to purchase more from you because they can count on receiving it in great condition.
PACKING MATERIALS; free (or almost free)
If you ship with USPS (United States Postal Service), you can go to their website at usps.com, where you can order Priority Mail boxes in different sizes. (You can now order these from ebay also.) They even have boxes that are a flat rate no matter what the weight of the merchandise is. Along with boxes, you can also order Priority Mail labels (I use these to cover up unwanted information on other boxes that I find, or to put on plain boxes that are going Priority). You can also get your Customs forms through this website, or if you print your international labels from your computer, you can also fill out the Customs form online. Everything is free, and is delivered right to your door by your regular mail delivery person.
There will be a time when you will need a plain box for shipping worldwide or you will need a larger box than what is offered through the postal service. Great places to find free boxes are from local businesses or at your local grocery store. I get free boxes from a company that I work for seasonally. They normally break them down and send them to the recycler, but are more than happy to let me take whatever I want from the stack before the recycler comes. Your local grocery store is another great place to find free boxes. Check with the manager to see when and where they put their boxes out. My grocery store has an area where they leave the boxes for anyone to take. I try to get the boxes with the least amount of writing on them, and the ones that are not too heavy.
One last thing to know about boxes is to check the bottom to make sure that it will hold the weight of what you are shipping. Most good shipping boxes have a weight load of about 65lbs. These are good sturdy boxes. But, beware! Some boxes are extremely thick and the added density can add up to an extra pound to the weight of your shipment. Try to avoid those boxes, as the extra weight can cost you part of your profit.
The next thing you will need is something to wrap your items in. I have found that there is no substitute for bubble wrap. I use both the small bubbles and the larger bubble type. You can buy bubble wrap through packing supply outlets, but it is not cheap. It usually comes on a roll and costs about $55 for a 750’ roll. Here again, I have found great sources of bubble wrap from companies that receive goods, but do not ship. They usually throw away this precious commodity!!!
I get mine free, and all it takes is a few phone calls or visits to local businesses. Mine comes from the parts department of a recreational vehicle company that receives parts protected in the bubble wrap! Use your imagination - and even run an ad in your local newspaper or go on Freecycle.com in your city, if necessary - to get your supplies free. It’s worth it!
If you do buy your bubble wrap by the roll (they are approximately 4’ in diameter), I have found a fantastic way to dispense it. I purchased a metal clothes rack for $12.00. You can remove the bar, slip the roll on the bar (it will hold 2 rolls) and snap it back together. It stores it neatly, and is ready for you to just pull off as much as you need! These can be purchases at any discount store like Wal-Mart or Target.
USPS carried free Priority Mail tape at one time, but has since discontinued it. I now buy it at the local Dollar Store for $1 a roll. If you want to buy it in bulk, check with a packing supply company. You may be able to purchase it for less than a dollar a roll when buying 12 rolls or more. Make sure to get a good quality tape that is relatively thick. If you don’t, you will have loads of problems with it sticking together and bunching up, wasting more of the tape than you will use. The tape that I recommend is 2” x 55 yards of clear packaging tape that is 2.6 mils thick. Also, get yourself a good tape dispenser (a one-time purchase) from an office supply store.
I have nothing against sellers who pack their items in newspaper for shipment. I just refuse to do it. Repeat after me: Newspapers are for reading, not wrapping. It does not look professional, it is not as protective for glass items, and is extremely dirty and messy for the person who is unpacking their purchase. Yes, it is free and a good way to get rid of old newspapers, but unless it is all you have access to, I would avoid it at all costs.
I prefer to use packing peanuts. I have been purchasing mine from a packaging supply company for $15 for a 14 cubic ft. bag. This is the cheapest price I have found, and it is a large bag. However, when you are shipping 75 to 80 packages a month, you can go through many packing peanuts. One tip that I received (thanks to Danna Crawford) is to check with your local doctor’s office.
They receive many supplies and will often have foam boxes, bubble wrap and packing peanuts that they just throw away. Ask them to save them for you, and set a regular day to pick them up. Here again, I would suggest running a very small advertisement in your local newspaper, asking businesses that throw them away to contact you, and you will be as happy to take them - or even pay a minimal fee to purchase them – as they are to get rid of it.
Another tip is to let your friends and family know that you are in need of these supplies, and ask them to save any that they receive. Everyone orders something at sometime and receives packing materials!
PREPARING YOUR ITEM FOR SHIPMENT
A special touch I like to add and one of the first things that I make sure of, is that any glassware that I ship is clean, bright and sparkling before I ship it. Your customer is very excited about receiving their merchandise, so imagine their disappointment when they open their package and find a dirty piece of glassware!
This not only will reflect very badly on you and your store, but it will also hurt your chances for repeat customers. Your purpose is to get customers into your cybershop, not just once, but looking forward to coming back. A loyal customer is worth their weight in sales. They are your best advertising.
When wrapping glassware for shipment, always make sure to use enough bubble wrap to protect the item during its journey, whether it is going 10 blocks away or 1,000 miles across the ocean to another country. I ship a lot of goblets, and I have found that wrapping each piece of glassware separately is the best. This way the pieces can not bump together during shipping and become damaged.
