Buying on eBay & Amazon: Packaging

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Continuing our look at online buying experiences, today we take a look at packaging. Packaging costs money, but what’s the best compromise between delivering the product in tip top condition and saving money (and the planet!) by reducing wastage.

It was interesting to see the difference in packaging on the DVDs that we purchased. Amazon favour rigid card packaging which just about guarantees that the item arrives in perfect condition. The vast majority of eBay sellers opted for a simply jiffy bag but a couple did use card outers, although one simply dropped the DVD into a paper envelope and sellotaped it tight.

One of the more surprising deliveries was from Amazon. I bought a product in a glossy retail box and that’s how it arrived. Amazon simply stuck a courier label and a document enclosed wallet to the retail box and shipped it out.

Needless to say it arrived dirty, dented, with a rip in the box, and as luck would have it soaking wet as it was torrential rain that day. I was somewhat taken aback at this, so in future I’ll be marking anything I buy from Amazon as a gift in the hope it arrives in somewhat better condition.

The big question is how do you approach packaging. Do you go overboard to ensure that the item arrives in pristine condition, or do you take a chance with less packaging and accept that occasionally items might arrive damaged and need replacing? Your decision is probably governed in part by the products you sell – it’s a lot easier to replace a cracked CD jewel case than it is to obtain an identical antique vase!

Personally I’m very much of the opinion that the cost of secure packaging doesn’t always cost justify itself. Whilst I wouldn’t ship a DVD in a paper envelope, a jiffy bag is often considerably cheaper than card packaging. Certainly none of the ones I received in a jiffy bag were damaged, and the one in the paper envelope was also in perfect condition.

Of course there are times when card packaging definitely makes sense, for example collectable vinyl records which can’t easily be replaced, but often, although it would take great customer care, if a plastic DVD was damaged simply sending out the odd replacement could save a fortune on more expensive packaging. If you’re shipping CDs however as they’re generally harder plastic they’re more likely to be cracked in transit and jiffy bag shipping might not be the best option.

One method of packaging, which is a growing category on eBay for packing suppliers, are plastic shipping sacks. Relatively cheap, especially if you purchase larger quantities, these are ideal for shipping clothing items, have the advantage of also being fully waterproof, and can also be used to cheaply and easily protect retail boxed items. (I’m really am surprised that Amazon don’t use them all the time).

How do you approach packaging? Do you package for the worst case situation or do you subscribe to the cheaper packaging approach and accept that maybe one in a hundred items will be damaged in transit?

13 Responses

  1. Should online sellers be legally obliged to state what packaging (and void fill) will be used in the shipment of their goods?

    After all buyers pay for this and it is something that could be key to a buying decision.

    When comparing prices is the type of packaging to be used important?

    An item could be a higher price because higher quality packaging is used.

    Are you going to buy from a seller who claims they will ship loose bone china in a plastic bag no matter how cheap?

  2. At the end of the day you are going to try to use what you can, as cheaply as you can to make sure what you are sending arrives in one piece otherwise it costs you money.

    We sell fragile items and sometimes no matter how much we pack it it will still arrive broken. The funny thing is when customers say it must of been broken before we sent it, I am not sure of many people who like to burn money but I know I don’t!

    We reuse as much packaging as possible from the stock we unpack, not only does it save money but it says waste. We are also always trialing different ways to pack goods, brown paper crushed up is currently my favourite and is better than bubblewrap!

  3. Great post and loved reading it. I have heard somewhere that good quality come with a good price. People have to keep that in mind… Packaging as you have already mentioned depends on the product the sellers sell.

  4. Christmas is actually a great time to acquire some cheap packaging for the January sales. The number of small boxes, bubble warp and hard cardboard (which can be cut into backing board) that can be harvested from all the present opening is both ‘Green’ and a ‘Money saver.’

    All those Amazon book and CD cardboard sleeve are generally good for a second posting once you cover the address details and use strong tape to secure.

  5. For lower value items where costs are proportionally more significant, I try to include the customer by…

    a) Telling them that minimal (but adequate) packaging saves them money as well as me.

    b) Conducting occasional follow up by emailing recent customers and specifically asking for comments about packaging.

    I find that this presents the issue as being in their interest and, when asked, those that respond often say that the packaging was nothing special but that, now they think about it, the product was in great shape anyway and they are happy.

    I suppose it is about managing expectations.

  6. Packaging should be tidy enough and safety should be priority as it is sellers responsibility to get item delivered to customers door safely not DELIVERY companies.

    I would recommend to use recycled boxes from which costs nothing when you get it from local Spar or McDonald’s. I do it this way. The packaging is not neat like new packaging boxes but safe in transit.

    Wonder what others think ?

  7. The majority of my items go out on a pallet. These a typically strapped down with heavy duty banding and then bubble wrapped. It rarely looks pretty but most of the time the item gets there in one piece. Since we get a lot of deliverys I try to reuse pallets as much as possible.

  8. Recycling works for me too. Bubblewrap can be obtained from supermarket fruit and veg sections.

  9. Tricky one, it does seem to depend on the end use of the product. If the product is likely to be a gift then you are not only packaging the product but the products packaging too. If the product is for the customers own use then on most occasions if the product is already boxed, boxing that box or protecting it with bubble wrap will seem excessive.

    As a general rule we use whichever is economical. If the product is particularly cheap to buy it is almost never worthwhile adding extra packaging.

  10. I find that for DVDs/video games, a small poly pag (3p) wrapped in corrugated card (£13ish for a roll of 75m) is cheap, waterproof and protects the product perfectly.

    Downside is that it’s slightly more labour intensive than just stuffing them in a bubble wrap envelope.

  11. every so often we get a comment or feedback whinging about the packaging even though the item arrived intact and in good order, what if and what might of been seems to concern buyers more than the goods arriving in one piece, and to those who witter on about a fragile sticker
    you could write fragile on a package in blood yet it would not be noticed in a grey sack in the back of a container,
    yet if you ask a reasonable postage amount to cover stronger packaging you would get marked down for postage costs,
    what also is annoying are those pillocks who return items overpackaged with a cocoon of tape and tissue triple boxed making a statement on how it should be done

  12. .
    The best we’ve received is this:

    ‘Took ages to find a way into the packet, as taped up so well’

  13. I think that the main purpose of packaging is to keep the item in good condition. The look and feel of the packaging is not that important. So I’ve used many leftover items in my packages like old newspapers, plastic bags and reusing other peoples packages. However, you must take into account that the item once shipped is going to get pretty beat up. You want the item to be secure enough that it will arrive in the promised condition.

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