DIY Order Fulfillment and Label Printing

Posted on December 23, 2011


With DVD sales for Bots High, I’ve been handling the fulfillment myself. Order volume has been low enough that this isn’t a big time suck, and when I learned I could order and print postage straight from PayPal and avoid the post office I was sold.

I’d log into PayPal and view the latest orders. I could either click each one and buy postage individually, or launch PayPal Multi-Order Shipping, which is a completely separate web app that let’s you make batch changes and apply presets to numerous orders, and then print them all out at once.

I’d place my orders and print them on regular letter size paper. (This only works for US shipping. Interntaional required a customs form that is available to buy online, I just haven’t made the jump to get that and the sticker label I’d need to mount it to the package.) It’s formatted so you can cut or fold it in half, and then stick it to the package. I’d tape all four sides with packing tape and drop it in the mail.

Not a terrible workflow, but my dream was to print out a bunch of labels with all the shipping data, slap it on the package and drop THAT into the mail. Bam! Done.

Unfortunately my Brother label printer wasn’t listed as compatible with PayPal. So I decided to get one that was. Or at least try.

I got the DYMO 450 Turbo, which technically isn’t on their list, but that’s because it’s so damn old they haven’t removed the now discontinued DYMO 350 Turbo. 450 is the new version and a quick web search said that was the one to get.

Bad labels
I got the label printer, hooked it up, went to print some orders, and…it printed the fragment of a label formatted for another printer, rotated 90 degrees the wrong way.

Went into the settings, set everything to format it for the DYMO 450 Turbo with the PayPal specific label 99019.

I got it to display the correct layout for the label, but still it wasn’t printing correctly. The most annoying thing is that the label loads in a Java program that bypasses the normal printer dialog box, so I don’t have the great options I’m normally used to with rotating and scaling. All you can do is pick which printer to send to.

The closest I got was 90% of the label printed correctly, but the super important barcode was getting cut off, which made the label useless.

So what else could I do? I could try to print the label to a PDF, and then print that. But the printer dialog box that gives me the PDF option won’t show up, so how?

After a lot of searching, the Etsy forum proved most useful. Yes, this is an issue for a lot of people, and it’s pretty much only an issue for Macs.

One post recommended exactly what I was looking for – CUPS-PDF. It’s a free program that adds a printer to your list but it automatically creates a PDF when you “print” to it. Since the only option I’m given with PayPal’s Java label printer is what printer  to use, this would be the perfect solution.

I sent the label to CUPS-PDF, pulled it up in Preview, printed it on the label and voila, I got my mailing label on a sticker.

So in the end it works, but not exactly the seamless workflow I envisioned. It won’t work with PayPal Multi-Order Shipping, so I have to individually type all the memorized weight and package info into each order, print it as a PDF, pull it up again and then print it to the label.

But less paper, less tape, and a more professional packaging look. Anyone have any better experiences with a different label printer through PayPal?

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