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phill

Shipping Your Pots / Website Sales

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Does anyone sell their pots online here? I'm sure someone does. I would really like to get an internet store going by the end of summer, but the biggest problem im just not understanding is shipping.

 

How do you ship your pots? what do you pack them in, how far apart are the pots from the others, do you double box your pots?

 

here is a big one, because i have seen it vary from free shipping (crazies!) to $15/per pot. how much do you charge for shipping your pots?

 

how do you run your store? do you check your website daily? i feel like i could never take a break always checking to make sure i dont leave someone hanging. if someone buys something do you immediately pack it and ship it out that same day? i feel like it might be more trouble than it is worth, dropping what i might be doing to run to the local ups store or wherever and ship something "real quick."

 

another question, do you use ups, fed ex, or just the post office?

 

 

thanks for your time!

best,

phill

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Hi Phil - I cannot answer all of your questions but I can help you with some.

 

Pack your work so you are comfortable with picking it up and throwing it across the room where it will land on the floor and perhaps roll over and hit the wall. Think of it being on the bottom with five other boxes thrown on top. Over pack is the rule.

YES ... double box or the shipping company will not pay on any claim.

Pack each item in its own box then put in the larger box ... they should fit snugly and not move around.

 

You can join Potters Council and get a great discount by using FedEx. It is one of the Member Benefits that save $$ every day.

 

The FedEx website has a calculator so you know exactly how much it will cost to ship. You can add a % to that for handling or just a flat fee for any item. I warn you that people dislike charges for handling ... they consider that should be a business expense for you. You could factor it into the price of each pot.

 

If you are thinking of running an etsy store then the answer is yes, you have to check your website several times a day. You have to post new items for sale several times a day. People who are succesfull on etsy are always on line or near their computer. Google this topic and you will find tons of postings on how to run a successful website sales store. Good luck!!

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Yep! Chris has that right.

Expect an 8 foot drop on concrete.

Double box and no wiggles room in either box. I get rolls of bubble wrap on bay...I like their free shipping.

But for Fedex from Potters Council..that is a great deal...especially for ground shipping or for pallets.

I would charge the customer for the shipping because it will vary for the destination. Charge a handling free for packing. Ship collect.

 

 

Marcia

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Guest JBaymore

Some answers for part of it for you..........

 

Starting off, a lot of the packing solution depends on the type of work you make. Some types of ceramic wares are more fragile than others...... whether that be from forming process, clay body type, or a "nature of the form" aspect. So what one person gets away with ....another person might not be so lucky.

 

Like has been mentioned already, I usually use FedEx. I have had a business account for many years. (The Potters Council discount as has been mentioned is a nice benefit of a PC membership.) FedEx might be a tad more expensive than some other options....... but that old commercial "when it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight" says a lot about their approach to the handling of packages. I have found them to be highly reliable, easy to use, and they seem to take care of the packages. When there is a propblem (very rare) .... they are all over it. I often ship work to Japan for exhibitions, and they handle that seamlessly and, importantly, in one piece.

 

Domestic shipping here in the USA and when I ship international are just a tad different. I'll comment on that later.

 

The pieces are wrapped in small cell bubble plastic first. This plastic is taped securely around the piece with packing tape; it is a tight little package in and of itself. It should survive a bit of a drop all on its own. How thick the layer of air is depends a bit on the exact form. It is a bit of a "black art" making that decision. Extra bubble layers are often "laminated" over the general wrapping providing extra covering in places like handles, spouts, and so on.

 

If there are multiple pieces going into one packing box, each of the already mummy-looking wrapped pieces gets securely packing-taped to the piece that will be next to it. This is repeated for all of the pieces going into the box. If need be, extra bubble wrap gets added into voids between work as it is taped together. The idea is to control ANY movement within the main box with a very planned approach. Things break typically when they move. The main plan is to prevent movement of pieces relative to one another.

