Combining Shipping on Multiple Items

IMPORTANT NOTE: These ebay pages are online for historical reasons. I would now advice my visitors NOT to use ebay. There are alternative sites which provide a far safer experience. Read my Ebay - Work From Home page for more details. However, for those that are required to use ebay for some reason, the information is retained below.

If you are selling groups of items - say batches of CDs - then you will often get people who win multiple of your auctions and who want to combine shipping charges. This is of course fair. If you send five CDs to a person, it will cost less than if you sent a single CD to five different people. However, it will not be FREE for the additional CDs :) I still get one or two clueless people every once in a while who think those additional CDs somehow magically become weightless :)

The point is that one CD in an envelope might cost say $1.50 to ship to somewhere. If you stick another CD into that envelope, the price might only go up to $2 for that "package". You as the seller only had to pay for one envelope, not 2. You only had to drive to the post office once. You only used one piece of paper to print out for the invoice. So all of these end up being savings for you. It's quite fair for you to therefore charge the buyer less for total shipping costs.

I don't have any hard or fast rules with my own shippings, because every case is different. If someone buys 4 CDs it might fit into an envelope which is light. If they buy 5 CDs it might now have to go into a box which is heavier and sort of counteracts the volume discount. If someone buys 2 CDs by one band, the liner notes might be super slim and therefore weigh only a little. If they buy 3 CDs from another band, there might be HUGE liner notes, plus outside cardboard sleeves and it could weigh twice as much.

So when an auction ends, I gather up the items to go out to a given person. This includes whatever packaging I'm going to have to use, the invoice piece of paper, etc. I put them all onto the scale and see how much they all weigh. Normally I charge $3 for a single CD to go out to a person in the US, which covers the postage, delivery confirmation, envelope cost, paper / printing cost for the invoice, etc. So let's say the postage for that single CD shipping cost would have been $1.50. If the person bought TWO CDs instead, and the postage now was going to be $2.50, I would probably charge the person $4 total for the combined shipping package. If the two CD package had to use a larger envelope, because they wouldn't fit into my standard single-size CD envelope, then I might have to charge them $5 total for the combined package. The point here is to give them a reasonable discount - but not to lose money. If you start losing money on your sales, then it's not fair to you either.

I have lost money on shipping before, because I didn't weigh the items out before I gave the quote. Someone would pay $3 in shipping, and it'd end up costing me $4 to send the item out to the person - so I lost money not only on the extra postage, but now I was not even being paid for the envelope / etc. If the item was bought for only 99 cents - that means I paid money to send the item out to the buyer :) So that is always an important balance. Make sure that you are fair - but that you are at least breaking even on your auction. In the end if you break even, then you've still gotten clutter out of your home and are increasing your eBay rating. So that's fine to do once or twice, but will harm your budget if you make it a standard practice :)

Note that ebay / paypal REQUIRE delivery confirmation, and if the item does not reach its destination YOU are responsible for paying for it pretty much no matter what. So many ebayers recommend you manage a "risk fund". This means you charge each ebayer some amount (50 cents to $1) and put that into a fund. If someone then runs off with one of your items or a legitimate loss occurs, you have that fund to reimburse you. However you're not allowed to call it "insurance" (because it's illegal for you to sell insurance) and apparently it's also against the rules to TELL the buyer you're doing this. This situation is one of the key reasons I stopped using ebay. They require you to pay - but they also require you not to charge the buyer or even tell the buyer you're doing it.

I'll also note here that ebay has a maximum shipping & handling price you can charge on items - and in many cases it is LOWER than your cost to sell the item! Their response? This is right on their website:

Why are you setting limits on shipping charges lower than my actual costs to ship?
We based our maximum shipping & handling charges on recent transaction data of what sellers are charging and what buyers have told us is reasonable. We know that what buyers consider to be reasonable will be less than sellers' actual costs in some cases. We believe that by offering buyers at least one shipping option that they deem reasonable, sellers will increase their overall sales and conversion.

There's more. They literally tell you, if your shipping is going to cost more, LIST IT ANYWAY and EAT THE COSTS.

Continue to list your item with the same start price and a shipping price at or below the maximum shipping cost. Many of our sellers have success with auctions, even at free shipping, because their item looks more competitive to their buyers.

Of course they want you to eat the costs! Even better, they recommend you do it in a way that they get FEES TO THEM paid on the item you're listing:

If your actual shipping costs are higher than the maximum shipping & handling cost, start the item price higher to cover your shipping cost. This technique will minimize risk that you will lose money on shipping.

If you list the item with a higher starting price, it means THEY get paid on your shipping costs. So they are taking a percentage fee of what you are paying out to the shipping company.

So if for example I sold a double-disc video games, and it was too heavy to ship with their maximum shipping cost allowable, then it's too bad. I have to pay the rest of the shipping cost out of my pocket.

I was a long term member of ebay - from 1999 through 2009. In the beginning years, ebay was a fantastic community, full of fun bargains, friendly people and a general feeling of joy. It was like going to a fun garage sale on a sunny day and spending time with friends.

However, starting in 2009, changes made to the ebay system altered it overnight from a joy to a horror. In one auction set alone I had three different buyers attempt very questionable refund operations. I went on the forums to get assistance. The forum members' derogatory comments and snide responses shocked me. Literally in one week I went from being from a staunch promoter of ebay to someone who swore never to use the ebay system again.

I am maintaining these pages online for historical reasons, but I would now wholeheartedly warn visitors NOT to use ebay going forward to sell items. The risk to you is too great. Feel free to contact me for all details on the situation. Instead, I highly recommend these systems:

Amazon Sales for selling used CDs, DVDs, books and other products
Etsy for selling personal items (crafts etc)

I have used both of the above sites and they are wonderful.

eBay Working from Home

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