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How to Ship Your eBay Merchandise

Shipping Your eBay Items to the Buyers

Shipping can be the most time-consuming (and most dreaded) task for many eBay sellers. Even if the selling portion of your transaction goes flawlessly, the 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, and spell out in your item description exactly how you intend to ship the item. It's beneficial to give buyers an option should they want overnight or Priority shipping. Here's how to handle the process:

  1. Before listing an item, get a single package ready to ship.

    You don't have to seal the package right away, but you should have it ready to seal because the two critical factors in shipping are weight and time. The more a package weighs and the faster it has to be delivered, the higher the costs.

    The time to think about packing and shipping is before you put the item up for sale — that way, last-minute surprises are less likely to arise while your buyer waits impatiently for the item!

  2. Know your carrier options.

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

  3. Before quoting the shipping fees in the listing, make sure that you gather all appropriate costs.

    Offering Free Shipping is very common on eBay, because it gives you an advantage in eBay searches. When you do, build the shipping cost into the price you ask for the item. When you budget your costs, you may want to add in a nominal handling fee (up to $1 isn't out of line) to cover your packing materials, labels, and time. These costs can add up quickly as you start making multiple transactions.

    You should also include any insurance costs and signature-confirmation costs, should they be necessary for the item.

    Some shoddy eBay sellers inflate shipping and handling charges to make added profit. Shame, shame, shame on them. Purposely overcharging is tacky, ugly, and immature. (It's also a violation of eBay policy on circumventing fees — and will penalize your listings in Best Match search.) Often the buyer also figures it out after one look at the postage on the box — and that can easily net you a negative feedback.

    If you don't offer Free Shipping, post a flat shipping amount (or use the eBay online shipping calculator). This way, buyers can include this cost when they consider their bidding strategies. Figure out what the packed item will weigh and then give a good estimate; the online calculators can help.

    If the item is heavy and you need to use a shipping service that charges by weight and distance, be sure to say in your listing description that you're just giving an estimate and that the final cost will be determined after the listing is over. Optionally, you indicate that the buyer should use the eBay shipping calculator.

    You give the weight of the package when you put together your listing; eBay will calculate shipping costs for the buyer, based on your ZIP code and the buyer's.

    Occasionally, 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 yourself. Consider it part of the cost of doing business. Spreading goodwill never hurts your reputation for future sales.

  4. Send a thank-you note.

    In every package you ship, you should include a thank-you note that promotes you as a seller and your business. Thank the customer, mention that you look forward to doing business with the buyer again, and provide a link to your website if you have one. (Don't forget to put in a plug for positive feedback.)

  5. Send the package.

    When should you ship the package? Common courtesy says it should go out as soon as the buyer has paid for the item and shipping charges. If the buyer has followed through with his or her side of the bargain, you should do the same. Ship that package no more than a day after payment. If you can't, contact the buyer immediately and explain the reason for the delay.

More often than not, you do get an e-mail back from the buyer to let you know that the item arrived safely. If you don't (and you haven't received any feedback), check the tracking number to see when the item was delivered. If it has, you can ask (through eBay messages) whether the buyer is satisfied with the purchase. It jogs the buyer's memory and demonstrates your professionalism as a seller.

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