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Jun 232014
 

Bubblefast

Last week UPS made the official announcement that they would follow FedEx in making a significant change to the way billable weight is determined for small (<3 cu feet) packages beginning in 2015.

Currently dimensional weight is a factor for large packages but is not a factor for packages measuring less than 3 cu feet (length x width x height < 5184 inches).

If a package measures 12” x 12” x 12”, for example, the “billable weight” (the number you have to look up on a rate chart to determine shipping fee) today is whatever the package weighs.  Easy to calculate.  A 6 pound package is billed as a 6 pound package.

Beginning on 1/1/15 for FedEx Ground and 12/29/14 for UPS Ground things get a lot more complicated and for many packages significantly more expensive.

Here is the new rule.   The SIZE of the package will be a factor in considering billable weight for ALL packages.

Billable weight for ANY package shipped by FedEx Ground or UPS Ground will now be the greater of actual weight or a number calculated by the following formula:
Package length x Package Width x Package Height / 166

Here is an example.  Let’s say you are shipping a large 5 pound teddy bear in a box that measures 18” x 18” x 12”.
Actual weight is 5 pounds.
Weight according to the formula is 18x18x12 / 166 = 23.4
The 5 pound package will now be billed as a 24 pound package.
With current rates a package shipping from Chicago to Los Angeles (without regard to fuel surcharge or any ancillary charges) would cost $10.21 today or $23.05 in 2015.  Huge increase!!!

The most significant change will be for relatively lightweight packages that are less than 3 cubic feet in volume (since dimensional weight is already a factor for larger packages).  Some examples of effected products are pillows, stuffed animals, lampshades, rolls of bubble wrap, diapers or floral arrangements.

So now you know the new rules.  WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO??

Here are our top 5 tips for dealing with the new billable weight factor.

  •  Educate Yourself – Now is the time.  Before the busy shipping season is upon us, take the time to familiarize yourself with the new rules.  Take a look at any package you currently ship via FedEx or UPS Ground and figure out what the shipping costs will look like with the new billing system.  If you are purchasing inventory for re-sale, make sure you take the possibility of dimensional weight shipping charges into consideration when calculating your potential margin. Be particularly careful when offering items for sale including “free shipping”.  For example, if you are selling that teddy bear referred to above and choose to offer FedEx Ground or UPS Ground as an option, make sure that your selling price can absorb the cost of shipping a 24 pound package across the country.
  •  Make sure that your box is not any larger than it needs to be.  Anything you can do to make your package smaller will decrease the billable weight of the package.  There are a couple of things you can do to your boxes to accomplish this.  Consider using multi-depth boxes.   These are boxes pre-scored to allow the sides of the box to easily (and neatly) be folded down to the appropriate height.  Purchasing multi-depth boxes allows you to purchase a bundle of one size box that you can use for various products without having expensive empty space at the top.  Another way to re-size any box is by purchasing an inexpensive box sizer tool.  This is a handy tool that will allow you to score the four sides of any box so that you can (again, easily and neatly) fold the sides down to create a more compact package.
  • Carefully evaluate what you are putting into your box.  If the contents of your package can in any way be safely flattened or deflated this will be to your advantage.  Definitely don’t scrimp on padding where it is needed, but try not to overpack.  If you are packing clothing don’t swaddle your item in layers of bubble wrap.  You have probably all received one of those packages containing a tiny item and a mountain of air pillows.  Don’t do that!!  If you are accustomed to filling your box with large air pillows, consider bubble wrap or some other less bulky void fill product.
  • Consider other shipping providers or services.  You may find that FedEx Ground or UPS Ground is no longer a viable option for your particular product.  There are other choices.  If you haven’t explored the options before, now is the time to look into various USPS options such as First Class Package, Regional or Flat Rate Priority Boxes, Parcel Select/Parcel Post.  Note that while dimensional weight is a factor for some Priority Mail packages, it is not a factor for Express Mail.  In some cases USPS Express Mail may be less expensive than FedEx or UPS Ground.  Both FedEx and UPS also offer hybrid services (FedEx SmartPost and UPS SurePost) where packages are picked up by FedEx or UPS but delivered by the Post Office.  These services are generally slower than regular Ground service but dimensional weight is NOT a factor and savings can be quite significant.  Local or regional carriers are also available in many areas and may not use dimensional weight billing.
  • Negotiate.  Don’t wait until December.  If you currently have a FedEx or UPS account or are considering having one in the near future, NOW is the time to get contact your representative and try to negotiate the best possible rates for your business.  You might want to contact both companies and see who is willing to provide the best rates for you.

