Wouldn’t it be fun to make a little money when RVing around the country?
What if sight-seeing, restaurants, and museums finally got a little old?
What if you wanted a little something to do that could focus you a little bit and give your days some structure or directed purpose?
But what if you DIDN’T want another job?
Well, maybe if you fooled around on eBay just a little bit you might find something that could work for you.
RV52 has been dabbling on eBay since the 1990’s. I thought I would share some very high level ideas about eBay I’ve learned and experienced over the years. I can go in depth later, if I get asked. But for now, I thought it would be fun to share some eBay stories with my RV52 readers.
I think I’ll break this into a series of short headlines and topics that will give a great overview to the idea.
eBay is a moral concept that is good for the earth!
While many people sell NEW things on eBay, eBay has a massive appeal in that you can sell USED items or even items that are only good for parts – like an old working bike.
By selling something used, you get a little money which is fair, you get paid shipping, the buyer gets a great deal, and no additional earths resources were used to repurpose the item. You could could the transportation expenses, but I think I can make a solid argument that the truck was going to go with or without your package. That makes the incremental shipping cost in terms of pollution $0.
Sheri and I even re-use boxes! For packing material in boxes we use advertising circulars as padding/packing material. We reuse whenever we can. Our favorite sources of boxes is the ones in which we receive goods from Amazon.
The only boxes we’ve ever used NEW have been the boxes from the USPS for packing “Priority Mail Fixed Rate”. For those items you MUST use USPS boxes – no exceptions. More on this later.
One extreme example of reuse involved several used coffee makers. To sell them on eBay used, I would have had to make sure that they worked. Yuk. Lots of work (cleaning, testing, etc) – and for what? The best price you could get for a used coffee maker would be $5 if you are lucky. No one wants to make coffee in your old used coffee maker.
What we did instead was to sell the coffee pot or carafe as a replacement for the coffee maker. We also did this with the filter basket and the drip tray. Now when people have a bad coffee pot but they LOVED their coffee maker, they look for a replacement. Their trade-off mentally is between buying a NEW coffee maker – which probably has been upgraded so they aren’t sure it will be as good *OR* a replacement part which gives their KNOWN LOVABLE coffee pot new life for MUCH LESS than the new coffee pot price.
It is a win-win for everyone in this situation. But you see, by parting out the coffee pot, I did well, the buyer did well, and LOTS less material got placed in the land-fill and less material needed to be manufactured.
eBay and its cousins (craigslist, Amazon used, etc.) are literally GOOD for the planet.
Here are some examples of things I've sold on eBay:
- An old souvenir knife from Sao Paulo
- Broken video game
- A gaudy Christmas tree topper with 10 lights.
- Used Vera Bradley bag (don’t ask)
- A pair of beat-up antique binoculars
- Mickey Mouse garden flag
- Unique corn king coffee cups – purchased for $5 and sold for $50
- A Krups coffee maker – purchased for $5 and sold for $140.
- My own products (https://securebarholder.com)
- Books, CDs, and DVDs – mostly to sell something that is cheap, easy and people love to rate them. I buy them for $0.99 at thrift stores and sell them for $0.99 or sometimes for a profit.
- A $29,999 tiny house. I've heard that there are MANY eBay Autos millionaires.
- I had a friend who made $100K over the course of a year listing things on eBay that he could buy and ship from other stores. I don't like people doing this as it clogs-up eBay.
A story about a person who called a friend on the carpet for selling stuff on eBay
The moral concept is something that weighs heavy on my mind. Always people judging. So I thought I would spend some time on it.
Its not made up that there are a class of nurses that work in a style of nursing called PRN. This allows nurses to have a limited nursing schedule and the employers to avoid paying full-time positions. It can be a win for both parties.
PRN nurses typically work for agencies. The agencies take cases for home health care (for example) and administrate a nursing plan and the PRNs go do the work. The agencies pay for supplies for that specific home health care instance.
Home health care supplies are expensive.
Nurses can’t mix agencies and patients.
