Whatever the season or the setting, your customers are eager and expectant that the items they buy from you will arrive safe and sound. It's always great to cheerfully take their money, but will you also take the time to properly pack what they've purchased?
Whether you're caught up in the hectic holiday season or simply scrambling to keep up with customer orders (good for you), pause just a moment to consider this quick refresher on how to pack like a pro, quickly and confidently, to ensure the goods will still be good when they arrive to your buyer.
What are you shipping?
First, size up the shipping situation with these methods used by accomplished sellers in choosing the best materials and methods to ensure safe transit:
Shake and break?
One USPS employee imparted this bit of wisdom: "If you can shake it, we can break it."
All items you ship should be given the shake and rattle test: Before sealing an outer box, hold the flaps closed and give the item a few shakes. Do you hear any movement inside? If so, you might want to add a bit more interior padding until it's whisper quiet in there. Movement could allow the opportunity for items to shift and become damaged during their journey to their new home.
Don't give it a wedgie
If a little packing cushioning is good, a lot should be great, right? Not really. Too much interior packing can literally cause implosion. Remember that boxes will get bumped, stacked, kicked and tossed about on their sometimes-perilous journeys. Use enough interior packaging to keep the item safe and secure, but if the box bulges like an over-packed suitcase, the item inside will probably get unsafely squeezed the moment you seal it shut.
Don't feel you have to extinguish an entire supply of tape to ensure the item's safety
Well done, or overdone?
So the philosophy here is to pack reasonably. Not only will too much packing lead to potential damage, but an overzealous packer might leave the recipient with something of a challenge to wrest a treasure from some impenetrable tape-and-cardboard sarcophagus.
Seal the item enough to ensure it won't accidentally open in transit, but don't feel you have to extinguish an entire supply of tape, staples and whatever else to ensure the item's safety. Many buyers tell of accidentally damaging an item themselves as they struggled to free it from its packaging. Plus, don't forget that excessive packaging adds excessive weight—that results in excessive shipping costs.
Little extras make a big difference
Lastly, if the item is particularly fragile, or will fare well if unpacked by a certain method, put special unpacking instructions inside the box, to be found the moment the recipient opens the package. Also, be sure to include an extra shipping label inside the package: Sometimes labels will come loose or become unreadable during the journey, or they might get wet (put a strip of clear packing tape over mailing labels going overseas). If a ship-to label comes off or becomes unreadable, some carriers will open the package in hopes they'll find an extra label to get the item on its way again.
Oh, and if you accidentally overcharged the buyer a dollar or more for shipping costs, put a refund in an envelope inside the package. That sort of honesty and integrity keeps buyers coming back for more.
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Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.