These tips were compiled my Robin and Mark Le Vine, of Bubblefast, a family owned business providing shipping supplies to the online community since 1999.  Please feel free to contact us at robin@bubblefast.com or (877) 599-7447 if you have any questions or would like further clarification.

Oct 082013
 

The commercials are already starting on TV.  Holiday mailings and catalogs are filling up our mailboxes and computer screens.  The holiday season seems to be starting earlier and earlier.  You might not be quite ready to put up the tree or polish the menorah, but if you are a seller, it is NOT too early to start planning for the holiday shipping season.  The more advance research and planning you are able to do, the less stressful the season can be.  Here are some of our top tips for preparing yourself for the “holiday hustle”.

We helped wrap these dudes to ship, but they seem pretty helpful too.

  1. Familiarize yourself with all of the carriers and shipping options available. Things to consider:

  • Learn about Priority Mail Flat Rate and Regional Rate packaging.  These can be huge money savers.  This useful guide from Stamps.com will help you determine which USPS option is best for your particular package.
    http://www.stamps.com/whitepapers/priority-mail-rate-guide.pdf

  • Find out which carriers charge “dimensional weight” or “balloon weight” for large packages.  Don’t be surprised when your large 5 pound box is charged as if it weighs 45 pounds.  Know the rules in advance so you can charge your customer appropriately and/or choose the right service.

  • Know in advance what the shipping deadlines are for each carrier and service.  eBay provides a convenient place to see the deadlines for all of the major carriers.

  • Find out if there are economical Regional Carriers serving your  area.  On-Trac in the Western U.S,  Spee-Dee Delivery in the Midwest and Eastern Connection in the northeast  are examples of this type of carrier that can offer fast, affordable shipping to certain locations.

 

  1. If you are not already doing it, consider taking the time now to revise your listings to offer Free Shipping and also Expedited Shipping Options.   If you don’t offer these you risk losing customers to those sellers who do.  If you decide to offer Free Shipping make sure that your selling price can absorb shipping to distant zones.  Do the research in advance so you don’t find yourself actually losing money.

 

  1. Stock up on shipping supplies now.  Don’t put yourself in the stressful situation of having packages ready to ship to your customers and no boxes, bubble wrap, mailers, packing peanuts and whatever other supplies you need to send them on their way.  Make sure you also have a good supply of mailing labels, tape and Fragile Stickers if necessary.  If you use Priority Mail supplies make sure to order these in advance.  Don’t count on your local Post Office to have the supplies you need in stock.  Order directly from USPS and have free supplies delivered to your home or office so you know they’ll be there when you need them .

https://store.usps.com/store/browse/category.jsp?categoryId=catGetMailingShippingSupplies&categoryNavIds=catGetMailingShippingSupplies

 

  1. Consider hiring extra help for the holidays.  If you start looking for help now you can have them up to speed by the holidays.  Having extra sets of knowledgeable hands in your shipping room can relieve some of the stress of a hectic holiday shipping season.

 

  1. Show appreciation to your drivers/postal carriers.  Remember that these are your partners in getting your packages safely to your customers.   Realize that they are working long hard hours.    Building up a little good will might help when you need them to wait an extra minute for you to finish up that last package.

 

Best wishes for a peaceful, profitable holiday season.

Aug 092011
 

Why Bubblefast has joined
Stamps.comthe Stamps.com bandwagon

Bubblefast opened its doors in May of 1999.  Back then we used a Pitney Bowes postage meter to process our USPS mailing labels.  We paid an obnoxious amount of money for meter rental and an exorbitant amount for ribbon replacement.  We had to call in our postage refill over the telephone.  We printed mailing labels from our computers, hand fed each one through the meter, peeled off the backs, and attached the labels to our product.  Don’t even ask how we got refunds.  Talk about the Stone Age!

When we attended eBay Live in 2006 we were introduced to Endica Postage.  For $35.99 per month we could import all our orders into their software, batch print labels, and post tracking numbers back into our database.  We could purchase new postage online.  The software even created customs forms for us.  We were in USPS heaven!

So, as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  For years Stamps.com was wooing Bubblefast to switch.  Yes, our fees would be reduced by 50%, but compared to our old system, we were already saving so much money we didn’t feel it was worth the time and effort to make another switch.  Besides, we kept hearing that Stamps.com was always a step behind Endicia in keeping up with the post office updates and changes.

I had met Eric Nash, Director, Online Marketing for Stamps.com at several eBay events.  The last one I attended was the eBay Radio Party in June 2011.  Eric finally convinced me to give Stamps.com a try on 30-day free trial basis.

I was NOT disappointed.

