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How to Ship Your eBay Merchandise

Shipping can be a make-or-break point for eBay sellers. Being expert at knowing the correct carrier, box size, and packaging will affect your bottom line. Even if the selling portion of your transaction goes flawlessly, the purchased item has to get to the buyer in one piece. If it doesn’t, the deal could be ruined — and so could your reputation.

The best way to avoid shipping problems is to do your homework beforehand, determine which method is likely to work best, spell out how you intend to ship the item, and charge accordingly. You can offer more than one shipping option — including overnight — to satisfy the buyer who may want a specific method of shipment.

Shipping is the heart of an e-commerce business like yours. Don’t even think of selling an item without evaluating your shipping options:

  1. Before listing the item, figure out how the package will ship.

    You don’t have to package it up right away, but you should have reviewed your options. The two critical factors in shipping are weight and time. The more a package weighs — and the faster it has to be delivered — may or may not reflect higher costs. The time to think about packing and shipping is before you put the item up for sale.

  2. Know your carrier options.

    In the United States, the three main shipping options for most eBay transactions are the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS.

  3. Before estimating shipping costs to price your item, make sure that you include all possible fees.

    Keep in mind that if your item will sell for over $250, PayPal will require signature delivery in case the package goes missing and the buyer makes a claim. Paying for this option for United States Postal Service (USPS) packages will set you back $2.70, as opposed to the free (if you use electronic postage) Delivery Confirmation (tracking number).You should also include any insurance costs.

    If you offer free shipping, your item will receive preference in eBay’s search. Consider this option by building shipping costs in the item price. This works best when an item is light and can be shipped cheaply — while not sacrificing speed. At the very least, offer a flat rate to all your customers.

    eBay’s policy reads as follows:

    “By providing shipping details in your listing, you can manage buyer expectations from the start. This helps avoid confusion with unexpected shipping costs, and shipping and handling time.”

    If you offer free shipping in your listing and eBay can confirm that the buyer did not pay extra for shipping, you will automatically receive a 5-star rating on your shipping and handling charges as part of your Detailed Seller Ratings

    It’s best to post a flat shipping amount (or use the eBay online shipping calculator) to give buyers an idea of how much shipping will cost. This way, buyers can consider the extra cost when comparing different sellers who offer the same item. Figure out what the packed item will weigh and then estimate shipping costs; the online calculators can help.

    Keep in mind, though, that if your idea of reasonable shipping costs doesn’t jibe with those of your buyers, you may end up with a ding in your DSR feedback rating for shipping fees.

    If the item is particularly heavy and you need to use a specialized shipping service, be sure to say in your listing description that you’re just giving an estimate and that the final cost will be determined prior to shipping.

    Shipping calculations can be off target, and you may not know that until after you take the buyer’s money. If the mistake is in your favor and is a biggie, notify the buyer and offer a refund. But if shipping ends up costing you a bit more, take your lumps and pay it. You can always let the buyer know what happened and that you paid the extra cost.

  4. Ship the item as soon as your receive payment; eBay bases shipping time on your selection of carrier.

    Make sure you ship the item to arrive in the time that eBay estimates. Ship that package no more than a day or so after payment (or after the e-check clears). If you can’t, immediately e-mail the buyer and explain the delay.

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When you input the tracking number into the PayPal transaction detail, a follow-up e-mail will automatically be sent to let the buyer know the item’s on the way.

Why not include a thank-you note (a receipt would be a businesslike addition) in each package you send out. It always brings a smile to the recipient’s face. It never hurts to take every opportunity to promote goodwill (and future business and positive feedback).

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