ebay for sellers
June 26, 2006 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I've just started selling on eBay, and have Qs about protecting myself/etiquette.

First up, where does my responsibility for the parcel end? Currently, I've been sending things special delivery -- which means they're insured and I get a signature on arrival -- but this is expensive and some buyers have complained.
    If I:
  • Send it first class (no insurance, no signature) what happens if it gets lost? What if it arrives and a scammer says it didn't and wheeks my money back from PayPal?
  • Send it recorded delivery (no insurance, signature) what if it gets damaged in the post?
I see that postal insurance is optional for buyers which suggests the responsibility lies with them if they don't take the option. Is that right?

secondly: who leaves feedback first? buyer or seller.

Sorry for the ramble. I guess my fear is someone buying something, claiming it never arrived/arrived damaged, taking money back from PayPal and leaving shit feedback. Is this unfounded?
posted by bonaldi to Shopping (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (Oh this is in the UK, btw. And I see I've contracted eBayer's disease of being unable to write coherently. Sorry about that)
posted by bonaldi at 9:42 AM on June 26, 2006

If it's a low priced item I normally just send first class post. If it's something of value, I state in the auction that it will be Special Delivery and then include that price. Most buyers will not balk at a special delivery price if the item has a reasonable value i.e higher than £20. However, if the buyer requests normal first class postage on a higher priced item, I let them know it's their risk if the item is lost.

As for feedback, I usually wait for the buyer to leave before I do. If I'm buyer, I leave feedback as soon as I have received the item and am happy with it.
posted by gfrobe at 9:55 AM on June 26, 2006

Not unfounded. I had this happen (with the exception of the bad feedback) with a rather expensive set of bar exam books I sold. Paypal will ask for proof that the parcel has shipped if the buyer wants to do a chargeback. If you don't have this, you're SOL. I would think that recorded delivery (delivery confirmation in the USA) would fulfill Paypal's requirement but am not sure.
posted by amber_dale at 9:57 AM on June 26, 2006

In the UK, you can get a free certificate of posting when you send something first class, which can be used as proof for a compensation claim of up to £32.

It is your responsibility to deliver the item to the buyer. If it gets lost in the mail you need to make the buyer whole, but can reclaim compensation from the post office. If it were me I would not ever send anything that is not insured for the whole amount, even if the buyer wants to save some postage money.
posted by grouse at 10:18 AM on June 26, 2006

First off, you can always do a little background research on the buyers who are bidding on your auction. Look at their feedback, do they have a history of scamming honest sellers? If they do, you can be prepared for the worst and get delivery confirmation (or it's equivalent in UK), or simply ban that user from your auction.

If the package does get legitimately lost, and you end up having to refund the buyer, you might be able to get recompense from the mailing service. For USPS, you can print your mailing labels directly through paypal, which helps prove that you shipped your goods if it has to come to that (I assume you can do this with UK shipping services, but I don't know for sure).

Also, what gfrobe said holds true: most buyers, if you are upfront with the costs of shipping and they are not exorbitant, will still bid and be OK with the costs.

As for feedback, I wait for the buyer to leave positives first. Don't forget that there is a lot of information you can find out about a particular bidder that will help your determine their level of honesty.
posted by marxfriedrice at 10:21 AM on June 26, 2006

I'm glad you asked this. After years of ebaying, I had my first experience last week of not getting a book I ordered. The seller has a massively positive record, so I figured it might have gotten lost in the mail - these things happen. But do I leave negative feedback?
(I did eventually, but only after I saw he was once again was auctioning the same fairly rare book I had ordered.)

As to feedback, as a seller, you should give a positive rating as soon as the payment goes through, no? How do you justify waiting marxfriedrice?
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:27 AM on June 26, 2006

I am primarily a seller on EBay. You have the responsibility to see the item delivered, or provide restitution in the form of a full refund or proof of insurance.

I also believe that the seller should leave positive feedback as soon as s/he has received payment (if paid by cheque or money order, once it has cleared). The buyer has held up his part of the bargain by paying, after all. Waiting for the buyer to leave feedback is, I think, wrong.

I'm Canadian. Used to be that I would just ship everything via surface or airmail, without insurance or proof of shipment, and if it never arrived I would just eat the loss and refund. I have had to do this three times in the last fourteen years (I was selling stuff via Usenet before the Web, much less EBay) and have shipped out probably close to ten thousand packages.

