Monday, December 22, 2014

ASK THE EBAY QUEEN: Will the post office ship a box that isn’t plain?

By SUZIE EADS, Ask the eBay Queen | 5/2/2013

Dear eBay Queen: Does USPS still require packages to be pristine on the outside? No writing, text, graphics? Can you just ship a small household appliance in the original box, or do you have to cover the box with brown paper, or put it inside another box? I know I have received several boxes with writing all over them, cartons from the supermarket and the like.

If I use online shipping and I’ve miscalculated the package by a pound or so, will they just charge me the difference at the USPS counter? — HappyDazeAntiques

Dear Happy: I vaguely remember that rule, but I thought it had to do with boxes that had barcodes, and liquor or tobacco labels. When I use boxes that don’t meet the USPS requirements, I just make certain it is easy to spot the shipping label and make sure all UPC codes are covered up with either marker or paper.

As far as the post office, if they weigh the item when you drop it off and it is different, they will charge you the difference. If you drop it off at night, or when they are closed, they might deliver the item “postage due,” which could really make your buyer angry.

It is really up to your local post office — and sometimes whoever is behind the counter. The only time my local post office made me repackage was when it looked like a liquor box. She made me cover it up completely. If there is a new person behind the counter, he or she might weigh every package I bring in and check it. When a package is overweight, I will just pay the extra fee.

Dear eBay Queen: I am working with my brother who has been an eBay seller for a three years. He is trying to earn a salary from his business and needs to scale his operation. He is not making a huge amount of money and cannot afford to subscribe to expensive software solutions.

I have found inventory management time consuming and frustrating. I would like to share with you my experience so far and I would be delighted to hear about your set ups or ideas for best practice. After some research and frustration with Turbo Lister, I have begun researching eBay’s File Exchange Centre and Amazon’s Inventory Loader Template.

I have found Turbo Lister to be a pain. It has caused me more problems and dead ends than I care to admit — including unavoidable error messages, an inability to list across different international sites, un-editable data, slow data updating and .csv files where the output was indecipherable.

My current set up uses Sage Instant Accounts Plus for inventory and accounting purposes. I will setup eBay and the website as customers. I’ll take weekly reports from eBay, Amazon (eventually) and the website, convert them suitably for Sage invoice imports in an excel file. Sage will be important for filing for inventory, income tax and business management. From Sage, I’ll be able to update inventory (after weekly reports/invoices are loaded) to an excel file. In this master excel file, it will auto-update both Amazon’s Inventory Loader template and eBay’s File Exchange Centre’s template. This, I hope, will allow for easy listing and updating products across different channels.

A lot of this has been made possible by learning about adding an SKU (stock keeping unit) code to manage items across different platforms. I hope this information will be useful and save you both time and money. How do you keep track of your inventory? — Steven, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Dear Steven: Holy Smokes! That’s a lot of work! I’m impressed! Are you inventorying every single item you list and sell? Do you need monthly sales, inventory listed/inventory cost, and fees charged?

I use Sixbit Software to keep track of my sales and inventory. It currently only uses the eBay API, but they plan on bringing Amazon, and other popular selling sites. I just started using Outright, which also is available in the eBay apps section. Outright even breaks down your purchases into categories if you assign each unrecognized expense a name.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Strange eBay item of the week: eBay item No. 370777494995. I love this vintage nightgown. I’m not sure if it was in my possession I could sell it! Check out this “Vintage Lingerie Satin Slip Long Sweep Nightgown.” It sold for $338.99 at   

Suzie Eads is a nationally known eBay marketer and eBay trained education specialist. She lives in Rantoul. Have a question for the eBay Queen? Email the eBay Queen

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