When wrapping an item, always make sure that the edges are well protected. Wrap it so that you have bubble wrap to fold over the edges and tape securely. Whatever you do, DO NOT SKIMP ON THE BUBBLEWRAP!
For packing china, such as plates, saucers and bowls, I use coffee filters between each plate to keep them from getting scratched or damaged. You can put six plates together by putting the large coffee filters, or single sheets of the small bubble wrap between the plates. Use packing tape to secure the plates together. Tape them all the way around so that they are secure and do not move.
After securing them, wrap them together in a large sheet of the big bubble wrap, making sure the edges of the plates or bowls are cover with enough thickness to avoid damage.
When wrapping fragile stemware, especially the type with very thin stems, always protect the stem first before wrapping the entire goblet. I take one sheet of bubble wrap, fold it and wrap it around the stem only and secure with tape. Then I wrap the complete goblet. This keeps the stem from being broken in transit.
Because you are using sufficient bubble wrap and packing materials, always add a small “handling” fee to your shipping cost. Normally I add from $1.00 for very small items to $2.50 for full sets of goblets or larger items. It is worth it to your customer when they see how well you have packed their merchandise, and they will appreciate receiving it undamaged.
PACKING YOUR ITEM FOR SHIPMENT
Now you are ready to place your well-wrapped item in the box for shipment. Choose a box that will leave you plenty of room to put a good amount of packing peanuts surrounding the item(s).
I suggest putting about 3 to 4 inches of packing peanuts in the bottom of the box. Place your item(s) in the box and make sure there is room around the item for packing peanuts to entirely surround it. I usually give the box a little shake to make sure the peanuts have settled to fill in the empty spots, and then cover the item completely with more peanuts.
One word of caution! Do not put so many peanuts on the top of the item that you cannot close the top flaps flat. If you pack the box too tightly, the glass item inside can actually be crushed from the pressure. This is why I say to choose your box carefully so the item(s) fit comfortably in the box, including the peanuts.
Tape the carton shut with at least two strips of clear packing tape. If need be, also tape the sides (I do this mostly on large boxes). If you are using a plain box and are shipping to a destination in the USA, I always add one or two of the Priority Mail stickers to the top of the box.
Always mark your package “FRAGILE” in several places on the top of the box. I have purchased a stamp from a local office supply store that has red ink so it stands out clearly, but you can also use a red marker for this. I mark every one of my shipments as fragile, whether it is glass or not. I have had very little breakage in the years that I have been shipping, and I ship many packages every week!
WEIGHING YOUR PACKAGE
I suggest buying yourself a good digital scale to use for weighing your packages. You can purchase one at any office supply store. They carry several different types and price ranges. This is a one-time purchase, and is really an essential item if you are going to be printing your shipping labels prepaid. I purchased my digital scale for less than $50 and it is very accurate and works wonderfully.
Since I pack and ship so many packages at one time, I have worked out a system that helps me keep everything straight to avoid labels being switched. It was out of necessity that I came up with this system, since I did mix up two packages once! It is not fun to try to fix, and usually you end up losing your profit from the sale.
After I finish packing a package, I tape the printout from the sale and the payment to the top of the box. I do this for each package. When I am finished with all of the packages, I weigh them individually, writing the weight on the printout and on the box. I also write whether the box will receive insurance or not. (On expensive pieces of glass, I make insurance mandatory.) This makes it much easier when I am ready to print out my labels. It keeps everything straight, and I have a record on the printout of the weight of the item and whether or not the package was insured, just in case I need to look back for any reason.
PRINTING PREPAID SHIPPLING LABELS
I started out by handwriting shipping labels and taking my packages to the Post Office to have them weighed and add the postage. I soon found out that eBay and PayPal make it so much easier to print your labels prepaid from your own computer. This has several advantages. No waiting in long lines at the local post office! You can drop them off at any mailing center, including those in the local supermarket, or you can have them picked up by your regular mail delivery person right at your front door. How convenient!
Most eBayers have a PayPal account, and if you don’t, I would suggest getting one set up mainly so that you can print your labels and have your business costs come directly out of the money paid by your buyers for the shipping.
Printing labels from your sold items page is very simple. All it takes is a click on “Print shipping label” and log into your PayPal account. The address and all information are there for you. All you need to do is put in the weight and whether you want to add insurance. What could be simpler? Plus, your customer gets an email letting them know that their package has shipped and giving them the tracking number!! In addition, you have a record of every shipment that stays on file in Paypal for about 3 months.
You can print the label directly onto plain copy paper and cut and tape, but I suggest buying the pre-sized, peel off labels from Pitney Bowes that are made especially for eBay. You can purchase them at PitneyBowes.com. You can buy them in boxes of 50, 100, or 200 sheets. Each sheet has two labels. I purchase the 100 sheet LD2-1, which gives me 200 labels and costs about $27 including shipping charges. Again, this is an expense, but it makes your job much easier and makes your packages look more professional. Below is an example of what an eBay LD2-1 printed label looks like.
