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How to Create Shipping Labels Online from your Home Computer
A basic tutorial for creating shipping labels online.
The post office gets really busy this time of year. I live in a small town, and sometimes the line can be out the door in December.
I try to limit the trips in to town during the holiday season, starting after Thanksgiving, because the roads are more congested, the lines anywhere you go are longer, and I have little patience for being stuck somewhere with so many other things to be done.
I've been printing postage from my home computer since I discovered how easy it is, about eight years ago. Anyone selling on eBay or other website that accepts PayPal knows how much easier it is to print a label for a package before going to the post office with it.
But yesterday, when I went to print a label for postage using PayPal, I discovered that it's not as straight-forward as it used to be. I thought I'd write this article to help people avoid the mistake I made which cost me an additional $5.05 after voiding a label that never printed.
Here's some advice for making your online printing go even smoother, without error, to save you time and money!
Printing labels online.
If you do not have a PayPal account, but you still want to print postage online, you can use the USPS website to print labels.
Here are some tips for printing postage using PayPal if you receive payments through it.
- First, log in to your PayPal account.
- Second, on the list of transactions, you'll notice a clickable link that reminds you to ship a package. This would appear after a transaction between a seller and buyer on a shopping venue such as eBay, ETSY, Bonanza, etc.
- It seems straight forward enough, but these are some pitfalls to avoid:
- Make sure the "ship" date is the same as the date you are physically taking the package to the post office. For example, if you print a label on a Sunday, make sure the date printed on the label is for Monday. If you print a label on the 12th, but ship it on the 13th, the label must be printed with the 13th.
- Check off whether or not you want the postage amount to appear on the package. You may not want a great aunt to know what you spent to ship her a birthday gift. This is a way to conceal that information.
- Also, make sure your zip code is accurate. The post office requires that any package with pre-printed postage has the same zip code as the post office it's shipped from. This means that if you have a zip code of 01234, you cannot go to 43210 to ship the package. I once prepared a package with my zip code, but tried to ship it from the town I had to run errands in that day. The package was refused. The postal clerk informed me that the zip code on the package had to match the zip code of the post office where the package is shipped from.
Also, when using PayPal to generate shipping labels, you can always print the label the day you ship the package. Many people, small online sellers, and large business print their shipping labels in advance. To avoid the "stale" date pitfall, print the label the day you are shipping it.
What if I don't take a package to the post office on the day the label is dated?
This just happened to me and what a time I had trying to research this issue.
I rarely use PayPal to print labels. But this one time, it was more convenient, and it was late at night.
When you use USPS or eBay labels, the date is automatically updated to the next day if it is after post office hours. For example, on Tuesday at 1 p.m. in the afternoon, you want to ship a package. You create a label and specify you want it shipped on Tuesday. No problem. Even if you want to ship it on Wednesday, no problem, you just change the date on the drop-down menu.
Where the problem arises is when I went to print a PayPal label, I got the drop-down menu and I chose the next day as the shipping date. When it printed out, the previous day's date was on the label.
In order to correct this, I would have had to void the label. The post office already has the money from PayPal from charging for the first label though. To void the label, you are also requesting a refund from the postal service online which can take up to three weeks.
I went to the post office with the package that had the previous day's date. The counter clerk knows me from going in there so much. I'm from here, born and raised, small town, so that in itself is a perk.
However, he didn't look to happy when I approached him and told him the truth. I mistakenly printed this label last night and the date didn't print today. It printed yesterday. He took a rubber date stamp, and stamped in red the current date. I thanked him profusely. He just saved me a trip home and another postage fee for creating a new label.
The post office considers pre-dated labels to be "stale dates". They no longer accept pre-dated parcels with postage printed online.
In researching this topic for my own knowledge, I came across two different opinions to this matter. There are some that say the date doesn't matter. There are others that say packages have been returned to them for stale shipping dates.
Some even go on to say that packages with stale dates can be dropped off in a blue drop off box outside of any post office, but not brought to the postal counter. Others say they've never had a problem dropping off a package at the counter with a stale date.
I also found websites discussing this issue about businesses. There are businesses that have mail rooms, and the employees have been told by the post office that no package will be accepted with a date other than the ship date.