 

Plastic popcorn/peanuts lets pieces shift in the packaging. By the time it is 1000 miles from where you dropped it off.... you have no idea of the realtive locations of the work in the box anymore. Pieces that started out inches apart can end up right together. Pieces that started out in the center of the cardboard box can end up right against the inside of the cardboard. Don't let that happen.

 

Once that mass of pieces is ready to go, the first box it goes into gets prepped to recieve it. The sizing of this box is such that the mass of bubble wrapped pieces is smaller than the box by at least a few inches in ALL dimensions. Again HOW small this needs to be is a "black art".... but the further it is getting shipped, the bigger this clearance space is. A couple inches is MINIMUM. This is clearance from the already wrapped pieces all taped together.

 

Don't think of the box as having a "down". You have no control over which side stays down, even if you label it. There may be a sense of "bottom" when you are packing it thru the "top".......... but that is not going to stay that way. So don't depend on gravitty working for you in any way. Think "secure" and isolated from the outside with that box in ANY position.

 

Bubble plastic is put into the "bottom" of the box in an amount that is slightly larger (will get compressed) than the excess space that has been allowed around the mass of pots. The mass of pots is then lowered into the box, and centered in the rest of the negative space. More bubble plastic is wedged into every available cubic inch of the box. Packed in there tight, but not breaking bubbles. It is so tight that you have to really push on the closure of the flaps of the box to get it to close and tape it shut. Packing tape goes all the way around the box in bands around the center in both dimensions. This box gets labeled with a packing list in a little plastic holder secured on the "top" (openable) surface.

 

Now the outside "shipping" box gets prepped. Again the task is to suspend the interior box securely within the larger outer box with equal "empty" space all the way around it. Again preventing settling and movement of the inner box is the goal. Bubble plastic is once again inserted into this outer box in the same way it was in the inner box. Again you should have to "sit on" the outer box flaps to close it. It needs to be TIGHT in there. NO movement possible.

 

This time the packing tape for sealing the outer box is done on all corner edges as well as banding the box around the center in all dimensions. Then the FedEx shipping labels are added to the outside of this box. I also add "fragile" and "this side up" labels.... but that is NO guarantee for safer handling (in the USA......Japan is different). It is just a "cover your butt" thing to do for here.

 

For shipping to Japan, the outer box is prepared differently. It is a long trip wink.gif .

 

For the international journey, the outer box is first lined with 1" thick hard styrofoam insulation. I cut sheets of this material to tightly fit the inside of the outer box out of something like 4' x 8' sheets of aluminum foil coated R-Max foam insulation boards used for insulating houses. I use a knife and a pruning saw to cut it. It is not all that cheap a material, but it is light and rigid and provides solid cushioning of impacts from the exterior. It prevents or at least absorbs energy from penetrating hits reaching the inner box. Then the inner box is suspended inside the "foam crate" exactly as above.

 

International shipping requires a lot more forms like International Customs and Commercial Invoices and such. (Too much crap to go into here.) I add the English "fraglie" labels mantioned above....... but I also add Japanese language "fragile" kinds of labels... and in Japan ....they DO take that stuff seriously. (You can ship raw eggs in Japan and they'd get there safe.) So if it makes it out of the USA OK.......... once it gets into the system in Japan... I KNOW it will be fine.

 

Costs for this packing work, both materials and labor, are built into the pricing of my work. Who pays the actual shipping charges is a matter to be nogotiated as part of the "deal". Sometimes galleries pay the shipping, sometimes not. Bigger galleries handle stuff differently than smaller galleries. For individual sales, shipping is paid by the customer. You can get shipping rate charts from your carrier (like FedEx) and you plan that cost for the customer based on the expected item shipping weight and dimensions of the expected package.

 

Hope these thoughts are useful.

 

And yes.... it is a pain in the butt wink.gif . Just a part of doing business though.

 

best,

 

................john

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Just wanted to ask if anyone else thinks those red fragile labels make treatment worse ... I sometimes think the bored workers take them on as a challenge.

Been thinking of not using them anymore. Might be treated more carefully if I marked them all as "Heavy"!

