I was in a great mood this week! Busy, busy, busy, preparing for my third eBay Workshop for my new eBay Mentor Programme students taking place this weekend, (which is extremely exciting), plus, I had a light-bulb moment on Wednesday when I came up with a great little online business idea – more on that another time! And on top of that, my new Facebook Fan page is continuing to grow at a rate of knots. I’m adding new, helpful and – importantly – free information all the time so if you haven’t visited my page yet please go here and do so now.

Once you get there please don’t forget to ‘like’ it!

Anyway, I digress, because my good mood was shattered by the doorbell and a rather perplexed looking postman who brought to my attention the fact that sometimes it’s the most basic of things that we need a little bit of help and direction with.

How NOT to post and pack a product

Just recently I bid on and won an item on eBay (yes, I do buying as well as selling!) and when the item arrived I was so shocked by the state of the packaging that I simply stared at it for about 10 minutes before I was able to speak.

In fact, I was so horrified that I took a photograph of the offending parcel because I had never in my life seen anything as poorly wrapped as what lay in the outstretched arms of my postman. (I scribbled out my address)

Here is the offending package:

Isn’t it horrendous? To add insult to injury I paid £4.75 for postage AND PACKAGING! The postage was £2.70, so I paid £2.05 for a tatty carrier bag from a well known supermarket and a tiny bit of sellotape. Oh yes, and to cap it all off, the seller even spelt my surname wrong (and forgot the apostrophe)!

Needless to say, the air was blue in my house and appropriate feedback was left!

So, the purpose of today’s eletter is to give you some helpful postage and packing tips.

Not because I think that you would ever even contemplate packaging up an item in the way that this seller did for me, but because it’s always useful to have some guidelines and some dos and don’ts because what you may think is acceptable may not necessarily be acceptable to your buyer. And also because I’d like to give you some time and money saving advice.

So, here we go with my 5 top tips:

1. Don’t use your living room carpet as a packing area

I know it probably gives you tons of space to spread yourself out and loads of elbow-room but it’s what inadvertently ends up in the envelope that you need to worry about! It’s not going to look good when your buyer excitedly unwraps their parcel and is able to deduce with just one quick glance that you have a black dog, enjoy a sneaky cigarette and your carpet is beige! You must always pack your items in a clean, dust free, pet and smoke free area so it’s best to organize a specific space where you can do this. You’ll save time if you have everything in one place and are organized.

2. Do take note of your package presentation if you want great feedback and repeat custom

Unfortunately, and this is especially true with eBay, for buyers the overall ‘buying experience’ does not end once that PayPal payment has been made! You may be surprised to learn that even small things can potentially make a big difference to your feedback and repeat sales. I’m talking about things like packing your items nicely – because no-one wants to receive their much anticipated purchase in a dirty carrier bag!

Depending on your product, you can use padded envelopes, cardboard boxes or rolls of paper to wrap your orders and then make sure you add printed address labels and returns labels if you can.

Seal your parcels neatly and securely because this looks so much more professional than a scrappy recycled envelope with rough sellotape hashed all over it and don’t forget to include a thank you for your purchase note too! If you are organized it doesn’t take much effort to add the little touches like this and it will help you gain great feedback and repeat custom so it’s absolutely worth doing.

3. Don’t waste money on surplus packaging materials

If you sell lots of different items that are all different sizes, it’s very easy to end up suffocating under the sheer amount of different sized envelopes required for each product! It’s impossible to use one size for all because your parcels will end up looking scruffy if the envelope is too big and your products may burst out if the envelope is too small!

So to avoid having huge stocks of envelopes in all shapes and sizes hanging around, it’s an idea to keep a roll of brown paper to hand to use for packing items that are square and don’t need the protection of bubble wrap, or items that are already in boxes. This will save space too. Flat packed boxes are another idea that can be used for items with the addition of some bubble wrap, so there are always other options to be considered apart from the padded envelope scenario!

4. Do take extra care with your packing – is it a tight squeeze or is there room for manoeuvre?

Since Royal Mail introduced different pricing levels and started classing things as ‘letters’, ‘large letters’ and ‘packets’ it’s no wonder we are all confused! Now, if I can get away with packing something up and forcing it through the ‘large letter’ hole that looms over me in the Post Office then I will – and that’s what this tip is all about. You must pack carefully because it could mean the difference between your item being sent as a ‘large letter’ or a ‘packet’.

You may not think there’s any relevance to this but there is, because the price difference between sending an item up to 750g as a large letter or sending as a parcel is actually 40p. So, for every 10 parcels you post you will save £4.00 by ensuring that your parcel is in fact a ‘large letter’. That adds up to an awful lot over 365 days of the year. Just remember that if your product is flexible then there is definitely some leeway (in other words some squashing room) with the 25mm maximum thickness for large letter classification.

5. Don’t overcharge for postage

It is acceptable to charge the actual postage cost, plus the cost of your packaging materials (envelope, label, sellotape) and another 20p on top for your time – so for example a ‘packet’ weighing up to 750g will cost £2.70 to post 1st class plus your materials – envelope 10p, label 1p, sellotape 1p – plus your time 20p. That’s a total P&P charge of £3.02. So, in this case I would round it down and set the postage at £2.99 as this is psychologically more appealing than £3.02!

The single biggest thing that eBay sellers fall down on their Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR’s) is their postage score. Buyers like to be charged exactly what it says on the packet when it arrives (although we know this is impossible as they often fail to take into account the packaging materials).

That’s why it’s a good idea to state on your listings that your postage charge includes your packaging materials, not just the cost of the stamp. It’s silly really because when well known Mail Order companies charge a rate of £4.99 or more for postage and it’s obviously over the odds, people don’t complain do they! It’s an eBay thing! Anyway my point here is don’t try and gain too much from the postage. A little bit is fine but please make it subtle.

So there we are – five tips that you can put into practice immediately to save yourself some pennies and to keep your customers happy!