eBay Battles Excessive Shipping by Warning and Educating Sellers

Posted on August 14, 2008. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , , |

I’ve really stopped trying so hard to figure out what in the world eBay is thinking lately.  I’ve scratched my head bald from the hours of analyzing their actions which often perplex me.  First, eBay said that the number one reason buyers were leaving was because they were receiving retaliatory negative feedback.  eBay made the change so that the eBay buyer is now king and can run roughshod over sellers to their heart’s content.  Number one reason for buyer dissatisfaction now resolved.
Next on eBay’s list of complaints against sellers is that some eBay sellers actually charge a buyer a shipping cost.  And, according to eBay, the number one reason buyers are leaving the site (now) is due to excessive shipping costs.  So eBay’s next battle with the sellers … force sellers to reduce shipping costs despite the rising cost of postage this year (May 19) and the increase in cost of shipping supplies due to the increase in fuel prices. 
Stage 1: eBay attacked those sellers who were blatantly charging excessive shipping and suspended those sellers.  We all have seen the BUY NOW listings with a fixed price of $1 with shipping of $99.99.  Despite the fact that buyers should be able to make an intelligent decision about whether to buy or not, I can understand why eBay would feel the need to “protect” buyers from those unscrupulous sellers who hid the real cost of the item by charging excessive shipping and handling.  eBay felt it necessary to remove those sellers from the community.  Fair enough.   
When I was listing today, I saw something for the first time that clued me in to eBay’s thinking.  eBay is certain that sellers on their site are charging too much shipping and handling  and they must believe that sellers are charging excessive shipping either because they are (1) unscrupulous or because (2) they are not intelligent enough to know what it really costs to ship an item.  Given that eBay is taking seriously all reports of violations for excessive shipping by removing offending listings and given that eBay is using the DSRs to identify sellers who are charging excessive shipping and suspending those sellers, I think it’s safe to assume that most of the unscrupulous sellers charging excessive shipping and handling are gone. 
Stage 2: So, now eBay is focusing on educating sellers on what it really costs to ship an item so that sellers can lower their shipping costs to a more reasonable level.  How so?  Well, in the past I would sometimes notice a little warning at the bottom of the page telling me that I might want to review my shipping costs because they seem to be high in relation to other sellers.  According to the Powerseller Reps, this is simply an “informational alert” although it looks more like an ominous warning to me.
Today, though, when I completed a listing on one item, I saw a rather large warning which informed me that my shipping costs appeared too high:
To keep it in perspective, I was selling a quantity of 4 items in one listing (1 lot of 4) and the shipping and handling was listed as $14.  My competitors charge $12 shipping for ONE of the items so I think $14 for 4 is anything but excessive.  Not so, according to eBay (where there are smart people who know about these things) because the warning goes a step further and provides me with a link where I can go to learn more about how much it actually costs to ship my items.  When I click on that link I see the following:
Filling in the information and hitting Continue gives me:
I can use the eBay shipping calculator to put in the weight of the item and then choose from a few predetermined zip codes on where I would like to ship the item in the United States.  Note that I changed the zip code of origin to eBay’s actual zip code for the screenshot above. 
I don’t know whether to be annoyed or amused that eBay thinks it is necessary to educate their not-so-intelligent (stupid) sellers who obviously do not know how much it costs to ship an item via the postal system or UPS.  Never mind that each shipper’s website — USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL – will give you the shipping cost and never mind that there are free sites where you can get shipping quotes for ALL major shippers on one screen… eBay has to spend the time programming a way for their uneducated sellers to ascertain the shipping cost for an item.
I have to wonder why other venues do not feel it is necessary to “educate” me on how to calculate shipping costs so that I can lower my “excessive” shipping and handling fees on their platforms.  I also have to wonder why other venues don’t need to punish me for the shipping cost that I charge simply because the buyer has an opinion that shipping is not VERY reasonable (a 5-star rating).  Perhaps it’s because other venues know that their buyers can make an intelligent decision about buying from me.  If a buyer on Amazon thinks that my shipping cost is too high, he/she simply won’t purchase my item.  On eBay, a buyer will purchase my item even if he/she thinks the shipping cost (stated in advance) is too high and then wants to coerce me into a partial refund after the fact and/or then rate me lower than VERY reasonable on my shipping and handling. 
Where is the buyer responsibility in all of this?  I do not force eBay buyers to purchase from me and pay my advertised shipping prices but yet eBay requires me to take responsibility for the buyer’s opinion at the conclusion of the transaction, when the feedback is left.  I don’t know that the buyer “thinks” the shipping and handling is unreasonable until AFTER they have purchased, paid for, and received their item.  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  eBay sellers list an item for sale and include the cost of shipping in the listing.  If it is the buyer’s opinion that the shipping cost is unreasonable then they have the freedom to hit the Back Button and go elsewhere to make their purchase.  So, why don’t they?  Why do they instead feel that it is okay to purchase an item on eBay that they feel has excessive shipping and then make a complaint (via feedback) at the conclusion of the transaction?  It is because eBay is telling them that it is acceptable to avoid taking responsibility for their decision-making and that it is okay to put any blame for poor decision-making on the seller.  And, because they are continually drawing buyers’ attention to the shipping cost, by the very use of the Detailed Seller Ratings for Shipping and Handling, eBay is actually causing buyers to feel dissatisfied with the shipping and handling cost when buyers might otherwise be completely happy with the purchase.
eBay is getting entirely too involved in sellers’ businesses and to further complicate matters, they are getting involved in the wrong things.  Sure there should be some minimum standards for acceptable seller performance and it’s about time that eBay established some minimum requirements.  I can agree with eBay’s actions in that regard.  And requiring sellers to list the cost for at least one domestic shipping option makes perfect sense to me.  But to actually limit what sellers can charge for shipping and handling, as eBay is already doing in some countries, and to coerce sellers into offering free shipping is stepping way over the line.  No matter how eBay attempts to coerce sellers into offering free shipping and no matter how much eBay tries to “educate” the unintelligent seller, who already knows how to calculate shipping costs, it simply won’t be enough to cause a decrease in shipping costs which eBay thinks would then lead to an increase in buyer satisfaction.  I can think of an entire list of things eBay could do to help increase buyer satisfaction, either directly or indirectly through the sellers, but going to war with sellers over shipping and handling costs is not one of them. 