EBay is a scamfest these days, though. My gut feeling is that with the next round of auctions (I haven't done any selling in close to a year) I'm going to send everything registered and adjust my shipping fees accordingly.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:33 AM on June 26, 2006

When payment is received, the seller should give appropriate (not necessarily always positive) feedback, and then when the buyer has received the item, they can provide their feedback.
posted by davcoo at 10:36 AM on June 26, 2006

For items under £50 offer buyers a choice. If they go for first class then you can blame the buyer for not paying for insurance. They'll either walk away or demand a refund anyway, and the worst that can happen is you have to give them one. For items over £50, you need insurance.

(I've sold 20 or 30 things and never had any problems with things going missing)
posted by cillit bang at 10:38 AM on June 26, 2006

Paypal Seller Protection will also help in cases of a chargeback.

Usually, I include a note in the parcel that if they are happy with the auction, I'd appreciate the positive feedback and generally, after shipping I leave feedback regardless if they've done so for me.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:46 AM on June 26, 2006

As a buyer, I would prefer that you give me the option of expensive-fast-insured shipping, versus cheap-slow-risky shipping. You are allowed to give me the benefit of your shipping experience and suggest something. And you may say that if I choose to be cheap, I can't complain if it arrives damaged. Remember, I'm using EBay because I am cheap, and I understand that getting good deals means the occasional loss.

/sarcasm/Oh, and please be strict on your EBay ad, and say that payment must be in 2 days, and non-payers will be severely dealt with, and only Paypal can be used and buyer must have 100% positive feedback, etc. As a buyer, I love those ads, because odds are no one else will bid, and I'll probably get a great deal./end sarcasm/
posted by mediaddict at 10:48 AM on June 26, 2006

I've noticed that a lot of sellers put something like "we have no control over how long the item will get to you when shipped." However, most sellers seem to offer insurance or priority shipping (in the U.S.).

I've never sold stuff on ebay, but have bought stuff, and I've had only two problems: one time, the seller claimed she didn't get my cashier's check. I mailed in one of those smallish envelopes that are supposed to get there faster than regular first-class mail, but it was mailed before Labor Day and right after Katrina hit (but it was going to North Carolina, so go figure). It took more than two weeks for her to get the check; I ended up sending the money via paypal. Unfortunately, I had no way of knowing where the cashier's check was. She did get the check, the same day I paypaled, and she was nice enough about sending the check back along with the item.

Sellers are sometimes antsy if they don't get their payments ASAP. She was ready to give me negative feedback just because she thought I was trying to fleece her. I really wanted the item, though, so I went ahead and paypaled her the money. I, on the other hand, thought she was trying to scam me. She was willing to work with me, so it all turned out ok, and we gave each other positive feedback. I haven't purchased anything using a cashier's check through regular mail since. Paypal all the way.

The other time, I ordered something from a seller in Canada, and that item took about four weeks to get to me, which was longer than I thought it would take.

I suggest that you do whatever your can to cover yourself, such as offering insurance, signature required, etc. I think that a seller should always offer those things. Be sure to list all those terms and conditions in your listings.
posted by cass at 11:05 AM on June 26, 2006

I buy and sell on ebay.

As a seller: I offer the option of insurance on everything, and for especially breakable/fragile things, I require it (buyer always pays).

I generally send things priority mail, so items get to buyers in 1-5 days depending on their location. In most cases it's cheaper than parcel post by a few cents.

I ALWAYS use delivery confirmation. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS.

I wouldn't bother with signature confirmation as it's a hassle for the buyer if they aren't home when the mail carrier tries to deliver it.

As a buyer:
I want my things fast. Don't charge me a priority mail price and then ship it medial mail. Don't ever ship parcel post--if it's that heavy use UPS.

Explicitly list how much shipping is and what method you're going to ship. More than once a seller has listed USPS and then shipped a different method to my PO Box (seriously, don't people know you can only ship USPS to PO Boxes?) causing a lot of delays and frustrations.

Also, as a general rule, deal in Paypal only. My first year or so of ebaying I didn't have Paypal and got screwed more than once.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:25 AM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, thanks a lot for the reponses. The bit I'm still unclear about is this:
I am primarily a seller on EBay. You have the responsibility to see the item delivered, or provide restitution in the form of a full refund or proof of insurance.

Surely if I offer insurance, and they don't take it, then I have a reduced responsibility?
posted by bonaldi at 11:25 AM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: (Not that I'm trying to get out of responsibility, by the way: I just want to make sure that I don't charge buyers too much without leaving myself too exposed)
posted by bonaldi at 11:31 AM on June 26, 2006

Surely if I offer insurance, and they don't take it, then I have a reduced responsibility?

