- Boxes or envelopes. If you’re not choosing a shipper that offers free boxes, or if the shipper you choose doesn’t have free boxes that suit your items, you’ll need to track down boxes or envelopes of your own. Don’t buy these at office supply stores if you can avoid it, and be wary of cast-off grocery store boxes, which often have low burst strength ratings (placing your item in jeopardy) and may also contain vermin (i.e. insects or mold that can damage your item in shipment). Use your local phone book to find box and container manufacturers or wholesalers that can give you a good deal on bulk boxes or containers.
- Padding and/or packaging. This is probably the most diverse category of packaging material, since it will vary based on the type of item you’re shipping. For computer and consumer electronics devices you’ll likely want to obtain a stock of plastic anti-static bags. For any type of item you’ll want at least a basic plastic bag if your shipping container isn’t lined with plastic. Roll foam, bubble wrap, or peanut foam is also needed to create padding between your item and the inside of the box—up to two inches of padding on all sides can be required, depending on the shipper, and all of them are wary of shipping packages that are padded with newspaper. Here again local wholesalers can help—in most areas you’ll be able to find packing or packaging supplies manufacturers in your phone book who can sell you peanut foam, roll foam, or bubble wrap by the square or cubic yard at greatly discounted prices over what you’ll find in office supply stores.
- Packing tape and labeling supplies. These can conceivably be purchased at office supply stores, though you’ll be able to get a better deal if you can find an industrial shipping supply store. Your choice of tape is important—use only tape intended for packaging and shipping.
- A shipping scale. This may represent something of an investment, but if you sell in any volume at all it will be a good one since it’ll save you tons of time—all of the major shippers calculate shipping at least in part by weight (unless you’re using flat-rate sized boxes) and having a scale on hand will allow you to pay for and print shipping labels without having to stand in line at the shipping counter.
- A tape measure (large items only). If you ship a lot of larger or oddly-shaped items, you’ll also want a cloth or flexible tape measure, since the major shippers have size restrictions and surcharges for packages that have very large dimensions.
- A printer. If you’re going to use the online or account-based shipment processes of the major carriers to pay for shipping in advance and schedule pickups, you may need a printer to print shipping labels for your packages.
Account LogisticsEach of the major carriers offers products or programs that will enable you to ship from your location via online payment and scheduled pickups, rather than having to go to their counter with a dolly full of boxes to stand in line. If you plan to ship in moderate to high volumes, it’s a good idea for you to look into the services offered by each of the major shippers to determine whether one of them has an online/account payment plan and pickup service that will work for you.
- For USPS shippers. If you plan to use USPS, you can print shipping labels and pay for shipment online for all of their major services. Then, schedule a pickup to have your packages collected and shipped.
- For UPS shippers. If you plan to use UPS, check out the Internet Shipping Service and review their small business offerings to see if there are other ways in which they can help you.
- For FedEx shippers. If you plan to use FedEx, open an account to gain access to FedEx Ship Manager, where you’ll be able to print and pay for shipping labels and schedule pickups at your location.
There’s no rule that says you have to limit yourself to one shipper—if your volume is high enough and your goods diverse enough to justify the extra effort on your part, there’s no reason not to use the shipping and pickup programs of all three carriers in order to minimize your shipping costs and hassles.
Note, too, that using the online or account-based shipping services for the carriers above doesn’t depend on your having high volume, nor does it cost extra. Anyone can pay for and print shipping labels for the major carriers online, so streamline the shipping process for your eBay business today.