So one course of care was finished with a nurses agency and the family asked “what do we do with these supplies?”
The nurse said “Sell them on eBay.”
The family said “We’re not going to do that. You can take them and do it for yourself OR we will throw them in the trash.”
So the nurse took them. But before she sold them on eBay, she offered them back to the agency that purchased them as the correct thing to do. The agency said “We don’t want to mess with them. You can throw them away.”
The nurse did NOT offer them to another agency, because the agencies need to purchase supplies that have a specific chain of custody.
So the nurse sold them online.
Another nurse, said “that just sounds wrong”. We asked why and were told “it just does.” People are odd. Any other action and the materials would have been in the trash.
Lesson #1: Most people don’t want to mess with stuff. If you don’t sell it on eBay, it will likely be in the landfill – before its lifetime has been used.
Lesson #2: If someone else can use your stuff – you should make it available.
Lesson #3: Instead of paying exorbitant fees for medical supplies – you can probably find them online on eBay for a reasonable cost.
You can find stuff to sell on eBay almost everywhere and anywhere
With just a little effort and not much time, you can easily generate $200, $300, or $500 per month or more selling things on eBay.
But you gotta have stuff.
You can get this stuff almost anywhere. I’m going to list ACTUAL places we got things (directly or indirectly) to sell on eBay. We don’t get greedy – many times we are doing something else and simply “run across” something we can sell on eBay.
- Your own stuff – Most people throw or give their stuff away. But if you sell this stuff you can think of it as an income stream you would never had had before. Yes, you had to pay for it and you sell it for less, but again, the choice most people make is to get NOTHING for their stuff. We sell tons and tons of old electronics (Apple computers, weight watchers calculators – those amazed me at how well they sell, old books, and so on.) Believe it or not, we bought an Apple TV 2nd generation 3-4 years ago for $99. Then we sold it on eBay for $125. This is absolutely true. I only found out later that was due to the 2nd generation being more hackable and people were making super cool TV gadgets with them.
- Friend’s stuff – Again, most people don’t want to sell anything on eBay. So we occasionally have stuff given to us.
- Garage sales – Now that you know you can “part out” old coffee makers – you can buy them for $2-5 and sell the carafe alone for $10 all day long. Sheri bought a box of pocket knives for $10. We took them to a pawn shop – probably a mistake – and they bought 8 of them from us for $35. We sold the rest on eBay for around $75. This took up very little space so it would be a really good activity.
- Estate Sales – These are better when the estate seller is in experienced. We find places away from large towns are better since the large town folks get to do this way more often they get a better sense of what things are worth. I’ll attach the picture of some coffee cups I bought for $1.00 and sold for $50 plus shipping.
- Thrift Stores – We find less stuff at thrift stores, but still a few things. You have to look a bit harder. I now notice people walking around with their smartphones looking up prices on Amazon. What they don’t do is look in the knives section behind the counter. We can almost always find a good German knife for $2 that you can sell on eBay for $15. Sheri recently found a set of books that looked oddly unique for $15 and sold the set for $60.
- Storage Auctions – Storage wars are alive and well. This would be a space problem for an RV owner, but we were OK by having stuff at RV52.com world headquarters. We ended up with bunches of stuff from a storage locker – we didn’t buy the locker, but a friend gave us the contents and we split it 60/40 after costs and sold it for him. Inside the locker was about 50 pair of Nike Air Jordans. Dang those things sold and sold and sold. We sold WWII medals, German military knives, Marine letter openers, and stuff I can’t even explain. There was some drug paraphernalia which we just through in the trash – nasty stuff. Again – Forest Gump would have loved the storage locker.
- Store Returns – It turns out you can buy the returns that come back to the stores. The manufacturers don’t take them back. The stores don’t want to mess with them either. So they get sold to intermediaries who buy them for something like $100-200 a pallet and then sell the pallets. We ended up with 7 pallets of “just stuff”. Sheri got an entire pallet of books. She listed almost all of them on Amazon and has a book sell just about every day – sometimes 5 or 6 – for the last 4 months. Her book pallet cost $300 and she has about $900 from selling books. The activity alone only costs her about 3-5 min per book. It can take her substantially longer if she can’t find the book – her filing system was by the size of the book. Who knows the mind of a female anyway?