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Phill,

I don't sell online yet (I'm also planning to start this year). But I do a lot of shipping of wholesale work, so I'm pretty good at the shipping part. Overpacking is a good idea, unless you are shipping a high volume of pots, in which case the cost of packing materials can become a burden. (Last year I spent more on bubble wrap than on glaze chemicals.) So you are going to ship on a regular basis, it's important to figure out what is "enough but not too much." If I was shipping one large, very expensive and delicate piece, I would overpack and double box for sure. But shipping functional stoneware doesn't require that much babying.

Here is an order I shipped out yesterday, three lidded teacups. This is probably similar in scope to a typical retail online order, rather than a typical high-volume wholesale order. Here are the pots before packing:

 

And here they are swathed in bubble wrap. I used 4 sq ft of bubble wrap per pot:

And here they are in their box. Note there is one layer of peanuts between the pots, and about 2 inches of peanuts between the pots and the outside of the box. The peanuts are shoved in tightly! Make sure the pots cannot move. The biggest danger to the pots is that they will shift around and break each other, more than anything external to the box. So after this photo was snapped, I filled the rest of the box with peanuts, making a dome of peanuts taller than the edge of the box, then squeezed the box tops down so the peanuts were really tight.

 

 

I use UPS for shipping. I don't have anything against fedex, I'm just comfortable with UPS and don't have any complaints. As for how much to charge, look at other etsy pottery stores and see how much they charge. Most people on etsy are charging flat fees, rather than calculating each shipment. I think that's easier. Typically I see $15 shipping, or $10 to ship with a second pot. I don't think you should charge a separate handling fee. I think that comes across like a baggage handling fee at the airport. Either eat the cost, or work the handling fee into the cost of the pot.

You don't have to drop everything and pack orders on the day they are received. I agree that is too disruptive to your workflow. But it's really important to be timely, these days online customers expect that. Decide what is comfortable for you, then state your timeframe clearly, and keep your promises! "All orders will be shipped within 3 business days" or "All orders are packed and shipped on Thursdays" are good examples.

Hope this helps. And if you have any stories/thoughts/questions about online selling later this year, please feel free to bring that discussion here! Many of us are interested in that.

Mea

 

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Just wanted to ask if anyone else thinks those red fragile labels make treatment worse ... I sometimes think the bored workers take them on as a challenge.

Been thinking of not using them anymore. Might be treated more carefully if I marked them all as "Heavy"!

 

I have never marked my boxes as fragile, maybe I'm paranoid but I have always thought my boxes would stand out and be treated badly by somebody having a bad day. One of my former UPS drivers said that most people that handle your boxes will ignore the "fragile" and "this end up" stickers, so it doesn't really matter.

 

Mea

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Guest JBaymore

I sometimes think the bored workers take them on as a challenge.

 

Isn't it great that these people are allowed to keep their jobs? angry.gif

 

I've thought about not using them for that reason.... but use the stickers in case of a claim. At least it was properly labeled.

 

best,

 

.............john

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wow! all phenomenal answers!!! thank you all so much for putting in effort to answer these questions!

 

golly all this money towards sending pots and all, you really have to make big investments with pottery. that is something i have not liked thus far in my journey. you have to buy everything in bulk to save money, but then you end up spending megabucks on everything in hopes to make it all back plus a decent wage. this just gets scarier and scarier the further i dive into pottery.

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Phill,

 

Don't get discouraged, get prepared. Starting any kind of business takes money, and there will always be regularly-scheduled expenses along the way. Be realistic, make sure to have a good grasp of your expenses when you are deciding how much to charge for your pots, and how much effort to make towards marketing.

 

I buy most of my packing materials from Uline (http://uline.com), I find that having them ship boxes and bubble wrap to me is still cheaper than any local store where I can walk in and buy them. You can buy small quantities from Uline, say 25 boxes and 1 roll of bubble wrap.

 

I get all of my styrofoam peanuts for free by using Freecycle (http://freecycle.org). I can post one ad that says "if you have peanuts I'll pick them up" and I'll get two carloads the next day.

