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Fri Feb 24 2012 12:08:32

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

By: Julia Wilkinson

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The other day I posted a photo to one of the seller forums where I hang out of one of the weirder boxes I've received in the mail from an eBay seller. It was a chicken roaster box turned inside out and taped up. I'm an eBay seller myself, so I often use recycled boxes and other materials myself. But the visual of the chicken on the inside of the box did not give me a good feeling.

Another of the stranger packages I've received includes a box shipped from Hong Kong that seemed to consist entirely of tan packaging tape. In fact, it was two pieces of styrofoam covered entirely by tape. It cushioned the item inside pretty well!

We had a good laugh about the "chicken box," and then a discussion ensued about what packaging materials everyone used. Most folks agreed they re-used boxes whenever they can, but would draw the line at the chicken box, and another eBay seller once receive a taped-up granola box, which was another line in the packaging sand we would not cross.

But most of the sellers did re-use boxes they received, so long as they were clean, and some admitted to curb- and even dumpster-diving for reusable boxes.

"Why throw out perfectly good-sized boxes?" asked one seller. "I consider it recycling...I turn the boxes inside out and secure it." It was agreed you need to use plenty of packing material, such as airbags, bubble wrap, and clean plastic bags.  (Packing peanuts have their fans, and others think they are demon seeds; flying all over the minute a buyer opens the package. Some people get around this by coralling the peanuts in flexible plastic bags). The eBayer who got the granola box packaging had bought a set of silver salt and pepper shakers, and as there was inadequate filler, they arrived dented.

Yesterday's guest blog post by Michael Ridlin spurred a discussion of packaging materials and new vs. used boxes. I do think that Amazon buyers expect a greater level of care and professionalism in packaging; this is why I try to re-use branded Amazon boxes when I ship to my Amazon buyers, and clean and new filler such as bubble wrap or air bags (the latter which I get from the packages I receive from Amazon myself, as a buyer). But I have been known to use crumpled-up newspaper.

What kinds of "creative" (or just plain weird) packaging have you received as a buyer from eBay, Amazon, or other online sites? Do you use such recycled packaging yourself, and what money-saving tips can you give about boxes and packing supplies? (And let's not forget that Victoria's Secret staple, the plastic bag "fashion mailer"; which can work for unbreakable items like clothing). Post a comment here!




Comments (29) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Fri Feb 24 12:41:38 2012

This is one I HATE to get. A clothing item jammed inside an small manila envelope, then the entire  envelope is tightly wrapped like a mummy with wrapping tape. So tight that you cannot pry it open or even fit a letter opener in a small area. You are left with no option but to use a razor knife to cut a slit - but VERY carefully, since the item is clothing! It is like some kind of puzzle to know where to cut without taking the chance to damage the item!

Even though I did not leave a negative, I mentioned this in that seller's feedback, it was so bad! The clothing item had been compacted into a tiny mass of wrinkles! The whole episode seemed deliberate - like the seller did not like buyers very much & this was their way of making a statement!  

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Fri Feb 24 14:29:04 2012

We recycle boxes in two ways.

If the box is clean, unmarked and sturdy, we use it to ship new orders. If the box is damaged, stained or otherwise unfit for reuse, it is cut into pieces. The damage pieces are tossed into the recycling bin and the good portions used as padding or as a wrap to protect parts for shipping.

We also make use of various sizes of 2 ML zip lock bags.

We make shipping pillows by filling them with packing peanuts. This keeps the peanuts from making a mess when the package is opened by the buyer.

We inflate empty bags as needed to create air pillows at a much lower cost than purchasing them. Taping the zipper closed after inflation keeps the bag sealed through transport. The 2ML bags are also thicker than the material used in pre made air cushions so they are less likely to puncture in transit.

Small parts shipped in bubble mailers are also first packed in a zip lock bag which is inflated and taped closed so the bag with the part becomes it's own air pillow for a little extra protection.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Feb 24 14:37:00 2012

A small defense of packing peanuts.

