For Seniors: How to Prepare Your eBay Items for Shipment

Before you package up the item you sold on eBay, take a close look at the buyer's merchandise. Here’s a checklist of what to consider about before you ship a purchase to the winning bidder:

  • Is your item as you described it? If the item has been dented or torn somehow, e-mail the winning bidder immediately and let them know. If you sell an item with its original box or container, don’t just check the item, make sure the box is in the same good condition as the item inside. Collectors place a high value on original boxes, so make sure the box lives up to what you described in your listing. Pack to protect it as well.

  • Is the item dirty or dusty, or does it smell of smoke? Buyers may complain if the item they receive is dirty or smelly, especially from cigarette smoke. Make sure the item is fresh and clean, even if it’s used or vintage. If something’s dirty, check to make sure you know how to clean it properly (you want to take the dirt off, not the paint) and then give it a spritz with an appropriate cleaner or just soap and water.

    If you can’t get rid of the smell or the dirt, say so in your item description. Let the buyer decide whether the item is desirable with aromas and all.

    If the item has a faint smell of smoke or is a bit musty, a product called Febreze may help. Just get a plastic bag, give your item a spritz, and keep it in the bag for a short while. Note: This is not recommended for cardboard. And, as with any solvent or cleaning agent, read the label before you spray. Or, if you’re in a rush to mail the package, cut a 2-by-2-inch piece of sheet fabric softener and place it in a plastic bag with the product.

After you prepare your item, you need to decide which shipper is right for you:

  • Parcel Post and Priority Mail via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is pretty much the eBay standard if you’re shipping within the United States. (International First Class for shipments up to 4 pounds to Canada.) Sellers also rely on the USPS to ship internationally as well.

  • Larger packages (over five pounds) are generally cheaper to ship through FedEx Ground or UPS. (As of this writing, FedEx is cheaper unless you’re shipping a hundred packages a week).

Whether you’re at the post office, UPS, FedEx, or elsewhere, be ready, willing, and able to wait in line. If you decide to go with USPS, save yourself the time and stress by giving your packages to your letter carrier — or by requesting a free carrier pickup from the Post Office Web site if you can ship from home.

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