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For Seniors: How to Assemble Your eBay Shipping Supplies

You’ve sold an item on eBay, and now you’re ready to gather your shipping supplies: boxes, filler materials, and other handy items for mailing. Start by using a box that’s larger than the item you’re shipping.

Evaluate the item you’re shipping and choose packing materials specific to the item’s requirements. Make your packing do all the little things that you’d want done if you were the buyer — use double boxes for really fragile items, wrap lids separately from containers, and fill hollow breakables with some kind of padding.

The following table compares the most popular types of box-filler material.

Box-Filler Materials
Type Pros and Cons Suggestions
Bubble wrap Pros: Lightweight, clean, cushions well
Cons: Cost
Don’t go overboard taping the bubble wrap. If the buyer has to struggle to remove the tape, the item may go flying and end up damaged.
Newspaper Pros: Cheap, cushions
Cons: Messy, adds considerable weight to the package
Seal fairly well. Put your item in a plastic bag to protect it from the ink. Shred the newspaper first so that it’s more manageable and doesn’t stain as much.
Cut-up cardboard Pros: Handy, cheap
Cons: Transmits some shocks to item, hard to cut up, heavy
If you have some old boxes that aren’t sturdy enough to pack in, this is a pretty good use for them.
Styrofoam peanuts Pros: Lightweight, absorb shock well, clean
Cons: Environmentally unfriendly, annoying
Your item may shift if you don’t put enough peanuts in the box, so make sure to fill the box. Also, don’t buy these — instead, recycle them from stuff that was shipped to you (plastic trash bags are great for storing them). And never use plastic peanuts when packing electronic equipment, because they can create static electricity. Even a little spark can trash a computer chip.
Air-popped popcorn Pros: Lightweight, environmentally friendly, absorbs shock well, clean (as long as you don’t use salt and butter, but you knew that), low in calories
Cons: Cost, time to pop
You don’t want to send it anywhere there may be varmints who like it. The U.S. Postal Service suggests popcorn.

Here are a few other items you need:

  • Plastic bags: Plastic bags protect your item from moisture. If the item gets wet, the extra plastic bag saves the item from being soaked along with the outer box.

    Always protect small items, such as stuffed animals, in a lunch baggie. For slightly larger items, go to the 1-quart or 1-gallon size. Be sure to wrap any paper or cloth products, such as clothing and linens, in plastic before you ship.

  • Bubble-padded mailers: The shipping cost for a package that weighs less than 13 ounces (First-Class mail) is considerably cheaper than Priority. Many small items, clothing, books, and so on will fit comfortably into the many available sizes of padded envelopes. A big plus is that they weigh considerably less than boxes — even when using extra padding.

  • Labels: You’ll need extras because it’s always a good idea to toss a duplicate address label inside the box, with the destination address and a return address, in case the outside label falls off or becomes illegible.

  • Shipping tape, 2- or 3-inches in width: Make sure that you use a strong shipping tape for the outside of the box. Clear plastic will do just fine.

  • Hand-held shipping tape dispensers: It’s easier to pull tape from a tape dispenser than to unwind it and bite it off.

  • Scissors: You’ll want a pair of large, sharp scissors and a hobby knife to trim boxes or shred newspaper.

  • Handy liquids: Three good ones are GOO GONE (available in the household supply section of most retail stores and good at removing unwanted stickers and price tags); WD-40 (the unstick-everything standby that works great on getting stickers off plastic); and Un-Du (to take labels off cardboard).

  • Rubber stamps/stickers: Using custom rubber stamps or stickers can save you a bunch of time when preparing your packages. Purchase some return address self-inking rubber stamps to stamp anything that requires your identification.

  • Thermal label printer: When you begin shipping several packages a week, use a printer for postage, addressing, and delivery confirmations all on one label.

  • Black permanent marker: These are handy for writing information. Big, fat Sharpie markers work well.

  • 10-pound weight scale: If you plan to sell on eBay in earnest, consider adding a 10-pound weight scale (for weighing packages) to your shipping department.

Whatever materials you use, make sure that you pack the item well and that you secure the box. Many shippers will contest insurance claims if they feel you did a lousy job of packing.

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