We're coming up on the holiday selling season (it's the most wonderful time of the yearrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr) and with a lot of new investors around here who will be going through their first Christmas, I wanted to help out with a little advice on the shipping side of selling.
First, a little background on me so you know where I'm coming from. I worked for FedEx Ground/Home Delivery in the terminal unloading trailers and loading delivery trucks for 2 years and was a delivery driver and contractor for 5 years, so I've seen how your packages get handled. I want to help make sure that your 41999 gets where it's supposed to without being beat to hell.
First off, start stashing away packaging materials. Save the boxes you get from shipments (assuming they aren't beat up). Keep the bubble wrap and air bubbles from them too. Ask your friends, Romans, and countrymen to save them for you. Every piece you can save is a little bit more profit you're making.
Supplement your stash by getting on USPS.com and ordering a nice variety of Priority Mail shipping boxes. Most everything is free, so don't feel bad about ordering more than you think you need. The most useful boxes are the 1092, 1095, and 1097 boxes which will fit your smaller sets up to the size of Orc Forge. The square 4 box and shoe box are great for Minecraft. You also want to grab a few Express Mail boxes for those last-minute gifts. Don't forget to order a few rolls of stickers to slap on your box seals, since the ones on the boxes don't always stay stuck. If you've ever gotten an order that was delivered in one of these boxes, you'll know that they aren't very crush-resistant. It's OK if you're flipping a City set to some parent who doesn't care about condition. But don't send expensive sets in USPS-provided boxes or you'll be sorry.
Next up, you'll probably want to visit uline.com. The 16"x24"x4" boxes will hold the larger sets (like Jabba's Palace), and you have to buy them in 25 piece lots. They run me about $55 shipped, though your price will vary with the shipping cost.
You'll also want to stock up on thick bubble wrap and tape. Don't be cheap with your tape. It's a very inexpensive item and it isn't worth trying to save a buck if your tape breaks and you have a box come open.
For your more expensive sets: Double box it. Insure it. Require a signature. It's a few bucks that can save you a lot of headaches. Where you draw the line for "expensive" is up to you.
How Your Package Gets Treated
Take a look at this video just to get an idea of what your box is going to go through: http://youtu.be/iYzQ7JSBIGU?t=40s
Now that you've seen that, remember that's the video that FedEx is LETTING you see. You know all those boxes piling up? I've seen times when the overhead chute gets clogged and boxes pile up and start falling from 15 feet up. I've seen corners catch in the sorting aisle and get ripped apart. And just think what a 50 pound box sliding down one of those chutes will do to the box in front of it.
You also should remember that while it's a mint in sealed box Cloud City to you, to the people at the terminal it's just one of thousands of packages they deal with every day. They aren't going to handle it with care.
The Last Mile
The better relationship you have with your delivery drivers, the better they'll treat your stuff. Don't forget that your driver is a human being and not a cyborg. They spend 8+ hours a day driving a truck by themselves. Learn their names. Don't throw a fit because they didn't leave your package. Believe me, they want it off the truck too. For Ground/HD, it's usually money out of the driver's pocket if something gets stolen. Let them know where you'd like boxes left if you aren't home. Offer the guy a Coke sometime.
And please, take care of your guys at the holidays, especially if you see them all the time. The end of the year is a rough time of year. At FedEx, we worked 6 days a week from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Even just a plate of cookies will be appreciated more than you know.
Hopefully this has provided a little window into what your package is going to deal while your carrier has it. Use it and you shouldn't have any problems this holiday season.
And If you take nothing else away, remember this: Don't ever, ever, ever, under any circumstances write FRAGILE on your package. Ever. FRAGILE is a French word meaning, "I'm going to throw this box even harder than I throw every other box". Believe me, I know from experience. Write GLASS.
Remember: GLASS is breakable, FRAGILE is French. OK? OK.