Packing and Shipping Magazines Made Simple for the eBay Buyer and Seller

Did you even bother to worry about the packing and shipping when you made your first online purchase? For me it was an afterthought, I was just worried about receiving what I paid for and crossed my fingers that my seller wasn’t a crook (it’s rare that they are–the overwhelming majority of eBay sellers are good honest folk). Today I realize that the effort that a seller puts into his packing and shipping is often reflected in the quality of the magazine(s) that I receive.

Now, I’m not writing this page to scare you, I just want to let you know that not every magazine seller on eBay is a full-time magazine dealer. They are there of course, but they’re mixed in with dealers who have other specialties, collectors pruning their collections, people just clearing out their attics and basements, and even your run of the mill junk dealers. I could do another entire article about what to watch out for on eBay, as there are plenty of pitfalls, but if you are going to seriously collect anything today, you have to get over your fears shop eBay. There is just too much unclaimed gold waiting to be mined for you to stay away.

I have seen enough requests from my customers to know that I’m not the only one often disappointed by the condition of the parcels I receive. eBay/PayPal allows you to enter comments to your seller when you make your payment through them, and probably about one in ten of the payments that I receive will include packing and shipping guidelines of some sort. Common requests include:

  • Please pack securely with cardboard
  • Please stamp “Do Not Bend”
  • Please pack carefully as my mailman is a nightmare
  • Please line package with plastic as my mailbox is exposed to weather

There are many more. Once you become an experienced eBay customer you won’t even be surprised to receive mail addressed to you in Ritz Cracker box–you may even come to find it charming. (Note: Thankfully I haven’t received any Ritz Cracker boxes via the USPS in recent years!)

I usually reply to customers packing and shipping requests with an brief explanation of how I ship. I practice the Golden Rule when it comes to packing and shipping–I ship every package out as I would like to receive it myself if I ordered it. After all, once you pay for an item, in my mind it’s yours, and I’m going to go out of my way to treat your item with every bit of care I’d expect you to treat mine with.

This page is for magazine buyers and sellers alike. It’s not the be-all and end-all of magazine packing and shipping, but basically a little Magazine Packing and Shipping 101 according to how I do things here. These are personal preferences, but at the same time I’ve been conducting online sales since early 2000 and I’ve never had a customer complain about how I packed or complain about receiving damaged goods.

In my mind the best way to illustrate the rights and wrongs of packing and shipping magazines on eBay is to take you through an example step by step of what happens between the time I pay for a lot of goods from a “bad” magazine shipper and the time you receive a magazine from that same lot in your mailbox with my return address on it.

First off, shipping fees are another concern altogether. As is the condition of the item as stated in the listing. Let’s assume I found an item I liked, the seller has passable feedback, the write-up sounds good and the images back the item up. Whatever price I pay for shipping I knew about up front and I’m agreeable. I bid, I win, I pay, I wait, and in about a week and a half to two weeks I receive my bulk lot of 150 LIFE Magazines.

The mailman carries a huge box to my front door, passes it off to me, my right knee buckles and I grimace from the weight. A big heavy case doesn’t always mean problems ahead, but in this case I feel the weight shift inside the package. Not good.

I amble over to the nearest table and then notice another potential problem after I lay the case down: one of the box flaps is torn at the edge and raised and now the possibility enters my mind that someone may have torn my box open and tried rifling through my goods, but it turns out to just be a poor tape job that cracked open during transit. I finish opening the box up–I often use a razor, but am very careful with that after a few sliced covers in my past.

Okay, I open my box and I have a stack of 150 exposed magazines with no protection except some rolled up newspaper or maybe some recycled packing peanuts. There’s nothing wrong with packing your item with rolled-up newspaper or re-using those annoying Styrofoam peanuts from your last package, it’s just very annoying when my new magazines are encompassed by them. Peanuts or newspaper may shift underneath covers or inside pages and lead to potential damage. Plus in the case of newspaper I get to worry about the newsprint transferring itself to my clean magazine.

The magazines are stacked inside the box in four uneven piles. From the time the seller packed them and dropped them off at the post office, through their postal delivery, right up to when I grabbed this box from my mailman’s hands, the stacks inside have shifted. And so I have several magazines that had left my seller’s hands in great shape, torn near the staples at the binding from the shifting weight. There are a couple of issues right in the middle of the pile which have creased or even torn covers from this weight shift. If the magazines are older and a little more brittle the spines may have split some more, or covers may be completely unattached at this point. I lucked out and it didn’t rain anywhere on my package’s path this week, because if it had with that poor sealing job, my unprotected magazines might have been soaked.

