We have sold on eBay for a couple of years, and when we first started selling we did a flat rate charge for shipping in the U.S., and usually lost money on the shipping costs because we had no idea how to figure in the cost of packing materials, labels, printer ink, etc. We finally figured out how to do calculated shipping and how to add a handling charge.
However, we get a lot of prospective buyers asking why our shipping rates are so high as compared to other sellers, and we try to answer each email nicely, but you prospective buyers out there need to consider a few things before saying the price is too high for shipping due to the added handling charge.
Boxes: Although we do take advantage of the free USPS priority boxes, we can only use those to ship priority packages. Much of our merchandise is sent via parcel post or media mail, so we have to obtain an appropriately sized box. Also, when shipping via priority mail, the size of box used also is a determining factor in the shipping cost. The larger the item, the larger the box, the higher the shipping cost.
Packing materials: We wrap all our breakable items first in tissue paper to protect the item from the bubble wrap. Then we wrap the item in bubble wrap, then we finish off with styrofoam packing peanuts. Since we don't usually wrap all our items at the time we list them, we have to "guesstimate" the actual weight of the packing material in addition to the actual item itself, as well as the weight of the box. Tape is also another factor since we tape our boxes securely against not only opening during transit but from any potential insects that the package may encounter during shipping. So we use a lot of tape. Tape weighs something. The label weighs something. The "handle with care/fragile" stickers weigh something. Everything adds to the weight of the finished ready-to-mail package. Also, everything costs money. Packing peanuts and bubble wrap are the two most expensive items we use because we don't have room to store huge packages of peanuts and must buy those locally in smaller quantities at a higher rate. Boxes for parcel post or media mail we can usually obtain for free but sometimes they are quite heavy, depending upon their original purpose.
So, we raise or lower our handling charge depending upon the item being shipped. If it is a breakable item or very valuable, we are going to wrap it very securely in a box that will not crush easily and one that will stand up to the jostling it will surely receive during shipping.
If we send one DVD, for instance, we just have to pop it into a bubble-wrap-padded envelope, tape one end, add the label and drop it off at the post office. No extra "handling" cost, so the handling charge will be kind of low for that, in the $2.00 range (remember the cost of gas nowadays, and the cost of the padded shipping envelope).
On the other hand, if we ship a Noritake place setting, we will use the free priority box, (NOTE: On all our priority shipping, insurance is included at no extra cost to the buyer) but due to the time spent wrapping all the pieces, all the supplies used, etc., we do charge more per listed item, usually in the $4.00-5.50 range, depending on how many pieces in the place setting.
Also, you have to factor in the increased cost of postage and postal insurance as well in the past few months as well.
So, before you criticize a seller's shipping/handling costs, think about what is involved in the packing and handling that gets your item to you intact and quickly, and give us a bit of a break. After all, you are probably buying an item that is rare or hard-to-find, and you would want it well protected on its journey to your home, right?
Also, look at all the money YOU save by not driving miles to the store to buy whatever it is that you are looking for, if you can even find the item at all! You save money on gas, and loads of time by buying on eBay, despite the cost of shipping and handling, and you usually get an item that you have been wanting for a long time!
Thank you for taking the time to read my little "essay". I hope it informs you and helps you to better understand the costs involved in shipping that special item to you!
DISCLAIMER: I am speaking mainly for myself, but generally, what I said does apply to other shippers as well.