A few years ago, a California customer sent an email telling me they were delighted with the product service but wanted to let me know they highly disapproved of non recyclable packing peanuts.

I wrote back and said they were reclycled peanuts that would have otherwise been thrown away that are given away by a local store.

That's when I learned about environmentally friendly peanuts made from vegetable oil and fully bio degradable.

They're more expensive than styrofoam peanuts, but fortunately I don't use that many per order. It has to be very cold and/or very dry before there's any static electricity, the price is coming down, and they're easier to handle.

A few customers have made positive comments about them so I believe the extra expense is well worth it IF you're only using small amounts per order.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
Web Site

Fri Feb 24 14:41:40 2012

Ming..Environmentally friendly packing peanuts..who knew? Thanks for the tip! Where do you buy yours..on eBay, by any chance? :)

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: BetterThingsToDo This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 24 18:51:40 2012

Until my buyers pack their own packages and insure that they will be received unbroken, " I will use Peanuts, Lots of Peanuts and More Peanuts.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Fri Feb 24 19:24:59 2012

I've received (and reused) some of those biodegradable packing peanuts. You put them in water and they simply dissolve away. Pretty neat and they do seem more resistant to static.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: Ron This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 24 20:30:54 2012

12 years ago I worked for a large packaging company that was looking into the impact of the internet on our business.  We wanted to set up an e-commmerce packaging company with a mandate to supply and advise large e-commerce companies on their packaging needs.

In order to understand the market, we hired one of the Top Five consultant firms that I'd rather not mention here.  We spent close to a million dollars on studies with a lot of emphasis on end market survey.

One of the results that I'd like to share here was the importance that customers placed on the experience of opening the box.

It was important that the experience of opening and seeing the product was similar to when they were bringing a purchase home from a B&M store.  In other words, the perception of the product itself was highly correlated to the presentation of the product.  Visualize opening a gift wrapped present - that was what a supplier should be aiming for.

Since then, I've always done my best to make sure that anything that I ship looks as good as possible upon the box being opened.  I use only new boxes and new packaging.  I understand the importance of re-cycling, but IMHO, that has to take a back seat to a satisfied customer.  Of course, making sure that the article arrives undamaged is part and parcel of the above.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: LOISD This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 24 21:19:01 2012

I have sold and shipped on ebay since 1998 and have used new and recycled items without 1 complaint...I have 100% feedback...Of the recycled items I use is egg cartons.....I wrap them in a recycled plastic grocery bag among shredded recycled paper tied and taped closed with a note stating do not open or recycled shredded paper will fly every where.
I use recycled peanuts and other styroform pieces given to me by people and shops that know I reuse it.  
Everything is clean.
Another of my favorites from the small fruit guy here is the purple dividers between apples and some other fruit.
I get boxes from the dollar store for parcel post items.
I love to recycle clean items,,,,it is what I consider selling vintage items on eBay to be.
I thought long and hard about it before I started to use these items and tried it slowly but I have received a lot of feedback about how good my packing is.
I also buy bubble wrap and tissue paper.  The first thing every item gets wrapped in is tissue paper than bubble wrap, than recycled stuff.
Good topic........
Thanks
Lois

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
Web Site

Fri Feb 24 21:37:29 2012

I've used the bio peanuts in the past, they work fine for packing (the ones I got looked like anemic Cheetos), but I had a concern if the box got wet, would the peanuts turn to goo inside?  

@juliawww  you can get them at Uline, search: Biodegradable Peanuts

I did score 2 boxes of nice new ceiling styrofoam panels at a thrift store for a couple bucks.  100 12x12 panels in each box.  They are about 1/2 inch thick.  These are perfect for using as a lightweight hard backing when I ship old paper (maps, prints, etc).  They also add width to the mailer so it qualifies for 1st Class Parcel w/DC.  I'm going to be sorry when I run out of those.  

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: elpereles
Web Site

Fri Feb 24 22:06:19 2012

The problem isn't recycle items to ship. It is the condition of the items and is some cases the item original purpose.

