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How to Package and Ship Fragile Items

Updated on January 09, 2015

Pack your Fragile eBay Items Perfectly and Gain a Lifelong Customer!

It's your customers first physical experience with your product and it is detrimental to your business reputation. Leave a lasting impression by using these invaluable packaging tips! Not to mention, you'll be saving yourself some serious headaches!

Find tips here on how to properly package your items for safe arrival to its destination, as well as some tales of shipping nightmares...

Our WORST Shipping Experience

Learn from our Awful Tale of Broken eBay Items!

One of the worst shipping stories we have was with UPS Ground. This has nothing to do with the performance of UPS. During a quiet month of sales in February, we stumbled across a huge score of cheap, retired Yankee Candles that the seller had listed incorrectly, and they were ending soon! We wound up winning the auction for under $20! We were excited about reselling them for a great profit and anxiously awaited the items to come...and they did...

We knew it was trouble when we picked up the box from our front step and it sounded like the glass bottle truck had flipped over in our yard. After carrying in the box, we opened it cautiously...but it didn't matter! We had glass shards all over the place, in our hands, on the floor, it was a huge mess. The seller we purchased 30 glass candle jars from packaged the candles in one layer of newspaper, then placed them in a box, free to crash into each other. No bubble wrap, no peanuts, the box was not big enough, and the jars were touching the sides of the box.

We tried to unwrap as many of the items as possible, then, we contacted the eBay seller. The seller responded quickly, but actually seemed annoyed. After being a little pushy, we asked them to file a claim with UPS. Little did we know that if the item is packaged incorrectly, there is no recourse! Our only hope was a refund from the seller or the PayPal Insurance. After a few more emails, the seller gave in and refunded our money. We would never buy from them again! We left positive feedback, but did mention that we had a problem that the seller agreed to fix.

Hopefully you can learn from this mistake, packaging your items correctly will leave your customers happy, eager to return, and will surely get you some complimentary feedbacks. The eBay feedback forum is the equivelant of word of mouth, this can work with you or against you!

Ace Ventura, Ace Courier

This video is hilarious. It may not be representative of UPS, but it's funny.

Get it There Quick to Avoid Breakage

Your Customers Will Appreciate It!

First, you may want to consider using a quicker shipping service, such as USPS Priority Mail. Longer services like USPS Parcel Post may save a few cents, but damage and crushing is much more likely with the longer it is in a warehouse. Charge the appropriate shipping to cover yourself for Priority Mail or another quick turn-around shipping service, and be sure to reasonably factor in the cost of packaging material. The great thing about usps priority mail is they offer FREE boxes via usps.com. delivered right to your business or home! Your customers will appreciate the speed of delivery offered also. You can even buy a scale and use the click-n-ship process to print postage at home and schedule a pick-up to save you major bucks on gas and delivery confirmation! (Delivery confirmation is free with click-n-ship). UPS also offers pick-up service and other extras, see their site for exact details.

Broken Stuff Poll

Whether you've only received packages or you sell online, you're sure to have had some experience with UPS, USPS, DHL, or FedEx.

What's your favorite shipping service based on reliability?

See results

Pack it up!

Now, on to the packaging process!

Materials needed:

  • Boxes
  • Packing tape
  • Packing tape gun (get a good one, maybe two in case you lose one. Search eBay itself for some pretty good ones at a good price)
  • Shipping labels (for hand printing)
  • USPS Priority Mail boxes and sticky labels (these are free!)
  • Packing peanuts
  • Bubble wrap
  • Printer w/working ink cartridges
  • Printer paper
  • Other shipping vessels like bubble mailers, envelopes, mailer tubes, or what best accommodates the products you sell

Be sure to use a box with plenty of room for the object. UPS and other shipping services require at least 3" of packaging material around the object being shipped for insurance reimbursement. The number one most essential item in the shipping process is definitely bubble wrap. This can be ordered right on eBay for a very economical price.

With eBay's shipping changes...

...it's even more important to pack it well! Buyers can now anonymously give sellers "star ratings" on shipping costs, ship time and overall satisfaction. Pack it well and you'll receive less claims, happy buyers, and better feedback.

Find Packing Stuff on eBay - It's WAAAY Cheaper Than Anywhere Else

Ebay has the cheapest prices around for packing material. The big companies are WAY overpriced, give the little guy a chance and save some cash without leaving the house! Check out some of these deals on packing material that will be delivered to your door!

Packaging for Safe Arrival

Never Have a Broken Package Again!

Next, the box should be sealed with packing tape. Get the desired thickness tape for your boxes. Thin tapes can tend to tear, while thicker tapes have trouble sticking to boxes, so a medium-grade thickness may be best. When the box is taped shut and lightly shaken, you should not be able to feel the object or anything in the box move at all if properly packaged. Keep in mind what could possibly happen to your item during the shipping process...imagine a 20 lb box coming crashing down on your fragile antique vase in the box...if the vase isn't packaged and cushioned really well, imagine the results!! Prepare for the worst abuse all of the time, and assume the package will be dropped, kicked, and crushed (this doesn't happen often, but it does happen!).

Making the box nearly impervious to crushing by filling to the rim with packing material would really minimize your risk. Double boxing some items is a great idea for extra fragile things. Add an extra layer of protection and to minimize the object inside from moving about the box by packaging the item in two boxes. Securely wrapped with bubble wrap and peanuts, the first box will be very secure.


