Shipping eBay Purchases
January 10, 2004 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Many American eBayers won't ship outside of the USA. I find this extremely silly and annoying but I guess that's besides the point. My question is: is there a service I can utilize that will allow me to buy items and give an American address and then someone at that address will then forward the package to me in Canada?
posted by dobbs to Shopping (14 answers total)
How far from the border are you? You may be able to drive south and get a mailboxes 'r' us-type address in the States that people can ship to. Or, find a USian Mefite willing to do it for you. You could even reciprocate if Canadian Ebayers have a similar aversion to international shipments.
posted by trondant at 5:47 PM on January 10, 2004

'round here in New Brunswick pretty much every family has a rented mailbox just across the border.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:52 PM on January 10, 2004

I bet your answer lies with Mailboxes Etc. Mailboxes Etc. is a general purpose shipping store based in the US. Most if not all MBE stores are franchised and run by mom and pop. I bet if you called a MBE that was relatively close geographically, they'd be happy to forward your package for a fee.
posted by yangwar at 6:08 PM on January 10, 2004

Yangwar is right on the money. UPS Stores (UPS bought MBE and changed its name) do that sort of thing all the time.
posted by samw at 6:17 PM on January 10, 2004

For big ticket items you can use a customs broker that is also a freight forwarder. The person in the states sends it to the broker in Buffalo and then the stuff gets driven over the border to Canada. It is costly but worth it for more expensive items that might have issues going through customs.
posted by birdherder at 6:30 PM on January 10, 2004

I was looking at an item last week and the seller had written that he wouldn't take foreign offers even if he was asked to ship to an itermediary address in the States. Also that he would leave negative feedback on any foreign bidders. So watch out for that kind of thing. And yeah, Dobbs, it's incredibly stupid.
posted by orange swan at 6:55 PM on January 10, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions, folks. I figured I'd have to put together something manually but was hoping there was a simple service (accessible online) that would allow me to have a "recieve" and "forward to" address for a fixed fee (plus postage).

Orange Swan, yeah, I don't get it at all. One need only look at the sellers who will go international and see they're getting higher bids. I ship cross-border all the time and have never had a prob. Some of these "usa only" people will gladly ship if you ask them prior but the ones that won't can get rather angry at the request.
posted by dobbs at 8:17 PM on January 10, 2004

As an ebayer, I take international bidders, but I can understand why to not take foreign bidders.

Often, international bidders will bid on auctions where the items aren't really worth all that much (say $10 tops) but they're items that are very expensive to ship (say $30) internationally.

Also, payment other than paypal can sometimes be a problem. For example, my bank just reversed a check written out in US funds, because it was a canadian Ebay check. I accept that this was my fault for not demanding a money order or paypal, but it's still frustrating.

It's very hard to tell someone shipping will be $10 on a $1 item especially if they didn't contact for shipping costs before the auction is over.

There are ways around all of these difficulties, but they are frustrating at times. On amazon, international book buyers rarely pay for airmail, which means (according to amazon policy) resellers are supposed to send surface mail which can take 4-6 weeks or more. Most international buyers rarely notice that caveat.
posted by drezdn at 9:36 PM on January 10, 2004

My suggestion is to find an online friend to accept packages for you and forward them at your expense. I do it all the time for a Canadian friend of mine.

The reason "no foreign bidders" policies are so prevalent is because many eBay sellers are spoiled by U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, which is only available for shipments within the U.S. By using Priority Mail, sellers get free shipping supplies including boxes, labels and even packing tape delivered for free right to their homes.

As an occasional eBay seller myself, I understand forbidding non-U.S. bidders from participating, because it is SO easy to grab a brand new Priority Mail box from the closet, put it together with free tape and address it.

By contrast, when I have to ship to someone outside the United States, I have to root around to try to find a plain box that's the right size or drive to a liquor store to find one, put the box together with clear tape that I've paid for myself, fill out customs forms, and then finally ship it. It's a huge pain in the ass, relatively speaking, but I put up with it because auction prices go higher when you allow more bidders to participate.

