EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 324 - December 02, 2012 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 6

Shipping Survey Highlight Sellers' Myriad of Options

By Julia Wilkinson

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At no other time during the year are sellers packing and shipping so many items. EcommerceBytes thought this would be a good time to review all the various shipping options, both carriers and shipping services, and see what they have to offer, as well as how sellers feel about them.

Overall, the USPS may be in financial trouble, but it sure doesn't seem to be due to online sellers - the vast majority of respondents use the U.S. Postal Service most often of all carriers (91%). FedEx came in second as most-used (4.5%), and UPS came in third for most-used (2.6%).

Shipping Carriers Used Most Often

Shipping Carrier Percent Used








Canada Post


If outside North America, your country's postal service




Source: EcommerceBytes, November 2012

Many respondents use more than one service - over the past year, respondents used USPS (97.4%), UPS (39.6%), FedEx (26.6%), Canada Post (1.9%) and other carriers.

Shipping Carriers Used in the Last Year
Shipping Carrier Percent Used








Canada Post


If outside North America, your country's postal service




Source: EcommerceBytes, November 2012

Reasons for Preferring Most-Used Shipping Carrier
When asked in an open-ended question why they preferred the shipping carriers they used the most, survey takers had a vast array of reasons. Since the majority of respondents use USPS most often, we start there.

USPS: Low Cost
Low cost was a big factor in using USPS, especially for sellers who shipped lightweight items which they could ship first class. "Lots of packages under 1 lb.," wrote one seller; "I sell small, lightweight items and USPS is the best way to ship them," wrote another, and, "Ninety-eight percent of my packages weigh under 13 ounces,"

But even some sellers who regularly shipped heavier products preferred the USPS. For them, the Flat Rate Box could be a good option. "I use USPS for all eBay sales, typically shipping items under 10 lbs.," said one. "I primarily use them because my product (coffee) is heavy, and their Regional Rate Flat Rate box shipping is cheapest for items under 10 lbs." They said another reason they use USPS Priority Mail is to meet eBay's requirement for "Fast N Free shipping."

This seller said that for items over 10 lbs., they use UPS. "These are products sold directly from my website, not eBay," they explained.

"Best rates for what I sell; I'm used to it; discount rates thru eBay shipping," said another seller of the USPS.

Sellers who deal in books and other media items appreciate the Media Mail option. "I ship mainly small (under 5 oz) packages and USPS is the cheapest option," said one respondent. "I tend to use flat-rate boxes when I need to ship larger items. I also mail a lot of books and media mail is much cheaper than the alternatives."

And sometimes the cost was buyer-driven. "Buyers do not want to pay for UPS and FEDEX," said one seller.

USPS: Convenience
A lot of people mentioned the convenience and ease of using the USPS. "Convenient, since I can go to P.O. with questions and complaints and speak to a person," said one. "Easy, convenient, good service (so far)," said another.

Although some folks had their mail carriers pick up boxes directly from their house, others were content to visit their local Post Office, and some accessed it via alternative locations: "Grocery store access = short lines," wrote one.

Some were happy to use mail carrier pickup for domestic parcels, and would go to the Post Office only for international shipments: "I can print postage through PayPal and drop off packages in the lobby chute 24/7. I only have to stand in line for International parcels. The PO is about (a) 7-minute drive. It has worked well for me since 2001."

Some sellers also have "day jobs" and said USPS worked for their schedules: "On top of doing eBay, I still have a regular job, so free carrier pickup is a Godsend, no longer having to fit going to the PO everyday in an already too busy of a schedule," said one.

Another said their packages were "convenient to drop off at post office, either on the way to work, or after work; I can print the postage at home and leave the packages in the mailbox for my mail carrier to pick up - I don't have to go out of my way to sell things online."

USPS: Reliability; Little Damage
Many sellers were happy with the long-term use of the USPS over the years and had experienced few problems with items over the long time periods they'd been doing business with them. "They haven't lost a package in almost 15 years of selling on eBay and only damaged two. Insurance was fast!" said one seller.