 

I don't use recycled bubble wrap because it's often not is good condition ... the pieces are too small, the bubbles are popped, and sometimes it smells funky.

 

I buy packaging tape from the office supply store, that's one thing you can't buy in small quantities from Uline.

 

Mea

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Having the right size boxes on hand will save you money and time in the long run. I also use U line.

New boxes should always be used for the outer box because even small dents significantly decrease the strength of the box.

 

Ditto on free peanuts ... I have a gift shop nearby that will set the boxes out behind the store for me to get. In about two weeks I have enough peanuts to last a year.

I don't use bubble wrap so can't help you there.

 

Yes, it is expensive to ship work but unless you intend to stay local with craft fairs and studio sales you will have to do it eventually. Shop for deals and pricing and don't buy the stuff retail unless you absolutely have to. A six pack of tape goes pretty quickly when you start shipping. p.s. also buy yourself a good, solid packing tape dispenser.

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Guest JBaymore

p.s. also buy yourself a good, solid packing tape dispenser.

 

 

Oh God Yes!!!!!!!!! Most important point in the whole thread.

 

Packing tape.... my nemesis. I LOVE/HATE that stuff. Without a good dispenser..... it is a nightmare.

 

best,

 

................john

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Guest JBaymore

Phil,

 

I see from your website that you are in Minnesota. I am aware of the potential "pricing situation" that area of the country faces due to some historical precedents.

 

You'll probably have to figure your way around that a bit phillosophically as well as economically.

 

My advice.... don't undervalue for your work. THAT helps with dealing with the necessary associated costs involved.

 

best,

 

.................john

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Phil,

 

I see from your website that you are in Minnesota. I am aware of the potential "pricing situation" that area of the country faces due to some historical precedents.

 

You'll probably have to figure your way around that a bit phillosophically as well as economically.

 

My advice.... don't undervalue for your work. THAT helps with dealing with the necessary associated costs involved.

 

best,

 

.................john

 

 

you are quite keen! yes i struggle with the pricing thing all the time.

 

thank you all for your suggestions and encouragements!! what a big help you all have been!!

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I have had galleries complain about peanuts getting all over the place. If I use peanuts, I seal them in a plastic bag so they don't fly out of the box. Maybe that happens more in dry climates with static electricity. I use sheets of styrofoam between the inner and outer box.

I use 3/4" bubble wrap on large piece, several layers...more like 12-16 sq. ft. I use the 1/4" bubble wrap on smaller thrown pieces, like vases. 4 sq.ft. I make sure everything is tightly packed and nothing will move when tossed.

I get rolls of bubble wrap on bay since I can't find a distributor down here for large rolls.

 

Marcia

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I have had galleries complain about peanuts getting all over the place. If I use peanuts, I seal them in a plastic bag so they don't fly out of the box. Maybe that happens more in dry climates with static electricity. I use sheets of styrofoam between the inner and outer box.

I use 3/4" bubble wrap on large piece, several layers...more like 12-16 sq. ft. I use the 1/4" bubble wrap on smaller thrown pieces, like vases. 4 sq.ft. I make sure everything is tightly packed and nothing will move when tossed.

I get rolls of bubble wrap on bay since I can't find a distributor down here for large rolls.

 

Marcia

 

 

Decades past when I was producing/wholesaling porcelain jewelry, rather than using styrofoam 'peanuts' I opted to use 'fresh popped' popcorn. Buying 15 pound sacks of popcorn seed at Cosco's seemed relatively cheap and took very little space for storage. Prior to packaging an order I would start popping the popcorn and would pack them loose in some bags and for next to box walls (bottom and top also) would pack the bags tighter. Always smelled great in the studio. Heavier items would require tighter (fuller) bags between each other as well. Never had any claims of damage.

 

I felt it was just a bit more environmentally positive than all the styrofoam. As the popcorn doesn't develop static electric charges, also doesn't fly around if the bags are opened. To be on the safe side, I always included a printed note disclaimer within each bag claiming that this .... 'was not for human consumption'... although unless something saturated the box and burst open the bags, it certainly wouldn't hurt a person to eat it. The note also had a brief description of why I was doing it and possible ways of disposing of the packing material, ie., feeding to the birds, composting, etc.

