Shipping eBay Items

In: shipping

31 Mar 2009

How often do you frequent your local post office? When was the last time you visited a UPS shipping center? Do you even know where your local FedEx branch is located?

If these questions make you nervous, you’re not alone. For many users, the scariest part of the entire auction process is shipping the item. Not packing, not labeling, but actually taking the box to the shipping center and sending it on its way.

That’s because when it comes to shipping, there are so many choices involved. Which carrier do you use? Which specific service offered by a carrier should you choose the fastest one or the cheapest one? And what about all those extras, such as insurance and delivery confirmation? With all those choices, how do you avoid making the wrong decisions?

If shipping is somewhat foreign to you, don’t worry. It isn’t quite as difficult as it seems, and it will become old hat after just a few trips to the shipping center.

You have several choices when it comes to shipping your package. You can use the various services offered by the U.S. Postal Service (regular mail, Priority Mail, Express Mail, Media Mail, and so on) or any of the services offered by competing carriers, such as UPS or Federal Express. You can deal directly with any shipping service or use a local shipping store to handle the shipping (and even the packing)but at a cost.

As you’ve no doubt gathered, there are some significant differences in shipping costs from one shipping service to another. The cost differential is typically based on a combination of weight and distance; the heavier an item is and the farther it has to go (and the faster you need to get it to where it’s going), the more it costs. As an example, the costs of shipping a two-pound box from New York to Los Angeles run from under two bucks to over $30. For this reason, it’s a good idea to “shop” the major shipping services for the best shipping rates for the types of items you normally sell on eBay.

Which shipping services do I use? For small items, I default to USPS Priority Mail; it’s inexpensive and relatively fast, plus I get free packing materials from my local post office. For CDs, DVDs, and books, I use USPS Media Mail, which is cheaper and almost as fast. For really big items (over 10 pounds or so), I go with UPS. But I find that, 9 times out of 10, Priority Mail or Media Mail does the job for me.

Of course, cost isn’t the only factor you want to consider. You also want to compare how long it takes the package to arrive, what kind of track record the shipping service has, and how convenient it is for you to use. If you have to drive 20 miles to get to a UPS office, and you have a post office just down the street, that might offset a slightly higher cost for Priority Mail.

All that said, which shipping service should you use? That’s a good question, but not always an easy one to answer. Ultimately, you have to strike a compromise between cost, convenience, and speed.

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