METHOD OF SHIPPING
I have only talked about shipping by Priority Mail through USPS. I also use UPS for the larger or heavier boxes that I ship. The advantage of UPS is that all boxes are automatically insured up to $100.00.
1. Priority Mail is the fastest form of shipping with out doing an expedited (Next Day or 2nd Day Air) form of shipping. Your packages are delivered within 2 to 3 business days. UPS usually takes only 1 business day longer.
2. Your packing boxes, stickers, and customs forms are all free from USPS. They can be ordered online directly from usps.com, and are delivered right to your door by your regular mail delivery person. You will need plain shipping boxes for UPS, as they do not provide them.
3. You get a free delivery confirmation with every shipment with USPS, which normally costs about 45¢ per package otherwise.
4. You receive a tracking number and can track your package online with both types of shipping.
5. Cost – I find that the heavier packages are cheaper to ship UPS, especially since USPS raised their prices and also go by the size of the box. For lighter or smaller items, I use Priority Mail.
LOST PACKAGES AND DAMAGES
By using the method and suggestions above, you should have very little problems with lost packages or damages, but if you do, I suggest you take care of them immediately.
I would say that 99% of your customers are honest (just check their feedback if you are not sure) when they say that something has not arrived or has arrived damaged. I have found that it is to my benefit to either send a replacement for the item if I have it, or do a refund for the cost of the damaged item. I do not have the customer return the damaged merchandise, as it would incur another expense that I would have to reimburse the customer. Why spend out of your own pocket to receive something back that is broken?
As far as lost packages, I have not had one package lost shipping with USPS or UPS in the 5 years that I have been shipping. Isn’t that amazing? If the situation does arise, I would track the package first to see if it had been delivered (remember, you get a FREE delivery confirmation with Priority Mail!) and where it was delivered to. If it is an insured package, I would file a claim with USPS. They do investigate and will pay for the cost of the merchandise. If you need to check on a lost package with UPS, go to their website, www.UPS.com and enter your tracking number. It will give you step by step information on the package progress.
I know that several eBayers do not offer international shipments. I do. Some of my best sales have been to customers in other countries. I have shipped to the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and several other countries. I have never had a problem with an overseas shipment.
Again, I use USPS to ship. Packages that are smaller (under 36” total measuring length, width and height) are shipped by First Class International which takes approximately 7 to 10 days to arrive. Any larger packages are sent Priority Mail, which can be extremely expensive. Surface mail has been discontinued.
You can print the Priority labels from your computer for these packages, but not for the First Class International. You will need to take them to a Post Office. You can still print an address label through eBay by selecting “print label without postage”.
For the First Class Intl packages, you will need to include a customs form. Now don’t be alarmed!! These are available online in bulk through usps.com, so order them when you order your other supplies, or pick up a few when you are at your local Post Office. The Priority Mail International customs forms are printed online with your label.
For packages under 4 pounds, you need to fill out a PS Form 2976. This is a very simple form to fill out. It asks for the shippers name and address, the addressee’s name and address, and a description (gift, documents, commercial sample or other). I always mark other. I have stated in my auctions “Please do not ask me to falsify customs documents by saying they are a gift”. Then you need to write in what the item is and the value (what the customer paid for it), date it, sign it in both places marked, and attach it to the package next to the label.
If you receive an email from your customer saying that they have not received their package, and it has been well past the delivery time, ask them to please check with their customs office. Packages are held up in customs quite often. I have had this happen twice, and both times the customer received the package after checking with customs.
Again, I have never had a package lost when shipped internationally. I am not saying that it can’t happen, but I have not experienced it.
International customers can be some of your best buyers, so I wouldn’t bar them from bidding on your auctions or buying from your online store. You are losing out on a lot of good customers and sales if you do.
These are all of the methods and procedures that I have found that work for me. You may be able to add or change some of the above to suit your self and your type of business. What I have done is just laid out the basics, mostly from my own experiences. I hope you find this guide helpful in some respect.
Sell, sell, sell! And make sure you pack it and ship it for a successful transaction, great feedback, and repeat customers.
Good luck and Happy eBaying!
About the Author
My name is Sandy Faust, and I have an eBay store called “Sandy’s Collectibles and More,” which mainly offers glassware and stemware for sale or at auction.
You can visit my store at http://stores.ebay.sandyscollectiblesandmore.) Glassware is my passion! Nothing is as satisfying as helping a customer find or replace a piece of their collection. When that happens, I want to be sure that they receive it in perfect condition. I want my customers to be HAPPY with their purchase!
I feel I am qualified to write this guide, because not only I am an eBayer and shipper of merchandise, I also worked as a customer service representative for a large mail order catalog for over 12 years. I dealt with shipping, lost packages, broken items and customs daily. I have put that experience to use in my own business, and want to share some of that knowledge with you.
With much encouragement from Danna Crawford, I decided to try my hand at writing an eBook about the one thing that I know best; packing and shipping. I want to help new eBay sellers as well as those who have been selling on eBay for a while learn the secrets of “Packing and Shipping for Success!”