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9 Responses to “eBay Battles Excessive Shipping by Warning and Educating Sellers”

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> Where is the buyer responsibility in all of this?

Stealth Postage. UPS, FedEx, and DHL never reveal the cost charged to seller. Printing with stealth postage on removes the buyer complaint.

I think its just coincidental that eBay collects more FVF when shipping cost is lower.

Sun, I use stealth postage not to HIDE the postage to the buyer but rather not to REMIND them that they paid postage since no one actually likes to pay for shipping. Stealth postage does not remove the buyer complaint and sometimes I think it actually causes the buyer to think you purposely hid the cost which then causes MORE buyer complaints.

When buyers cannot see the postage because of stealth postage then they often assume they know what the postage is. I still communicate with buyers who didn’t realize the cost of a flat-rate one-price box increased several months ago. They are shocked to learn that it went up about a dollar.

This is precisely why I stopped using stealth postage, I had buyers weighing the packet and telling me 2 oz only costs 52c and you charged me $2.

Yes a two ounce letter cost 52c at that time but this is not a letter it is a package and with DC costs 1.78

My last eBay buyer, the straw that broke my back, got quite nasty and I asked her if she wanted me to ship with or without an envelope, I offered to wait until she mailed me her envelope but she decided my 22c handling & materials charge was a better bargain.

I have never heard a peep out of a buyer anywhere but eBay and I am quite convinced it is because eBay is educating them.

Wait until they bring in the mandatory category maximum shipping charges, after all, Amazon does it, for books so it will work for collectibles and car parts, fur coats & wedding dresses which are just womens clothing.

