Shipping charges are pretty much fixed. Oh, sure, you could add insurance and other services to the postage but at the end of the day you know how much it cost to ship an item. Then you’d have to include the cost of the packaging…the box, tissue paper, bubble wrap, peanuts, tape, labels, note card and whatever. But again, you can arrive at a proximate cost. The handling, ah the handling, that is another matter. Do you establish an hourly rate, estimate how long it will take to pack something and arrive at an appropriate handling fee? I pack all kinds of antique, vintage and other items that have been sold at my Etsy shop. I don’t include a handling charge because, in some instances, it would be exorbitant to the point of ridiculous.
I sell a good deal of silver plated items. Most are antique from the late 1880s. I take care in packaging these items but it really doesn’t take that long. I’m not really worried about the package (and item) getting damaged, I’m concerned that it will get lost somewhere in the system. It’s really a leap of faith to leave a package with the USPS and hope that it reaches the recipient. I have lost sleep over a rare antique julep strainer that didn’t reach a bartender across country for days after its expected delivery date. Although it was finally delivered, I think of it as a reflection on my service. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.
Packaging more delicate items is not so simple. An antique transferware plate is not extremely difficult. But packing a coffee pot does present challenges.
The spout and handle have to be carefully protected, as does the top. Constructing three sided cardboard protectors for the handle and spout works well. It takes thought and time. Double boxing is a good idea. You can write “FRAGILE” all over the box. But you never know, do you? The word “fragile” might provoke playfulness with those whose care you have entrusted it. I can see it being tossed across a sorting room… I have to remove those negative thoughts from my mind somehow.
Antique paper is another nightmare. Paper that is 130 years old is fragile. It crumbles if you just look at it. Carefully rolling it in tissue paper and inserting in a plastic bag (to protect it in case it is left in the rain) before you place it in a shipping tube is nerve wracking.
As some of you might know, I sell pieces of wood from my yard. Yew is popular. And you might think it has to be a piece of cake to package a stick. Well, if it is a nice, straight stick that easily slides into a tube, it is!
The following photo shows a root end of a piece of yew. It might not look that large in this photo but it was. It was huge. I’m lucky I had a box big enough to hold it. And it had to be well packaged so that it didn’t bounce around inside the box and break through one end. The buyer of this piece of yew paid a good deal in shipping but the handling was free.
Another sort of wood that I sell is hawthorn. It is bought mainly for the thorns which can be up to two inches long and sharp as you know what. Not only do you have to be careful to not impale yourself in the process of packaging it, you have to be very gentle with it as the thorns are fragile and can break.
Moving right along to the harder substances, I sell antique bricks as well. Certainly, you might think, bricks have to be simple to pack. But they’re not. These four bricks had to be individually bubble wrapped and then separated by a cardboard grid to keep them from bumping up against each other. The exterior sides of the box had to be protected by a double layer of cardboard as well. Antique bricks break easily. I wrote “FRAGILE” all over the outside of the box too. They have to be protected. And carrying that box into the post office wasn’t easy either! (Talk about handling!) “What do you have here, lady, a box of bricks?” Yup.
And lastly, I also sell some unusual rocks from my property.
The heart shaped rock above was purchased by a woman who said she had just gone through a very difficult time in her life and this rock was perfect. She was so looking forward to receiving it. Broken rocks are fragile and crumble easily. I wrapped it in tissue paper and bubble wrapped the heck out of it. “FRAGILE” was written on this box as well. It arrived safely and she was so happy. I was happy too.