There are other ways – like having your own product built, but I stopped with just the things that we’ve done.
Allow eBay to “bend your mind” on returns just a little bit
We recently purchased a DVD player for a family member and sent it to our own address by mistake. Its easy to make this mistake on Amazon if you get in a hurry.
We bought the player for $40 brand new.
To send it to the family member we paid at a Pak Mail store – proximity thing – the RICH price of $18 to ship USPS priority mail.
In retrospect, we made the following mistakes by being in a hurry – assuming we still incorrectly shipped to our mailbox of course.
- We should have sold as “BRAND NEW” on eBay (allowed) in which we would have received the FULL price PLUS been paid for shipping. People do this all day long.
- Then we should have ordered a new one from Amazon Prime and it still would have came out better for us.
- For shipping if we didn’t want to hassle with selling on eBay, we should have had our own labels for shipping printed off of Paypal – we would have saved grandly.
- One more note on shipping, we could have gone w/ USPS Fixed Rate and probably saved money too.
- I do not think it would have been proper to file an Amazon return and then ship a new one to the other address. That is ugly and improper. It is what most people would do – but I’m not most people either.
The point I’m trying to make is that you can sell brand new things and sell them on eBay and do just fine.
Expect people to be a bit crappy with you
I don’t offer returns. I also make mistakes. Sometimes bad things happen in shipping.
I don’t offer returns because most people are very lazy. They will take advantage of you and have absolutely no concern about whether or not their actions are decent or not.
So, when things don’t go well, I’ve noticed that people think that “starting strong” with a mean-spirited offensive is their best strategy to get things back. I think what they do and say is tremendously ugly. Once I get responses like this, I know a lot about people’s character.
I gave this person a refund because I actually didn’t test that cable. But his crappyness is i think pretty indicative of the kind of people you have to deal with quite regularly. There are nice people, don’t get me wrong, but you’ll have to deal with this. The sad thing is that I would have given the return anyway.
I feel sad for this person – to have such ugly evil inside. I’m sure this colors most of his interactions in business and life. My guess is that he has been a lifelong under achiever probably blaming everyone and everything for his lack of success. All along it was probably his attitude.
I hope you aren’t that way.
You’ll get good at shipping when using eBay
You DO have to know your shipping stuff.
The best thing I can tell you is to put your stuff in boxes, measure and weigh ahead of time or you’ll lose money on your auctions – every time.
Since getting a return is a very real possibility – I would recommend not allowing people to use expensive shipping on you or you’ll have to eat the shipping costs when they ran them up on you.
I continue to find that the best prices are USPS First Class for things 13 ounces and under, USPS fixed rate for really heavy compact things, Fedex SmartPost if the USPS Priority Mail range of rates is large and finally Fedex Home for really big stuff or odd sizes.
Admission – I’ve swapped shipping services on people a couple of times when I’ve mis-weighed something and was able to keep from eating all my profit on shipping.
Admission – I don’t pre-box. I eye-ball the stuff, add about a pound for shipping box weight and then add 3-4 inches over the item size. It mostly works but sometimes I’ve been in a mad scramble for a workable box. I don’t like that.
After shipping about 30-40 items using eBay, you’ll start laughing at people who wait in line at the post office. The ONLY thing you need to do there is drop off packages that won’t fit in their receptacles. I haven’t waited in line for 5-10 years. I don’t miss that at all.
You can ship almost anything outside of eBay using Paypal Multi-ship and/or USPS.gov online. It’s easy to establish an account and you get good rates.
Tax can be a bit tricky on eBay
Taxation to feed our wildly growing needy and hungry state and federal budgets is a reality. Online businesses have been popular because governments have not caught up.
For an RVer, sales tax would be almost impossible based on the state where you are physically located. I think you’d have to go by your home state.
