A couple of months ago I wrote a post about selling on Ebay and how to get set up. I thought I would write another post with some things I've learned over time that might help someone out in regards to shipping your items after the sale.
Packaging is always an issue for someone selling on Ebay. For those in the US you have several options. First (and my favorite because it is recycling at its best) is to find someone you know that works somewhere that they get a variety of boxes in and that they aren't required to send them out for recycling. My husband has been a great help in this as he is on the road to a variety of places and he just checks their garbage area while he is there to see if there are boxes that might come in handy. Worst case scenario is you end up throwing them out yourself. Another option is to go to the US Postal service website and order some of their free boxes. The only downside to this is that they are always Priority Mail boxes which does cost a little more to ship. The nice part is they will deliver them to your door, they have a variety of sizes, and you can order in bulk. Worst case scenario is to have to purchase a box--I avoid this whenever possible, it cuts in to your profits and adds more garbage to the planet.
Packing materials--always a bit of a hassle, but I've found a great way to make this sooooooo much easier. I did have an out of pocket expense in a giant roll of bubble wrap at Walmart since I knew I was going to be shipping quite a few delicate items. Buying the large roll is a huge money saver (as well as time saver), it was about $16 for an enormous roll of it that I bought over the summer and still have tons of it left. Then I started saving every catalog or sale flyer that came in my mail--and ran them through our shredder, giving me great additional padding in my boxes. I usually just have an afternoon of shredding to make up a bunch in advance, storing it in several large boxes I have (a trash bag would work great too). When I get down to less than a full box of shredded material, I do it again. Old phone books work great for this purpose as well. And again, you are recycling instead of throwing those old catalogs and such in to the landfill. I DO NOT use anything that might have sensitive information on it (statements, bills, etc) as you don't want something accidentally falling in to the wrong hands.
Use the tools on Ebay to keep track of your progress--be sure to mark items that have been shipped and add tracking numbers. This is not only helpful to the buyer to know when to expect the item to arrive, but also for you to be sure it made it to its destination. Be sure to leave feedback for the buyer too. I am surprised at the number of buyers who don't leave feedbackfor sellers though, I would say about 1/4 - 1/3 don't which kind of defeats the whole idea of this system. It is meant to help buyers decide who best to buy from--and who to avoid like the plague.
Another timesaver is to have return address labels printed in advance for putting on packages. I just buy labels at Staples and preprint multiple sheets of them at a time so I have them readily available. As for addressing the item for shipping--get yourself a good Sharpie marker, fine point. You can get them for $1 at most dollar stores and it is worth every penny. Sure, you can print your own labels, but unless you are 100% sure that your ink is safe from water, it's best not to use that. Ebay also charges a small fee to print labels via their service. I avoid this since I'm not shipping mass quantities, it only takes me a minute to write the address directly on to the box, reducing the chances of it running due to weather, or worse yet, falling off!
Tape--buy good packing tape! I've had some really crappy stuff, so be sure to get some quality stuff that not only sticks well, but isn't a nightmare to use. You can also get free tape at some post offices--keep in mind it is also intended for Priority Mail packaging only. The Priority Mail tape is awesome though, very sticky and for the most part weatherproof. I actually used some of this tape when I broke my ankle to make a completely waterproof covering for my cast so I could shower, and it worked like a charm. Took the hair off my legs along with a little skin, but a minor price to pay ;)