For many eBay members contemplating a sale or two (even if just of household goods), it’s fear of the listing process, writing titles and descriptions, taking photos, or choices of listing formats that cause hesitation so much as dreading everything that comes after the sale, most notably:
- Finding box(es) for everything
- Figuring out how to package it all up
- Writing labels
- Trudging off to the post office or shipping counter
- Filling out forms for package contents and tracking
- Standing in line and having to navigate options, then pay
This stuff is a big, giant painno doubtand though many professional and part-time eBay sellers have this problem licked, most on-occasion or first-time sellers are still loathe to invest all of the time this can take.
In fact, with a tiny investment and by taking a few one-time steps, you can set yourself up for the easiest possible eBay selling for all of the periodic sales you’ll make over time, eliminating most of the steps listed above.
Here’s what to do:
- Get a scale. No, don’t click away yet! You say “scale” and people imagine having to get a postal scaleexpensive and not so easy to find. In fact, there’s another kind of scale that’s both cheap, ounce-specific, and easy to find in your neigborhood. Go to your local Target, Wal-Mart, or other department store and get a low-end food and diet scale. This will cost you less than $15 most of the time (often less than $10) for a scale that is ounce-accurate and good for up to several pounds. For heavier packages, you can just use a digital bathroom scale (most people already have one of these) and add a pound afterward to be sure you’ve got room for slight inaccuracy, since for heavier items one pound either way usually doesn’t matter.
- Buy some bulk packing material. Just once, go online to a shipping supplier and get small (by corporate standards, big by yours) quantities of clear packing tape, peanut foam, and whatever else you need. If you’re in the U.S. don’t bother buying boxeswe’ll take care of that next. For periodic shippers, one materials purchase from a packing company can last for several years. If you want to buy locally, don’t go to an office supply store; go to a home improvement or large chain hardware store and ask for “moving materials,” which will be all the same stuff but in much larger quantities at a fraction of the price.
- Go the your local post office and stack up on boxes. USPS is the easiest carrier to work with on eBay these days, and if you’re a periodic seller, it’s free boxes really cinch the deal. USPS makes free priority mail shipping boxes available to everyone. Stock up on a variety of sizes and shapes, small to large, and on some Tyvek (that non-paper, paper-like material that’s waterproof) priority envelopes, too, if you plan to ship clothing or other soft, non-fragile goods.
- Package and weigh your packed item. After you make a sale, package up the item in question and weigh it. Use your food and diet scale if the item is between one and three pounds, and add an ounce to the final tally just in case the scale is slightly less accurate than a postal scale. If the item is over three pounds, weigh it with your digital bathroom scale and add a half pound to a pound. If your bathroom scale won’t register weights that low, step on once to weigh yourself, then off again, then on again holding the item. The difference in weights is the weight of the packaged item. Don’t forget to add a bit, just in case.
- Ship using eBay, rather than going to the counter. Now, go to My eBay by clicking the “My eBay” link at the top of any eBay page and use the links on the left of the page to view the list of items you’ve recently sold. On the far right of the list you’ll see a column labeled “Actions.” Click the down arrow (it looks like a triangle) next to the item you’re shipping and choose “Print Shipping Label” from the list. Fill out the form, entering the package shape, dimensions (dig a ruler out of your junk drawer for this), and the weight in pounds and ounces. If you’ve used priority mail packaging, select the kind of priority mail box or envelope that you’ve used. Also check any features you’d like to add; at the very least, you should add delivery confirmation, since that gets you a tracking number. Then, pay. The shipment will automatically be paid for from the PayPal balance that resulted from the sale of your item, meaning that nothing has to come out of any of your other accounts.
- Print your label and affix it. After you’ve paid for your postage from your PayPal balance, you’ll be given the option to print a shipping label. Print it just like you would any other documentstandard paper is fine. Take it out of your printer, trim the extra paper off of the sides of the label, and use clear packing tape to cover it entirely and affix it to the box (the tape prevents damage from snags or moisture that can otherwise affect plain paper).
- Drop your package off. Now you don’t have any reason to wait in line at a shipping counter. Your package is pre-packed, weighed, and paid for. If your post office has a package drop (often located near the self-service machine), just put the package in it. If there’s no drop or if the package is too large to fit in the drop, just step up to the counter at either end (don’t wait in line), set it down, and wave down an employee as you say “I just need to drop this pre-labeled package.” They’ll nod and come collect it, and you’re free to gono waiting, no reciepts and forms, no hassle.
When you use this method, there’s no need to communicate further with your seller to notify them of shipment or provide them with a tracking number, since eBay will automatically notify them of both when you print the label.
And since in the process you acquired a nominal reserve of tape, boxes, and whatever other materials you need, your future periodic sales will be a breeze, too.