Complete Guide to Shipping Your Online Orders - Stuff NOBODY Tells You!

Complete Guide to Shipping Your Online Orders - Stuff NOBODY Tells You!

Posted by Big Brand on 11th Apr 2020

Today we are going to teach you how to ship everything you sell online!  This article applies to clothing, body care, makeup and accessories but you can use this advice for pretty much any kind of merchandise.  Let's begin!

We have divided this article into sections:


Part 2: How to Ship SMALL THINGS 

Part 3: How to Ship MEDIUM THINGS

Part 4: How to Ship LARGE THINGS


Part 6: How to Get the CHEAPEST RATES - What You're NOT Doing, but should be!!

Part 7: Why We Don't Use SHIPPING "SAVER" Programs (like SmartPost and SurePost)

PART 1: Shipping Necessities

First you absolutely have to have a good scale. The “free” scales you get when you sign up for a postage program suck.  If your scale is off by only 1 ounce you will be over paying for postage or, worse, underpaying and your buyers will get billed the difference… eek!  

Here’s a scales that is really good and worth the money:

This 50-Pound scale is under $18 and has over 7,500 5-Star Reviews:


Next, you want to buy a 5 pound (or 10 or 20 pound) weight. The reason is because you want to check your scale on a regular basis and you know a 5 pound weight is exactly 5 pounds. Here's a nice, cheap option that is under $15 with free shipping on Amazon:

Be sure to check your scale weekly.  It’s a good “Monday Task” before you ship all of the weekend orders.  For example, if your scale is weighing only 1 ounce off; for a 15 ounce item you can ship it for $3.  A 16 ounce item shoots the price up to $7-$12 or more.  VERY BIG DIFFERENCE. Buying a $14 weight is worth every penny!

You also REALLY REALLY need to buy a thermal printer (Zebra is the brand we use).  Even though it will cost $70 today, it will save you a ton of money, time and supplies within 2 months.  

Here’s why: If you plan to print your mailing labels on regular pc paper you have to pay for paper and ink.  Then you have to pay for tape. You also spend time taping it to the box. Plus, watching a mailing label print is worse than watching paint dry!

A thermal printer doesn’t need ink.  Yes, I said it doesn’t need ink. It “prints” directly onto the sticker.  Best of all, it prints in literally a half-second and you don’t have to fuss with paper jams. After you buy your thermal printer all you will need to buy is the sticker labels.  We have been using the same thermal printer for years and it’s never had an issue and we bought both of ours off eBay years ago. We get all of our labels off Amazon. We buy cases of labels at a time but if you don't ship a ton yet you can get 500 labels for around $16:

Or you can get a full case for around $68.  Make sure you buy the thermal printer off eBay because Amazon is charging $300+ for the same thing.


Small Things - Earrings, a kids tank top, a pair of socks, a panty or similar.

The cheapest way to ship these is via First Class Mail, providing it weighs under 15 ounces (16 ounces is 1 pound). 

The best way to ship these items is in a mailer / poly.  

Best types of poly mailers for little things:

The solid bags are 1,000 bags for under $27!

They also come in teal for the same price:

Or, you can go for the fun bags which are 100 pieces for around $9.

If you don't like those, Amazon has an insane assortment of poly mailers in every size, color, pattern and plain imaginable.  Check them out here.

If the small thing is fragile you have three options:

1. Wrap it in bubble wrap, tape it and put it in a poly or bubble mailer. Bubble wrap is $15 for 175 FEET if you shop wisely:

The bubble wrap shown above is PERFORATED every 12", which is GREAT because you will not have to spend time cutting it and you will have less waste.  At $15 for 175 feet, you can ship over 14 orders with 1 piece of pre-cut bubble wrap. Alternatively you can be eco-friendly and use newspaper or buy "recycled packing paper":

2. OR, you can put it in a small box.  Small boxes are pretty cheap on Amazon.  In fact, a small box might be cheaper than bubble wrap + tape + mailer + time.  Here's an example of small boxes on Amazon. 50 pieces for about $21.  Your cost per piece is about 41-cents: 

Using the 41-cent box is cheaper than using $1 in bubble wrap plus 1 bag. You can apply your shipping label directly to the box.  Make sure the Address is on one flat part and the barcode (tracking number part) is on another flat part. Other information can be wrapped around the edges of the box. 

