For online auction users, shipping is a necessary evil. No one likes wondering what an item will cost to ship or waiting for packages to arrive. Whether you're a buyer or a seller, the following companies and Web sites can help take the mystery out of shipping auction goods, as well as make the process of shipping much easier and more efficient.
All of the major delivery services have Web sites, including UPS, FedEx, Airborne Express, and the United States Postal Service. The features of each Web site are similar: At UPS and FedEx (remember the old days when it was called Federal Express?) you can track packages, request a pickup or find a drop-off point, and estimate shipping costs. Airborne's site is less elaborate, but allows customers to track shipments and find a nearby drop box.
The USPS site has it all: package tracking, a rate calculator, post office locator, as well as a handy-dandy directory in which you can look up zip codes and figure out those squirrely zip+4 codes. Need to buy postage stamps? Visit the USPS's other site, Stamps Online. There you can choose from a bevy of stamps which can be delivered to your door for $1 shipping. (Of course, there's no shipping charge if you log off and drag yourself to the post office to buy stamps from a flesh-and-blood, carbon-based person.)
But of all the available online shipping services, the most beneficial for auction users is online package tracking--it's the greatest invention since the Web browser, allowing you to verify that your shipment got there. Or if, on the other hand, you're a buyer, you can obsessively check to see when your auction winnings will arrive. (If you don't already, make it a habit to exchange tracking numbers with the folks with whom you do business.)
If you sell a lot of stuff via online auction, you'll appreciate the benefits of a shipping service site such as iShip (which is part of Stamps.com) or SmartShip. Both sites provide a one-stop tool for tracking packages sent by all of the major (and some smaller) carriers. They also can quickly serve up cost estimates, allowing you to compare shippers' prices based on the weight of the package, when you want it delivered, and other variables.
iShip offers a unique tool for auction sellers: It provides your bidders with customized shipping cost estimates based on the package weight, yours and the bidder's zip codes, and the carriers you prefer. In fact, you can take advantage of this service--and others--right here at Vendio via AW's Auction Manager Shipping Tools page. With iShip Sell It, you can inform bidders of shipping and handling charges while an auction is in progress; with iShip Price It, you can compare the prices of the major carriers; and with iShip Track It, you can track a package as well as receive an email notification of when it arrives at its destination.
Lastly, SmartShip offers a nifty tool for finding the nearest drop-off point for your favorite carriers, as well as email notification of your package's delivery status. For some shippers, SmartShip allows you to make your pickup request online, print a shipping label, and prepay for the delivery with your credit card.