Jul 312008

Before you list any items on eBay, it’s very important that you decide on your payment and shipping terms. Bidders don’t like surprises! Put yourself in their shoes – if you were buying an item from a total stranger, wouldn’t you want to know exactly what to expect?

I’ve mentioned before that it’s necessary to have a PayPal account, because it’s the fastest, easiest, and most secure way to send and receive money. About 90% of our eBay customers use and prefer PayPal. However, there are other payment methods to consider. If you have a business, you may have a merchant account which allows you to accept credit cards, and you can offer this as a payment option. You can also accept money orders, certified checks, and cash. The only payment method I do NOT recommend is the personal check. Remember that your bidders are typically complete strangers from other states. If they bounce a check, what recourse do you have? You may be out your costs to list and ship the item, and you’ll be hit with a hefty insufficient funds fee from your bank. It’s just not worth it!

It’s very important that you take the time to weigh your item, figure shipping costs, and include them in your auction, so that potential buyers can factor them into their maximum bids. Many people, including us, choose to charge a flat shipping rate for all buyers. We do this because it’s just easier. The USPS offers free (yes, free!) flat rate Priority Mail boxes and envelopes, which can either be picked up at your local post office, or ordered online at USPS.com. The rate is $4.80 for a 12.5″ by 9.5″ envelope and $9.80 for a box that’s about 12″ by 13″ by 3.5″, regardless of weight. There are also larger boxes available. For items weighing less than 13 ounces, First Class Mail is the best option.

We weigh our items on an actual shipping scale that we purchased when eBay was our business. Shipping scales can be purchased at most office supply stores, but a good one typically costs anywhere from $80-$150. If you don’t want to buy one, you’ll need to take your items to the post office to get an accurate weight. Sorry, but your bathroom scale just isn’t gonna cut it, though it can give you a general idea of what heavier items weigh. For small items, it’s pretty much useless.

For large items, it’s very important to understand that the size of the box matters just as much as the weight. I once sold a very large plush toy that weighed only a few pounds. I only charged $7 shipping, but the actual cost turned out to be $25! Guess who had to pay the difference? Yep, ME! I actually lost a lot of money on that auction, because I didn’t understand how freight weight is determined.

We ship primarily through the USPS, and their shipping calculator has a place to enter the dimensions of your package. If you ship UPS, you can view their weight, size, and measuring guidelines here.

Remember to factor in the weight of the box, and any packaging materials, such as peanuts, newspaper, or bubble wrap when figuring your shipping costs!

If you don’t want to charge flat rate shipping, you can offer calculated shipping to your buyers. eBay offers a free shipping calculator in the Sell Your Item Form, which allows the buyer to enter his/her zip code, and see the real-time cost of shipping, based on the package weight and dimensions you’ve entered. However, in our experience, most buyers don’t really like this option, because it requires them to do extra work.

Whichever option you choose, be fair, honest, and clear about what buyers can expect. This is the best way to ensure a successful transaction.