You have to realize that eBay and Amazon come from very different backgrounds. The shipping rates on Amazon Marketplace are fixed. Inventory you generate via Seller Central are also have fixed shipping rates based on the Category plus an allowance for each additional pound:

Amazon already has a structure in place that minimize excessive shipping issues. A seller would have to inflate the shipping weight to earn more on shipping. And some sellers already do this on Amazon.

In that screenshot: https://thebrewsnews.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/excessiveshipping.jpg

eBay says, “makes changes if necessary”. Sounds okay to me. I’d only worry if you actually got have a shipping violation on your account. Otherwise, its a waste of energy.

Sun, on Amazon I sell something other than books and I am free to charge what I want for shipping. Yes, the shipping is calculated on a “base amount” plus “shipping per pound” but I am free to choose both the base dollar amount and shipping per pound dollar amount that I want. I am not restricted in any way to charge what I want for shipping cost. Again, I do not sell in the media category.

If a seller tries to inflate the shipping weight on Amazon then that weight applies to ALL sellers who offer the item. Therefore, some seller might contact Amazon and ask for a revision. I know that we have called Amazon and asked that a product description be revised so I am sure it can be done with a weight as well.

The “make changes if necessary” also comes with TWO big red WARNING signs. A warning indicates to me that I am doing something wrong and that I can expect to be punished if I do not change (ie Warning = Danger). So, if I receive that WARNING, I am certain that the auction would be pulled if it were reported by a competitor. Never mind that I am offering a quantity of 4.

Yes, I too love getting those “warnings” when eBay has absolutely NO IDEA what it is I’m selling, shipping, or how much the item weighs. It is absolutely the most bogus and intrusive of messages I have seen. Mind your own #@&%# business eBay unless you have a database of every item ever made and how much it weighs, you have NO right “lecturing” me on shipping. Not after I’ve been doing it for 10 1/2 years.

I swear to God that company is run by a bunch of jerks, and I hope they read here too.

I agree I find the tone threatening and it offends me. Well it isn’t even the tone they do flat out make threats. It really p***es me off too. I hate all their damn little messages every where- I feel the same mind your own damn business eBay you freaking idiots

I think everyone misses the point on this issue. Ebay’s ONLY concern is that they don’t get a cut of the shipping charge. If they start charging final value fees for shipping as well, you’ll be free to charge whatever you want for your items and they won’t care. I purchased a wireless network adapter today from a major online retailer – shipping cost $7.35. Sellers on Ebay that are charging $4.99 for shipping for the same item have a DSR rating for shipping charges of 4.4 to 4.6. The typical Fleabay buyer would argue that I was scammed by paying $7.35 for shipping but guess what, I checked two other sites and they both charged the SAME AMOUNT. It’s a cost of doing business. Ebay wants everyone to offer free shipping so they get a piece of the whole pie. So what happens when these sellers raise the price of the item $5.00 to cover the expense of shipping? The Fleabay buyers won’t buy it. It’s really too bad computers became so affordable. If a PC was still a couple thousand dollars, these people would still be shopping under the tent on Sunday morning haggling over those 50c salt shakers. And Ebay wouldn’t be rifling through my couch cushions trying to squeeze every last nickel out of me.

I use to take phone orders for Victoria Secret Direct. They sold everything by website & mail order catalog. They would charge S&H based on order total and it had nothing to do with weight or size. They have a contract with UPS to receive special rates due to the high Volume of business they give them. I’ve seen people pay more than $25 for shipping when it only cost VSD under $2. Of course their overhead is much higher than most businesses but the fact is handling charges have been around for a long time now. I’ve been running an Ebay store for several years now. I pay my employees to picture describe & ship the items I buy. As far as I’m concerned those are all handling expenses that should be passed down to the buyer. I sell stamps & postcards and I don’t charge more than $1.50-$3 for S&H. The messages I get that my S&H charges are too high really ticks off too.

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