Even though Endicia was far and above better than our original Pitney Bowes solution, it was not without its own issues.  The software consists of three separate programs, Endica, Dazzle, and Galaxy.  When to use which is a bit confusing.  The most critical issue for us, however, was technical support.  When I have a question or problem I need to know that I can talk to someone live – NOW.  With Endica, you have to leave a message and technical support will get back to you (sometimes) within 24 hours.  This was never an acceptable option for me.  If I am having problems printing postage for today’s shipments, I cannot wait until tomorrow to get an answer.  My customers expect me to ship today.

So, here are 10 reasons why Bubblefast switched to Stamps.com and will not switch back:

1)      Technical support and customer service is available live, M-F 6:00 am-6:00 pm PST.  Every contact I have had has been with someone who was friendly, knowledgeable and extremely helpful.  All my questions have been understood and answered in a timely manner.

2)      The software is user friendlier and more intuitive.

3)      The desktop software is integrated with the web-based software.  You can print labels from either one.  The history and tracking are synchronized so you can create reports or track from either one.

4)      The monthly cost is less than half.  In fact, if you print from eBay only, it’s free!

5)      Stamps.com understands the small business eCommerce niche and caters to us.

6)      Easier to locate postage balance and ability purchase additional postage.  You can purchase in any amount above $10.00 instead of limited, specified increments.

7)      Address verification is quicker and easier.

8)      Batch printing is spooled, so my computer is not tied up.

9)      The post back process is automatic.  I don’t have to perform a separate action to make it happen.

10)  Tracking and reporting are unbelievably accessible!

In all fairness, no single solution is perfect.  The Stamps.com software is slower to load, due to its synchronization with its web-based version.  However, I find this an acceptable sacrifice compared to the benefits reaped.  Also, Stamps.com is still a little behind in customs forms for APO addresses.  My understanding is that this will be fixed by their next release.  Based on our usage, I have found nothing else that needs improvement.

Stamps.com, has made a conscientious effort to market themselves to the small business eCommerce niche.  As big as Stamps.com is, they are catering to us little people.  They make themselves accessible and they really understand us and our needs.   Thank you to Eric Nash for your persistence in getting us to make the move.

Erc Nash will always make himself available to answer any of your USPS qusestions.  He can be reached at enash@stamps.com.  In fact, even you decide not to use Stamps.com, Eric has a free gift for you.  Check out this USPS® Priority Mail® Rate Comparison Table.  This chart is a fantastic tool for comparing different USPS rates for different services by weight and zone.  We use this everyday and it helps us make the right decisions and save a lot of money on postage!

If you sell on eBay only and don’t need the software to print out any other type of
postage, you can use Stamps.com for free!

Selling on eBay? Stamps.com Makes Shipping Easy!

– Import orders from eBay with one click

– Print all USPS mail classes including First Class International

– International Customs Forms integrated into the software

– Delivery Confirmation posted-back into your “My eBay” account

– Hidden Postage, SCAN forms, packing slips . . .
Stamps.com has it all!


Otherwise, Stamps.com only costs $15.99 per month.
Plus, you get a 4-week free trial with bonus gifts. It’s a great bargain!!

Selling on Amazon, eBay or your own website?
Stamps.com Makes Shipping Easy!

– Import orders from Amazon, eBay, PayPal & more with one click

– Print all USPS mail classes including First Class International

– International Customs Forms integrated into the software

– Delivery Confirmation posted-back into eBay and Amazon

– Hidden Postage, SCAN forms, packing slips . . .
Stamps.com has it all!


Jun 272011
 

Top Five Shipping and Packaging Tips
From Mark and Robin at Bubblefast

Bubblefast

Serving the online community since 1999

1. Choose the Proper Size and Type Box– Choose a box designed for shipping.  Unless you are hand-delivering your item, assume that it will be subject to plenty of abuse along its way.  If your item is fragile, allow at least 2-4 inches on each side of the product to allow for proper padding.  If you are selling various sized objects you might consider saving money by purchasing a bundle of multi-depth boxes, scored at different heights rather than individual boxes.  These can easily be cut down at any of the scores to create the best fit.  Another easy way to customize the size of your box is by using a box sizer tool.  This tool (available from Bubblefast) allows you to score your box so you only need to cut the corners and fold down the sides of the box for a perfect fit.

2. Use Appropriate Padding – Even if your item is not fragile, we recommend using some amount of padding.  Nothing makes a buyer more angry than using a scissors or box cutter to open their package to find out that they have also sliced open or scratched their purchase.  The most popular padding material is bubble cushioning,  most commonly available in 3/16” or ½” thickness.  Small (3/16”) bubble is great for protecting small delicate items.  Large (1/2”) bubble is great for wrapping large or bulky items and can also be used as void fill (see below).  Anti-static (pink) and recycled (green) bubble is available.