"Never had a problem with delivery or damage," said another.

USPS: Free Supplies
There's no doubt about it, in this day and age of penny-pinching, the free supplies that USPS offers from their website and in their stores are a big draw as well. Comments about the supplies included, "Love the free packaging supplies," "Free boxes and reliability," "Free pickup, free boxes, mailman visits six days of the week."

One respondent said he occasionally used Priority Mail, and "of course I get free envelopes and that helps."

Reasons to Use UPS and FedEx
UPS and FedEx came in second and third in terms of which carriers the sellers had used in the last year, at 39.6% and 26.6%, respectively. "I use for all UPS shipments," explained one seller.

Another seller used UPS for larger items: "Occasionally, I ship large items and those go UPS because they have the best price."

Other users said they used the UPS online shipment process, and one said they used UPS WorldShip.

But a few had had problems with UPS: "I have had more than one bad experience with UPS, and will not give them any more service unless I have no other choice (which hasn't happened yet). For example, packages shipped UPS are often thrown around and damaged," they wrote.

Another said they did not find UPS trustworthy. One, who said "I sell only on eBay," said "I have attempted to set myself up with UPS several times thru PayPal, but the attempt failed."

Another doesn't use UPS much because of the distance: "UPS is about 1/2 hour away," they said.

A few others said they used the Fedex website, as well as UPS's. "FedEx Ground has been a good carrier for our goods," said another seller.

One respondent had an interesting reason for not using FedEx: "FedEx is non-union."

Another seller was happy with FedEx's service, but not its lack of convenience: "Fed Ex is excellent, but it is more complicated in order to get them to pick up…Fed Ex is over an hour away."

Many sellers use different services for different needs. "I use two services, only because neither of them can handle all of my package types," said one seller. "I can't do Regional Priority on PayPal and can't do UPS on eBay. I wish they would get their acts together so I could do everything in one place," said one.

"I use eBay shipping 99% of the time. When it is down, I have (USPS) Click & Ship as a backup. PayPal is for when I ship UPS," said another.

Surprises and Lessons Learned
Were there any surprises in the survey? It was interesting to hear the different issues sellers of different types of items have. Stamps dealers have certain types of concerns, for example; and book sellers have others. Also, a wide mix of third-party services are used by sellers, for special uses such as third-party insurance. Names such as Auctane, Transguardian, and Express-1 came up, not to mention Greyhound.

EcommerceBytes asked sellers, in terms of all shipments they've made, what was their most frequent problem - damage (60%) and non-delivery (32%) were the top issues.

Most Frequent Problem Reported in Shipments

Most Frequent Problem Percent Reporting
Package never shows up


Damage/breakage during shipment


Problems with signature delivery


Source: EcommerceBytes November 2012

EcommerceBytes also asked what shipping precautions sellers took when shipping a high-end item. Adding insurance (90%) and adding signature confirmation (69.5%) were the top precautions cited.

Shipping Precautions Taken When Shipping High-End Item

Precaution Taken Percent Reporting
Add insurance


Add signature confirmation


Ship Priority instead of Parcel Post or First Class


Use a private carrier rather than my country's postal service




Source: EcommerceBytes November 2012

Many sellers also use, Endicia, Click n Ship, Auctiva, and other services for various purposes. See the accompanying AuctionBytes Blog post for a rundown of information from third-party services that responded about what makes their service valuable for sellers.

A lot of sellers are looking forward to the upcoming Delivery Confirmation for First-Class International Mail; beginning next year to Canada and to which the USPS says it anticipates adding additional countries in the Spring of 2013.

But some things sellers asked for are currently beyond man's grasp: free packing peanuts (unless you have kind neighbors, or use freecycle) and "teleportation."

See more data and comment on the AuctionBytes Blog.

About the author:

Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.

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