Scavenger Life Episode 6: The Challenges of Packing and Shipping on eBay

You know it's a good week on eBay when you have piles of stuff for USPS pickup.

There is probably no harder learning curve with eBay than figuring out how to ship all your merchandise at the best price possible. Ryanne and Mikey review their favorite shipping tools, hacks, printers, tape, scissors, boxes and strategies for dealing with customers when things take too long.

Direct .mp3 link. Direct ogg vorbis link.


  1. You mentioned that you do not like free shipping. I personally disagree with you here for these reasons.
    1) I am a top rated seller. I get a 20% discount on FVFs. This includes the shipping price that I have built into my price. When you charge for the shipping, you loose the 20% on your shipping. If you are doing large volume this can really add up.
    2) About 25-30% of my sales come from international sales. Since I have shipping built in to my items price I am able to make a larger profit on my international sales because international buyers have to pay the shipping to their country. This adds up to some nice profits.
    3)When a buyer buyer buys multiple items they are paying the full price (that has shipping built in). Then I can combine the items and keep the extra profit. I do not have to offer a shipping discount.
    4)Many if not most buyers hate to add together the item price and shipping. It is easier for them to just see the price and pay that amount. I have sold many items for more than my competition because of this(I believe).
    5)I believe that ebay makes policy and suggestions to us sellers to help us become better sellers. They spend much time and money researching these types of things. This does not mean I will follow them blindly, but I will research their suggestions very deeply.
    These are my opinions and I think that everyone should do what is best for them. This happens to be what works for me.

  2. You make some very good points. I think free shipping can work for certain sellers because it depends on the item. Very true that you only get the 20% Top Seller discount on the Item price. So if you build shipping into the price itself, then eBay is essentially helping you pay for shipping. I also like free shipping when shopping online. But as a seller, each of us must decide if it makes business sense.

    Here's my issue with free shipping:
    --All our items are different sizes and weights. If we sold only iPhone cases, it'd be easy to offer free shipping and throw them into a flat rate envelope. But if we're selling old typewriters, wool coats, gun racks, vintage china sets, art, etc...then free shipping becomes a real issue. We'd have to add significantly more into the purchase price to offset free expensive shipping.

    --I find that no matter what we do, we always have about a 3-4% return rate each month. Buyers simply want to return an item. If we do free shipping on big heavy items, then we lose money on this sale, even if the buyer pays for return shipping.

    --We love "make an offer". We sell probably 80% of our items from buyers sending us offers. If we had free shipping, we couldn't give people deep discounts on items. I feel that "make offer" helps us compete with the people who offer free shipping.

    --If you're competing with hundreds of other sellers on the same item, then you are competing on price alone. This makes sense to offer free shipping since it gives you an advantage. But we sell unique, vintage items where there isnt as much competition. Free shipping would be cool but not necessary to stand out.

    --When eBay pushed sellers to offer free shipping last year, we did offer free shipping. But over the first three months, we didnt see any rise in sales. It felt more of a hassle losing money on returns. Or losing profit shipping heavy items for free to California (from the East Coast).

  3. I have been listening to all of your podcasts (some multiple times) trying to gear myself up to sell on eBay. But the ins & outs of shipping have been holding me back. With that said, I watched an old eBay Tutorial CD that I acquired several years back: the instructor said that for every item you'll be listing you should package it up for shipping FIRST (but loosely tape the box or envelope shut so that you can slip in the invoice prior to sending it out). This way, as you list, you can accurately calculate the postage. To me, the thought of listing all of my items seems daunting enough, but to package them up first, as well? That's A LOT of work--especially when I don't even know if my items will sell. So I wanted to check in with you guys to see what you do...?
    Thank you for all the work each of you do to create these podcasts. The information you provide is invaluable and you present it in such an entertaining way. Keep up the great work!

    1. As Mikey said, we all learn over time. The key is to begin. We don't box up items as we list. Instead we use a scale to weigh each item when listing. This weight then lets eBay accurately charge accurate shipping fees. Here's a good, inexpensive scale: Remember to add about half a pound to the items eight to make up for the box and shipping material.

      Just start selling and ask questions as they come up.

    2. i agree with mikey and jay. i only box up certain very delicate items that i think might get damaged in storage. that is pretty rare, as i have a big book shelf that just holds china and glass, so they stay out of our storage bins anyway. also, when you start having over 500 (we have almost 3000 listed items now), you need to be able to quickly see things properly in storage to pull them for shipping.

      good luck! thanks for listening!

  4. @Kaye

    Shipping takes experience to become good at. We all had to stumble through it in our early days. The good news is that once you know a little it is easy to turn that into a lot of knowledge so just start and you will figure it out as you go.

    Also, we keep our items unpackaged until they sell. The boxes we use are based on the destination so it does not make sense to pre-package.

  5. It's great that you all are able to have your USPS carrier pickup your packages. I've sold on eBay for a few years and was reluctant to use USPS carrier pickup for fear of the carrier being disgruntled, because they were unhappy with having an adding job responsibility. After listening to your show, I finally gave USPS carrier pickup a try a few weeks ago and fear came into fruition. The first day my carrier held the package pickup and did not scan my package. The next day I scheduled another carrier pickup and this time I overheard my carrier cursing like crazy and complaining about having to walk up the stairs to my front door to pickup the package, and once again he didn't scan the package. I reported the carrier and the post office apologized and ended up expediting my packages overnight since I had purchased Priority mailing. However, because 25-50% of the items that I sell go for over $150 and I have 100% positive feedback I don't want to risk my inventory or customer satisfaction due to having a disgruntled USPS carrier. I have since opened a UPS account and may start using them for pickups.

    1. I assume you live in a city? Maybe an urban postal carrier us busier and less worried about his route being cut.

      For us in a rural area, all our carriers are psyched to pick up our packages. It means business which means their job.

      We ship 5+ packages a day. I couldn't imagine driving to the post office each day. That an hour of our time each day.

    2. i once had a bit of a disgruntled rural post worker, but i think she was like that about everything and everyone. we spend thousands on postage every year, so i didn't feel bad. when we moved out of that postal district, they have all but shut that post office down. not saying we were the reason, but the postmaster used to half joke that we were the ones keeping them afloat. maybe she wasn't joking afterall.

  6. Yep, I live in a more "well off" suburb where unemployment is low. My postal carrier appears to be nearing retirement age, so he probably wasn't too happy about the added postal carrier pickup service. At first I thought...screw it...I'll just keep scheduling the pickups, but the way this guy was talking (and behaving) made me incredibly uncomfortable with what he might do with my packages. I may give it another go at some point. Thanks for your replies and I love your show. Keep up the great work!