Making sure that your buyer has a good experience on eBay comprises of being proficient in three key areas: pricing, a detailed and organized listing, and reliable shipping. Having fast and reliable shipping is extremely important as this is the last stage of your transaction, and in most cases, your buyers will remember their last experience first.
Although eBay allows its sellers to choose who they would like to do business with, and for most U.S. sellers, in particular, they like doing business in the "lower 48" (the forty-eight contiguous U.S. states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii) states within the U.S.
Over the years, eBay sellers have shied away from venturing outside of the lower 48, especially to stationed military personnel with Army/Air Post Office (APO) and Fleet Post Office (FPO) addresses.
What Do APO and FPO Mean?
Army/Air Post Office (APO) and Fleet Post Office (FPO) addresses are addresses used by U.S. military personnel stationed both domestically or overseas.
APO addresses are associated with the U.S. Army or Airforce (Army/Air Post Office), and FPO addresses are associated with the U.S. Navy (Fleet Post Office).
Generally, Army/Air Post Office (APO) and Fleet Post Office (FPO) addresses don't contain your typical street addresses but rather box numbers, and all shipped packages will use the services of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
Issues With Shipping
Unfortunately, shipping to military addresses has a prejudice, especially when shipping to unknown third parties. The concerns that have been expressed are the length of time it takes for recipients to receive a package or recipients not receiving their package at all.
Since your package has to first reach an Army/Air Post Office (APO) or Fleet Post Office (FPO) hub before it can be ultimately shipped to your buyer, shipments have been known to take on average 7-15 days to reach their final destination. Also, with service members unexpectantly changing bases, shipping out, being on-call, or wounded serving our country, sometimes packages are returned or not received by the buyer at all.
Although there may be some small additional constraints involved with shipping to Army/Air Post Office (APO) and Fleet Post Office (FPO) addresses, in most cases, there is no more difficulty and cost than shipping to any other domestic address. The most significant difference is that the address format is different from what most people and businesses are used to.
Both USPS and eBay make it easy for you to get your package to their destination successfully.
Formatting Your Shipping Label
If you're already using pre-printed eBay shipping labels, there's nothing additional that you have to do when it comes to packing your shipment, addressing your package, and paying for shipping. Simply use the address that eBay and/or PayPal provide for your buyer—the one that is automatically added to the label. Shipping costs will usually be either the same or similar to domestic rates for all standard USPS packages since Army/Air Post Office (APO), and Fleet Post Office (FPO) addresses are still considered domestic addresses.
Should you need to address the package yourself, follow these guidelines:
- Using just the recipient's name is fine. The rank/grade/rating is not required
- Put the box number where you would normally put a "street address."
- Put the word "APO," where you would normally put the "city."
- Put the two-letter code following "APO" or "FPO" where you would normally put the two-letter "state" code.
- Put the ZIP code just where you would normally put any other ZIP code.
After addressing your package and paying for shipping, there's one additional wrinkle that needs attention before your package is on its way to an Army/Air Post Office (APO) or Fleet Post Office (FPO) address. A customs form is likely to be required since your package, more often than not, will be traveling internationally.
This additional step adds no cost to your shipment and only takes a few seconds to complete. The customs form is called "United States Post Office form 2976" and this form is used to describe the contents within your package.
You can avoid a trip to the post office and include the package in your regular pickups or dropoff by printing the online version of the customs form 2976 at the USPS website.
Additional Tips and Restrictions
To ensure that your Army/Air Post Office (APO) and Fleet Post Office (FPO) shipments are seamless, there are a few more additional tips and restrictions to be mindful of:
- Packages must weigh 70 lbs. or less and cannot exceed 130 inches in combined length and girth.
- You cannot send any items restricted by the USPS or any perishable foods.
- You may want to include a second fully addressed label inside of the package, just in case, the outside is damaged due to harsh shipping conditions.
- Be mindful of outdoor conditions. Some places outside of the U.S. can exceed temperatures well over 100 degrees.
- You can order free APO/FPO flat-rate USPS boxes for shipping, and they will be delivered right to your front door.
Additional Revenue to Gain
Given that shipping to Army/Air Post Office (APO) and Fleet Post Office (FPO) addresses is much easier than many sellers imagine, the fact is that you only stand to gain by opening your sales to APO and FPO customers. With many sellers refusing to deal with military personnel, you can quickly gain a foothold in an often underserved market where you'll have far less competition from other sellers.
In addition, military personnel at APO and FPO locations appreciate the smallest things that will remind them of home while they are stationed far away, especially when they receive items they can't obtain wherever they are stationed.