Shipping is a topic that comes up quite often in the secondhand bra community. Buying and selling your bras seems pretty straight forward (it basically is), but if you're in the US and want to get and provide the best deal, there's a few things you can do to make that happen. You will need a printer, shipping supplies like padded envelopes or boxes and some tape. If you do not have a printer, most of this post won't be of much help, but if you plan (or already do) sell a lot online, I think it would be worth the investment.
Your first instinct is probably to go through USPS. That would be the correct assumption, but there's more to it! If you use the USPS website, you will pay too much. If you go to the post office, you will pay even more! They might try to get you to pay for tracking too. All of this is unnecessary!
Your transaction is most likely occurring through PayPal and PayPal is where you should be printing your shipping label. Even if the transaction is paid for through some other means or if there's no money trading hands at all, you can still print the label via PayPal. This is the direct link to the shipping label page.
The main takeaway from this post will be that PayPal has the cheapest prices for shipping AND free tracking!
I'll start off with international shipping, using Canada as an example.
The above image shows the PayPal shipping label page. In this pretend transaction, I'm shipping a 5oz package to Canada via First Class International, in a padded envelope. After filling out the address and selecting the appropriate options, you will be brought to the customs page which will also tell you the cost to ship said package.
As you can see, the total shipping cost is very low at only $3.24! I've taken the liberty of filling out the customs label as I normally would, to illustrate how simple it is. There are a few more boxes at the bottom of the page, but unless you're a retailer or something, you won't need to worry yourself with them. I never fill them out and haven't had any issues. Note that I always set the item category to "Gift".
Some countries do have low customs limits. What this means is if you are shipping them an item that is valued at $25 and the limit is $20, they won't be able to get their package unless they pay extra fees. The limit varies by country and some are ridiculously low (the $20 limit is a legit example), so you'll want to talk to your buyer or seller about that.
After that page, it's pretty straight forward. Just verify the info and "Pay and Print".
To ship within the states, you'll still want to use PayPal to print your label. The process is pretty much the same, you just don't need to fill out a customs form.
I used the same hypothetical package but with a United States address (blocked out because I needed a legit address) and again, very cheap shipping. You would probably be charged closer to $3 for the same package on the USPS site. Shipping to Canada would be about $8. Note in the image below, you can see that they charge more if you use their services inside a post office!
Going through the motions on the USPS site, you can get free tracking for First Class. I can't say for sure whether or not the post office workers still try to sell you tracking, but I do know that a lot of people are under the impression that they must pay extra for tracking and often cite that it is not included in the pricing of their item/shipping. This certainly does not have to and in my opinion, shouldn't be, nor is it really the case.
As someone who obsessively checks the tracking on every package I have coming, to the point that I don't understand how anyone could forget they ordered/bought something, I can't stress this point enough. Considering a lot of people are also weary of shipping or buying things in general because of personal bad experiences with the post office or scam buyers/sellers, tracking really provides peace of mind for all involved. Besides, you can get it for free, so why not include it? :)
Continuing the tracking topic, printing through PayPal also provides free tracking numbers. Whether you're shipping domestically, internationally, First Class or Priority, once you print the shipping label, you will be provided with a blue link next to the USPS transaction in your PayPal activity page that looks like this:
That link will automatically bring you to the USPS tracking page which you can share with your buyer. Tracking numbers for domestic shipments are typically made up of a string of numbers that often starts with 94. The international tracking is actually a label number that starts with an L and ends in US.
The cost of shipping is influenced by the weight, size and destination of the package, so I highly recommend using a padded envelope, regardless of whether you're shipping an unlined or padded bra. In the case of padded bras, I like to fold the cups into each other, bunch up a plastic bag or packing paper and stuff it into the cups. This way they don't get super squished and wrinkly while still keeping the cost down.
The rest of the process is surely obvious. Print out your label, cut it out and tape it to your envelope (or box). Then you can put your bra in and seal it shut!
Here's where another tip will come in handy, but I'll preface this by saying there's another reason why I prefer using envelopes.
You know those blue mailboxes you see on the sidewalks of your neighborhood? Well if you're like me, you might not have realized that you can use them to send things out yourself. Unfortunately, few types of boxes can fit in these mailboxes but nearly all envelopes will. That's right... You don't even have to go to the post office to drop off the package! Just find your local mailbox, drop it in and it'll be on it's way!
There is also the option of scheduling a pickup by your mail man/lady. You can do this on the USPS website which, if all goes to plan, will tell them they have a package to pick up at your house when they drop off your mail. I will say that the one time I tried this, it wasn't successful and I don't know why. I scheduled the pickup with a note of where the package would be located and left it out, but the package was never picked up despite the mail being dropped off for the day. I've gone with the mailbox option ever since, but you might have a better experience.
Before I end this post, I can tell you that the savings are definitely not limited to North America. In cases where shipping to places like the UK or Australia can often cost $10 to $15 directly through USPS, you'll instead spend closer to $4 to $8.
Not only are you saving a lot of money and time when printing your shipping labels via PayPal, but you are also enticing people to buy your things because you aren't charging them an arm and a leg to get an item they're interested in buying from you! I know I've avoided many a transaction (whether through a secondhand seller or traditional retailer) because they charged a ridiculous amount for shipping and I can't be the only one to do this.
If you know of any tips to get cheap shipping for those outside of the US, please share them in the comments and I'll add them to this post so we can spread the word!
A few afterthoughts thanks to some Bratabasers.
To get an accurate weight for your package, you'll need a kitchen or shipping scale. I use this one because the price wasn't bad and it was aesthetically appealing, but I also use it to weigh food as I count calories. You could easily find a decent option for even less money.
There is also this post on braswap that has some info about the weight of different things if you'd rather not buy a scale.
As for shipping supplies like envelopes, you can get pretty good deals on Amazon like this pack here., for instance. You might be able to find a better price if you shop around, but I would say those would be a good size (8.5x12) unless you're further up the bra size range or ship mostly padded bras.
You can also use PayPal to ship your returns at a better price. I've only personally used it to return a couple times within the states, but when I plug in Bravissimo's return address in the UK, the cost to return a 5oz package came to $6.28. I know I had tried to return a package to them when I first started on bras and the post office charged me a little over $14 (and the package got returned to me, but I've moved past that, I swear!). That's some legit savings, if you ask me.
Happy buying, selling and shipping!