Basic shipping questions for newbie

I have everything I need to begin selling a small run of my first ever product on Tindie (the part, boxes, bubble wrap), but I am a little bit in the dark about how to actually ship my orders to customers. From what I’ve read, USPS Media Mail has the best rate for small, light boxes like the kind I am planning to ship, so that is what I have chosen as a Shipping Rate.

My confusion comes in when the customer actually places an order and I receive a notification in my dashboard - what steps do I need to take in order to physically get my package shipped to the customer? I’d hate to have to visit the post office multiple times a week and wait in line forever to ship small boxes, so how much of this process can I do myself?

Does Tindie provide me with a printable shipping label, or just a name and an address? Can I drop the boxes in a nearby blue mailbox, or do I absolutely have to visit the post office? Are there other options that aren’t terribly expensive that would allow me to ship out boxes without much hassle (i.e. standing in line at the post office every week)?

As of now, you get the shipping details via the web-page and access to csv data, which you could import into label-printer software. There’s also an API to talk to tindie, but I know nothing about that.

I’m not too familiar with USPS and how to avoid standing in line, but they might have software for printing pre-paid labels, which should speed up things at the counter a bit. You could limit going to the post office to once or twice a week.

If you are shipping from the USA, the cheapest way to go is USPS First Class. I think that small electronics do not qualify for the media mail option. You should use PayPal ship now to purchase and print your labels. It’s sort of a hidden feature that PayPal provides and you have to google “PayPal ship now” in order to find the link. I’m not sure why it’s not marketed more. You must have a PayPal account to use it, but it allows you to purchase and print USPS First Class labels. I usually pay about $2 USD to ship a small 3oz package to anywhere in the US. Once you’ve received an order, fill in the shipping info into PayPal ship now and print your label. Then you can drop it off at any of the blue collection bins. I have one down the street from where I live which makes things really convenient. If I have all the parts ready to go, I can ship an order within an hour of receiving it; never having to step foot in a post office. I had to learn these things on my own, so I hope this helps you get started. Good luck!

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You’ll want to go with USPS First Class Packages for shipping. I hope your labels fit the boxes.

I started out creating labels on when volume was really low, like a few orders a month. I quickly stepped up to the free option for but because of the rule changes with first class packages, I can no longer print stamps and separate label and put them on the small boxes I had. :frowning:

I now have to print large shipping labels that require 6x9" padded envelopes to accommodate the size. I ended up going with Endicia for printing postage (primarily because it works in Wine) but that has a large enough monthly cost ($15) that it wasn’t worth it until I reached a certain volume of sales. If I add up the discount savings versus the monthly fee, I’m almost certainly in the hole. Margin on product makes up for it somewhat.

Don’t forget that the Tindie fees are calculated on product price + shipping price.

I don’t know how I missed it before, but when I did my initial research a few months ago I somehow found that Media Mail was cheaper. But now that I check again, I find that First Class is indeed cheaper for my packages, so I will go with that.

I find that tracking costs $1.05 extra. As a customer I like to have this, but is this normal for Tindie sellers to provide? Or are customers happy without it, do you think?

I will do some checking on how to print labels at home for First Class packages, looks like there are lots of options. My boxes will for this particular product are only 4x4x2", so I’d like to keep my labels somewhat small.

It looks like there are several different ways to print labels (and receipts) for packages listed at the USPS website. So far I’m really liking the official USPS Click-n-Ship interface, so maybe I’ll give it a go unless someone has a better suggestion.

Do I need to print on adhesive sticker paper for my labels? How can I prevent wastage of sheets if I don’t use entire sheets at a time? Obviously, I have lots of newbie questions, since I’ve never done this before :stuck_out_tongue:

Tracking is free on USPS first class packages (it is also required). Through and it’s $1.93 for package up to 2oz with tracking. Media mail is not permitted for electronics, only for actual media like books, tapes, records, and CDs.

You don’t have much choice on label size. It can only get so small. Why not print your labels on regular paper for now, then cut out the label with scissors and tape it on?

Later you can graduate to letter-size adhesive sheets with two labels per page (so, 8.5x5.5" labels). You print one side, then flip the page around to print the other side.

I sold things on eBay before which gave me some practice. Try sending yourself a package or two maybe as practice and to learn the ropes. I’m sure you can figure out the details.

Thanks for the great info, that really clears things up. The desktop program looks like it will work very well, and will let me print labels in both 4x6 and 2x7 sizes, or in smaller sizes for about a dollar more per package.

Since my boxes are actually 4x2x2 (I posted the wrong size earlier), I will need to wrap my labels around 3 sides of my boxes. Is this allowed?

