The simple answer is YES. But the full answer is a little more complex. Before you can understand how to avoid excessive shipping, you must first understand what it is and be able to recognize it.
What is Shipping
Most buyers, especially new buyers, think that excessive shipping is any amount that is above the actual postage stated on the package. This is a common misconception. Shipping is the total cost associated with packing and delivery of the item to the buyer. Simply analyzed, shipping is the cost of packing materials, labor and postage (carrier costs). In addition, shipping also includes the cost of insurance or guarantee that ensures that your package is not lost or damaged during shipment.
There are also many costs related to shipping the many buyers (and sellers) do not consider. These costs can include cost of communication with buyer related to shipping and handling problems; costs associated with a packing and shipping room (electricity, depreciation, repairs, etc.); costs associated with maintaining the inventory after sale; automobile expenses for obtaining packaging supplies or going to the shipper; costs of obtaining postage (for those that use an online postal service, etc.).
All sellers have the costs listed above, to varying degrees. The costs of shipping will depend greatly on the seller. Small sellers may not have a dedicated shipping area , but because they are low volume, their costs per package may be higher. Large sellers may have employees that do their packaging, and thus have more shipping expenses. However because of their volume, these costs are spread over a much larger number of packages. Additionally, some "hobby" sellers may used a third-party packager and shipper, such as a UPS store, which is by far much more expensive than packing yourself.
Regardless of whether the seller has a small volume of business or a large volume of business, all of the expenses associated with delivery of the item to you are valid shipping expenses. And buyers will pay these expenses one way or the other.
When Does Shipping Become Excessive?
The simple answer to this is shipping is excessive if it is more than the buyer is willing to pay. Again, a buyer must realize what shipping is and how sellers approach shipping to determine if it is excessive.
Sellers, will take different approaches to how they transfer these costs to the buyers. Some sellers will charge postage only, relying on the sales price of the item to cover the other expenses, while others will try to account for every penny of their expenses in the S/H charge. Some will even offer free shipping - transferring all of the shipping costs through the selling price. The vast majority of reputable sellers will at least try to recover the direct costs of shipping (postal costs, packaging costs, and packaging labor) in the S/H costs. There are a couple of reasons for this: First, by incorporating their shipping expenses into the shipping costs, sellers avoid eBay fees on those charges related to shipping. Second, by keeping the shipping expenses separated, sellers are able to keep their starting bids lower, thus attracting bidders. However, sellers must balance what they charge for shipping when compared to other sellers that offer similar items in order to avoid perceptions of excessive shipping.
Unfortunately, there are many sellers that have taken this concept to the extreme. They incorporate not only the shipping expenses into their S/H charge, but also include the cost of the item, the costs of selling the item (ebay fees, etc), and their anticipated profits. By doing this, they totally avoid ebay fees as well as attract buyers who may be unaware of the practice. A buyer could pay a whole lot more for the $0.01 widget than they would have paid had they bid on the one with a $200 starting bid, because of the shipping charges.
WOW! So how do I know?
All information that you need to avoid excessive shipping charges are there for you to see before you place a bid. Before bidding, you MUST:
- Read the description and be sure that the item is exactly what you want and description is complete.
- Check the shipping/handling charge to ensure it is included. In addition, check the shipping method if speed of shipping is important to you. If the shipping costs or method is not listed, contact the seller, or avoid the auction. NEVER BID ON AN AUCTION UNLESS YOU KNOW THE SHIPPING COST.
- Since ebay has set maximum shipping charges in some categories, offered enhancements to sellers with free shipping, and have taken a stronger stance on excessive shipping, some sellers have started lowering their shipping charge, but in the body of the auction, state that there will be an additional charge (above the stated shipping) for "handling. This is against ebay policy, but buyers need to be aware of this practice. If you see it, report the seller and do not bid. However, if you bid and ebay does not pull the auction, you - the buyer - are resonsible for complying with the terms.
- Check out the seller. If the seller charges excessive shipping, this should become apparent in his feedback. With detailed Seller Ratings, you can determine if the seller's shipping charges are in line for the product being offered. Don't expect a 5.0, because there are buyers who will downgrade a seller's rating if they charge any handling at all or will leave a "4" rating because they are satisfied (as defined by ebay). Yyou should expect something in the high 4's. Any lower that 4.5 or so, then you can expect the shipping to be higher than normal. A seller's ME page may also give you some indication how the seller addresses shipping and handling. Many sellers will use this to explain how they operate their auctions. BEFORE BIDDING, YOU NEED TO FEEL CONFIDENT WITH THE SELLER.
- COMPARE: Look at this auction compared to other auctions for the same type. Look at both the starting/current bids as well as shipping charge. Although the shipping charge may be somewhat higher, the total cost (bid plus shipping charge) should be inline with other auctions. If the shipping charge is way above other auctions, then you might feel that the shipping charge is excessive. IF YOU FEEL THE SHIPPING COSTS ARE EXCESSIVE, EITHER DO NOT BID, OR IF YOU DO BID, BID KNOWING THAT THE SHIPPING COSTS ARE HIGH.
I Can Get a Better Deal on that Penny Auction with High Shipping. Should I bid?
That depends. Before bidding here are a couple of things to consider.
- Is the shipping excessive or just high? Sellers who take the risk of starting auctions excessively low, in the true spirit of auctions, do not want to take the risk of losing money on the shipping as well. These sellers will include all shipping related costs in the S/H charge, resulting in a higher S/H charge. Although this S/H charge is higher than others, it is not in the category of excessive.
- If the shipping is indeed excessive (includes profits, item costs, etc. which are not allowed in shipping charges), your bid on the item is supporting these sellers in Fee Avoidance. Fee Avoidance costs us all in the long run with higher eBay fees. Higher ebay fees can result in lower profit items not being offered and higher overall starting bids.
