Hi there! I hope everyone is doing great!
Summer months are usually terrible for me on eBay. Keep on reading to see how this July is one of my best months ever!
My Wiley book is coming along. I am finished with chapter 10 (I’m planning on 19 chapters), so I’m over halfway there!
This e-zine is published every other Tuesday.
July 19, 2005 Volume I, Issue 4
- Book Signing at Village Books in Old Fairhaven, Bellingham, WA (My Hometown!)
- How to Handle Shipping Charges
- Summer Business on eBay
Book Signing at Village Books, Bellingham, Washington:
I grew up in Bellingham, Washington. It is a beautiful town right across from the San Juan Islands, and it is where my grandmother had her antique store for over 50 years, Cheryl Leaf Antiques & Gifts. Anyway, while exhibiting at Book Expo in New York this year, Chuck and Dee Robinson (who own Village Books) stopped by my booth to say hello. Their bookstore is incredible—one of those places you can get lost in for hours. They asked me to do a book signing and talk when I am up in Bellingham this summer. Well, needless to say, I was honored. My book discussion is going to be August 31, Wednesday, at 7:30 pm. I hope you all can make it. You can see details about the signing here.
The best part of this is that Entrepreneur Magazine, in conjunction with eBay, is publishing an “eBay Entrepreneur” special edition that hits newsstands August 30th (the night before my signing). Guess who is one of the featured power sellers? I have to admit-Me!
What to Charge for Shipping?
How much to charge to ship items to your winning bidders can be a very tricky question, and requires you to walk a fine line. Some sellers are adamant that they will not charge for handling. That is fine. If you decide to go that route, more power to you. I, however, am of the opinion that since every major catalogue and on-line retailer has been adding on handling charges for years, I am going to do the same, and I’ve found almost all bidders accept a moderate handling charge without quibbling.
Whatever you decide regarding handling fees, it’s always a good idea to quote a fixed price for shipping in your auction. If you state that you will charge “actual shipping,” be prepared to field about a million emails asking, “How much to zip code 22345? 87120? 98225?” etc. etc. If you don’t want to charge a handling fee, make your fixed shipping price as close to the expected cost as you can get. For some items, you may lose a little money on shipping, and for others you’ll make a little money, but it will all average out, and you’ll have saved yourself hours of aggravation by quoting a price up front.
Even before the advent of eBay (was there really life before eBay?), back in the late 1970s, I used to ship collector’s plates that we sold mail-order from advertisements in the “Antique Trader.” I was only a little kid, but my grandmother used to pay me 10% for everything we would sell out of one of those ads. Some weeks, I would make $200 in commission!
Starting with those early days, I’ve had decades of experience with shipping charges, and here’s how I calculate them. I know that I can ship a small item (about one pound) anywhere in the country for about $4-$6 by UPS (average $5). I know that a medium item (1 to 2 pounds) will run me $5 to $7 (average $6), and a larger item (3 to 4 pounds) will cost me $6 to $8 (average $7). It really is a numbers game and I rely on the numbers so that everything will average out. I add on $2 to all of these for my handling fee, so I quote small items at $7 s/h/i (shipping, handling and insurance), medium at $8 s/h/i and larger $9 s/h/i. On items over four pounds, I weigh them and check my UPS charts for worst case scenario – say cross country – and that is what I quote with some handling fees thrown in. I have quoted anywhere from $12, to $45 and on up for s/h/i on larger items.
Once in a great while someone will complain about how much I charge, but such eBayers are few and far between. I also include a line in my auction descriptions stating that winning bidders can save on shipping with multiple purchases (usually $1 to $2 savings for each additional item) and this helps sales. Once the auctions have ended there is a button on the “My eBay” page that says, “Combine shipping for buyers with multiple purchases” and tells how many of these you have. This feature will only show up if you do have buyers that have purchased more than one item from you. Click on this button and it will list all the buyers and how many items they have bought from you. Click on their user id and it takes you to a page where you can send them a combined invoice. This feature is so handy! We use it all the time.
I only ship USPS for items that I know I can get in a flat rate envelope or that I know will weigh less than one pound, like clothing, a book, a small piece of jewelry etc. When I do this, I quote $5 s/h priority because I know that the priority stamp is $3.85 and I take in an additional $1.15 to cover gas to the post office and other expenses.
As far as international shipments, I do not quote any prices in my auctions. It would be too time consuming, because I have so many items on eBay at one time. When someone does email to ask a quote to a certain country, however, I use the USPS international chart here and always add on $2 to $3. Then I post the question with my listing so that other international buyers will be able to see it. There are many options for shipping overseas; it is beyond the scope of this e-zine to talk about all of them, so I suggest you spend some time on the web site www.usps.com and check out your options.
Don’t get discouraged with shipping costs if you are just starting out. It is a whole new world and you will learn as you go. Just remember, I have been doing this forever and I still mess up, especially with foreign shipments. It never fails, no matter how good we are in estimating foreign costs, we still make mistakes. That is why I will round up the weight to the nearest pound and add on $2 to $3. We just shipped a Risk board game to Sweden. We quoted $20 s/h/i airmail and we got to the post office to find that it was going to be $27. What do you do? You ship the item and eat the difference and keep your customer happy.
Finally, that extra $2 to $3 that I add on to each and every shipment adds up to about $400 per week. This money goes to pay for packing peanuts, bubble wrap, boxes, tissue and packing tape – all of which I consider part of my “actual” shipping costs. It also goes to pay the wages of my wonderful assistant, Maureen. Don’t feel badly if you do add on a small handling fee; corporate America has been doing this forever.
As an ending note, shipping is one of the most important steps in becoming a stellar seller on eBay. Spend the extra time and become really good at this. It is what will make or break you. Your shipping expertise and speed is what will keep your customers coming back for more. Email them and let them know when and how their item shipped (or let the UPS or FedEx software do it for you). Keep them in the loop and you will keep them as happy returning customers. These are the best kind of customers to have!
The Summer Months on eBay
As you all probably know, I have been selling on eBay for almost seven years. I have never had good sales during the summer months. I always figured that most people were outside enjoying the summer weather and not stuck inside checking their computers. When we had the antiques store we would sell up to $20,000 a month on eBay, but we never sold this much during the summers. It was always much less. Now that I do this on my own, I usually sell between $4,000 and $8,000 a month on eBay. During the summer months, I have had it get as low as $3,000. That always freaks me out!
However, this July is going to be one of my best months ever. We are on track to do $9,000 in sales this July! I can attribute it to four things. One, I bought some incredible sets of dishes over the Fourth of July weekend. I paid $700 and they sold for about $2,500. If you want to learn my secrets for turning dinnerware into cash, please check out “How to Sell Antiques and Collectibles on eBay…and Make a Fortune.” Secondly, I bought some overstock pallets for a great price and the items in it were high ticket. Thirdly, my eBay store, which I teach you about in my first e-zine has been rocking! We sold 10 items out of my store over the weekend and this translates to about $150 in extra income for just two days. Lastly, I didn’t give up on the summer; I decided to pursue it just like I pursue my best months—November and December.
Bottom line is that we are doing great this summer. I feel so good about my eBay business and being half way done with my Wiley book that I am off for a mini scuba diving vacation to Cabo San Lucas this Sunday. Adios!
For more great tips and tricks, visit my web site at:
Happy Buying & Selling! Lynn
Please contact me with any questions or suggestions for future issues. I would love to hear from you Lynn@TheQueenofAuctions.com
Lynn is an experienced eBay Power Seller, author and teacher. If you want to know the eBay tips, tricks and tools that Lynn uses for buying and selling at online auction click here.