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Monday, September 15, 2008

Amazon Selling Tips: Shipping

This is the third and final part of a series on selling at Marketplace.Read my introduction to selling on Amazon and my tips for listing your items.

Before I list my shipping tips, I want to make a recommendation for your own security. When an item you've listed on Marketplace is sold, Amazon will send you an email with the subject heading, "Sold - Ship now!" I recommend checking your orders and verifying the information in the email that Amazon sent to you. A few months ago, Mercedes at Common Sense with Money wrote that after she had removed a listing for a DVD player, someone sent her a fake "Sold - ship now" email. Her post includes tips on how to spot fake emails.

In order to avoid being scammed, I highly recommend logging in to your Amazon seller account to verify that you've received payment for the item. In fact, I immediately initiate a transfer to my bank account so that I get the money sooner rather than later. Amazon automatically sends out payments every 2 weeks, but you can initiate a bank transfer every 24 hours. (New customers have to wait for the first automatic disbursement.) You can also choose to get paid in Amazon certificates. Read Amazon's info on getting paid.

Once you've verified that your item has indeed been sold, you'll want to know the following:
  • Amazon helps you pay for shipping. You should definitely read Amazon's info on shipping credits, but basically, they give you a certain amount of money to cover your shipping costs. Depending on the item you've sold, the shipping credit might yield a little profit if the item won't cost much to ship. Or the shipping credit might be just a fraction of the shipping cost, and you'll have to pay for the extra.
  • Media Mail is your friend. When I first started selling at Amazon, I didn't know what Media Mail was (read the Postal Service's explanation). It's been great for me, since I only sell books, CDs, DVDs, and video games, all of which can be sent at a reduced rate via Media Mail - although sometimes if an item is especially light, First Class Mail will be cheaper. If you sell other types of items, especially heavy ones, the Postal Service may not be your cheapest option like it is mine.
  • Package your item well. You want to make sure that you take reasonable steps to protect the item in transit (read Amazon's packaging guidelines). For me, that usually means a layer of bubble wrap or a padded envelope. I invested in a giant roll of bubble wrap and a 100-count box of 9x12 envelopes from Staples and have been using it for quite some time. And since I began playing The Drugstore Game, I sometimes buy some padded envelopes when they're super cheap and use them for books that are too big to fit in a 9x12 envelope. Some people make their own boxes out of cardboard, although I have to admit that when I've been the recipient of such an item, it does strike me as unprofessional (I usually buy from companies and not individual sellers on Amazon).
  • Consider getting a post office box to use as your return address. I began renting a post office box when I started selling on Amazon and eBay because I wanted the added sense of security of not giving strangers my home address.
  • Be careful about selecting Expedited or International Shipping as options. You'll get a bigger shipping credit if you offer expedited or international shipping as an option and the buyer chooses it. Expedited shipping generally means Priority Mail for me, and it also means I need to check each "Sold - ship now" email for the shipping speed, since once in a while I do get an order with expedited shipping. I used to offer international shipping, but stopped after a first-hand lesson in the risks. I sold a book that took over eight weeks to arrive in Europe, long enough that when the seller contacted me, I felt obligated to refund his money. Shortly thereafter, he informed me that the book had just arrived. He was more than willing to pay me again, but Amazon told me that he had to initiate it, so I had to send him an email with instructions and pray that he followed through (thankfully, he did). I've since decided that for me, the risk of shipping overseas simply isn't worth it.
  • When sending something via Priority Mail, pay online. You can pay for certain types of postage, including Priority Mail, online at the USPS web site. If you're sending an order via Priority Mail, paying for and printing the label through the web site will save you a little money, and also get you free delivery confirmation.
  • Always remember to send your orders out within two business days. Marketplace terms require shipping within two business days, so keep that in mind when you list items. If you're not sure if you'll be able to get an item out in a timely manner, don't list it.
  • Communicate with the buyer. I don't always follow this rule myself, but I do try to send shipment notification emails through Amazon's "contact buyer" option. This is especially helpful when shipping via Media Mail, since it can take two weeks for an item to be delivered and not all buyers realize this. I always include a general time frame of when the buyer can expect the item to arrive (for Media Mail, I say 4 to 9 days but possibly two weeks).
I am by no means an expert on selling at Marketplace, but I hope you'll find these tips helpful, especially as a starting point. And if you have experience selling on Amazon, please share your experience - and especially, any tips that I missed!

Read an update on shipping here.

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  • At 9/15/08, 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great tips, Cathy!

    I've considered getting PO Box, but I've wondered if the expense is worth it? Do you sell a lot to make it worthwhile, or is it just pretty cheap?


  • At 9/15/08, 8:53 PM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    @Jennifer - I can't remember how much it costs to rent a mailbox right now, but it's not that expensive. However, it's not exactly cheap either - the price has gone up each time I've renewed, and I seem to recall it's up nearly 50% compared to when I first started renting 3 years ago.

    A small mailbox will obviously cost less than a larger one, and it should suit your purposes - if you get packages/envelopes that don't fit, they'll just get put into a locker with a key, and the key will be in your mailbox.

    I think rates vary by location anyway, so I'm sure my rate is higher than yours would be unless you live in someplace like NYC. You'll have to check with your local post office and then decide if you'll be selling enough to make the cost worthwhile. Hope that helps!


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