 

 

All my customers responded quite favorably with this and many also responded that they loved the smell when opening a package.

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Does anyone sell their pots online here? I'm sure someone does. I would really like to get an internet store going by the end of summer, but the biggest problem im just not understanding is shipping.

 

How do you ship your pots? what do you pack them in, how far apart are the pots from the others, do you double box your pots?

 

here is a big one, because i have seen it vary from free shipping (crazies!) to $15/per pot. how much do you charge for shipping your pots?

 

how do you run your store? do you check your website daily? i feel like i could never take a break always checking to make sure i dont leave someone hanging. if someone buys something do you immediately pack it and ship it out that same day? i feel like it might be more trouble than it is worth, dropping what i might be doing to run to the local ups store or wherever and ship something "real quick."

 

another question, do you use ups, fed ex, or just the post office?

 

 

thanks for your time!

best,

phill

 

 

I know this is counter advice to everything you have heard, but I ship chalice and paten sets in single boxes. A 14X14X14 box will allow me to pack the chalice and the paten in the same box, I wrap each in a single layer of bubble wrap, and send them USPS. Packing material? I use plain old popcorn-yep you heard it popped corn. I load the box about 3 inches higher, and then compress it down. Wrapped tight, and have been doing so for over 15 years. The only time I had a problem was when I could not do it because of a vacation and my son packed them, no compression. I have sent out over 300 sets this way and never lost a one. No, I don't insure them either. I have also shipped them postal express overnight, and still gotten there without a problem, and I also have the post office stamp them with Fragile! So for me it works. When shipping overseas, I do not use popcorn, but styrofoam beads, single box compressed. They have gone as far as Australia and Italy. I know this will raise a ruckus, but it is what I do, and for me it works.

 

I have sent larger pieces and boxed them, In this case I built a wooden frame around the piece with pipe insulation padding. Placed the item in the box and filled with popcorn and mailed.

 

I always send a note in the box stating that they can get rid of the popcorn by throwing it on the lawn and letting the birds eat it. Most people just eat the popcorn-colleges must love popcorn!

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Pres ... Your way passes rule one ...

Pack it so you would be comfortable throwing it across the room and hitting a wall!

Good ideas.

I don't pack my own work because I tend to see $$ paid for packing materials and it never ends well.

 

 

In this case, the chalice and paten sets are mailed, and the charges including handling fee are covered by the mother organization that contracts the sets.

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Pres ... Your way passes rule one ...

Pack it so you would be comfortable throwing it across the room and hitting a wall!

Good ideas.

I don't pack my own work because I tend to see $$ paid for packing materials and it never ends well.

 

 

One other thing is the cost of popcorn vs the price of stryo beads. 50# is around $17 and I pack 20 of those boxes with one bag. there is the hassle of popping the corn, but include the time there in the handling charges.

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Guest JBaymore

there is the hassle of popping the corn, but include the time there in the handling charges.

 

 

Now be honest........ how much of the 50# ends up .......ahem........ "missing in action" prior to arriving at the box? wink.gif

 

best,

 

...............john

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there is the hassle of popping the corn, but include the time there in the handling charges.

 

 

Now be honest........ how much of the 50# ends up .......ahem........ "missing in action" prior to arriving at the box? wink.gif

 

best,

 

...............john

 

 

biggrin.gif Yes, that was an issue I had as well. Some er... ahem...spillage. Never-the-less, all packaging materials are tax-deductable! biggrin.gif

 

 

 

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there is the hassle of popping the corn, but include the time there in the handling charges.

 

 

Now be honest........ how much of the 50# ends up .......ahem........ "missing in action" prior to arriving at the box? wink.gif

 

best,

 

...............john

 

 

Honestly-all of it. I am a T2 diabetic, and don't allow that in my carb count for the day. If it were any other way, I would be snacking, and laughing with you. OH my granddaughter does occasionally grab a hand full--- duh!

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