Auction supplies are clearly an expense and major consideration for an eBay auction business. Of course, the most critical supply is the item you are selling, but mailing supplies are necessary for every auction and their cost and supply must be figured into your overhead. If they are not, you might get a nasty surprise when you sit down to figure out your eBay profits at the end of the week.
The most basic supply is, of course, a box. Obviously packing begins with a box ? but not just any old box. A shipping-type box is necessary because if you use a shoe box or some other flimsy box, you can be certain your package will be a disaster! Your customer will be quite peeved when her item arrives in pieces!
You will become a box-fanatic, like the rest of us. When you swoop into a store or home, with joy in your voice, the proprietor will foolishly assume that it is the merchandise you are exclaiming over! We're just like the kids on Christmas day ? dump the toy on the floor and play with the box! In other words, drooling over boxes is an occupational hazard.
Be aware that lots of merchants have boxes that you can have for free. You might become a scavenger at stores like WalMart, Linens & Things or Bed, Bath and Beyond. They have hundreds of boxes every week, and will often give them away to anyone who wants them.
If you are shipping really fragile items, two boxes are safest. The outer box should be a couple of inches larger than the inner one, to allow extra padding.
Padding for your packages: do you always need padding? Well ... yes and no. I have sent a few tough books without padding. But sending grandma's dishes unprotected is a recipe for disaster!
What kind of padding do you use?
* Newspaper is my padding of choice, because it is cheap and readily available. However, be careful because the ink can rub off on some objects and detract from their beauty. Wrap these kinds of items in plastic. Some auction users buy shredders and use the strips of paper as packaging.
* I hate those plastic peanuts, personally, but lots of people swear by them. They are an environmental disaster and the static electricity is terrible. Electronics manufacturers say to never pack computer and other kinds of equipment with peanuts, just because of the electric problem. Electrocuting your customers isn't good business :-)
* The post office recommends popcorn (without butter and salt, of course ? is that to keep us from eating it?) I like popcorn for packing, but you might not want to use it to go on safari because little critters might like it, too.
* Cut up cardboard can be very effective as packing material, but it is mighty tough to chop up.
* Padded envelopes are a popular choice, because they are so simple ? just insert the whatever and mail. But, of course, they aren't cheap. Whenever you receive anything in one of these envelopes, save them! (Are you thinking about all the envelopes you've thrown away?)
* Bubble wrap is the preferred favorite. It cushions objects so well (and it's such fun to pop the bubbles!) Of course, it costs more than the the other materials, so always look for bargains on this valuable product and save every scrap you get.
And (big surprise) the best place to get bubble wrap, as well as other supplies, is on eBay. Today, for instance, I find 700 feet of 12" wrap for $34.50.
By contrast, only 25 feet of 12 bubble wrap at Staples is $4.98 That means that 700 feet at Staples would cost $139.44. Whew ... quite a saving.
Other necessary auction supplies include mailing tape, regular tape, scissors, labels and an easily legible marker.
I wrap everything in plastic bags, just for safety's sake, so you might want some of those handy, too. One of my packages arrived damp and with the corner shredded (wonder where that box had been?) But, since I had wrapped the books and tapes in plastic, they were unharmed and the buyer was so appreciative.
Another precaution you might consider is to include an extra label inside the package, just in case. You don't want your inventory sitting around one of those dead mail offices.
Auction supplies are like everything else in our eBay business that raises overhead: we must use wisdom and judgment so we can keep those expenses at bare minimum.
Sydney Johnston, the AUCTION QUEEN, was one of the original sellers on eBay and has been selling on eBay since the winter of 1996. She is the originator and teacher of the famous Auction Genius Course, a powerful 16 hour multi media seminar on the Internet that teaches her students how to sell on ebay.