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US Sellers: Shipping Basics--domestic shipping & international shipping, newbie shipping help, Shipping 101

I've gathered a ton of shipping information from the forums, the web and USPS over the years and have done my best to organize a lot of the info on my blog. The service-specific help I have is for US sellers but there's also help with how shipping on Etsy works & how to apply shipping rates to your listings which would apply to folks shipping from anywhere. (See the ** for posts that might be helpful to folks shipping from outside the US.)

If you don't have a scale already, I recommend getting one--they are well worth the small investment and you can usually get one for less than $30 including shipping from places like Amazon and Ebay (plus they are a tax write off). Sometimes you can get a used one free--we got one free from my husband's office a few years ago when they no longer needed it, you can also see if you can get one free through free recycling groups in your area like Freecycle ( -- also great for recycled shipping supplies like boxes, packing peanuts & bubble wrap).

A scale will help you set your rates when listing & will help you when you are printing shipping labels with postage online-a great time and energy saver! (You also get discounted postage and free Delivery Confirmation online, so the scale will save you money too.)

We always package up an item to see what it will weigh, even if it will be unpacked to store it until it sells. Once you know what your item in packaging will weigh, it will be easier to set accurate shipping rates.

Shipping from the US, we use First Class Mail whenever possible--affordable and pretty fast.

First Class Domestic goes up to 13 oz, the rate is the same per-ounce anywhere within the US so it's very easy to set up.

Domestic packages over 13 oz will need to go Priority Mail or Parcel Post which can be a bit tricky since the rates are very different based on how far your package is going (see the "Priority Mail: by Weight or Flat Rate?" post for info on when flat rate packaging is a good way to go--link below). Often the online rates for the two services are pretty similar, so for the extra 50 cents to $1, we often just go with Priority & use the rate for the farthest shipping zone to be sure we aren't short.

On occasion we use Fed Ex for domestic packages because the rates are better for certain heavy & bulky items--it's best to comparison shop for those over-sized/very weighty packages until you get a feel for what is best for both your business and your buyers. (Get the Etsy-FedEx discount here: )

First Class International goes up to 4 lbs and has only 3 main zones--Canada, Mexico & everywhere else--which makes it easy to set up. (You can see how it all works out in the "Getting a Handle on International Shipping" post--see the link below.)

Generally we avoid courier services (UPS & FedEx) for international shipping because they charge high brokerage fees* when using their non-express services, so either the cost of shipping is much higher when you purchase it (because you pay for the broker up front) or the prices look realllllly cheap compared USPS, but your buyer gets a surprise bill for the additional brokerage fees when the package goes through customs. They buyer can't get the item without paying the brokerage fees in addition to anything the customs department determines is due, and if they refuse the package the brokerage bill can be sent to you.

It also means that all packages the broker takes through customs will be assessed and if the contents are over the duty-free amount (which changes for every country), the buyer will be billed for duty and taxes when applicable. (All customs fees are the buyer’s responsibility--make a note of that in your shop policies.)

When you ship through USPS, it's hit or miss as to whether packages get stopped even if they are over the duty-free amount. The buyer might still owe taxes on the item to their government, but it's up to the buyer to deal with that. There is usually a small handling fee when a package is stopped by customs when you ship through USPS, but much smaller than the brokerage fees (think $10 vs $30--not exact numbers, just an idea of what it is like).

The link below takes you to a page with active links to many topics--I'm sure the list of posts will grow as topics come up which is why I don't link to each post in this thread. On the "Shipping Basics" page you'll find the full list of on-topic links that I can add to as new posts go up so you don't have to dig through this thread to find links to new posts:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Shipping Basics ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~

Please give this thread a bump by posting in it if you found it helpful. :)

*Brokerage fees: When a package goes through customs, the courier service hires an independent party to present items to the customs department for possible duty/fees/taxes. While customs fees are the responsibility of the buyer (make a note in your policies just to cover yourself), hidden courier fees are not nice for anyone.

365 Responses

The "Shipping Basics" blog page above contains links to all these posts, and new posts are added as needed. (I don't link to them directly here because the list grows and I want to be sure you see all the topics covered and I can't edit this list on the forums once it has been posted.)

~~~ Shipping 101 ~~~
The basics

~~~ Shipping Service Choices ~~~
First Class Mail, Priority...

~~~ Getting a Handle on International Shipping ~~~
Using First Class International makes setting your rates easy!

~~~ USPS Shipping Rate Charts ~~~
Helps you see how the rates change at different weights for First Class Domestic & First Class International.

~~~ USPS Shipping Zone Tool~~~
You'll need this to figure out Priority Mail domestic rates when using the USPS Shipping Charts.

~~~ Priority Mail: by Weight or Flat Rate? ~~~
Often shipping by weight is a much better deal!

~~~ Shipping Insurance ~~~
Yes you can insure international First Class! Information on third-party insurance companies that will cover domestic and international packages–insure all services, not just First Class, for less than the PO charges.

~~~ What can't I mail? ~~~
Some things just aren't allowed in the US postal system.

~~~ Missing package? Package missing its contents? ~~~
Find out what to do about it here.

~~~ Getting a PO Box ~~~
Protect your personal info. It may be rare to be harassed, but better safe than sorry.

** ~~~ How Etsy's "Secondary Shipping" works ~~~
How "with another item" rates are applied to multiple item transactions on Etsy.

** ~~~ Figuring Out Your Secondary Shipping ~~~
"With another item" rates are difficult for many sellers to figure out--this simple method will help.

~~~ Shipping Through Paypal ~~~
Once you start shipping from home with Paypal's labels, you'll never want to go back to standing on lines at the PO.

~~~ Shipping Through Paypal–Regardless of How the Customer Paid ~~~
Info for creating labels for items paid for by Etsy's Direct Checkout, check or money order, or even for just sending gifts to friends & family.

~~~ International First-Class Mail: Print Labels From Your Computer ~~~
Paypal doesn't offer them, but if you have PC, you can still have nice printed labels for your International First Class Mail packages. (Mac users will need to use the online version--see the post for more info.)

~~~ Can't find UK in USPS' Click-N-Ship? ~~~
Here's why.

** ~~~ Do I need a customs form? ~~~
The short answer is: You need a customs form if your package has "potentially dutiable contents".

** ~~~ Prohibited & Restricted Items for International Shipping ~~~
Link to the USPS list, but it's also good to check the actual country's own customs page if possible.

~~~ Clarification of New International Mail Rules (2012) ~~~
Info on the rules and how to submit customs forms online.

~~~ Marking Your Package "Gift" on the Customs Form ~~~
Don't do it unless you are sending a gift to someone you know.

~~~ Can I ship jewelry through International First Class Mail? ~~~
If it is of "nominal value"… see the post for more details & links.

~~~ Shipping to Germany? ~~~
There's a something you should do.

**Posts that might be helpful to folks shipping from outside the US.

Happy shipping!

What a great informative thread. Thanks for the info. I see I'll be only shipping to the US.
Thank you for the helpful post. For me, a scale is a must.
Thanks, you're the best!
Thanks very much GoTo. This is one of the most informative threads!
Glad to help!

Thanks for joining the thread and giving it a bump. :)
Very useful! Thanks!
Thank you for this!
Wow, what time you had to spend compiling all this, GoTo!

Thanks so much for your diligence and willingness to share!

You're welcome!

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