Prepacking Items and Losing Money

I accidentally sent the wrong item out, and now I’m going to eat the costs, and basically lose a total of around $5 on this sale.  I sent out a water filter when I meant to send out a Braun hand blender. A dollar was lost on the correct product, and four on the mistaken product.  The big winners here were USPS and FedEx, who got a total of $15 in postage. The little winner was the buyer, who got not only a Braun hand blender (old style) but a free water filter.

The littl-er winners are the original seller of the blender, who got $5 because I didn’t haggle (and I kind of wanted it for myself), and Goodwill for the filter.

It’s a zero-sum game, and I lost on that one.

The cause of this problem was pre-packing an item. I pre-packed the filter because space was scarce, and I didn’t want to damage the product’s box. So I put it into another box, sealed it up, and listed it.

When it came time to send out the blender, for some reason, I assumed it was inside the box. The box was just the right size, like a wine bottle box.  I was in a hurry, and out it went.

A few days later, I was re-doing my inventory, and the blender was sitting in the bin.

Losing another Fifty Cents

As if losing $5 weren’t enough, I lost 50 cents on a book sale, because I didn’t measure the weight of packaging correctly.  The book was just over a pound, but I often underestimate the weight of cardboard.

Corrugated cardboard, especially, weighs a lot. Wrapping a book must have been more than ten ounces of cardboard.

I just measured the weight of the Priority Mail “shoebox”: 6 ounces.  The Priority Mail Large Box is 11 ounces, and that’s around the same size as the Large Flat Rate Box.  That’s over half a pound.

Heavy duty corrugated cardboard weighs even more.

For high-margin items, these packaging costs can be absorbed, but this was a book I was trying to clear out of my inventory. The margin was slim – basically a penny plus making  cents on postage.

How to Avoid the Losses Next Time

I came up with a few rules to help me avoid these problems next time.

  1. Label the box with a sticker with the item number and name. I neglected to do this, despite having an entire inventory system built around stickers and numbers.
  2. Do not seal the box. Because the box was sealed, I didn’t peek in to double check that the correct item was being sent out.
  3. Weigh the box and item together, and write it into the spreadsheet.  Boxes add a lot of weight, so at least eliminate the risk of undercharging for postage.  If you can’t weigh the box, assume it will add one pound for larger items.
  4. If possible, put the box into the normal inventory system, which in my case, are bins.

Five bucks to learn this lesson wasn’t too bad.  It could have been a lot worse. This also gets me a little deeper into pre-packaging correctly.

Fortunately for me, this is only the first time I sent the wrong item, and maybe the second or third time my packaging has destroyed my profit.

Author: John

I can be reached at johnk@riceball.com.

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