Once I’ve paid for and applied the label, can I just drop the box into any nearby blue USPS mailbox to have it shipped?

I am also a bit curious about international shipping. The program says that I can ship via First Class International for $4.16, but says “Large Envelope”. The USPS postage calculator ( says that a 3oz package will cost $9.45. Any tips on basic international shipping?

Yeah, it kind of sucks that the labels are so large. I don’t know for certain but I think the label has to be completely visible on one side of the package so that it can be scanned on a conveyer belt. If you’ve paid for your label and then print it out, yes, you can just drop it in any USPS collection box. Pretty sweet right? I haven’t used for shipping. I just use USPS’s website when shipping internationally. Again the cheapest option is USPS first class with your own packing materials. You can track it within the US but once it leaves you won’t see it until delivered. If you can find a cheaper way please let me know!

I’ve received a sparkfun package or two where the label is wrapped around the box… but doing a quick Google search suggests it’s kind of dicey. It “might” work.

Get a scale and use your paypal!
I have been using this for years! You get free tracking number also.

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If only there were an API for that…

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Another shipping thread was just created so I think it would be good to use this thread for shipping discussions…

We are looking into shipping APIs / solutions. However there are tons of options out there and we have sellers now in over 40 countries using 49 shipping companies. We won’t be able to cover everyone and every seller, but we can start.

It seems like people use the Paypal integration but I can’t seem to find an API. I know @arachnidlabs had a Github repo with one solution (can’t seem to find the repo).

The solutions we have started to look into:

  • Shippo
  • EasyPost
  • Endicia

and I’m sure others.

However what functionality do you want?

Im not even sure. The most basic to start i guess. As long as we can get a package shipped out quickly it helps.

Being able to click and have most of the information (Name/Address) already filled would be awesome.

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The repository is here:

It provides a simple shipping process including basic integration with Royal Mail, and now Shipwire - but that’s about it.

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Here is what I would like in a shipping solution.

  • A page to view my open and un-shipped orders.
  • From the buyers selected shipping method, automatically select the appropriate shipping method.
  • Ability to make any changes to the open orders on this page
  • Batch print the labels and a packing/receipt to include with the shipment

It would be nice if this supported both printing on a standard ink jet/laser using full sheet labels and also a label printer like the DYMO LabelWriter thermal printers.

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I didn’t see it mentioned, but Media Mail is restricted to certain types of things - mainly books, CDs, DVDs and the like. The idea is that it’s used by libraries to cheaply ship books around. It’s also the lowest priority mail handling, so it’s S L O W. It’s extremely unlikely that anything sold on Tindie would qualify for Media Mail rates.

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Just to share another n00b’s experience… PayPal ship now has been great for First Class parcels (~$2, I choose an irregular package due to inconsistent thickness). fills in the gap for First Class International (just over $6), but doesn’t do domestic First Class. PayPal and USPS complement each other very well in that regard. Why one can’t offer all options is beyond me.

I tried Endicia but found it frustrating and not offering much value at $17/month, so canceled during the trial period (plus I’m on Linux so had to run it in a VM anyway). I also offer Priority Mail but no one has used it.

The only minor frustration I’ve had is having to manually copy/paste each part of a address into either site (Endicia at least took the whole address as one blob). Since there are no shipping APIs to interface with Tindie’s order API I’m tempted to write a Greasmonkey script to copy addresses between the sites. It might be worth it if I had more sales coming through.

It’s interesting that you mention the copying and pasting of the address being frustrating. When I tell this to my business partners (engineers) they look at me like I’ve lost my mind.

Currently I just use a Bother p-touch label maker and copy and paste the entire address in one shot. I live with someone who works at the post office so they take all my packages to work with them and process them first thing in the morning. This convenience won’t last forever tho.

My biggest wish would be for Tindie to have one click shipping which would integrate with a label printer. I just click a button and out comes paid postage with the customers address. I’m sure I’m just dreaming tho.

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@ubldit you definitely aren’t dreaming. We bought our first label printer a few weeks ago and it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. We want to build in a new shipping system. It’s on the list.

Have you tried the Orders API? We created the Orders API specifically so sellers could build an integration specific to their needs

Endicia runs fine in Wine on Ubuntu. Much better experience than having to run a VM.

And, I finally wrote python code that calls the Tindie Orders API, generates Endicia XML, and provides a link to the order. No more cut and paste of addresses!

So the new process is: click link to generate XML. Tell dazzle to print from xml file. When done printing, I copy tracking # from the email dialog. I click the order link, paste in the tracking number and print the order.

MUCH more streamlined. It’s the little things…