Thursday, November 13, 2014

How to Ship on eBay Using USPS

The Basics: Shipping

When discussing reselling with friends, family and acquaintances, fear of shipping is the number one barrier people site for not wanting to sell on eBay. Recently my cousin and a friend both asked me “How do you ship on eBay?” So I thought I’d address it here. When I first started selling on eBay I had a huge learning curve when it came to shipping. I lost some money and wasted too much time at the post office. Hopefully this will help out a few folks who aren't clear on the shipping process.

The USPS is the way to go when it comes to shipping on eBay. They have some sort of contract with each other and you get a shipping discount. You print your labels right off the eBay site and pay via Paypal. It’s the most streamlined thing on eBay’s entire website. This post will focus on the USPS for this reason. If shipping large or oversized items you can work directly with Fed Ex or UPS, but for your basics, USPS is the best. 

Did you know the USPS hasn’t received federal tax dollars since the 1980’s? So, when your mail man forgets your house, don’t yell at him “my tax dollars pay your salary!” Because they don’t, and he will hate you.

First, it’s important to understand how the mail works. By knowing your options you can keep costs down for yourself and for buyers. 

An Overview of Commonly Used USPS Shipping Options 

First Class Mail 
Takes less than a week
The majority of mail is first class. Anything under 13 oz can go first class mail (envelopes, boxes, poly-bags, bouncy balls

Priority Mail 
Takes less than 4 days
Anything over 13oz up to 70lbs can go Priority 

Parcel (Sometimes called “Standard Post”)
Takes less than 9 days
A good option for very heavy items that don’t fit in a Priority flat rate box

Media Mail
Takes less than 9 days
Books and educational material ONLY (No Magazines)

Here is a link to all the USPS domestic services 

So, what do you do with this information? Take it to the listing!

Shipping needs to be set up correctly in your listing so that you don’t end up eating your profits. Before you list your item weigh it with the packaging (eventually you may get good enough to “eyeball” this, but taking the time now will pay off. It’s the eBayers equivalent of “measure twice cut once.”)

A $10 kitchen scale is all you need. If you don’t have one, you can always go to the post office but this is much easier. My scale goes to 80 lbs, but before that I had a 11 lb max kitchen scale that worked well.

So when filling out your listing click on “charge actual cost”The other option is to charge the same amount for all buyers. I don’t recommend this for beginners, especially if like me you live on one coast, because shipping to California is very expensive and easy to underestimate. Then fill out the weight. It is unnecessary to fill out the dimensions unless you feel your box is oversized (over 130” in combined length and girth).

There are other options for other services and local pick up - they are beyond the scope of this post.

Do not offer free shipping unless you are confident in the price of your item. I do not recommend it for those new to the process. This is my opinion for the same reason I think you should weigh your items, it will save you money in the end. For example, it costs me about $6 to send a mug to North Carolina. It costs $11 dollars to send it to California. This is due to my location (in Virginia). If I sold said mug for $20 with Free Shipping I’d make $14 or $9 dollars. A $5 difference is too much for me. If you live in the middle states it’s probably going to be pretty standard. I’ve obviously made this mistake several times but don’t want others to make it too. 

In the drop down menu you will see the option for Priority Flat Rate mailers I LOVE these, and the USPS will ship them right to your front door, along with any other mailers you may need for FREE! There are MANY different sizes and options for mailing material. Some are marked “Flat Rate” meaning they are the same price to ship anywhere in the US.

My favorite is the Padded Flat Rate envelope - you cannot get these at the post office (sometimes they have some in the back if you ask) but they do not put them out for general use. I use the S, M, L flat rate boxes less frequently. They are good for heavier items. Sometimes after the sale I will use one if I’m shipping across country. There’s been a couple times that I was able to ship an item so much cheaper to the west coast using a flat rate box, that I actually refunded the buyer $6 or $7 dollars. (I will not refund for a dollar or two). But that can go the other way too, sometimes shipping is much cheaper to someone on the East coast than the flat rate. 

The USPS also will also mail you (for free) regular Priority Mail boxes. These are boxes that by law must be used to ship Priority. 

Now that you have calculated shipping in your finished listing, when potential buyers look at your listing on eBay they will see the shipping calculated to them (eBay sees the zip code of both you and the buyer and automatically calculates it). 

Once and item sells:

This is the easy part! You log on to eBay and click "ship now" - you can pay for the label right through eBay via PayPal. The labels can be printed onto regular paper and you cut them out and tape them on the box.  If you find your ebaying more frequently you can buy a label printer or special sticker paper for your inkjet. I love my DYMO thermal printer, but understand they only work with Windows OS - if you have a MAC you might want to try a Brother printer.

Once labeled log onto or onto the USPS App and schedule a next business day pick up for your package. This is the best if you have lots of packages, large boxes, or small children (the nightmare of going to the post office with small kids must be avoided at all costs). It's best to try and catch your mail person an introduce yourself and explain you have a online selling business if you plan on using this service a lot. They will be less likely to forget you if you have a rapport.

It's a lot of information to absorb at once, and it took me awhile to learn in. In fact I am still learning every day - so please comment if you have a trick or tip that I missed.

Happy shipping!


  1. This is great info! I'm finding my way with shipping. So if I order the padded envelopes, the shipping rate will always be the same on these to any US destination? How much is that? Thanks!

    1. Right now it's $6.10 but that changes periodically like stamps. It's a lot of bang for your buck.