I don't consider is good idea use any bag/box/etc that have contact with food.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: silent anarchy

Fri Feb 24 23:29:27 2012

I make my own padded mailers for small items. I buy envelopes from the dollar stores and my job gets alot of padded mailers from UPS and FEd EX so i cut them to fit inside. For larger items i use flat rate boxes from the post office.  

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Sat Feb 25 00:03:41 2012

This will repeat some of my reply to the other article:

I reuse everything. My neighbors give me all of their boxes. They order all kinds of things online. I have seen some very interesting packing materials that came with their products. I particularly love the cardboard bottle protectors that come with the neighbor's liquor orders. I cut them up and use the molded pieces to enfold figurines and other things that are hard to protect. I then put them into a larger cardboard box, so they are double boxed. It works great.

I have a little supply of air pillows, corrugated cardboard that was perforated into a chicken wire design and is stretchable, lots of brown wrapping paper, big blocks of styrofoam. I frequently wrap delicate things in tissue paper, then another layer of thicker paper like brown wrapping paper, then a final wrapping of bubble wrap and any stiffer protection that is needed before it goes into the main box.

I reuse the thick foam sheets that come with large things like TVs and computers. I can cut out the shapes that I need to enclose a delicate plate or breakable thing. It's a pain to gouge out the shapes, since the styrofoam has a static charge. But I was able to safely ship a star shaped plate to Australia with no problem at all.

I bought some light blue 1/4'' fanfold insulation at a garage sale once and that was great to shield delicate things. It has a membrane on one side and you can score the other side to wrap it around delicate things.

I save the inner tubes of bubble wrap and packing tape. Those tubes are very sturdy and can shield many things. I can make a great little round box out of the packing tape tubes by simply cutting a little round top and bottom. the item gets covered with small bubble wrap and put into the little round box, then gets bubble wrapped and goes inside a larger box.

Used children's cardboard play blocks make great packing boxes. You have to break them down and turn them inside out, since they have a colorful pattern on the outside, but they are surprisingly sturdy.

I cut up any damaged boxes and use the undamaged cardboard for inner packing or double boxing or I make smaller boxes out of it.

If I need any packing things from my neighbors, I put a sign out asking for their used packing boxes with the inserts. They just drop them off at my garage, then I break them down flat and store then until needed.

I do buy small boxes, especially during the Christmas season. I could cut up the larger boxes into smaller ones, but during Christmastime, there isn't much time.

However, when summer comes, I will be out in the back yard cutting big boxes into smaller ones.

Here's a tip about packing tape. Once you wrap your package with tape, use either the dull side of a knife or even the smooth handle to make the tape really adhere to the package so it becomes one with the package, and make sure that no sticky part of the tape is hanging ''out in the breeze''. That sticky piece of tape could adhere itself to another package and give your little box a trip it wasn't supposed to take. Remember that once your package leaves your hands, it is handled mostly by conveyor belts with few human hands.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: mickeyfinn This user has validated their user name.

Sat Feb 25 00:24:57 2012

Yes, there are some interesting packaging solutions. Some have become infamous.....

Just ask about the ''Chicken nugget box'' on the Australian eBay boards. That one is now part of eBay lore.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: Truk This user has validated their user name.

Sun Feb 26 11:58:47 2012

We use only new boxes and packing material
One it gives us a look just like a big box seller but mostly we have no way of knowing what could be on used materials that could result in a low DSR score or worse yet make someone sick many people are alergic to pets,food stuff (peanuts) and many other common household componds
For the health risk alone it's worth the price to us

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: amorelle This user has validated their user name.