3. You can also go with a padded bubble poly mailer.  

The striped "Thank You" bag is a little more expensive because it's amazing. These specific bags will run you around $19 for 50 pieces BUT they are legitimately gorgeous, memorable bags. However there are cheaper options.  Here's 4x8" boring plain mailers, but they're only $8.69 for 50 mailers:

Amazon has an amazing assortment of all different styles of padded mailers.  Check them out here. 

Small things that weigh 16 ounces or more

USPS “Free” Small Flat Rate Mailer.  Remember VHS tapes? That’s what size this box is. 

USPS raises the price on all of their "free" supplies every year (sometimes it increases twice in a single year).  When we first started shipping the Small Flat Rate was around $5.15.  Now the price is up to $7.63 (as of April 2020). However, $7.63 is still cheaper than other options if your item can fit in the Small Flat Rate and if it weighs over 1 pound. Note: The max weight for this little box used to be 4 pounds.  I assume it's probably the same today.

If your small item is too big for the Small Flat Rate box (shown below, bottom right).  I found this great pic on BoxInformationCenter:

If your item is too big for the Small Flat Rate, consider it to be a Medium-Sized item.


Medium things - A couple womens sweaters, 2 pair of mens jeans, 2 hoodies, a kids outfit on a hanger, etc.  If the medium size thing weighs under 15 ounces you should still be able to ship it first class. But we are going to assume that these medium things weigh 1-4 pounds, but under 20 pounds. 

1. “Free” USPS Bubble Mailer called "Flat Rate Padded Envelope".  In the photo above it is on the upper right.  If it fits, it ships for around $7.70 anywhere in the USA.  Good luck fitting 2 pairs of jeans in here.  But it's a good thing to have a few on hand because sometimes you can use 'em. 

2. A Poly Mailer via USPS Priority or USPS Cubic - Also Known as "Soft Pack” - burn the phrase “soft pack” into your brain because this is insanely important and we will be discussing it thoroughly in a little bit.  REALLY, SUPER, MEGA, IMPORTANT because you are probably doing it wrong and therefore throwing away money!  This is what you SHOULD be using for almost everything you ship.  Keep reading...

3. A Box: we use Home Depot boxes because they are fantastic quality and typically cheaper than Amazon.  They come in a variety of sizes. This is our personal fav:

If you want to order through Home Depot, here is how you do it TO GET A DISCOUNT:

First sign up for Mr.  This will give you 1-3% cash back on every home depot purchaseMr. Rebates

Then, in Mr Rebates, click the (green) link for Home Depot:

Now buy your boxes.  As you can see from the image below, I got almost $7 back by using this method! $7 is enough to buy a couple rolls of tape!

TIP: When buying your boxes, pay VERY CLOSE ATTENTION to the prices.  You ALWAYS want to buy a full “bundle”!!! A bundle is ALWAYS cheaper per piece than buying individuals!  A Bundle is usually 25 pieces. 

Other Ways to Ship Medium Sized Stuff:

“Free” USPS Medium Flat Rate Box -  As you may notice, whenever I talk about USPS supplies I say “Free”, because it technically *is* “free” but it almost always costs more to ship, therefore the “free” supplies costs more in the end.  I am totally NOT a fan of these.  They’re too small for most things and too roomy for small things. The only time these are truly valuable is if the item is super heavy and small; like a 25-pound workout weight or literally cement bricks (because you can't ship cocaine bricks through the mail. lol!).  Every year USPS raises the shipping cost in these flat rates. Last I checked it was around $13 to ship the Medium Flat anywhere in the USA in this box. BUT if what you are shipping can fit in this box, it is most likely cheaper to ship in the poly mailer unless you are sending it all the way across the USA (New York to California or Maine to Washington).  I encourage you to grab a couple of these from the post office because they are free, but don’t make this your main shipping box… unless you sell 10” pieces of granite rock or 9”x9” steel chunks.  

