Here are a couple of things I do to get discounts:
1) This will all seem complicated, but once you understand the system and become a regular customer at Office Stores ... things will move very smoothly.
2) I am a part of all of the major Office Store Rewards Clubs: OfficeMax: MaxPerks / Office Depot: Work Life Rewards / Staples: Reward Card ... these programs regularly send out discounts for using their shipping services. (On January 5th 2009, I received a $25 off $25 coupon from Office Depot for which I purchased 60 bubble envelopes for my eBay shipments for $24.96 = COMPLETELY FREE!)
3) Office Depot regularly has $3.00 - $5.00 off UPS shipping. ALL the office stores now offer UPS counter rates without markup.
4) Each office store offers $3 per printer ink or laser toner cartridge you turn in. Staples & OfficeMax now make these quarterly rewards so you won't see an immediate discount, but each quarter you could get as much as $270 to apply towards shipping.
5) I pay with my Paypal card that earns 1.5% back. I keep a low balance in Paypal - make the transaction as a credit card purchase - this gives me 1.5% back from Paypal and debits my checking account at Wachovia that has Visa Extras tied into it. Visa Extras rewards for debit transactions (approximately 1.5%) ... at the same time I earn 1.5% back from the various REWARD programs.
6) * Fact: Shipping is not taxed - it is considered a service ... but don't forget to take shipping costs OFF OF your taxes if you itemize. Your shipping costs ARE NOT profit or income.
7) Each time I am in said office stores I visit the CLEARANCE section. The clearance section usually has tape/labels/boxes/supplies on 50% off or more.
8) OfficeMax (during some promotions) offers $50 gift cards with free 256MB thumb drives. I pay for the gift card with my PayPal card, getting 3% back (as described above). I get the free thumb drive which I sell for $5.
EXAMPLE: 3 days ago I shipped (2) 20"x20"x20" 15 pound each boxes for $1.12 --- yes less than $2 --- and this doesn't include the 4.5% back that I will get from the various cash back and rewards programs.
9) If you know any philatelics (stamp collectors) in your area ... they might have some stamps to sell. Often you can buy stamps for below face value. For instance ... I buy 37 cent stamps for 25 cents each. Stamps are ALWAYS good ... you just have to have the proper amount on the package or letter. Some philatelics sell here on eBay for similar discounts, but make sure you are still buying for less after shipping / handling costs.
You can buy ink cartridges here on eBay for less than $1 each in bulk. So $1 = $3 at office stores. I also get all of my local customers and all of my friends to donate their printer cartridges to me.
Find a local Health Items Store ( the kind that sells Vitamins ) - these stores receive their merchandise in unmarked boxes with lots of packing materials like bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts - offer to remove these boxes and packing materials on a weekly basis for free instead of employees having to break them down or throw them away. These store get the largest variety of sizes for boxes that I know of - both large and small.
Surprisingly ... selling packing supplies is a business on eBay in and of itself. If you have enough contacts (such as mentioned above) - you can sell boxes of boxes/peanuts/bubble wrap/static bags on eBay.
If you know an employee of Fed Ex- they get a 75% discount on their shipping. Perhaps you could work out a deal with one of them! It is especially a great idea if you ship overseas!
Same with UPS employees. I know a UPS employee as well and learned how to get free boxes through her (some times) ... but the DHL deal that I described is still better than any UPS or Fedex deal.
And don't forget that Priority Mail supplies are free from the Post Office. Some of these boxes can be used with other services and some can be wrapped in craft paper to conceal the Priority Mail markings. Note that Priority Mail Boxes are for US Postal mail ONLY - but this is a great way to use recycled or discontinued boxes from the US Postal Service. USE ONLY recycled boxing for mailing at a different rate.
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