Buying and selling bags is a natural part of our community. Last year our community bought and sold over 3,000 bags, all over the world. However, the question still comes up every now and then, “What’s the best way to ship a bag?”
In the past 6 months alone I’ve personally shipped over 20 bags around the United States and around the world, all without issue, and all for mostly under $20 USD. While this article will focus mostly on shipping from the USA, you should be able to apply most of these practices anywhere.
That’s right, bag it. Don’t box it. Don’t ever box a bag ever again. Bags are softgoods and will be more than fine in polymer mailer bags, and it will save you and your receiver a good amount of cash. I’ve shipped bags and received dozens and dozens of bags from all over the world in poly mailers. Trust me, it’s fine.
This does not apply to bags with metal frames. I still recommend keeping those in more rigid packaging with some additional protection.
The standard size poly mailer I recommend is a 19×24″. You can buy these at any office supply store, or someplace like Amazon. They’re very easy to find, and you can buy a dozen, or you can buy a few hundred. Color doesn’t matter. Have some fun. Feel free to buy larger or smaller ones depending what you need, but I found this size to work best for most items.
The quality of different brands of poly mailers can differ. From trash-bag equivalents to something you might find on the International Space Station. For lower quality or thinner poly mailers I prefer to have two layers between my outgoing bag and the outside world. This can mean doubling up on poly mailers, or it could mean folding the poly mailer over on itself to create an extra layer if the item inside is small enough.
Get a few rolls of 3M Scotch packing tape with a dispenser. Don’t buy cheap shit. One roll will last you long enough but a couple of rolls won’t have you running to the store at the last minute just to ship something. Your goal here is it to make your package the size of the outgoing bag. Let’s repeat that a bit louder.
Your goal here is it to make your package the size of the outgoing bag.
Don’t fold it. Don’t bend it. Don’t torque it in weird ways. Don’t molest the bag. Someone bought that bag from you and the condition of it should not change between the time of sale and arrival.
Fold the poly mailer in half, or fold the top over on itself, or just fold the corners in – whatever is necessary. You’ll also want to get out as much air as possible and make the bag as flat as possible. You want to minimize potential extra length, width, and height measurements here. The measurements of your outgoing shipment should almost match the measurements of the bag you’re shipping.
When you’re done you should be left with something akin to what Dexter Morgan would throw over the side of his boat.
If everything has gone well so far you should essentially be able to get your measurements from the manufacturer’s website, but just to be safe grab a tape measure and write down the length, width, and height. If the bag is small enough, you might not need the width / depth measurement, but keep it on hand just in case.
It’s also worth mentioning at this time that you might have gone a bit too far. Oops. If you have a scale, now is the time to weigh the outgoing package. If you don’t have a scale, I recommend going back in time and using a luggage scale to weigh your bag before it gets wrapped up. Write the weight down.
Now that you have the length, width, height, and weight, it’s time for the easiest part.
If you’re in the USA, head over to Pirate Ship. If you’re not in the USA, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you should move so you can use Pirate Ship. I have personally saved over $100 USD in the past 3 months just by using Pirate Ship for bags I’ve sold to TPP community members. It’s all USPS, so if you prefer something else for some reason, you’re on your own.
Now that you’ve created a Pirate Ship account you’re going to want to message them and ask them to enable Simple Export Rate. This will get you crazy cheap international shipping. Do this now rather than later. It takes less than 2 minutes. Shipping internationally is no different than shipping domestically when you do it this way. You’re not required to go anywhere in person. You don’t have to wait in any lines. You don’t even need a pen. The only difference when shipping internationally is that you have to declare that ‘yes, this is a bag‘. No more excuses for not shipping to our international friends. It is zero extra work and barely more expensive. Go splitsies.
Now, create your shipping label and enter all of the proper information; return address, destination address, dimensions and measurements, etc. Make sure you choose the poly mailer option for Type of Packaging. If your bag is larger than 18″ in any dimension, Pirate Ship will ask you to use the Box package type and enter all three dimensions of your outgoing package. This is fine, and the real benefit here is that you’re still getting lower weight and measurements overall by using the poly mailer.
You can add signature confirmation, insurance, or any other extra services you’d like. Personally I add nothing else, as the first time you have to deal with any package insurance you’ll realize that it’s basically a scam. Click “Get Rates”.
The rate selection is up to you. You will probably want Priority Mail 90% of the time. If you’re shipping a smaller item, First Class is a great option. It includes tracking and it offers the same speed as Priority Mail.
If you don’t have a printer go get one. They’re crazy cheap, and you’ll pay for it in two or three shipments just by printing at home. Now, print that label and slap it on to your poly mailer. We’re in the home stretch.
This is also where you should copy the tracking number from Pirate Ship and send it over to your buyer. They’ll appreciate this. The first time you give a buyer a tracking number minutes after selling an item will feel great.
Do you like feeling superior to other humans? Good, because this is where you get to hold your head high and laugh at the people standing in line at your local post office. Don’t actually laugh, that would be very rude. Maybe just tell them about Pirate Ship. Take that poly mailer, walk over to the drop off bin or counter, and leave it there. That’s it. Just leave it there. Now go home, have a coffee, and tell your buyer that the package is on its way.
Congratulations, you’ve just successfully shipped your first… well, it’s probably not the first package you’ve shipped. But, this way was a lot better, wasn’t it? Selling and shipping bags becomes much less of a headache when you do it this way. It’s almost no work at all. It saves you money, time, and effort.
Now go into those bins of bags you’ve never used and put them in the hands of someone that will, no matter where they are in the world.