Regional Boxes -  These are also "Free" through USPS. Here's a summary of the difference between the "Regional Box A" versus the "Medium Flat Rate"


Larger Things - Three Pairs of jeans, a winter coat (not a huge parka), three or four mens sweaters…. Stuff that probably weighs over 4 pounds, yet isn't ginormously massive. 

"Free" Large Flat Rate - despite the name, these boxes aren’t large at all.  For the most part they CAN hold around 20 pieces of 8.4oz body care (which we will discuss more shortly).  The only real problem with the Large Flat is that it's so damn expensive for the size.  Last I checked it was over $17 to ship the Large Flat and it's only 12 inches x 12 inches x a measly 6 inches! So stupid. Again, this would be good if you're shipping crazy-heavy things that are small-ish.  I guess it would be good for shipping 12x12 floor tiles because those are insane weight. 

Cubic Pricing (Priority Mail) - This is the absolute best way to ship most things BUT you might not yet have access to it because you have to sell enough inventory to qualify for cubic pricing AND you have to merchandise that is small enough to ship via Cubic.  Here’s the catch with Cubic:

  • It must ship in a poly mailer (this is also called “Soft Pack”... remember how I told you to burn this word into your brain?)
  • The mailer must measure 18 x18 or less BEFORE you put stuff in it. So the biggest size poly you can buy is 18 x 18. 
  • It must weigh under 20 pounds

If you use a postage program and if you qualify for Cubic rates, you will be able to ship anything that meets the above criteria for $9 - $15 inside the USA.  Again, if you are centrally located in the USA you’re going to get the best rates. If you are on a coast or edge you are going to have some higher-priced parcels and some lower, which will probably ultimately end up averaging around $11 per order.  WE ARE GOING TO DISCUSS MORE SOFT PACK INFO IN A FEW MINUTES... MEGA, MEGA, MEGA IMPORTANT.  Keep reading because you're doing a great job so far!

USPS Ground / Parcel Post - USPS used to call it “parcel post” but they now call it “ground", I guess.  Maybe it's just because we are located in Michigan, but for us, Priority Mail and Parcel Post / Ground now often come to the same price but ground USED TO BE almost always several dollars cheaper than Priority Mail. The downside of Ground is that it can take 3x longer than Priority.  Priority is usually around 2-3 days, whereas it is not uncommon for Ground to take 7 to 10. However, not every buyer is in a massive rush to get their goodies so a lot of people are fine with it taking extra time if it means they can save money on shipping. 

And now the time has come... HOW TO FIND THE CHEAPEST RATE (stuff you're probably not doing... but should be!)

A lot of people make a HUGE mistake when it comes to shipping; they automatically put it in a box then measure the box and input the box dimensions into the postage program then pick the lowest rate from the list.  NO! NO! NO! NOOOOOO!! STOP IT NOW! All postage programs *SHOULD* also have a “soft pack” AKA “poly mailer” option!! You want to always FIRST check the soft pack rate! It is almost ALWAYS cheaper because USPS can fit more Soft Packs onto one truck than boxes. 

If your postage program does not offer soft pack rates, GET RID OF IT! There’s so many postage programs out there in 2020 that there is no need to “settle” for a crappy program that forces you to ship in a box only.

When you ship in boxes you are measuring 3 dimensions: L x W x H:

When you ship soft pack you measure only 2 dimensions: L x W because there is no H because a bag is like 1 millimeter high. It’s a bag for Petes Sake:

Ok so now that you know that, when shipping Soft Pack you measure the bag BEFORE you put stuff in it.  That means you measure LxW when the bag is laid flat, as shown in the image above.