If you do more than a handful of items and your intent is to make a little money, you probably should get a sales tax certificate in your home state. If your home state doesn’t collect sales tax – hurray for you. I’m not sure what to do.
You can’t collect legally without a certificate. In Texas I have one. When I sell to Texas residents I collect sales tax. I thought it would be more than it it. It feels like a waste of time but I try to fly right.
Will I have an employee to help me process orders?
I know I’ll RESIST hiring any employee as long as I can in my small private business. The government has completely incentivized Americans to NOT hire helpers anymore with all of the regulations to hiring employees. It is a HUGE barrier to get over for a small small operation like mine.
Four Possible Procedures and Workflows for processing eBay that I have personally tried
Some people might wonder what steps are to list something on eBay. They might want to know the steps PRIOR to even trying.
I've found that you want to do things on the listing in a certain order so that you don't have to handle something more than 1 time prior to shipping.
The way you'll do this depends on the kind of stuff you're selling, your equipment, and some other factors.
Developing an efficient technique will pay your dividends in time saved later on. It will also eliminate many errors.
Procedure #1 – Digital camera THEN list using a computer
In my opinion, this is the LEAST efficient procedure. Plus… who uses digital cameras anymore.
Because you are inherently using a “batch” technique. Batch techniques, particularly for small to medium lots of items have been shown by research to be inefficient. Particularly when the batch processing is BATCHING UP materials rather than simply processing them in parallel.
Here are the basic steps (assuming you have an eBay account ,right?)
- Take pictures of item(s)
- Transfer pictures to computer
- Enter search to get comparative items or starter-kit auction
- Start completing auction.
- UTILIZE thought & strategy to price and decide selling format.
- Go through each section carefully.
- Weigh and measure item
- List button
I find the following to be true using this technique:
- The pictures are never quite what I want.
- Uploading pictures to eBay is messy.
- I never have the right amount of pictures (try to get 12 if you can and it makes sense)
- The download procedure is pretty stinky on all computers.
Procedure #2 – Use a Smartphone and the eBay app ONLY
There are eBay apps on the smartphones. Here is the eBay app link for the Apple iPhone App store.
It is 100% OK and conceivable that you never ever use a computer *OR* a digital camera to create listings for eBay.
The procedure will look like this:
- Go to your eBay app and hit “List new Item”
- Put in the name of the item and continue
- Pick the category to list the item in – eBay does a pretty good job of this.
- Start completing auction.
- UTILIZE thought & strategy to price and decide selling format.
- Go through each section carefully.
- Weigh and measure item – (how I weigh)
- List button
This will SEEM like the simpler procedure but the drawbacks are, in my opinion, pretty big ones:
- Lots of typing on a cell phone screen which is slow, error prone, subject to nasty autocorrect errors, and I think very hard.
- Related to typing on a cell phone – To do price research on the cell phone is harder too – the browser tabs are harder to manipulate and cut-n-paste is harder.
- If you trust the voice-to-text, the typing is easier – but I would only do that on craigslist level listings.
Procedure #3 – Use a Smartphone, the eBay app, and the computer (my favorite)
A variation of the above techniques is to use a combination of the phone and the computer. This tends to make typing and research easier while also making the picture transfer portion unnecessary too.
Here are the steps – and I've used this to do 100's and 100's of auctions.
- Setup for high quality pictures – good lighting & good background (like a white towel). This is true with the other techniques.
- On the eBay app on your phone go to Selling and List a new item.
- Put in the name of the item and continue
- Pick the category to list the item in – eBay does a pretty good job of this.
- GUESS at the price and do Buy-it-Now, since it is getting hard to do auctions.
- Click on photos – take all 12 photos. Get good pictures and people will buy off the pictures.
- Weigh and measure.
- Select the shipping method – it is easy to do using the phone app.
- Don't list.
- THE MAGIC PART: When you save it gets saved as a “draft” in your account. You can access drafts from your iPhone OR your computer. That is how you “hand-off” the work.
- On your computer, select the draft. You'll see it has much information completed.
