After posting a listing and making sale, shipping is only half the seller's remaining battle in closing the deal. The other half, packaging, is too often ignored or not taken seriously. In my years of eBay trading, every problem I've had with an eBay seller has been the result of poor packaging, not the result of fraud or malicious intent.
Good packaging isn't a need reserved only for fragile items—nearly any box sent using a major shipper is likely to be dropped, kicked, bounced, run through harsh machinery, and otherwise abused on its way. The hardiest of items can be damaged under these circumstances. Marking a box with the word "FRAGILE" doesn't change this fact. Most shippers today sort and process their cargo so quickly that nothing other than the barcode on the shipping label is ever even noticed.
Here are some packaging rules and tips to live by. As a seller concerned with the customer service you provide, you should know them well.
Good Materials and MethodsWhen packaging an eBay purchase for shipment to a buyer, you should always take care to:
- Choose clean, strong boxes. Use unmarked cardboard boxes whose listed burst strength (found on the bottom of any good box) is greater than the weight of the item it will hold.
- Use a large enough box for your item to be protected. Select a box large enough to allow for two inches of packing material on all sides of the item.
- Protect your item with plastic. Place a plastic bag around the item to seal it from any exposure to the elements, using a silver anti-static bag if you are shipping an electronic item.
- Use bubble wrap for primary protection. Wrap the item in at least one layer of bubble wrap, large or small, with bubbles intact, using the pink anti-static type bubble wrap if you are shipping an electronic item.
- Use foam filler for secondary protection. Fill all empty space in the box with peanut foam—if possible, the environmentally sound foam made of vegetable matter, or pink anti-static peanut foam if you are shipping an electronic item.
- Use proper packing tape. Use the clear plastic shipper's tape or packaging tape in large quantities. Don't use other varieties, and don't skimp.
- Affix the address permanently. Clearly address your package using a printed adhesive shipping label or a permanent marker
Bad Materials and MethodsWhen packaging an eBay purchase for shipment to a buyer, keep the following general DON'Ts in mind:
- Don't pack in heavily marked boxes. For cross-country shipping, you should never re-use boxes with large amounts of printing or images on the outside.
- Don't pack in failed or inadequate boxes. Don't try to salvage damaged boxes or make due with weak boxes whose listed burst strength is less than the weight of the item you are shipping.
- Don't use inferior filler. Don't fill empty space with newspaper, paper from a document shredder, or any other material with low crush resiliency or that may harm the item.
- Don't leave space for the item to shift. Never leave any empty space at all in the sealed box, even if you feel that the item is otherwise protected. If the item can shift at all, in the rough-and-tumble of transit it will eventually shift its way to the bottom or one side of the box and will be damanged as a result.
- Don't use inappropriate tapes. Don't use grey duct-style tape because it can dry out and fall off in hot trucks or containers. Never pack using painter's masking tape, narrow clear Scotch-style tape, or other weak or inadequate types of tape that are not designed for strength and/or adhesion.
- Don't risk items by using mere envelopes. Don't ship any valuable or even moderately fragile item using just a padded envelope. This increasing practice is regrettable, since padded envelopes offer almost no protection to an item and are often handled alongside bulk mail using sorters and bags, rather than with other packages, meaning that they suffer an even more harsh journey than they otherwise might.
- Don't address inadequately. Don't address your packages using pencil, ballpoint pen, or water-soluble marker, since these can all quickly become illegible in poor conditions.
Read on to find out where to go to get the materials you should use, so that you don't have to rely on the materials that you shouldn't use.