I wouldn't agree with that, no.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:43 AM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: So what's the point of making insurance optional? Surely if the responsibility remains with me, I should just insist on it?
posted by bonaldi at 11:44 AM on June 26, 2006

Leaving feedback first can be risky, especially when dealing with new buyers.

As a buyer, feedback matters very little. As a seller, negative feedback can have a huge impact on your sales.

Waiting to leave feedback until it is received can protect you against negative feedback out of spite, and help ensure that the buyer will contact you BEFORE leaving feedback if there is a problem. Most buyers will hesitate before leaving negative feedback if there is a chance that they will receive negative feedback in return. If you leave feedback upon payment, you have no option to neg back.

This is, however, an area of considerable debate among buyers and sellers. People tend to feel very strongly one way or the other. Keep this in mind when evaluating the advice you receive.
posted by Sheppagus at 11:59 AM on June 26, 2006

I've sold 200+ items on eBay.co.uk, and I've only ever used 1st class and the standard parcels and airmail services to send them (mainly within the UK, but also to Europe, Canada and the US). To date, I've never had anything go missing in the post.

The most important thing is to get a certificate of posting when you send the item (the Post Office will do this for free ). If you're going to be selling a lot of items ask one of the counter staff for a pad of certificates so you can fill them in yourself before you go to the Post Office, then all they have to do is stamp them: the people in the queue behind you will appreciate it.

If the item has a higher value than the standard compensation (£28?) you can increase the insurance for a very small fee - I usually just pay for this myself for my own peace of mind (or factor it into the P&P price if I expect the item to go for a higher amount). You don't necessarily have to go to the additional expense of Special Delivery just to get higher insurance.

I use the (free) eBay TurboLister program, and it lets you set multiple postage options on an auction if you want (so you can set a price for UK 1st class, European Airmail, Worldwide airmail, Special Delivery etc.). It's then up to the buyer what service they want to use. If you're going to be doing a lot of selling I can't recommend this little program highly enough - saves me lots of time when composing auctions.

Feedback - DON'T LEAVE FEEDBACK UNTIL THE BUYER HAS LEFT FEEDBACK FOR YOU. When I post the item I send a courtesy email to say that it has been sent, and asking the buyer to leave feedback to confirm that they have received it and that they are happy. I'll then leave feedback for them. This way you have some comeback if the buyer decides to be an ass at a later date. Some may disagree, but I've never left/received a negative comment, so IMHO it works well. Of course, the best way to avoid trouble is to be scrupulously honest in your description and post a clear photo.
posted by boosh at 12:17 PM on June 26, 2006

CunningLinguist: Boosh kind of summarised the waiting-for-buyer-feedback point. As both a buyer and seller on ebay, I've found feedback to be more important for selling. It lets buyers know how you've conducted business in the past and therefore how to expect you'll handle business in the future. In my experience, the transaction has ended when the buyer has received the item and is satisfied, expressing said satisfaction through positive feedback. If an item arrives and a (probably insane) buyer is unhappy through no fault of your own, having already left feedback may hinder your ability to come to an amicable resolution. Mind you, I have never left a neg, nor received one, and I do not advocate threatening negative feedback in order to get what you want. The best way to ebay is to act honestly and communicate clearly.
posted by marxfriedrice at 1:09 PM on June 26, 2006

So what's the point of making insurance optional?

I don't think anything abrogates or mitigates the responsibility of the seller to deliver the item or make good if the item doesn't arrive (and there's quite a bit of law that backs this up).

If I, as a buyer, do not pay for insurance, I still want my item. I don't care if it gets lost in the mail. and if I paid via PayPal, I'm not gonna be the one who eats the loss. The insurance is not to prtect me, the buyer. It's to protect you, the seller. "Insurance is optional" is, thus, bass-ackwards.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:19 PM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: Yep, I agree with your sentiment solid-one-love. I'm more wondering why eBay makes it seem as if it's optional to buyers, when clearly the law's on their side anyway.

Thank you very much, everyone. If I mark best answers the thread'll look silly.
posted by bonaldi at 1:22 PM on June 26, 2006

I'm a new seller on Ebay (sold my first item last week) but I've been buying for several years. I never leave feedback for a seller until I have received feedback from them. Because my end of the bargain has been completed at the point that I paid the seller. Since I completed my end first, the feedback ought to be given first. If the seller withholds feedback, I will withhold mine.

I will send the seller an email to confirm I have received the goods and am happy with them, but I will not leave ebay feedback until I have received it.
posted by talitha_kumi at 1:35 AM on June 27, 2006

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