We've all been there! Spent time, money and effort photographing, listing and selling an item on ebay only for it to end up lost in the mail, broken in transit or had a charge back via paypal from a dodgy buyer who claimed to have never recieved their item even though their feedback shows them to be the ultimate scammer! So through my experiences, both good and bad, with buying and selling on ebay I have come up with some tips on postage & packaging which should prove useful to help avoid (or at least reduce) any nasty issues in the future!
Responsible Packaging You don't need to go crazy with the bubble wrap if all you sell are books or clothing. However if you are selling anything that could break, keep in mind that even though you or your buyer may handle your precious ceramic tea set with care and attention, to a post man or courier a package is a package. The parcel will probably get thrown around, tossed into sacks, crushed under hundreds of other parcels, knocked around in the back of a van to name but a few senarios. You want to be sure that you've done everything possible on your end to prevent any breakages. Remember, packaging materials can be expensive - but so are breakages (and subsequent replacments).
Important Labels This, again ties in with the above paragraph. If your item is fragile, then make sure your package is clearly labeled "FRAGILE" preferably in big, red font. You don't need to buy labels specifically for this, you can just print it out on an A4 sheet of paper and stick it to your box. Also, if your item should be kept to a specific position make sure you include "THIS WAY UP" labels too.
You don't need to spend a fortune on packing materials. We all know how ridiculously expensive basic packing supplies such as jiffy bags, cardboard boxes, foam peanuts and bubblewrap can be. Instead do your bit for the environment AND save money by recycling basic household items destined for the rubbish bin. For example, cereal boxes make great cardboard boxes for smaller items - as do old shoe boxes, and instead of buying bubblewrap save your old newspapers and plastic bags and scrunch them up to use a cushioning for fragile items.
Postage & Couriers
Always, ALWAYS get proof of postage! This should go without saying, yet still so many eBayers get stung by leaving this important factor out. If you are sending your item out with Royal Mail then unless your item is worth under £2, make sure you send recorded. It only costs about 40 odd pence more and this way you get proof of postage, a tracking number and insurance up to the value of £30ish. This not only covers you from fraudulent buyers claiming the item was never recieved, but it also covers you from genuine losses through the UK postal system. If you are using a courier then they should all provide a tracking number with each consignment.
For Priceless/Irreplacable/Rare Items forget sending by 1st class. Instead make sure you send it out via Special Delivery Guaranteed 9am/10am service and ALWAYS get insurance. Imagine how gutted you would feel to lose such a valuable item when you could have spent an extra couple of pounds to ensure its saftey.
Never forget the return address. It is very important for you to always put your return address on the back of your package if you are sending items out in the post. Occasionally the buyer might give you the wrong address, or the post man can't find the location and in that case if you don't have a return address it will simply get lost in the postal system.
Give realistic postage prices. Customers will always resent paying over the odds for something that is blatantly cheap to send out. Yes, as sellers we need to factor in our expenses too, but by keeping your postage prices reasonable and fair (for both you and the buyer) then you increase the chance of getting repeat customers and avoid getting unpleasant feedback comments.
Consider using a Courier: If you are sending out bulk quantities on a daily or weekly basis it might be considerable to look into using a courier company. Usually they can offer you a whole range of services that Royal Mail cannot and they can collect from your address at a time of your choice instead of you lugging up your parcels to the Post Office and queuing for an eternity (not to mention filling out all those recorded slips....arrgh!). However each different courier has their own Pros and Cons so it is worth asking around and checking out online reviews and message boards to see what works best for you. I have written a guide on the Pros and Cons of Couriers vs. Royal Mail which can be read here that should hopefully help your decision.
I hope that the above information can be useful in helping your with the final stages of your sale, some of it is quite obvious however when you use all the tips together you can provide an effecient service for your customer and avoid the headache of dealing with breakages, replacments and charge backs. And remember, if in doubt, bubblewrap!
I have also written guides and tips on Selling on eBay, Pros and Cons on Couriers vs Royal Mail and Tips on Caring for Leather & Suede, which can all be read here. Also, if you are interested in designer home and office furniture and accessories ranges then feel free to check out our shop, Lifestyle Home UK.