This guide is written to provide the new seller with some simple tools and insights on how to select a shipping company and what you can do to save yourself and your customers money and improve your chances for a successful auction. It is our opinion based on all the mistakes we have already made.
The first thing any eBay seller needs is a good Postal Scale. Buy it on eBay! Knowing how much your product AND packaging weighs is essential. Get familiar with using the Shipping Calculator provided by eBay - it will keep you from underestimating your shipping costs. Get a ruler or yardstick to measure your packages. All 3 of the services to be discussed here have limits on weight/size before you jump into the oversize/overweight category at much higher costs.
The goal of all eBay buyers is to get the best quality product at the lowest cost, while the goal of every eBay seller is the most revenue at the least cost of delivery. We will concentrate this guide on delivering your product at the lowest possible rate and highest service level. This provides the seller with the most cost effective means of delivery at the highest level of satisfaction.
eBay provides shipping services through its site for the USPS & UPS. Both services are very easy to use through eBay/PayPal, but should you? There are a few other choices with FedEx being the most visible among them. This is where you must decide which one to use and when.
USPS is by far the best choice when sending products that weigh less than 2 lbs. Items such as CD’s, DVD’s, books, software, etc., can be shipped as Media Mail. This provides a great savings to the shipper and buyer with lower rates – but with drawbacks. Shipping times are long, even over short distances. As an example, a set of books was sent to me from AK with Media Mail to NC and the total shipping time was 13 days or nearly 2 weeks. I was prepared for the time frame so there was no issue and the cost was very inexpensive. A package sent from NC to NY took 5 days, again at a great savings. What makes this service viable despite the long shipping times is cost. Savings can at times be more than 70% over Parcel Post rates. If you are shipping something small such as a single CD that weighs 3oz, perhaps using First Class mail is the better and cheaper solution. Our guide is simple here, if a Media Mail qualified item has a total weight of 5oz or less, send it First Class at a lower rate and faster delivery. Over 6oz - send it Media Mail. Always make your customer aware of the approximate delivery time. You don’t want negative feedback from a customer a few states over because they were not aware of the slowness of Media Mail.
Parcel Post and Priority Mail both offer advantages, however there are times when both services are so closely matched in price, it makes more sense to offer Priority Mail only. Priority Mail can provide you with free boxes too and flat rate shipping. Check with the USPS for details. Both services can provide shipping at reasonable costs to all 50 states. Some sellers simply refuse to send to AK and HI - a practice we believe is missing a good market. The USPS ranks First in our opinion for international shipping. They have what you need to ship overseas at the most reasonable cost. Using PayPal, you can pay for your postage, print labels, send tracking information to buyers, and print records of your shipping from your PC.
UPS is also included in the shipping calculator and provides an excellent, ubiquitous package delivery service. We always offer UPS Ground as an option in our auctions, however the cost seems to keep customers away from UPS. Their rates are always higher than the USPS, even when you include the cost of shipping insurance the USPS charges for and UPS does not. Some customers just feel better using UPS instead of the USPS. Keep in mind that the USPS will deliver to a PO Box while UPS/FedEx will not. UPS delivers millions of packages a year and as with the USPS, you can print paid labels & track packages with ease. Any seller on eBay should sign up for an account with UPS. Contact your local sales rep and ask for a account discount. Discounts usually fall in a percentage range based on the number of shipments created or a similar measure. The discounts can be substantial based on revenue generated for UPS. Those savings can be applied to lowering your cost and giving you an edge over your competitors on eBay. UPS does charge a premium for shipping to residences, if your customer is a business, you can save money with UPS by not checking the residence box. In our opinion, sellers who list UPS as the only shipping choice are not providing their customers with a wide enough range of shipping options that may be faster & cheaper.
FedEx is the 3rd option. It is not included in the eBay shipping calculator, but it should be in your shipping options. FedEx provides a simple way to create a shipping account, track your packages and notify your customers. We use the PayPal debit card to pay for FedEx shipments and the results are virtually the same as far as record keeping of costs when compared to using PayPal and shipping with the USPS/UPS. You do have to enter tracking information manually into PayPal for FedEx.
All of our auctions where it is appropriate carry the following information. We tell our customers that if FedEx is faster and close to the same cost as the service they choose on the calculator, we ship FedEx. We only do it when it is to our customers’ advantage, and they do like it! FedEx also charges a premium for shipping to residences, if your customer is a business, you can save money with FedEx by not checking the residence box.
Tips and Our Practices The web site for all 3 services carries a wealth of information about the services they offer and shipping calculators to figure your costs. Get accounts with UPS/FedEx and ask for shipping discounts from the local sales reps - you get no discounts if you don’t ask.
Always compare shipping costs between the carriers until you know which has the best rate for the size/weight package you are shipping. As an example, a 40 pound package going from NC to CA would cost $37.79 at the USPS Parcel Post at 7 days, $44.82 at UPS Ground at 5 days, and $30.00 at FedEx Ground at 5 days. As you can see in this example, FedEx is cheaper for you and your customers. However, had it been books or media shipped, USPS Media Mail would have been $14.14 at 7 days. The variances in price depend on where, when it arrives and what it is. Those you determine before you list the item.
Consider in your shipping prices, the cost of transportation, where it is going to, what materials you need to pack the item and the cost from the 3 carriers - don’t forget to get your account discount from UPS and FedEx. The cost to get your item to the shipper is also important, the Post Office will pick up your item for free from your home or office, UPS and FedEx will pickup too, but at a cost.
Your packaging materials are also important. Package your item with the thought in mind that it will be dropped, not once, but several times and your package should arrive undamaged. It’s better to over pack rather than under pack your item. A customer who receives his purchase in pieces will not be happy and neither will you. Weigh your item after it is packaged before you print the shipping label or postage label to get the correct cost.
Recycle packaging materials you receive. This keeps them out of landfills and reduces your costs. Do not reuse any material that was used with any product that has an odor, is unsightly or weak (notify your customers you use recycled materials on the outside of the box). You want to be viewed as a responsible and environmentally friendly shipper, but not a cheap shipper.
If you decide to use the shipping calculator, you will usually get your shipping costs correct, regardless of where in the US your package goes and you can add your handling (cost of packaging) fee to the calculator for both USPS and UPS. FedEx and UPS charge a high premium for shipping to AK, HI and as such we use the USPS for AK and HI. If you decide to put in a flat rate for shipping, we suggest you weigh your package and price your shipping to the farthest zip code from your location, that way you can not undersell your shipping and then use a separate flat rate for AK and HI.
There are times when you must bite the bullet and pay more for shipping than you received from the customer due to your own mistakes or someone elses mistake not under your control. We strongly advise against asking the buyer to pay for the upcharge in shipping. Image is everything on eBay and to us, that seems cheap. We do not go back to our customers for shipping errors, we do what it takes to get the shipping costs correct the first time.
Lastly, we compare and use the lowest cost with the fastest delivery time. Under 2 lbs it generally goes to the USPS, over 2 lbs, generally to FedEx or UPS unless the destination is in the most rural areas or AK, HI, or PR. Remember, UPS and FedEx both charge extra for extreme rural and residential deliveries while the USPS does not.
Good luck & happy selling! Please feel free to contact us should you have any questions. Visit us at RocketSales4Me Thanks.