Postage can either be calculated through USPS.com and the Click-N-Ship scale, or by bringing into your local office and having them weigh and stamp the package.

Insurance & Tracking

Be sure to add insurance to items of high worth or fragility if purchased. If you don't feel comfortable without insurance, you can require it for eBay customers to purchase. Finally, attach the label to the top and ship! Don't forget delivery confirmation or signature confirmation. For international items, you can usually get "return receipt," which will send you notification when the package arrives to its destination. Also, on international orders, the customs number can be used as a form of tracking.

Insure It!

Require insurance on packages that you are shipping that are fragile or high worth. When shipping overseas, insurance is important as well. It won't cost you a dime, since buyers will have to pay for the insurance. It's well worth it for everyone involved in the transaction!

After the Sale...

Keep all of your records and receipts from every transaction in case you have any problems arise. Your insurance information, delivery confirmation, and customs number should all be included on the receipt printout from USPS. Click-N-Ship info is all stored online, so this should be in your email account. Problems are rare, but they do happen!

In the event that you have a broken item, immediately contact your local USPS. They may ask you to bring the item in to them (if you are the recipient). For international shipments, the local office may refer you to the toll free number: (800)ASK-USPS.

Shipping Internationally: Is it Worth It?

Shipping internationally can be good and bad. You have the tracking in the form of the customs number, or Express Mail number if it is mailed Express Mail. Accepting international buyers can increase sales, bids, traffic, and have you gain some repeat buyers. They may be interested in the items you have to offer which are not available in their country, and why not offer it to them?

The Good

The pros are obvious: more sales, bids, traffic, customers, like we said. The cons: you have to fill out more paperwork, the customs number is the only form of tracking in most instances, and fraud is at a huge increase with international buyers. Overall from our experiences, it is a definite benefit. Sales will increase on the average 25%, depending on what you are selling, and most transactions go as smooth as can be. But, there are those few problem episodes...

The Bad

We recently shipped an item internationally via APO. An APO is a military zip code that overseas officers can use. The package is delivered to a location in the US, where it is then transported by the military to its destination, wherever that may be. In this circumstance, this resulted in a huge loss for us. The package was not insured, and the item arrived in Europe completely water damaged. It was an expensive designer wallet, and the leather cannot hold up to such abuse. It was soaked, left in a puddle, or went for a swim at some point...whatever it was, the item was ruined and the customer was NOT happy. We had to refund the cost of the item, so that's money out of our pocket. Insurance isn't available internationally, so this is a BIG risk.

We were left with only a couple of options...tell the customer "tough!" and deal with the repurcussions of a PayPal dispute and negative feedback, or handle it like a great business and leave the customer satisfied. We decided to make the customer happy, as anyone should, and refunded them. It was not her fault that the item was ruined, as was proven by pictures of the box and item. In the end, she was disappointed by the ruined wallet, but will remember the courtesy of a seller that refunded her for a slight hiccup in international shipping.

Customs

Also, items can be held up at customs. This is especially important around the holidays when customers want items to give as gifts, and they want them by a certain date. Keep in mind it can easily take a month or two to reach Canada from the United States. Europe usually takes at least two weeks, sometimes two months. Certain countries are more risky to ship to than others.

What Has Your Experience Been?

Have you had a worse experience with shipping? Or do you have some tips that you think everyone should know about packing your items? Leave them here!

For Info on How to Wrap an Item

If you'd like to learn how to package an item well so there's no breakages, please read our article:

Had worse happen?

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    • LadyRaine profile image

      LadyRaine 9 years ago

      More terrific tips! Thanks!

    • profile image

      MuddyLaBoue 9 years ago

      When I was moving to France, my sister packed most of my stuff for me. Nothing was broken, but I broke one of my glasses washing it before putting it away on Day 1. Such is life. But it 's truly disappointing to order something you like a lot, then have it delivered broken. People need to know!

    • profile image

      flaminglacer 9 years ago

      A very practical and useful lens - squid angel blessing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Hey there! Very nice page! I saw it on Linkreferral. I am out of reviews for today, so I will give you a good review tomorrow! Later!

    • wildrosetreasure profile image

      wildrosetreasure 9 years ago

      Great Lens. Every seller needs to read this.

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

      Tons of information on here for the newbie merchant. *Blessing* it so that more people can benefit from your excellent tips. (:

    • deyanis profile image

      deyanis 6 years ago from Oz

      I sold fragile items in the past and always had a hard time packing it. I wish I found this lens sooner. Every eBay sellers and sellers in general will need to read it. Great lens --- Blessed ---

    • AlexandraHubbard profile image

      AlexandraHubbard 5 years ago

      Thanks for writing this! It's so important to ship stuff properly!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I shipped large box full to brim with clothing and personal items including some new things, just bought, via USPS to myself from my son's home in Calif. I live in PA. The box never arrived, no recourse with US government, no reimbursement for $1000 worth of MY goods that USPS lost. Likely the box burst with rough handling and contents were trashed or ended up in Atlanta at the warehouse.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image
      Author

      Kiwisoutback 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @anonymous: For that much in contents value I usually insure. They are supposed to ask at the post office if you'd like insurance. It's costly but worth it for higher valued items.

    • profile image

      estella8309 3 years ago

      Great Lens! Sorry to hear about those Glass Candle Jars. It is amazing what people will settle for when they prepare fragile items to be shipped. I wouldn't even send something rock hard so carelessly.

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