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How do I Ship Things?

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Who Pays for Shipping?
Ultimately, it's the seller who dictates who's responsible for shipping charges, and this information should be included in the your  listing. Most often, the buyer pays for shipping, with the seller stating clearly what terms are required up front. The seller also determines how an item is to be shipped - what method, and by which carrier.   You have two choices for managing shipping:

  1. Sell the item FOB your location.  This means that your 'ownership' of the item ends when the item leaves your shipping dock; transportation, insurance, liability and cost thereof are the responsibility of the buyer.
  2. Sell the item FOB buyer's location.  This means that you are responsible for shipping, insurance and liability until the item is accepted at the buyer's shipping dock (or doorstep or doghouse or wherever it is that they choose to accept delivery of the item).

So its your choice whether you will charge for the freight and manage the product until it arrives at your customer's location or whether you make it their responsibility.   Its common for small items to be shipped FOB the buyer's location with the price of the shipping added to the cost of the goods.  For large items like furniture, you may well want to specify that it is the responsibility of the buyer to arrange shipping through a company like Craters and Freighters.

Estimating Shipping Costs on small items
There is a link on your members page titled 'Shipping Calculators' that allows you to check shipping costs by weight and destination.   The link to IShip  allows you to compare the rates at a glance and is particularly helpful.

Packing and shipping large items 
Shipping large items items may require disassembly, crating and sometimes both. This may also be required for extremely fragile and valuable items.  If this type of service is what you need and you've never done it before,  you should talk with a professional company that does this as a business.   You have several options:

  • There are many full-service companies that perform both crating and shipping as a business -- Craters and Freighters is one such.  This is a specialized field and we suggest that you use a professional if you cannot deliver the item yourself.  You can use the links on your members page titled 'shipping calculators' to find shippers who handle this type of product. 

  • You may also be able to get an excellent rate on packing and shipping services from a company that normally does moving of household goods, as long as you are willing to accept freight space on an as-available basis.  Check your local phone directory for 'household movers'; call and ask. 

  • Finally, if you are able to crate the item yourself, you may be able to get a good rate from an LTL (less-than-load) trucking company such as Roadway Express.  Use Google or a similar search engine to find ones that service your area.

Large items being shipped internationally are typically handled by freight forwarders and you can probably find someone in your local phone directory under that heading.   You will need to do so to ensure that the customs paperwork is completed correctly.  In most cases, used items are not dutiable, but many countries have basic VAT or consumption taxes and most have customs and customs brokerage fees.   As the shipper, its your job to make sure that the paperwork required to move the product internationally is correct.   Most freight forwarders and shipping companies (Fedex, UPS) will do the paperwork for you, but in some cases, there will be a fee for document preparation.  Unless you know this area well, you should always discuss this with your international customer and your shipper to avoid any unpleasant surprises.  

Shipping costs, particularly for large, crated items,  vary considerably based on the distance, the size of the item and the weight of the shipment (which, of course, includes weight of the packing material, which can be very considerable for a crated item.)   If you do not include shipping, you should be sure your buyer knows that shipping is not included in the cost of your item and that it will be calculated when you know the distance and method of the shipment.

When in doubt, buy insurance!  We strongly recommend that you insure everything you ship. This is an inexpensive way to protect your investment. The additional cost is passed on to the buyer since it can be included in shipping costs.  If you are responsible for the product until its in your customer's hands, you need to make sure that both parties are protected. 

Note that buying insurance on a per-package basis is actually extremely expensive -- but prudent if you are a small business.  Standard shipping insurance also often covers only very low amounts per pound, and if you are shipping an item with a high value, make SURE you know the coverage that you are getting when you buy shipping insurance -- if the coverage from the shipper is limited to $5/pound, it will be of little use if that Limoges plate that weighs a few ounces breaks in transit! 

If your company is at a point where you are carrying business insurance, you can often get an extension to your policy to cover a certain amount of in-transit inventory at rates FAR better than you will ever get from any freight carrier.  Ask your insurance agent what's available and you may be pleasantly surprised!

International Shipping
Don't be intimidated by the idea of international shipping -- it's relatively easy to do, and can significantly increase your business. Mention in your description that you are ready to ship internationally, but don't quote a price until you find out where your customer is.  

Note that it is often much cheaper to ship US Postal service to foreign locations than any other way. 

Make sure that you and your buyer are very clear about who is responsible for taxes, import duties and customs fees.  These can add very substantially to the cost of the item.  In general, used items do not have duty imposed on them, but there many still be Customs Clearance fees and some shipping companies (notably UPS) may charge a hefty customs brokerage fee for completing your customs paperwork for you.  When in doubt, check this with your buyer and the shipper.

Getting it to the Shipper
Some shippers (notably Fedex and the US Postal Service) will pick up for free.  Some charge.  Find out from your shipper whether they will come and get the item at your location without charge -- you don't want to be surprised by a pickup charge.

Documenting Your Shipment
Most shippers have a way for you to get a tracking number through their system -- even the US Postal Service!    The postal service also has a way to get a document that is a 'proof of shipment' that you may want to consider.  Having a tracking number will give both you and your customer a way to find the parcel should it be lost somewhere in the world-wide logistics maze -- and give you basis for an insurance claim if the item never shows up!

Note that your customer can see the status of their order at all times!  As soon as you have shipped your item, go to the order and change the status to 'shipped'.  If you have shipped through a service that has online tracking and you put the tracking number in, the customer will be able to click on that link and find their product.  You should also use the feature to send an updated order acknowledgement to the purchaser so they see what the shipper ID is.

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