- Quickly check the details (like shipping weight/method)
- Take your time and write a nice description now that you have a keyboard.
- Take your time and do a little price research now that you have a better browser.
- Continue on by selecting Continue or List items.
Procedure #4 – Use a Smartphone, the eBay app, and the computer (my favorite) – but in a three step process
Sometimes you are on your computer and you might have your item, or 20 of them, next to you. You might want to do some research (easy on a computer) on price to make sure you want to list them.
Now as you do your research, you could go ahead and do all of the listing steps from the Procedure #1 except the picture taking. Then you save as a draft – which eBay calls “Save for later”.
Next, on your phone, find the draft, then take the pictures at this step in time.
Go ahead and hit continue on your phone and follow the steps to completing your listing.
I'm finding that I'm slowly switching to this technique as I think it is slightly more efficient and faster than the Procedure #3.
Selling broken stuff on eBay FAIRLY and in full disclosure! It is OK to do!
The truth is, your garbage, may be another person’s treasure.
Selling the things that you can’t use anymore because they are broken is legitimate.
Because you, the owner of something broken, might not be looking at the problem the same way as the buyer of broken item.
I hinted at this in a recent article that pointed out that eBay could be a good way to make some extra money for RVers. But I thought I would expound on the idea a bit.
Used Coffee Maker Parts
I had a used coffee pot… It was a Hamilton Beach Flexbrew coffee maker. A friend gave it to me as he didn’t want it anymore. I could clearly see that it was used. To sell it on eBay, I would have had to test the unit – which would have taken quite a bit of time and energy. Given that BRAND NEW Flexbrews were going on eBay for $30 – that means that a used one might be worth $10 or so – it if worked. It just wasn’t worth the time.
So when I looked over the situation, I realized that I would be better off to simply sell SEPARATELY each mechanical part that might break on someone’s Flexbrew.
Here is the logic. If a person bought from Amazon a Flexbrew for $70, then they would easily pay $10-$20 for a replacement PART so they would not have to spend $70 again – especially if they liked their coffee maker.
Yes, they could have purchased a WHOLE coffee maker from eBay for $30, but $30 is more than $10 still.
They could have purchased a used coffee maker, but here is where the trick is – when they are looking for a replacement part – they aren’t thinking about buying a whole item to get the part – they are looking for a replacement part. This focus is called “functional fixedness”.
So, knowing that people looking for parts, want the PARTS, you can use this to make far more money off of something broken than you would any other way.
Back to my Flexbrew. It had several removable pieces that were perfectly good – in fact – unused. So I was able to harvest the glass pot (sold for $10 plus shipping), the k-cup insert ($10 plus shipping), the coffee ground basket which was unused ($7.99 plus shipping), and finally the metal part that holds the coffee cup (still unsold). So I’ve already received MORE MONEY by selling the parts than many people were getting by selling brand new coffee pots!
I’m not doing anything bad – the people who bought the pieces were able to extend the life of their Flexbrew coffee makers for about $15. That was good for them too. For most things less than $300 or so, you can’t find too many parts offerers out there.
So you see, I took something of no value and turned it into $28 with a little more still to get.
The Broken Marks Locksets for Apartments
Through another friend, I ended up with a bunch – like 12 or so – of locksets. These are the things you put in your door that are the deadbolts, the door knobs, keys, etc.
It turns out that these were all returns from a store – they were brand new – but for some reason the purchaser returned them. Honestly, I can see that people bought the locks, pilfered the parts they needed, then sent back the lock to the store saying that parts were missing. In one lock, what was in the box was a nasty old beat up lock that was clearly not returnable per-se to the store. (Marks has a lifetime warranty so it was returnable directly to Marks).
I looked up Marks locksets and each lockset, brand new was easily $100-$200. So these were very expensive locksets. When I surveyed the situation, I could see that I would not be able to make heads or tails out of the locks and be able to stand behind completeness.
So what I did was to take REALLY GOOD PICTURES, right up to the maximum allowed for free (12 that is) on eBay and let people decide if the part they needed was in the pile. I then sold the locksets as “parts only” on eBay (allowable) for $10 each plus shipping. I’ve sold about 8 so far and have a few more to go.