Recourses? Sure, you could contact the seller and request a return. But if I’m buying from eBay then I’m buying to resell and I really can’t afford to pick up the shipping tab both ways and come out of the deal without any stock to sell. Even if you’re a collector it may not be cost effective for you to do this. You could give the seller a negative in his feedback rating, but oh well, that really doesn’t help you much does it? (Well, except maybe to vent!). What I usually do is email the seller directly with a polite complaint, which should at least get you an apology and register your problem in the seller’s mind for next time (with a different customer). Once in awhile a seller will offer to send you back a few bucks or allow you some credit towards another item, though I wouldn’t count on that. Sometimes they’ll ignore you altogether, though if they choose this path then even I leave the negative for them on eBay. No, on a large purchase like this, I’m probably just going to make the best out of a bad situation and get as much money back from these largely damaged goods as I can.

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That’s a bulky box, which can admittedly be cumbersome to ship. What about an individual magazine or a small order of magazines? What possible packing and shipping problems will you encounter:

  • No cardboard or stiffener in the envelope. Just hope your mailman doesn’t fold your mail
  • No plastic. The only protection is the envelope itself. Yikes, cross your fingers that you have both good weather and a careful mailman.
  • Cardboard taped around magazine to protect, but no plastic on magazine. The tape sticks to the magazine and tears it.
  • 3 or 4 magazines placed in an envelope or box that’s somewhat larger. No protection. Creased covers, knocked corners, and other little calamities as they kick around during shipment
  • Poor outer packaging damaged en route. There’s a good chance the magazine inside has taken a beating too

This next one I only recently encountered:

  • Magazines professionally packed and shipped, but rolled in a tube instead of being packed flat.

I felt like I was doing a puzzle. It took me about twenty minutes to get these magazines, which were in beautiful condition by the way, out of the tube without tearing the edges. They were rolled very tight and did not have plastic protecting them. I was amazed that someone could pack something like this–obviously some amount of care went into it, but it was all wrong, it was a recipe for disaster.

Okay, about 120 issues of LIFE survived that poor packaging job and I’ve listed them for individual sale. The other 30 issues that were damaged hit my discard pile. You buy a magazine from me. Here’s how I get your magazine to you:

  1. Magazine is protected in plastic polybag. I use polybags meant for the hobby–not zip lock bags (which are a nightmare to remove items from) or the somewhat common saran wrap method. These methods are better than nothing, even show some effort on the seller’s part, but don’t come off as very professional
  2. I slice cardboard a little larger than the magazine itself and have a sheet for each side. Don’t measure the cardboard by laying the magazine on it and cutting and if you’re going to trace out the magazine before you cut please make sure it’s in that polybag first. We all get shaky sometimes!
  3. I put a piece of tape on each side of the cardboard. My magazine is safe inside plastic in between. If it shifts it will not be damaged by the tape.
  4. If it were a standard sized magazine I’d just slip it in a USPS Flat Rate Priority Envelope, address it and get it off to you. This was an issue of LIFE that you bought from me though, so I’m sliding it into a larger yellow clasp envelope and taping all exposed seams with Priority Tape. I stamp each side of the envelope “Do Not Bend.” Then I address, post, and it’s off to you.

That works. Like I said, no complaints. Well, actually I do recall one–someone wrote commending me on my overall packing and shipping job, but complained that the tape on the cardboard stuck to the polybag protecting the magazine. I replied with my sincere apology, but what I wanted to say was “that’s what the bag is for!”

Now if you ordered magazines in bulk from me I’m going to have to box them up to ship them to you. When I list items for sale I generally bag them before adding them to my stock, however whether the items are already individually bagged or not, I’m going to place 10-15 issues inside another bag. Whenever I ship multiple items I like to face the front covers inwards and have the spines on opposing sides. This tends to keep the stack even and cut down on the chance of any damage to the spines during shipment. I’ll bundle up as many of these 10-15 issue packets that I can, and then lay in the rolled-up newspaper or recycled peanuts. Your magazines are protected by plastic and stacked together tightly. I can cushion them how I please at this point.

By the way, the packing peanuts are more desirable because they weigh less than newsprint. They also offer more cushion. They can be a bit of a mess when you open up your package, but that’s the price you pay to ensure receiving your order safely!

I seal the box with packaging tape, hitting every seam that I can. It also helps to bundle the tape around the girth of the box once of twice, especially if the case has some weight to it. If I use a mailing label to address your package I’ll also put a clear piece of tape over that so that it does not peel off in transit.

As long as there are no freak occurrences in transit, you will receive your magazine(s) safe and sound, in the stated condition that you purchased it from me. Of course there is always the possibility that a secure package is damaged by rough postal handling, but if you pack your items properly when shipping them your chances of this are cut to virtually nil. Once you have your package, open it up carefully and enjoy! I hope your experience has been positive from purchase to receipt and that you come back to buy more from me!

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