Monday, September 9, 2013

It's a Wrap: How to Pack Glass for Mailing

Nance asked how I pack glass for mailing. Most of my eBay sales are glass; it's what I like and what I know about so it made sense to me to try selling it online. I've learned a lot over the past few years about packing breakable items and perhaps some of my experience will help others who want to give selling online a try.

The first rule is: pick a big enough box. There needs to be a lot of room for cushioning your glass so a tight fit is likely to cause grief. Like this teapot I bought online recently:

The problem? too small a box. The handle was right against the side with only one layer of bubblewrap between it and the hard knocks of shipping. The other problem was that the pot was not wrapped but placed with the wrap loosely around it. This seller graciously did the right thing and offered a full refund, but what a shame that a teapot that survived about 50 years of use died in transit to me.

Second rule: pick a strong box. Fortunately you can order boxes for free from How cool is that? And they will bring your free boxes right to your door too. Sometimes, of course, the post office's boxes just aren't the right size. If you have to use other boxes, be sure they're strong. If in doubt, line the box with more cardboard, or double-box the item. It will be worth the additional postage, believe me.

Third rule: if you are shipping an empty container (like a pitcher, mug, jar, etc) fill it first with packing material--bubblewrap, packing popcorn, paper, whatever. (Remember that your choice of packing material will add weight to the package--paper is heavy and not very effective.) This provides additional support for the glass against a hard blow or pressure from being in a stack of packages.

Fourth rule: use LOTS of bubblewrap. If possible I use the small (3/16") bubblewrap first in at least two layers around the glass, then wrap again with two layers of large (1/2") bubblewrap. I sometimes have sheets of packing foam on hand which is fine in place of the small bubblewrap. Just make sure your item is wrapped tightly! Loose wrap provides little protection. Taping the wrap makes a tight package that is also strong.

Fifth rule: make sure no part of your wrapped item is touching the box. Use packing peanuts, paper or other filler to fill the box full. A box that is not full and firmly packed will buckle and bend, losing its strength in the process. I sometimes put a piece of cardboard on top and bottom of the inside of the box if I think the extra support is needed.

Tape the box securely. One piece is probably not enough. If shipping a long distance, wrap the box with tape all the way around the top, bottom and sides to provide more support for the cardboard.

Sixth rule: If you are packing more than one piece of glass in a box, consider boxing them seperately and then placing them in the shipping box. If that's not possible or too costly (weight matters in shipping) then make sure there are several layers of bubble wrap between the pieces. If you are shipping plates or bowls, put bubblewrap between each plate, then wrap the whole stack several times with the small bubblewrap, and wrap again with the large.

Seventhth rule: If shipping items with handles or protruding parts, consider how these parts will lie in the box. Keep the protruding bits as far from the sides of the box as possible, and again make sure there is ample bubblewrap to protect them. Wrapping a handle and then wrapping the whole item is a great way to help protect it.

Ninth rule: Tape the box securely. One piece across the top and one across the bottom is probably not enough. If shipping a long distance, wrap the box with tape all the way around the top, bottom and sides to provide more support for the cardboard. If you are recycling a shipping container, reinforce any taped joints with new tape.

Tenth rule: Make sure all other postage and addresses are removed or obliterated on recycled boxes. No sense confusing the postal service.

Eleventh rule: Request a pickup by your mail carrier. It's free! And they will come right to your door.

Twelfth rule: Weigh your item accurately! Weights for online postage go by the pound (1-2 lbs, 2-3 lbs, etc). Don't chintz and think if it's an ounce over it won't matter. It will.

Thirteenth rule: Avoid bad luck by insuring your packages. It's free now for Priority mail packages up to $50 in value, so why not do it? I've had little need to make a claim (only one so far) but it's peace of mind for you and your buyer.

Fourteenth rule: and maybe this should have been first: consider the costs of packing in your auction price for your items. Forget about the time you will spend packing, looking for boxes, etc. That's a given, but do consider how much you will be spending on tape, bubblewrap and other supplies and factor that into your price.

About pricing: How to determine how much to charge? I expect you'd get a different answer from every seller. Here's how I do it: I look up similar items and look at what they have actually sold for, and how many have sold (you can list anything, but not everything will sell). I then look at what I paid for it, what kind of profit I want to make, and how much I think it will cost me to pack it.

Postage is paid by the buyer unless you offer free shipping, but you will need to determine how much your item will weigh when packed, then enter that weight in your listing. For example, if I have a coffee mug that weighs 8 ounces, I can figure the weight of packing will probably make it weigh over a pound, so I enter "1 to 2 pounds" as the shipping weight. Sometimes I get burned--it cost me an extra $5.00 to ship those Koeze's canisters the other day because I underestimated shipping. I decided to box each one separately and then put them into one box, so the weight went up significantly. I am still glad I did it since they were traveling a long way away. Usually I am pretty close to right on the weight. If I find I've overestimated by too much, I refund the buyer. No sense being greedy.

I am sure there is more I could say about this, but if you have any suggestions (or questions) please do comment. I would love to know your thoughts.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Lynn said...

these are great packing hints, I learned all of this the hard way after a few broken items going from France to Canada, I thought it was their handling but not at all I hadn't followed your basic rules. Great post.

Granny Sue said...

It sounds more complicated than it is, Lynn, but it's really common sense. I learned the hard way too; I had a bowl to break in shipping when I first started--it was wrapped well, I thought, but newspaper? just not good enough for glass. The second thing that broke was a very pretty teacup. After that, I started paying close attention to how the items were placed in the box, and I started using a lot more wrap. It's paid off, as since that time I have had only one item to break in shipping. Live and learn.

Nance said...

Sue, this post is so useful to me. I think in a few months when I retire, I'll be ready to let go of some of my glassware. Since my collectibles are mainly glass, I have spent a lot of time wondering how to ship them. (I once tried to ship glass home from Mexico and half of it was cracked or broken : ) Thanks so much!

Quinn said...

Thank you for this very helpful and practical guide. This is very timely for me, as I just set aside a dozen Pyrex and china pieces to put on eBay, and have been struggling to figure out how to charge for shipping.
The local Postmaster taught me about double-boxing when I received an antique vase that sadly arrived with a hairline crack all the way up one side, despite what seemed like lots of packing material. The vase was insured, but still sad to have it ruined!

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