Rather than completely part these out and sell the parts as working, I instead decided parts only. That seemed easier and I wouldn’t have to be an expert in some very small part. I do believe that doing so a person could still have made more money – I just didn’t want to take the time.
Most of these locks might have simply been tossed, but I got $80 so far by simply re-casting them in people’s minds to what they were really looking for.
The Amazon $79 Tripod
I had an Amazon Heavy Duty Tripod in my possession. It goes on Amazon for $79 – with free shipping for Prime. A quick check on eBay shows me a few things, probably the most important thing is that selling camera tripods – particularly used tripods – is just about impossible.
In fact, there were BRAND NEW Amazon tripods going for $30 on eBay. Mine was used. In fact, mine had a couple of bent screws. This was really not going to go well
However, what I did notice was that the Tripod came apart. So I sold the pieces – which people would gladly pay a small amount to have so they didn’t have to replace their entire tripod. I also suspect that they might have other projects and the parts were PERFECT for what they wanted.
So I’ve parted out the tripod with the following items: Tripod base ($14.99 plus shipping), Tripod carrying case ($9.99 + shipping), Tripod head with info about bent bolts (unsold at $9.99) and an extra camera mount for $9.99 plus shipping – still unsold. I’m sure I’ll get them sold.
But do you see how I’m providing great value and getting great value too?!
The Wagner 705 Steamer
I had a Wagner 705 Steamer for taking off wall paper that no longer worked. As you can see you can get them for $45 BRAND NEW from Amazon. It looks like someone will gladly let you buy them for over $200 too on Amazon – it pays to look carefully on the web!
A quick inspection shows that the element melted. The Wagner consists of 4 pieces – the main unit – the steamer element & tank, a small steam plate, a large steam plate, and the steam hose.
So I tossed the tank – the integrated element meant it all was no good.
Then I sold each steam plate for about $9 plus shipping. I still have the hose, but once again, I’m finding I LOVE parting things out. It probably is my favorite thing to do now on eBay.
Concluding selling broken things on eBay…
I’ve done much much more of this than I’ve told you about here – simply because that would take forever. But I gave you some good examples of how parting out things can help YOU and help someone else.
Additionally, anytime you can help something get repurposed instead of getting placed in a landfill, I think you are doing the right thing.
So don’t throw your broken stuff away! No, instead, find the parts that other people can use, find a fair price for them and list them for sale!
How I handle shipping on eBay to make life easier, faster, and more profitable
I hear this statement a bunch – “I would do eBay, but the ebay shipping and packaging is just so darned hard.”
I can empathize with their statement.
You DO have to have boxes and packing material around the house. Not a big problem for me because we are copious users of Amazon Prime (Amazon Disclosure). But still, a box collection is something you probably ought to consider.
Sheri, through a VERY long story bought a pallet of books for $200. Yes, you read that correctly – a pallet. You know, those things that forklifts use to hold big piles of heavy stuff. She sells those books on Amazon (email me and we can talk). With Amazon, you don't make decisions. They send you the order to ship the book, you print out the label they tell you to print out, and you package and send the book. You make SURE to not package the book into a heavy box, lest you get stuck with going overweight and lose money. Amazon knows the weights and costs for an awful lot of books down to the ounce and penny. Shipping is a no brainer on Amazon and Sheri is a little wary of eBay.
eBay is a different bird. It isn't quite so predictable. Things on eBay are ill-fitting, weird, bent, broken, dirty, full, empty, used, uncommon, less common, not on Amazon, or about 50 other adjectives that would explain why eBay would have NO CLUE as to the shipping weight (boxed and ready) and size would be.
eBay MIGHT stand a chance knowing the overall weight of a product, but NO WAY would eBay know the individual parts. Heck, I bet the manufacturer barely knows that. If the manufacturer does know it, it won't be readily available.
So the answer is Yes.
The question is “Do you have to account for shipping?”