In conclusion, if this does happen by accident, chances are the postal clerk will be forgiving like in my situation. However, this is not an expected service. USPS has issued a notice about this matter.
Post Office Rules to Know
Labels printed online must not be altered after printing!
Any package with a manually altered label will be returned to sender.
Mail your item on the date printed on the shipping label.
Labels with "stale" ship dates should not be used. This means any time after the date on the package.
If you are unable to use any label, void it.
A refund will be processed within 30 days of the printed label.
Shipping Label Refunds.
If the label doesn't print, there is an option to void the label.
However, once you print a label, even it if didn't print, the money is automatically subtracted from your PayPal funding source. If it never prints, even after retrying print again, you will have to void the label. The refund takes approximately three weeks. It will go back in your account automatically. That's why it's ultra important to not void a label more than once. It would cost too much money deducted from PayPal all at once.
If you used USPS to print the label, and not PayPal, follow these steps for voiding the label:
- Log in to your USPS account.
- Go to the shipping page.
- Select shipping history.
- Select refunds.
However, there are requirements that must be met before a refund is issued:
- The barcode cannot be used to indicate the label was used to ship a package.
- A refund has not been previously processed for that label.
Printing shipping labels on eBay.
If you are one of the millions of folks who operate a store or run auctions on eBay, one of the perks is being able to create a label directly from a sale.
When you sell something, you will be notified through email and on your eBay page that your item has sold. It will also inform you that you need to ship an item.
Here are the basics about creating shipping labels on eBay:
- Delivery confirmation is included and not a separate fee.
- The shipping information is automatically generated from the listing information. For example, if you specify that you want the package to go by priority mail or media mail, the label will automatically generate those choices as well as others if you change your mind.
- Tracking information from the delivery confirmation number is automatically uploaded to eBay. It's a clickable link, viewable by the customer at any time after the label is generated. You will know when the item has arrived at its destination.
- PayPal will automatically deduct the amount of shipping from your account.
(While delivery confirmation is also included in all shipping labels produced online, not all websites support the features of automatically uploading the information to the customer's screen. In some instances, the shipper has to go back to the website and separately input the information. This is a perk that eBay offers.)
How to print a label from eBay.
Sign in to your account and click on My eBay.
You will have a notification that you have to ship an item. Click on that hyperlink.
Click on print shipping label.
You will also receive an email in your registration email. View that email to make sure the buyer hasn't also written a note.
The information from your listing such as package size and weight will be automatically sent over to the shipping screen. Confirm this information. Make sure that the method is correct and is what the buyer paid for, or is what you stated it would be in your listing. (For example, don't ship something by media mail that was advertised as priority mail.)
You can leave a private note to your buyer.
You can choose whether to discose the shipping price on the package.
Make sure the shipping date is accurate.
Do you print your labels online or stand in line at the post office?
If you do use plain paper, be prepared to trim your label to size. Also, make sure you cover the return and shipping address with packing tape. If it rains, the ink on the paper will run. Also, make sure you do not cover any barcodes with tape.
I do hope that you find this article helpful.
Sometimes, printing postage online, no matter how simple it may seem, can cause a headache for the shipper. Especially if labels have to be voided. That can cause a costly mistake which I believe most business owners would want to avoid.
How to start printing labels from home:
- Invest in a postage scale. I have a home scale called Ultra-Ship 35. It wasn't too expensive when I bought it. It keeps good weight accuracy.
- If you invest in a scale and ever need to confirm it's accuracy, take your parcels to the post office all set to ship. Ask a postal clerk to confirm your postage to make sure your scale told you the correct weight.
- Have a decent printer. I use an HP Deskjet 1000. It's small. It fits on my counter top by my computer. I print in draft mode to save ink. The ink is a lot less than other printers.
- Stock up on packing tape. Keep a roll of tape and scissors handy.
- Use plain paper to print your labels, or invest in waterproof, self-sticking labels.
The post office will scan your package when you drop it off. The package will be tracked to it's destination!
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Don't forget to order free shipping supplies online ahead of the holidays!
Note about supplies!
My local post office does not carry all products available. They carry a limited supply. Stock up early before the holiday rush to ensure your supplies arrive in time. Delivery times vary. It takes approximately two weeks to receive supplies.