Another consideration is that there is a segment of foreign bidders that don't seem to realize that it costs a tremendous amount of money to ship overseas. Rates to Canada aren't so bad, but I once had a Swedish bidder pay almost $30 to ship a $15 item. Some will just disappear and refuse to honor their bids when told about shipping cost; while I can't blame them too much, it's a pain some sellers would rather not deal with.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:59 PM on January 10, 2004

MegoSteve, one of my buddies, a big eBay seller, simply wraps foreign packages in plain brown paper and otherwise uses the free USPS materials. He's such a rebel!
posted by billsaysthis at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2004

dobbs, I can't answer your real question, but I want to chime in here on your comments about 'no international bidders'.

I sell vintage toys on eBay, and I used to accept International Bidders, but the first five or six overseas bidders who bid on my stuff backed out of the auction when they found out what the actual shipping costs would be. That kind of thing is frustrating, expensive, and time-consuming for a seller, and it is the #1 single thing that makes me say 'no international' in my auctions.

Second of all, there's the whole customs thing. My roommates also sell extensively on eBay (rather high-end custom costumes) and they have had, at least twice, international shipments returned to them by customs because the buyer refused to pay the duty/taxes due on the incoming package. Once the buyer was ok with it (although they still felt duty bound to refund him), but the second time the buyer was a jerk, screaming via email about how his stuff never reached him and 'what were they going to do about it'.

Finally, it is slightly a convenience thing - I ship to the US I just weigh and meter the package and leave it for the postal guy. To ship Internationally I have to schlep down to the post office and spend a half hour or more standing in line. In my hometown that's an immense hassle. I'd say this is only about 2% of why my auctions say "No International Bidders, please".

However, I will point out that if you email the seller early on in the auction, are polite, and explain that you're in Canada, you understand the shipping will be high, you're willing to pay in a hassle free way, and basically make it clear that you're not an idiot, you might be surprised with the results. Almost all eBay sellers I know will make an exception to this policy if asked nicely by someone who obviously has a clue.
posted by anastasiav at 12:48 PM on January 11, 2004

Yes -- I was selling a pair of old roller skates and I said "no overseas bidders" (I always sell to Canada), basically because quad skates are damned heavy and I didn't think anyone would want to pay the postage.

First thing I got an e-mail from a guy in England asking if I would sell them; I explained that shipping would be very very expensive or it would be slow, and that I couldn't take the skates back if they didn't fit. He sounded sane so I went ahead and sold them to him on a Buy It Now. He wanted surface shipping so it took around 6 weeks for him to get his skates, but he got them, was happy, and left good feedback. If all international transactions were like that, I would have no problem in selling internationally, but my ebay sales don't generally make me any profit, so I am not too inclined to go through a lot of fuss. Now, my mail order business that isn't eBay, that's a different story -- I do ship worldwide for that one. But the point here is that if you are generally sane and you ask permission BEFORE bidding you might get good results. You won't always, though. Some sellers have been bit too much.

billsaysthis, re: your buddy -- it's a violation of federal law, apparently, to do what he does. When I get packages that use Priority supplies but not for Priority Mail, I usually make a note not to buy from that seller again, because if they are unethical in that way they might be unethical in others as well. Plus, I blame them for the higher Priority postage fees that I must now pay.
posted by litlnemo at 2:01 PM on January 11, 2004

litlnemo, i hear you but then again last time i looked he had a rating of over 4200, so he must be doing okay by most buyers.
posted by billsaysthis at 2:47 PM on January 11, 2004

I've been ripped off by foreign buyers on eBay. I sold a rather expensive item, then a couple of months later, PayPal "reversed" the payment. It turned out that the buyer in Belarus used a stolen credit card number for the payment. PayPal protection only guarantees verified U.S. addresses. This scam also worked because many sellers had given this buyer positive feedback over many months - before the charges got reversed. And eBay has no process to "take back" positive feedback. I now only sell to overseas buyers if they are willing to pay by international money order.
posted by sixdifferentways at 10:21 PM on January 12, 2004

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