But the REAL question should be – “Is eBay shipping hard to do?”
For that, the answer is “not really IF you are willing to do a couple very simple steps”.
If YOU think eBay shipping is hard, this article will step you through how it works from a very high level. The eBay program is pretty easy to use, so I'm hoping that once you see how to do it, you will go in and give it a try.
Most people who start on eBay say to themselves, “I don't want to mess with knowing all that stuff about shipping. So I'll just use a fixed number, like $10 and eyeball it.”
Don't think that way!
Fixed price shipping is foolish unless you are extremely sophisticated. You are still going to have to get postage and deal with it at the post office anyway.
Just don't do it.
Lets go over eBay shipping and see why it isn't that hard.
First, save boxes. There is no reason in this modern world where you should have to pay for boxes. At least in most cases. Even though I'm a marketing manager with an MBA and an electrical engineering degree, if I see boxes in the hallway at work for disposal, I'll grab them and bring them home like I'm a bag person. I haven't had to do this lately because we have plenty. But the point I'm trying to make is to save boxes. We also save our Amazon boxes too. So Sheri and I have boxes. Boxes we have. Boy do we have boxes. You get the picture.
The most important eBay shipping tip in this article
Next, and the single most important idea in this article, you are always going to select “Calculated: Cost varies by buyer location” in your individual listings.
Always, always, always select that option. Then you don't have to be smart anymore and you won't lose money by mis-guessing shipping costs.
You are going to have to get a scale.
I have been able to ship 99 out of 100 items using a scale that goes to 6 pounds. Here is a search on Amazon for scales that would be appropriate for this task. That is right, I just use a kitchen scale. It will cost you less than $20. For items that are really heavy, I just use a bathroom scale.
You are going to need a measuring stick
You'll laugh at me, but I just use a yardstick. I find the yardstick much fast and more convenient than a tape measure. It is ORANGE too so I never have trouble finding it. Oddly in this day and age, you would think yardsticks would be rare, but they aren't as the link on yardstick shows.
Quick eBay pre-packaging steps as you are listing your item to make shipping EASY
As you are listing your item you will get to the section on weight, size and package type. This is the time to complete that information. Don't do it ahead of time or on a sticky because you'll end up doubting you did it correctly and you'll end up measuring it again anyway.
Some people PRE-PACK their items, but I don't. Why? Because just when you pre-pack, someone will order it PLUS something else and you have to ship them together in a different box. Also, once you pre-pack, you must start marking the boxes as visually finding stuff won't work anymore either. If you have enough stuff – I have a lot – finding the items to ship quickly is a luxury.
Select the package type – still not too hard
For the package type selection in the eBay shipping you need to select this correctly. Fortunately you will almost ALWAYS be able to put “thick envelope, package” as the type. If you can't use that package type for a weight/measurement, I'm pretty sure eBay will flag it and give you a chance to fix. But I invariably will use that package type.
Weigh it on your little scale
Drop your item on your kitchen scale without worrying about packing.
What follows is the trickiest part of eBay shipping and it isn't too bad. Other people might do it differently, but I've had good success so far.
If your package weighs 12 ounces or less you will definitely list the weight as 1 ounce more and ship it First Class United States Postal Service (USPS). There is no less expensive option. There is no faster option – at least not one most eBayers will pay for. At this point though, you are just recording the weight in your eBay listing. The rule is that you can use First Class for anything up to 13 ounces. If I weighed right at 13 ounces, I'd be nervous.
Why did I use 12 ounces and leave an ounce to spare? Because I also needed to spare a little weight for the packaging. Also, because I'm conservative and I don't like problems. I don't have problems. I don't cut it close. I've never had something that shipped postage due. I've never had the postal service return something to me for underpayment of postage. You can cut it closer if you want, but not me. It could be the USPS gives you some leeway. I'm just not there yet.
If it weighs MORE than 13 ounces, then I always round UP to the nearest pound. Again, if I'm really close the the rounded up pound, I reserve a bit for the weight of the box and packaging. So if my item was fragile and weighed 15 ounces, I would list it at 2 pounds. The reason would be that shipping a fragile item will take more than an ounce to ship and you must round up to the nearest pound. No shipper cares about the ounces portion after you go above 13 ounces, so just round up.
