Why Does Shipping Cost So Much on Ebay?

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Why Do Sellers Charge So Much to Ship Clothes on EBay?

I think the most frequent question Sellers receive from prospective Buyers is, "why is your shipping so high?"  I'll be the first to admit I've seen some Sellers charging outrageous and unnecessary high shipping costs.  In reality, though, IS shipping too high on eBay, or is it that Buyers PERCEIVE the shipping to be high?  Good question.  Let's take a look.

What About Those 99-cent Auctions With High Shipping?

Let's say you find an awesome new wool sweater and it normally retails for $98.  Seller A has it on auction at $0.99 and wants $45.00 shipping.  Is that too high?  YES!  I'd say it's a reasonable bet that the Seller is attempting to avoid paying eBay fees by starting the auction with a low price AND is hoping to recoup their profit through the shipping charge. 

You're probably wondering, how is the Seller avoiding eBay fees?  EBay charges a Listing Fee based on initial starting price, AND a Final Value Fee (FVF) based on the selling price of any listing.  A Seller with a $45.00 shipping charge does not pay a FVF on the 'shipping' cost they collect from you.  Therefore, that Seller wanting $45 for something that will actually cost $6-$10 to ship is doing what eBay considers "Fee Avoidance."  It's a big no-no for Sellers.  If you're in a particularly bad mood,  please feel free to hit the "report" button on these kind of listings.  Those of us charging reasonable shipping won't mind a bit.

But, but, but!  The Seller Wants $10 To Ship!!!!!!

Or $12, or $13 ....  I agree, seeing double digits for shipping cost can be a shock.  But is it really too high?  It depends.  Let's say you find that same awesome wool sweater on auction from Seller B for $0.99 and $11.00 shipping.  Is that too high?  Probably not.  It depends on several things - item weight, Seller/Buyer location, and shipping method.  Most likely, that sweater will weigh over one pound.  That puts it into the 2 pound price range for ALL of the shipping sources (USPS, Fed Ex & UPS).  If the Seller is on one coast and you're on the other, the shipping cost is higher due to what's called 'zone shipping'.  The more zones the package crosses, the higher the shipping fee, and this is true for all shipping methods.  EBay also allows Sellers to add in reasonable handling costs (cost of packing materials, insurance fees, etc). 

Here's the reality of that sweater shipment:

Package is 1 lb-6 oz, shipping from Seller in zip code 10022 (NY) to Buyer in zip code 90210 (CA):

$8.89    USPS Parcel Post, no guaranteed delivery time, 1-3 weeks possible
$9.37    USPS Priority Mail, 4-7 day delivery time
$12.29   Fed Ex Ground, 4 day delivery time
$13.38   UPS Ground, 4 day delivery time

The above prices are COST ONLY, and do not include any expenses the Seller has invested in packaging costs and shipping fees (Delivery Confimation fee, box or poly mailers expense, packing materials, insurance, etc.).  All of that could add up to as much as $2.00 per item.  You now have $2.00 to add to the base cost in the chart above.  Even on the lowest rate, Parcel Post, Seller B may only be making $0.22 in 'padding' on that $11.00 shipping fee ($8.83 Parcel Post postage, $0.70 Delivery Confirmation fee, $0.50 box/mailer bag cost,  $0.75 insurance). 

On the other hand, what if it's something light, say a silky tank top?  Is $10 shipping too high?  Personally, I'd say yes.  The weight is under a pound and can ship for around $3.75-$6.00 depending on Buyer/Seller location and packaging costs.  Again, it all depends on weight, location and shipping method. 

Wait A Minute.  Fed Ex and UPS Have Discounts!

Indeed they do - if you're a high volume shipper.  Many eBay Sellers are not big shippers and do NOT qualify for shipping rate discounts from Fed Ex or UPS.  Even eBay has only managed to get a 10% discount for small Sellers here.  Which means your sweater will ship for $12.04 if the Seller uses the eBay UPS discount... and that's still more than the $11 they're charging you. 

Hmmpf.  I Can Buy It On-Line Elsewhere for Less Shipping!

Then do so.  But I'm willing to bet you can't, in many instances.  Let's take a women's business blouse, a very common purchase on eBay, and it weighs 13 ounces packaged.

EBay Sellers offering First Class Mail can ship that to you for as little as $3.75 via First Class, and between $4.95-$6.00 for Priority Mail.  Delivery on all these options is 2-5 business days depending on location.  I checked four major plus size retailers, shipping was based on cost of item (not weight) and ranged from $5.95 to $9.95 with an average of 6 business days shipping time. 

Heck, even if the top weighed 15 ounces ( a common weight for plus size tops), the eBay Seller offering Priority Mail at the highest zone cost of $5.85 is STILL cheaper than the retailer.

Plus, the eBay seller is offering that blouse at a much lower rate than the retailer is selling it for.

So, still want to buy it elsewhere?

OK, I Get It.  Shipping's Not Cheap.  But How Can I Tell If I'm Being Overcharged?

It's pretty simple with clothing.  Simply check the Seller's location (near the top of the listing), guestimate (or Google) a possible zip code and check the rates for yourself at the various shipping websites:  USPS.com, FedEx.com or UPS.com.  If you aren't sure of the actual weight, do a check for 1 pound and one for 2 pounds.  Your Seller's rate should be somewhere in that range.  Familiarize yourself with the basic range of shipping costs.  Once you do that, you'll be able to tell pretty quickly if a Seller is padding their shipping cost for profit.  Keep in mind, too, that all shippers (USPS, Fed Ex and UPS) usually raise/adjust prices in January of every year.  Finally, be sure to check the Seller's Detailed Seller Ratings, particularly the Shipping Cost rating.  If it's low, then yes, that Seller might be overcharging on shipping.

Can't I Just Ask If They'll Lower Their Shipping Cost?

Sure, if you want to get added to the Seller's Blocked Buyer List.  And trust me, ask this question wrong and you WILL be added to their list.  If you think the shipping is unusually high (say $20 on what seems like a lightweight item), check that Seller's other listings.  If the other listings have reasonable shipping, nicely ask the Seller about the shipping cost of this item.  It could be the Seller put the wrong weight in the listing.  Likewise, if you're interested in buying more than one item, ask the Seller if they have any wiggle room in their shipping price for multiple items bought.  Those are both reasonable questions.  However, for a single item purchase, your best bet is to do the homework by looking  up shipping price ranges based on how the Seller says they're shipping the item.  If the shipping is too high, hit the back button.  Seriously. 

One Last Thought, Please.  Don't Punish the Good Sellers.

If your Seller IS charging a reasonable price for shipping - or even just cost on heavy items - please keep that in mind when you rate their Shipping Cost star when leaving feedback. 

eBay will lower placement in searches, discontinue seller discounts, restrict sellers from listing and even toss sellers off the site if their Detailed Seller Ratings  (DSRs - the 'stars') get too low.  And by the way, "LOW" to eBay is 4.5, so any rating less than "5" left for a seller is damaging. 

Remember, you aren't telling the Seller how much you hate what USPS, FedEx or UPS is charging - believe me, we hate the prices too!   You are, however, telling the Seller you don't like profit padding added to that cost.  It's a BIG difference.  If we've charged you less than cost, rate us fairly with a "5".  If we've charged you cost or added a reasonable handling for packaging (assuming we aren't using free Priority Supplies), rate us fairly with a "5".  If we've padded our shipping to avoid fees and make a huge profit, well then - let 'er rip!
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