Shipping is a huge part of selling online. And there are definitely mistakes to be made when first starting out. For me one of the biggest lessons I learned was not to scrimp on padding/bubble wrap. Use enough so that the item can be dropped off of the back of a truck and survive, and for glassware and ceramics that sometimes means double boxing, and when you double box you double bubble wrap too. So wrap the item in bubble wrap and put it in a small box, then wrap that box in bubble wrap and then finally a larger box on the outside. When something breaks it’s a pain in the arse to deal with the insurance or worse still if it’s not insured, and it’s your fault. A lot of my stuff goes out via USPS priority mail, which is insured up to $100. Anything over $100 I will add insurance and include that in the price of the item. Things I send via USPS first class and parcel post are not insured unless the customer requests it or if it’s worth over $100, then I automatically add insurance and include it in the cost of the item. There’s nothing worse than not wrapping something well enough and it breaking, because if it’s not insured you have to pay for the item and the shipping and you now have no item. So spend the money on small and large bubble, bubble wrap and use it generously where needed.
I had two cast iron items break when I first started shipping stuff out. The first was a very nice double wheel Enterprise coffee grinder from the 30’s-40’s. I put some bubble wrap around it, but not enough and there was some (slight) movement inside the box. There must be no movement in the box, that’s when shit breaks. Luckily the guy shipped it back to me and didn’t charge for that and I was able to part it out and almost break even.The second one was a pair of singer sewing machine legs from the same time period as the coffee grinder, this time I had no movement in the box, but didn’t use enough bubble wrap. A couple of bucks worth of bubble wrap would have saved me $90 I had to refund the lady. Those mistakes happened around the same time and now I treat cast iron like glass and wrap it so well with the bubbles that you could bounce it down the road (well almost).
Disguise is another lesson I learned. Boxes work well for that, but when you send stuff first class a lot of the time it’s in a poly mailer. I now add lots of padding with all kinds of items in poly mailers, so no one can tell what it is. Things unfortunately do go missing, so use your discretion and disguise certain items. Pocket knives, coins and cash are highly desirable.
Use the boxes that the post office provides when you can, but make sure you have lots of options available for all shapes and sizes. I have 3 sizes of padded poly mailers and 6 sizes of regular poly mailers for first class shipping items. I have an Amazon Prime account and find great stuff here.
I also go to the recycling center and ask if I can take the boxes, and they always say it’s no problem and I grab a van full of all different size boxes. I also have friends that save all their boxes for me from online deliveries they get…. Big box stores always have boxes, just ask and sometimes they have padding, bubble wrap and such. Free is the best, as shipping supplies can add up.
Always weigh your items with the box you are going to ship them in. If you guess, you will end up paying for it. I have a small 25lb scale that works great for 95% of what I ship. I’m looking for a larger scale for that 5% but will definitely keep the 25lb scale as I hear they work so much better at the lower end of weighing, which is great for the 1st class post stuff.Here are some options from amazon.
I started off with an ink jet printer and would have to change the ink very frequently, and it was quite expensive. I now have a Brother laser jet printer and I love it….14 months on the same ink cartridge…..sweet……This is the one I have.
And I use these self adhesive labels.
Iv’e also upgraded the way I ship fragile items….I used to have a red sharpie and write FRAGILE everywhere, now I have these Fragile stickers. It’s much quicker and so much more professional looking.
Personally I think it is important to have an easy set up for packing and shipping and to have plenty of boxes and poly mailers to choose from and a big enough space to pack. It’s nice to have a clear desk for your computer with your scale, printer and print material, tape measure all close at hand…… make it as smooth as possible. Here’s my shipping desk:
At the moment I am packing on my bedroom floor as I am creating the workshop space as we speak……..I hope this is helpful. I know there’s stuff I have forgotten to add, so as I remember I will do add ons to the bottom of this post…….Please chime in if you can add any good advise for shipping with your methods.