So that is it – either 13 ounces or less for First Class. For all other shipping options the weight is rounded up to the nearest pound, allowing for packaging and that is all you have to know about weights.
Measure it with your little yardstick
You'll need to put measurements in. For the MOST PART measurements don't have to be that close. I don't know why, but loose accuracy is ok and it just works out that way. The only time measurements matter is if they are really big (84 inches in at least two dimensions) or odd shaped. Or really large measurements and really light weights (dimensional weight). Weird combinations. But mostly being off an inch or two has never affected me.
Why am I “going off” on measurement accuracy? Because I don't pre-pack. That means I'm not 100% sure of the size of the box I will use to ship the item. But I have found time and again, that being close works with little to no penalty. And even better, I have lots of flexibility on my box size when I go to ship the item and I change my mind on how I want to pack it.
So, measure the items longest side and then add 3-4-5 inches. Add in size increments relative to the size of the item. If it is 36 inches long, then a box that is 40 inches will be plenty. But I wouldn't just put in 36 as you won't get it in the box. Just use common sense.
Then do the same for the other sides. Give yourself a good 2-3 inches room on each dimension.
You'll just put this into the eBay measurements area.
Select your shipping service
eBay then allows you to select your service. This isn't just choosing between the USPS, UPS, Fedex, or other, but selecting their offered services as well. eBay shipping knows more than you or I about these companies. Because of this fact, this article makes sense. I'm coaching you to trust eBay.
I can actually make this section shorter than you think it ought to be. Here is how I do it.
- If it is 13 ounces or less, I send it USPS First Class and I don't offer any alternatives. Why don't I offer a higher end service? Because if your buyer spends more on shipping than the minimum AND there is a chance that they'll send it back or complain, you might end up eating shipping. It just isn't worth it to me.
- If it weighs more than 13 ounces AND if it is a book, CD, or DVD, I ship using USPS Media Mail which is designed to make America smarter. Therefore nothing beats media mail for low cost shipping – except First Class.
- For all other items, I will list USPS Priority Mail and USPS Parcel Select as options. I NEVER do USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate because nothing ever fits in those boxes. Believe me, I try.
- If it is odd shaped, I will add Fedex Home. So far, I've not found UPS to be a cost-effective option. You MIGHT use Fedex or UPS if you get an account, a good discount, AND want them to come to your house and pick things up. By that time, you'll be coaching me on shipping.
- Finally, if you are shipping entirely unreasonably large items, then you need to pick something appropriate and you might only be able to do that after the fact. I just shipped something on a Greyhound bus.
That is it. You are done.
Shipping the item using eBay shipping
Now that your order came in you need to ship it.
I'll spare you the details because this article is a high level article, but eBay will have a button called “Pay for Postage and Print Label”. It will literally BUY the postage, PRINT the label, and PRINT a nice packaging slip for you.
In other words, when you measured and weighed, you did all the hard work. eBay could then calculate the postage for anyone in the world and then help you purchase and print the labels.
TRUTH: I haven't bought postage or stood in line at the post office because of eBay shipping in the last 7 or 8 years. It is that good.
Quickie handy shots of info for eBay shipping simplification
I do have a few quick tips to make things easier for you that I do as well.
- I use labels especially made for shipping on eBay. I've tried many different labels and these are the labels that I find work best for me.
- I have two printers! One for labels – loaded all the time – and one for packing slips and general household use. My label printer is a pretty cheap printer, but is just fine for me.
- I have big rolls of bubble wrap. This is super handy.
- I have big boxes of packing tape ready to go at all times. I use tape generously.
- I save packing material of all types. You can have too many boxes. You will NEVER have enough packing material.
- I also DID purchase bubble mailers. Bigger is better as you can always fold the bigger ones down to a smaller size. The cost isn't that much different.
Now – does this REALLY sound that hard?