Shipping This Thing Costs How Much?

Since buying and acquiring old computers isn’t generally something you can do at your local store, shipping is frequently a part of the process. For small items sent domestically, via ground services, this isn’t usually a big expense. But for international addresses or heavy items, shipping costs can quickly add up to a large fraction of the purchase or sale price – a key factor for items which may not be worth much in the first place.

ShippingI recently sold a couple spare Apple Lisa systems on eBay (I now have just one left in the collection). The first, sold last fall, included an internal hard drive and weighed in at a chunky 48 pounds. I had included $75 for shipping fees on eBay, and that was about right. My local UPS store was able to pack and ship the item from Boston to New York City for about $80.

This week I sold another non-working system as a parts machine. This one was missing both the hard drive and floppy drive, so it tipped the scales at a svelte 40 pounds. It was going further this time to Tenessee but weighed less, so I expected roughly the same costs. Much to my surprise I was quoted between $125 and $140 for packing and shipping; just the shipping alone, I was told, would be $80. This from the same UPS store I went to before! I was stunned at the cost increase.

Unwilling to lose money on the sale, I huffed out of the store (literally – those Lisas are heavy) to find a cheaper alternative. It wasn’t hard: a suitably sized box and roll of bubble wrap set me back $25 at OfficeMax, and I was able to use up all the packing peanuts I’ve acquired at home. The next day I shipped it via FedEx Ground for only $46. Much more reasonable.

Lessons learned from the experience:
– seriously factor shipping costs into your sales or purchase calculations
– always pack items yourself for the lowest cost (pretty obvious)
– do not take as final the prices quoted by shipping counter employees

The UPS website later showed the shipping cost for my item to be under $50. Caveat Emptor, indeed.


3 responses to “Shipping This Thing Costs How Much?”

  1. Adam Rosen says:

    ORIGINAL BLOGSPOT COMMENTS:

    Anonymous said…
    I always recommend getting a shipping quote online from ups.com, fedex.com, usps.com, etc. USPS is typically cheapest, but their tracking and claims processes leave a bit to be desired. I prefer UPS over FedEx based on their customer service. (Note, this applies to non-freight shipments. I have a horror story about quoted ship time vs. reality shipping freight Maine to Alaska via UPS LTL…) If you know anybody who works in a company with a UPS/FedEx account, ask them if they’d be willing to ship for you. I worked in a shipping department and we got about 40% off the UPS.com posted rates. I (and my boss) were more than happy to pass these savings onto friends who brought pre-boxed packages to ship. (If our cost was under $10, the boss usually wouldn’t even want their money.)
    January 12, 2012 at 5:24 AM

    Darren said…
    I’ve used an Irish company called Scurri.com in the past for this, they’ve bought unsold space of the courier network so can get really low prices. The only niggle I had was that I had to wait 24 hours whilst they got me a price rather than give me one upfront but I guess that’s because I was shipping something that wasn’t a normal parcel (was a heavy old desktop)!
    February 8, 2012 at 10:15 AM

  2. Kristin Jones says:

    I was given a G4 iMac the 800mHz SuperDrive 17in flatscreen model as my high school graduation present. I still have all the original accessories-speakers, keyboard, mouse & operating disks- and all are in working order. I’m wondering if there is any values I justify selling or if I should keep the unit for sentimental reasons (the gift came from my late grandmother). Thanks!

Leave a Reply