There are two principal reasons to take care when packaging and sending items to buyers. The first is that sellers are responsible for items until the buyer receives them. If an item is damaged during transit, the buyer has the right to request a refund based on the item not matching the description in the listing. Returns caused by a seller’s negligence is a waste of time for buyers as well as sellers and can damage both a seller’s reputation and profits.
The second reason may have less direct consequences but remains important. Shipping items is an integral part of customer service on eBay and the better condition an item is, the better the service. A well packed item provides a great first impression and shows a buyer that you care about their purchase. Providing this kind of service can lead to better feedback, better seller ratings and ultimately more sales.
Choosing the right box or envelope
Packing items properly means going back to the basics, starting with an appropriate container.
- Choose a clean, strong box that fits the item well. The box needs to have enough room around the item for adequate cushioning, but should also not be too large as this can appear wasteful (and also cost more to send).
- If using a secondhand box, carefully remove any labels as necessary and make sure there is no tears or damaged corners. Avoid using boxes that are heavily marked.
- Don’t overload boxes. When sending heavier items, check that the box can support the weight of the item comfortably. If more than one item is being sent, consider packaging separately so each item can be cushioned properly.
- Padded envelopes work great for smaller items – these can be picked up cheaply in bulk and also re-used easily.
Protecting the item
Items can be damaged by a number of different factors, including movement, weather and other packages. Take the time to cushion and protect all items, not just the more fragile and delicate ones.
- Bubble wrap is a very effective primary form of protection for items in boxes and also padded envelopes. There is an anti-static variety available for shipping electronic items.
- In boxes, fill empty space around the item with cushioning (secondary protection) to prevent shifting during transit. If an item is able to move, it may get damaged within the box when potentially bumped or dropped. Styrofoam has long been a popular choice for protecting items, but there are also more environmentally friendly options on the market such as biodegradable foam and wood wool.
- Try to surround items with approximately two inches of cushioning for safer transport.
- Lightly shake the box after filling to settle the packaging material and make sure nothing is rattling around. More cushioning may be required.
Closing the package
To prevent the box or envelope opening on its journey, securing the box or padded envelope correctly is vital.
- Use proper packing tape – the package must be sealed with tape that has the required strength and durability for a strong closure. Duct tape, being sensitive to heat, can dry out and fall off. Packing tape can be expensive but it is worth it to provide a professional level service.
- Wide tape is easier to use and reduces the amount needed overall.
- Tape every seam to prevent the box opening in during transit.
- A tape gun, like those used in retail stores and warehouses, can help save both time and frustration as it stops the problem of ‘losing the end.’
General tips to prevent item damage
A few final suggestions to help packages arrive in perfect condition at their destination.
- Choose packaging supplies in consideration of potential weather damage. A package may sit in rain or snow for a short time.
- Indicate which way is up on the package. Significant damage can be caused by a buyer opening a box the wrong way around.
- Consider making or re-using ‘Fragile’ notices to put on boxes.
- When shipping more than one item in a box, bubble wrap both items and make sure they do not touch each other.
- Re-using packaging where possible is a great way to save money and also reduce impact on the environment. The majority of buyers will appreciate the effort.
- Always place heavier items on the bottom of the package rather than the top.
- Keep in mind that machines may handle the box or padded envelope so make sure the outside does not have any loose edges that could be caught and cause further damage.
Experienced sellers, do you have any other advice for packaging items properly to prevent damage in transit?