DO NOT SHIP SOFT PACKS LIKE BOXES!!!!! If your postage program has a Soft Pack option, it should only be asking you to provide two dimensions.  If it’s asking you for the Height IT IS CHARGING YOU FOR A BOX. Again, if you are not able to switch to “soft pack” then get rid of your postage program TODAY. Don’t wait. Do it NOW. You are throwing away money! 


In the past couple years these budget shipping options began popping up all over, such as Fed Ex / USPS "Smart Post".  Ugh...dreaded Smart Post.  It might be "Post" but there's nothing "Smart" about it.  Although these programs *can* (might / maybe / sometimes/ a little bit) save (some) money (sometimes) off shipping cost, you will pay dearly in terrible feedback, miserable customers, rage inflicted upon your customer service staff and you can kiss that repeat buyer "goodbye" forever.  Maybe you're thinking, "Why are people made at ME? I am not the carrier!" - Let me explain something that might genuinely blow your mind... 

Approximately 47% of our buyers think WE are the carrier.  I am not joking... I wish I was.  That is HALF of all of our customers that genuinely believe is who sets their parcel on their doorstep.  In fact, they even contact us and say things like, "Can you NOT ring my doorbell this time?!? I like to take afternoon naps", "Why did you leave it at my side door?" or "If you can bring it around 4:30pm I should be home to meet you".

When we try to explain to customers that Big Brand Wholesale is different from The United States Postal Service, they truly do not "get it".  The confusion is overwhelming for them.  It's pretty nuts to be honest.

With that in mind, you MUST pick a shipping option that is fast (or reasonably fast) because the bad feedback from slow delivery is going to be targeted at YOU, not at the carrier, even though you have done everything right. 


1. Budget Shipping "Savers" like Smart Post are terribly slow.  I don't care what you read online; it simply isn't true.  And, as a seller, you have to compete with companies like Amazon that ARE actually carriers now and they get the unicorn horn or adult raccoon suit to you in 2 days (or less!).  When you ship using a service like SmartPost you should just assume the transit it going to be at least 1 week.  

2. Lack of Tracking Updates.  Once again, customers are NOT able to distinguish your company versus the carrier, so when a parcel isn't scanned for 48 hours they immediately assume it is "lost" and they want a refund TODAY (not tomorrow, not in a week... TODAY! NOW OR I'M LEAVING BAD FEEDBACK!!!).  Trying to explain to someone that the method you shipped it sucks and "it isn't scanned sometimes, but don't worry, it will eventually show up, just be patient" doesn't make people happy. 

However, in some cases, someone doesn't really care if the transit is slower.  For example.... hmmm.... thinking.... still thinking.... I guess a situation where people wouldn't mind slow shipping is if they're ordering more Cheetos but they already have a Costco case of Cheetos that will tie them over for a month, they might not mind.  But you better pray to baby Jesus that your Cheetos are set on that buyers front deck before they finish the last bite in their current bag or you're in major trouble.  

3. The price isn't THAT much cheaper; it doesn't make sense. I see all these idiots online saying "The savings is HUGE!  It's $0.50 - $2 LESS per parcel!"... Ok, let me as you this, "How much is 1 bad feedback, 1 lost customer or 1 chargeback worth to you?"  We have been in business since 2005 and I can affirmatively tell you that $2... even $5 or $10, $20, $30... isn't worth it.

4. And finally, the parcels move all over the USA... back and fourth, and back again.  This scares buyers because they are watching tracking and they see the parcel is close to their neighborhood, then it is driven completely past their neighborhood and to a different state.  Immediately they assume it is "lost" and freak the F out on YOU.

Here's an ACTUAL parcels journey based on SmartPost tracking:

Want to know what's even more crazy? This parcel has to go to CALIFORNIA.  Here's the tracking from the 23rd through 30th...

AND ITS STILL NOT THERE YET, as of almost 1 week later.  Like I said, it just isn't worth the marginal savings you might get. 

Love this blog post? Check out our other Amazon & eCommerce detailed guides:

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