Here are my ten quick packing tips for new eBay sellers, that will help you pack your parcels with a minimum of fuss. This is one of a series of no-nonsense, advert-free, "coffee break" guides I have written for UK based buyers and sellers. They're not too short, not too long, and I promise not to try to sell you anything. You can see my other guides by following the links at the bottom of this page but please let me know what you think, by voting for each one you read. Many thanks.
NOT ON THE FLOOR
Struggling with a parcel on the living room floor is not only going to give you back ache, but your buyer may discover that you smoke, you have a cat, and you possess an orange carpet!
You need somewhere clean to pack your parcels and, depending on just how many items you are selling, substantial time savings can be made if you are organised. We are constantly told that time is money, but you need to consider your health here too. Not only do you need to decide whether you prefer to sit or stand, but packing several parcels requires many repetitive foot and hand movements. If you have the luxury of an area you can dedicate to packing then use this to your advantage, but if you don't then at least try to keep all your packing necessities in one place.
But whatever you do, stay off the carpet.
HERE IN A JIFFY
Well, not necessarily. Especially if you sell all manner of items that would require so many jiffy bags sizes that your home ends up looking like a jiffy bag warehouse.
Remember, cheap deals on jiffy bags normally require bulk purchases, and that could mean a lot of big boxes. One way to avoid jiffy overload is to have a stock of smaller sized jiffy bags, and a large roll of "Kraft" paper for larger items, saving some space and perhaps some cash too. Only you know what your packing requirements are, but think laterally and be constantly on the lookout for quicker/faster/cheaper options.
Have a look in your Yellow Pages and see what your local supplier can offer you, look at the deals offered by some of your fellow sellers on eBay, and keep an eye out for innovative solutions in the packaging market, such as flat-packed boxes that take up very little space.
IT'S A WRAP
That big roll of bubble wrap is sitting in the corner of your bedroom, and it's saying to you, "Oi! I'm still 'ere, you know".
But where else do you put that huge thing? And we're not talking about a 50 cm wide roll here either because, as we should all know, it's much more cost effective to cut across a roll of at least a metre's width, rather than rolling along the length of the roll and cutting off the excess. Why not get hold of another cardboard tube, and roll half your bubble wrap onto it, making each roll much easier to handle.
HOW TIGHT IS TIGHT?A dilemma that affects sellers the length and breadth, or should that be width, of the country.
Ever since Royal Mail introduced "Pricing in Proportion", sellers have agonised over just how close they can push it before their parcel is deemed to be thicker than 25mm, and hence more expensive to post. But given the possibility of a card through the buyer's door, asking them to come and collect their parcel from the distribution office, and pay a surcharge as well, is it really worth the risk to your feedback score? My advice is to make a cardboard template and check each parcel accurately. Remember, there is a bit of leeway with cushioned (deformable) packaging but not a lot.
There are now a number of packaging products that are designed to be just inside the 25mm division between Royal Mail's "large letter" and "packet" services, so do a search on eBay for "pip" in the "Packing and posting supplies" section.
THE WRITTEN WORDOr a hand written address, to be exact. If you are shipping more than a dozen parcels a day you'll almost certainly be able to obtain a business account with Royal Mail, so let's not kid ourselves that there are substantial time savings to be made by using pre-printed postage/address labels if you're just packing a few items. Try it and see; time how long it takes you to check, edit and print a label.
With so many buyers incorrectly formatting their address, it's easier and faster to instinctively correct their address as you write it. Besides, a lot of printer inks can be smudged in the rain but your hand written address is pretty permanent if you use the right pen, and there's no label to be torn off either. This is one area where you can beat the big boys, who often pick up negative feedback for non-delivered items, perhaps due to address label printing even if those addresses are clearly incorrect.
At this level, it does no harm to hand write addresses, and is probably the fastest, most accurate, and most secure, method.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHEREAnd some of it ends up on your parcels, as that open trolley is trundled along the street.
But it's not just damp merchandise that you have to guard against. A damp parcel is a heavier parcel, and that could tip your lovingly wrapped item into a higher weight band if it is subject to a random check. I want you to imagine your customer, arriving at the distribution centre and paying a weight surcharge for a damp parcel. This failure to guard against water damage wouldn't do your feedback score any favours, but a low DSR feedback marking could preclude you from selling fee discounts.
Do some tests with different packaging products, consider internal as well as external barriers, and make some decisions based on your risk assessment.
TEMPTATION'S WAYIt happens to all of us. We over order our padded envelopes, store them in less than ideal conditions, and inadvertently contribute to the crime rate in the UK.
Yes, that's right. That "easy seal" adhesive strip could well have been affected to the point of being "easy seal" and then "easy reseal". A cheap solution is to use "fragile" tape over and around the flap, but I have seen tape printed with "do not accept if this seal is broken", or something similar. But don't stop there. Next time you receive a parcel that has a small tear in the packaging, it may just be that your item was subject to, shall we say, an unofficial investigation.
Do what you can to disguise the contents of your parcel, remembering that a UK Royal Mail packet weighing 251 grams costs the same to post as one weighing 499 grams.
THE WOW FACTORIn our seductive material world the buyer experience doesn't end when money changes hands, and sellers would be wise to take advantage of the power of presentation.
Some things can make a big difference to your repeat sales. Take a sealed jiffy bag, for instance. If the bag is security taped across the opening flap it's easier to tear along the other end, so your carefully inserted book or dvd is going to appear upside down at first sight. Think about small things like this, and you can start to build a "wow factor" that might generate more sales. As a book seller, there are reasons why my crime thrillers come wrapped in purple tissue, ghost stories come with a black paper clip attaching my business card to the invoice, childrens' books come with an extra book free of charge (if I can avoid falling into the next weight band), nuns and school teachers get a hand written thank you letter, and buyers receive separate documentation if the book is destined to be a gift.
If you're organised it doesn't take much extra effort to make the opening of a parcel a really enjoyable experience.
A WEIGHT OFF YOUR MINDIf you have any doubts about the accuracy of your scales or, more importantly, the accuracy of the scales at your local post office, then it's easy to compare. Just mark the weight of your parcel, as measured by your scales, and see if there's a substantial difference between the two figures.
There's always a possibility of a difference in opinion and, if you want to build up a good relationship with your local post office, that's best avoided at all costs. Of course, it's far better to price up and stamp up at home, but if you want to send items via any recorded service then there's always the possibility that a discrepancy in scale accuracy could cause problems.
Why not print out the full Royal Mail tariff, together with prices, and pin it to your wall above your scales, to help identify those parcels which could be borderline cases at the post office. My tip is to always price at the next weight band up, if your parcel is within 10 grams of the upper limit in each weight band, due to the possibility of some moisture absorption.
YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOUSit back and think about this, because if everyone did it could make a big difference.
If you're a small time seller posting a few items per day you won't qualify for a Royal Mail business account, so you'll be using stamps, on-line printable postage, or getting things priced at the post office counter. The disadvantages of on-line printable postage are the time it takes to check and edit each address, the energy and materials consumed by the printer, and the fact that your local post office won't make a single penny on the deal. The disadvantages with paying at the post office counter is the cost in time to both to you and everyone behind you in the queue, people the post office want to retain as customers if at all possible. At this level of business, having a supply of stamps on your packing bench is not only fast, but will make money for your local post office and avoid problems on pension day.
If space or funds are limited, just keep a few sheets of 50p, 10p, 2p and 1p stamps and you'll be able to complete your packing tasks in no time at all.