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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.