Sun Feb 26 12:53:40 2012

I'm like Harriet - I reuse anything I can. I sell mostly breakables so I consider it necessary to use peanuts and bubble wrap but I also save any small pieces of styrofoam; anything that could pad the side or top/bottom of a box. I use USPS boxes when I can but have never had a problem using other boxes - Girl Scout cookie boxes (the ones the boxes of cookies come in) are GREAT. I like to present my items looking nice, but more than that, I like to present them in one piece and I've never had anybody complain about the box.
Strangest wrapping I ever received was a vintage kitchen clock wrapped in a big mylar balloon.
My tip about tape is to use a steak knife, both when packing and when opening. I can't tell you how many pairs of good scissors I ruined back in the day when I used to BUY a lot. The steak knife is easy to handle, it's serrated so it cuts easily, and I get them at auctions for nothing.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Sun Feb 26 12:59:25 2012

USPS Boxes for shipping.

Recycled air pillows for filling voids.

Recycled bubble wrap for wrapping.

New (unprinted) newsprint sheets from PaperMart.com (and sometimes purchased from the nearby Allied Movers) for other void-filling and merchandise-wrapping.

I rarely get any styrofoam peanuts from any of my suppliers, but those get recycled too. ~~ ONLY... if I do use peanuts, they are the FIRST THING to go in the bottom of the box... just to make a ''floor'' of peanuts. That way, when the customer opens the top of the box, they don't have to deal with loose peanuts.

(Now, if they decide to open the bottom of the box... well... that's their own fault. :-)

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Sun Feb 26 14:23:41 2012

Everything I sell is in the collectible vintage and antique category, so all of the things I sell are different sizes, from very tiny miniatures to larger heavy items.

If I had to buy new boxes, I'd have to buy about a ton of different sizes. I would never have the space to store that kind of packing inventory, not the money and a lot of it would get wasted because I would be guessing ahead on what I would need.

Reusing is really the only option for me. I use USPS boxes when I can, but they don't make sense for ordinary priority shipping. If you have a heavy item going a long way, then those free Priority boxes make sense. If not, then you are probably charging the customer way too much for shipping, when you could have packed it in a regular box to save on Priority shipping. The Post Office always reminds me of that when I use a free box and overpay. They are very helpful to me. They would tell me to go home and repack it in a regular box. LOL

Those who sell pretty standard sized things, can easily buy new boxes, because they are never wasted and the shipping is predictable.

So, different strokes for different folks.

My packages always look pretty good, and even better, arrive in good shape.

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Sun Feb 26 15:02:23 2012

Since I sell mainly clothing, I use either Priority Tyvek Bags for over 13oz or purchased lightweight bags for under. But I always buy huge quantities of tissue paper & use it. People really like that - I've had the tissue paper mentioned in positive feedback more than once.
  I occasionally use boxes for non-clothing items & use either priority or recycled boxes from my accumulated pile. Sometimes I think I could be on the "hoarders" TV show if they had an episode for boxes & packing supplies! For some reason I can't throw away a good sturdy box or packing material!  

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.

Sun Feb 26 23:36:13 2012

e-bay's "free" shipping policycontributes to this!!!!.
I've received items stuffed into flat rate envelopes that were much too small, and other items without proper cushioning. Bubble wrap is costly so folks use wadded newspaper or even paper towels, doesnt work !!!
Shippers try to spend as little as possible on shipping and it shows.
Items arrive a little dinged up.

When I  was  selling stereo equipment on e-bay, I used some excellent re-purposed computer boxes, and 3" of packing all around, so boxes would often be oversize 1 or 2. Everything arrived safely, but I was dinged in the DSR department for the Fedex rates on the boxes (I didnt charge for materials, just shipping).  

eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging   eBayers Who Use Creative (and Weird) Packaging

by: candyk This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 27 11:01:36 2012

I have been selling since 1997 and have used some bizarre shipping items including egg cartons (worked great for small Christmas ornaments) - I utilize those sturdy plastic boxes that the ''wipes'' come in- the shipping label fits and they are very secure for small items.  Even clean and reuse the plastic containers that lunchmeat comes in- again sturdy and secure.  Never received a nasty comment - but have received compliments on ''unique'' shipping box. With a very small margin of profit, need to be creative and as long as the item gets there safely, don't see any problem.  Not to mention, recycling helps the environment.

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