Online Auctions: Shipping Smart

It’s done. You’ve sold you item, gotten paid, and are ready to ship. At this point in you online selling career, we can assume that you are familiar with the basics of packaging and shipment. What follows, though, are some hints and tips to keep your (and your customer’s) costs down and make shipping your product as foolproof as possible. We will go over different ways to ship, some unspoken truths about the Post Office and the sometimes confusing world of International shipments.

For the most part, a majority of your shipments will be through the United States Post Office. They are the most economical and, despite long lines at times, the most convenient. For quicker shipping, UPS, FedEx and Airborne Express are popular choices. If you choose to use these services, remember that they are generally more expensive than the good ol’ Post Office (sometimes more than double) but do provide greater security and better insurance of shipment delivery. Although a comprehensive study has never been completed, the Post Office has been known to lose in the vicinity of 5% of their shipments (these are generally shipments mailed using discount services like Parcel Post, Library Mail and, to a lesser extent, Media Mail). Before shipping with anyone, though, be sure to do your research.

The websites of all shippers have rates/weight posted. You can check them with a click at the following: UPS www.ups.com, FedEx www.fedex.com , Airborne Express www.airborne.com and the Post Office www.usps.com . On each website is a contact e-mail address and phone number. In most cases, they will be more than happy to mail you a physical rate sheet upon request.

Now that we’ve decided to ship through the Post Office (for the sake of this article at least), let’s look at some of the things that the Postmaster doesn’t make very obvious and will save you and your customers some of that hard earned cash. It is generally acknowledged that Priority Mail is the shipment service of choice for many online auctioneers. In its defense, Priority Mail is efficient, fairly economical and, by registering at www.ups.com, the supplies (boxes, envelopes, etc.) are free. Many people are enticed by the 3 day delivery policy for good reason. If your shipments are under 1 pound, though, Priority Mail isn’t in your best interests. Why? This is due to the fact that First Class Mail IS Priority Mail. First Class is exactly the same service for items under 1 pound. Three-day delivery is the norm and the prices are much, much less. For example, one DVD sent via Priority Mail has a base price of $3.85. The same DVD, sent via First Class with the same delivery time, rings in at $1.29. Weight for Media Mail items should also be scrutinized carefully. The same DVD we sent for $1.29 via First Class would cost $1.42 sent via Media Mail, and would arrive at your customers door approximately a week later. Be careful what you tell your Postal Associate or what you click on when ordering postage online. Often times, they aren’t even aware of the price discrepancy.

Finally, we’ll try and take the mystery out of International Shipments. Many auctioneers avoid International Shipping because of the perceived hassles involved. You can ship to a great deal of the world via the Post Office (as well as UPS, FedEx and Airborne) and open up an entirely new customer base. Although rates for International Shipping vary, and are based on distance x weight x time of delivery, the basics for package preparation and shipment are all the same. First, look up International Shipping rates at www.ups.com. Lighter items can ship economically via Air Letter Post while heavier items can ship via Ground (usually by boat) at a reduced rate. For documents, Global Priority is the way to go, but online auctioneers seldom sell a few sheets of paper. Once you have your rates, be sure to fill out a Customs Declaration for each package. The Declaration is reviewed by the receiving Customs Officials and is the first step in clearing your shipment through Customs. Be very specific on this Declaration. It could mean the difference between a safe delivery and a package seized at the border. There are two types of Declarations. A smaller, bright green tag that is used for items under 2 pounds and a larger, more detailed sheet for items over 2 pounds. You can get these at any Post Office and have them filled out (they are very self-explanatory) before you ship anywhere. That is all you really need in regard to International Shipments. Just remember to look up just how much your package will cost to send, and charge your customers appropriately. International buyers are usually pretty savvy and recognize padded shipping charges easily.

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