Another common padding material is foam, which comes in rolls as well.  Foam is particularly useful when packing items susceptible to scratching.

3. Void Fill, Void Fill, Void Fill. Probably the most important tip.  Never skimp on void fill.  You can use packing peanuts, bubble, air pillows, packing paper or whatever else you choose.  Whatever you use – be generous.  Fill every nook and cranny.  Void fill is very inexpensive “insurance” that will keep your items safe from the effects of shaking and shifting and to minimize the effects of vibration.

4. Use Free or Recycled Materials when Available.  If you are selling online at least one of your goals is to make a profit.  One way to save money on packing materials is to take advantage of free materials provided by your shipping carrier.  If you are shipping your items using Priority Mail there are many free boxes available.  These can be ordered online from http://www.usps.com/.  Also now available from USPS are Flat Rate Padded Envelopes, Flat Rate Letter and Legal sized envelopes and Priority Mail Regional Boxes.

If you choose to use any of these always make sure to check that the flat or regional rate is less than the actual Priority Mail rate based on the weight of the package.  (If the regular rate is less expensive do not use the flat rate supplies.)  Free materials and boxes are also available for certain FedEx or UPS services.  Check with your carrier to see if there is anything available for your type of shipment.

Some packing materials lend themselves nicely to recycling.  Boxes, packing peanuts, bubble cushioning and air pillows from packages you have received can often be re-used.  Good for the environment and good for your bottom line, a win-win!  Be advised that each re-use of a box can reduce its strength so examine a box carefully before you consider using it. When re-using packing peanuts make sure that they are clean and un-crushed.

5. Choose the Right Shipping Carrier
Once your item is safely padded and protected, you are ready to choose the right shipping service based on the size, weight and destination of your package.  There are many choices of carrier available including USPS, FedEx, UPS and local couriers.  Each of these have multiple layers of service available depending on how quickly the package needs to arrive.

If price is your most important consideration you can use the following general rule of thumb.  For non-media items less than 13 ounces, First Class Mail is usually the least expensive option.  For small packages (LxWxH < 1728 inches) with a weight greater than 13 ounces but less than 4 pounds Priority Mail is often a good choice.  For larger packages FedEx and UPS generally offer the most competitive pricing.  Note that FedEx and UPS cannot deliver to PO Boxes and are not usually competitive for shipments going outside of the continental US.  Parcel Post (USPS) shipping often takes a bit longer than FedEx or UPS but also offers reasonable pricing.  If you are shipping a media item, Media Mail rates are also available through USPS.

If you are doing a significant amount of shipping, take the time to research all of the available shipping options.  As the price of gas increases, affordable shipping becomes more and more of a pain point for frequent sellers.  In addition to the popular carriers, see if there are local couriers doing business in your area that may be able to offer competitive pricing for deliveries to nearby locations.  Remember that, with the exception of the Post Office, most carriers have some flexibility in negotiating pricing.  Choosing a shipping carrier and service is one area where doing diligent research can reap significant rewards.

Bubblefast has been providing a full line of shipping and packaging supplies to the Internet community since 1999.   If you have any packaging or shipping questions or if there is anything we can help you with, feel free to call Mark or Robin toll free at 877/599-7447 or e-mail mark@bubblefast.com.

Dec 152010
 

As heard on eBay radio on December, 14th, here are 5 holiday shipping tips to help your customers receive their packages timely and undamaged.

  1. Research holiday shipping deadlines and rates by service.
    1. Google each major service for deadlines.
    2. Ship at least one day before the deadline.
    3. Be aware that package size matters. Include dimensions in shipping calculators.
  2. Proper packaging.
    1. Use new, strong boxes.
    2. Fill all the spaces – leave no room for movement.
    3. Only use tape designed to seal boxes – not masking, duct or scotch tape – especially in cold weather.
    4. Use indelible ink on label. Don’t tape over direct thermal labels. The glue on the tape makes the ink disappear!

    5. Include extra label inside package.
  3. Consolidate packages if possible.
    1. It usually costs less to ship one large package than two smaller packages.
  4. Disable batteries.
    1. Packages may seem suspicious if there is movement or noises.
    2. Avoid contact with metal.
  5. Think Green – help save the environment for many more holidays to come.
    1. It is estimated that an extra million tons of waste each week is generated during the holiday shipping season.
    2. Reuse packing peanuts and bubble wrap if still in good shape.
    3. Try to find recycled or recyclable shipping supplies.