Do I refund the shipping difference?
March 6, 2009 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Sold internationally on eBay (I'll never do it again) but couldn't ship via the method the buyer wanted. Do I refund the difference, or chalk it up to lessons learned?

This was an Acer Netbook. I reluctantly sold it internationally and it finally arrived (after almost two weeks). But, as it was used merchandise, I couldn't ship it UPS, the method I estimated for. Instead, I had to send it International Parcel Post which took longer but was a bit cheaper.

I sell frequently, and typically make a dollar or two on shipping because estimates vary. Is there some critical limit at which I should refund shipping costs? Is it $20? $10?

The buyer said he knew this would happen since he eBays a lot, too. However, he still wants the difference back. Should I give it to him? Seems to me I've gone out of way at this point, and given that the shipping was an estimate anyway I feel I don't owe him anything.

What say you, hivemind?
posted by littlerobothead to Work & Money (15 answers total)
I would refund the difference. How exactly did you go out of your way?
posted by amarynth at 11:01 AM on March 6, 2009

If you told the buyer that you would ship the product via UPS, but you ended up shipping via a cheaper method, then yes, you should refund the difference. You charged a certain price for a certain service, but you substituted with an (arguably) lower quality service at a lower price. Give your buyer back the difference.
posted by ssg at 11:03 AM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

How explicit was your auction about the method to be used for shipping, and the cost? I think you are generally responsible for whatever you stated in the auction description. You have wiggle room if you weren't clear or explicit, but if you were, you are bound by the terms you set. After all, it was your auction, and you got to pick the terms.

Turning this around, if the actual shipping had cost $10 more than your estimate, would you have gone back to the buyer for more money? The same standard should apply in both cases.
posted by mosk at 11:06 AM on March 6, 2009

I could understand not giving the refund if you had used the service intended. As you said, shipping rate vary, and if it happened to be cheaper, well then that's that. But you did go for a cheaper service, and though you had no choice, he shouldn't have to pay more because his parcel was later than expected.
posted by shesaysgo at 11:11 AM on March 6, 2009

I would refund the money, just as a good faith thing.
posted by Maisie Jay at 11:13 AM on March 6, 2009

You sold him an item plus UPS shipping. You used much cheaper parcel post shipping. So in my opinion, you owe him a refund. He's probably seriously tired of ebay sellers making money on their "shipping and handling" charges, which usually charges enough for new packing material and fast shipping, but instead nets used packing material and slowest shipping.

If you typically make money from shipping, the occasional loss should not be a big deal.

I think ebay forbids making profit from "shipping and handling" charges, fwiw.
posted by Houstonian at 11:41 AM on March 6, 2009

If it took longer to arrive than it would have with the method you advertised, then yes, you do. If it took the same time it would have otherwise, then yes, you do, but you can be a little generous with your estimate of how much the packing materials cost you. Just a little.

The person wasn't just paying for the speed of delivery, they were also paying for the (presumably) better handling and increased likelihood of UPS being able to find it if it goes missing.
posted by K.P. at 11:48 AM on March 6, 2009

I sell on eBay and about 50% of my sales are international. I understand that your shipping charges were just an estimate, and know all too well what a pain it is to try to send various types of items overseas! However, I always refund an overpayment of shipping, when it is more than $1.00.

First, I think it's good business, and now I have some really good repeat customers, who were thrilled by the refund.

Second, I like to keep my Detailed Star Ratings as high as possible, to raise my visibility in eBay searches and to get the discount off of my eBay fees if they're high enough. This buyer could easily hurt your DSR, and that might affect your sales.

Good luck!
posted by suki at 12:00 PM on March 6, 2009

Seems to me I've gone out of way at this point...

How is (unknowingly) pulling a bait-and-switch on shipping methods 'going out of your way'?

Do I refund the difference, or chalk it up to lessons learned?

The conjunction you are looking for is 'and', and the lesson is to do shipping research before selling the item.
posted by CKmtl at 12:49 PM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah, refund the difference. I bought something through eBay two weeks ago and paid for USPS Priority Shipping, only to have my item shipped parcel post. I had specifically paid extra in order to get this item sooner, and thought it was a pretty...lame...stunt for the buyer to pull.
posted by niles at 2:36 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

If they'd received the parcel in the same timeframe UPS would have delivered it in, it would be fine to keep the extra, if a little rude. Given that it was both cheaper and slower, you should give the money back. They didn't get what they paid for so why should they pay for it?
posted by jacquilynne at 2:50 PM on March 6, 2009

Yes, refund it. I'm always angry when I get a package from ebay, see that it clearly cost $x to mail and they charged me $x+y.
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:16 PM on March 6, 2009

How is (unknowingly) pulling a bait-and-switch on shipping methods 'going out of your way'?

Probably referring to the "I reluctantly sold it internationally" part. I'm guessing he sold internationally despite a posted policy to the contrary, as a favor to a polite asker.

In my personal experience, shipping domestically was fairly straightforward; shipping internationally is more of a headache, since the well-oiled processes I've established break down. It almost always necessitated a lengthy time in line at the post office, at the very least. Back when I was a regular ebayer, the times I shipped internationally, it rarely felt like it was worth the extra effort.
posted by IvyMike at 8:16 PM on March 6, 2009

Did you explicitly say that the cost for shipping was only the cost of the item being sent, not including packaging materials and time taken to get the item to the post office, etc?

If not, I wouldn't refund it.
posted by Solomon at 11:40 AM on March 7, 2009

What does estimate mean to you? To me it means the price could vary a bit, if it'd cost more I'm sure you would have had no problem asking for more money, so it's only fair, when it costs less, to pass that on as well.

Is there some critical limit at which I should refund shipping costs? Is it $20? $10?

Perhaps when the transfer charges are exceeded by the amount being refunded. This is what, PayPal? So it's going to take you about 10 seconds to do? Eesh.

Seems to me I've gone out of way at this point, and given that the shipping was an estimate anyway I feel I don't owe him anything.

How did you go out of your way? Did you incur additional costs you haven't mentioned? If so, and if they're reasonable(!), explain that to the buyer, perhaps deduct them from the refund, and then refund the difference. If you're just moaning about having to find a different shipping company, or something similar that's actually not very out of your way at all, then just suck it up, you accepted the order.
posted by The Monkey at 10:29 PM on March 8, 2009

« Older What to to get for a depressed friend?   |   To apply or not to apply Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.