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How To Save Money on Shipping

By: Skip McGrath

If you are going to run a profitable and professional eBay and/or web site business, you will need to package and ship your goods professionally. No one likes to receive their "eBay treasure" in an old cereal box or shoe box stuffed with your last week's newspaper. This does not mean that you have to always use "new" supplies. Recycled boxes and packaging materials are fine as long as they are in good condition.

There are three costs involved in shipping:

  • Shipping supplies
  • Shipper charges
  • Your time

Let's look at each one.

Shipping supplies

Shipping supplies consist of boxes, newsprint or tissue, styrofoam peanuts, bubble pak and tape.

Why pay top dollar for shipping supplies when you can get them for free? Here is a source of free shipping supplies, boxes and packing materials. Visit your local gift shop or kitchen store. These merchants receive shipments on a daily basis of usually fragile items that require large amounts of bubble pak, styrofoam peanuts and sturdy boxes.

Gift shops are deluged with shipping and packaging materials. Local laws often require them to recycle the materials rather than just throwing them away. This can be expensive. Believe me -- they are happy to give it away.

Local shops can be a treasure trove of free shipping and packing materials. Other stores that receive large amounts of shipping and packaging materials include drug stores, electronics stores (such as Radio Shack) and small neighborhood hardware stores.

If you ship USPS Priority Mail, he U.S. Postal Service website offers free shipping supplies delivered (also free) direct to your home or office. Many eBay sellers use Priority Mail for shipping items under three pounds. The USPS will send you free boxes, envelopes, tape and labels direct to your home by priority mail. You can print out labels and select Delivery Confirmation at the web site. (This is a saving of 35 cents over doing it at the post office)

Shipping Charges:

As a occasional seller there isn't much you can do about lowering shipping charges. If, however, you are a high volume eBay seller, you can negotiate rates with UPS, Fedex and Fedex Ground (formerly RPS). Call the companies and ask what their quantity points are to get a discount. If you work for a company that uses UPS or Fedex, they have programs whereby employees can piggyback on their company's discounts. You open up an account with your own credit card, but your shipping rate is tied to your employers rate. Ask you employer to ask his/her shipping company sales rep if they offer such a program. It is good for you and the employer because it can raise his/her quantity to help get lower rates.

Your Time:

Time is valuable. Time you spend wrapping packages could be better spent launching auctions, searching for new products, answering emails and so on. The best way to save time is to have a permanent area for shipping. Invest in tape guns, paper rolls and so on. If you have to clear off the dining room table every time you want to wrap a package, this is a waste of time.

We use our teenagers to help with the business. It is a much better use of my time to pay my son a few bucks and hour to wrap packages. Besides anything you pay them is a business expenses for tax purposes.

It goes without saying (then why do I say it?) that you should package your merchandise carefully to avoid damage. Why do I say this if it's so obvious? Just last week I received a package from a power seller containing a flow blue plate I had purchased from his eBay Store. The plate was loose in the box. He had wrapped it with bubble pak, but hadn't taped the bubble pak together. During shipping it had worked loose in the box. Fortunately, it wasn't broken. Even people who know better often take short cuts that can result in an unhappy buyer and in some cases, negative feedback.

Copyright 2003, Vision-One Press

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