- Many sellers self-insure/guarantee their items. Many of these state that their guarantee does not cover any shipping costs. If you bid on that penny auction with high shipping, and the item is lost or damaged in shipping, the seller may offer you a penny refund. However, there are many sellers that also insure/guarantee their items to to the full total cost.
If you pay via Paypal, you are covered for the full amount of your payment, regardless of how the auction is split between bid price and shipping charge. However, it is always best to work directly with the seller prior to filing a claim with Paypal. If the seller states that they cover the bid price only, you can expect problems should their be an issue with the item when it is received. Additionally, some sellers will cover the cost or return shipping, others wont. A Paypal claim will require you to return the item to the seller at your expense. REGARDLESS OF BID AMOUNT OR SHIPPING COSTS, ALWAYS CHECK WITH THE SELLER TO DETERMINE THEIR GUARANTEE.
Oops, I Have Already Bought an Item with Excessive Shipping before Reading this Guide. What Can I Do?
Well, nothing much. You can't rely on Judge Judy or eBay to bail you out. Typically, most auctions on eBay are lower dollar value and it is just not feasible to rely on legal relief. eBay will support you on truly excessive shipping if it CLEARLY violates eBay rules. eBay is taking a stronger approach toward evaluating whether shipping charges are in violation of terms and conditions, but is still well behind the curve on addressing them all. If there is any doubt whether shipping is excessive or not, ebay will side with the seller.
The best way to handling this is to do your homework before bidding. But there are still situations, even with some of the more experienced ebayers, where the buyer is caught in a situation with a last minute bid where they either did not see the shipping, or the shipping was not stated.
The best way to handle a situation where you have been caught in an excessive shipping situation is to work with the sellers for resolution. Be polite, but let the seller know your concerns and position. If you have already paid for and received your item and you are unhappy because the S/H charge was excessive, let the seller know. He may offer a refund or at least give you an explanation as to why the charges are high - but there is no guantee he/she will do so.
If you have not yet paid for the item, ask them if there is any way that you can resolve this with them or cancel the sale. There are sellers that, although they won't be happy, will be willing to work with you or cancel the sale. Keep in mind though, that the shipping information was in the auction, and your bid is an agreement to the terms of the auction. If you try to back out of a transaction at this point in the sales process, you will still be at risk of receiving an Unpaid Strike.
eBay does have the three strike rule for Unpaid Strikes. They allow three strikes to cover situations such as this. If the seller is unwilling to work with you, then you have to make a decision whether you want to complete the sale or accept an unpaid strike. This is, of course, a last resort, but in some instances my be your only option.
Purchasing Multiple Auctions from the Same Seller
When purchasing multiple auctions from the same seller, there are specific issues that you must consider.
- There is no requirement for sellers to reduce total shipping by combining auctions. eBay will not consider shipping on multiple items excessive if the shipping on each individual auction is reasonable.
- For sellers that do combine shipping and reduce total charges, there is no preset rule that sellers follow. Some sellers discount a set amount from each additional auction, some sellers charge a set amount for each addition auction, some sellers calculate total weight and charge a set handling fee. Even if an auction states that the buyer can save on shipping when purchasing mutliple items, a buyer must check with the seller to determine the amount of total shipping (or shipping reduction).
- When multiple auctions are purchased from the same seller, the seller may not be able to combine shipping economically. If you purchase several items shipping first class, the combined weight may exceed the 13 ounce limit for first class and seller would have to ship either by Parcel Post, Priority or Media. The seller still may be able to save you on shipping, if you are willing to accept a lower grade of shipping.
- A buyer should expect handling on mutliple items purchased to be higher that if the buyer would have purchased a single item. Typically, a seller adds handling to cover handling-related charges. When a buyer purchases mutliple items, a seller will typically include the per-item handling (or a portion of ) in the combined shipping charge, transferring to the buyer the savings in actual shipping. When the buyer receives the package, the amount of handling will appear high.
For combined auctions, a buyer should consider (a) was the shipping charge PER ITEM reasonable; and (b) did the seller provide me with a reasonable amount of savings by combining shipping. If you can answer both of these "YES", then a buyer should not consider how much handling was charged on a combined purhase, nor should they feel gouged if they notice the handling is high.
Don't be afraid to leave appropriate feedback, but be sure that the feedback you leave is appropriate. If you neg a seller for excessive shipping that was plainly stated in the auction, other sellers will view your negative feedback as a reflection of you inability to read and agree to auction terms. Since sellers cannot now leave negative feedback for buyers, they rely on feedback that the buyer leaves, along with responses from sellers to evaluate a buyer. Sellers will block bidders who leave what they would consider inappropriate feedback.
The new detail seller rating is a good avenue to address this as well. Although your feedback might be positive in that you received your item in good condition and seller complied with your terms, your DSR rating may reflect the excessive shipping or some other issue. For additional information on DSRs and how to determine the appropriate rating to use, please see my other guide "What DSR Rating Should I Leave a Seller?" at http://reviews.ebay.com/WHAT-DSR-RATING-SHOULD-I-LEAVE-A-SELLER_W0QQugidZ10000000007671961
The bottom line, however, is that feedback is the only way to warn other buyers. You should not avoid it for fear of retaliation, but should be sure that the feedback you leave, is truly indicative of the overall transaction.
Some would lead you to believe that buying on eBay is a risky venture at best. While it is true that in the vast majority of situations you are dealing with individuals that you do not know and have had no experience with, eBay has provided you with all the tools you need to ensure a safe and happy transaction. Know these tools and how to use them, and your experiences on ebay will be Positive.
I welcome any comments you may have on this guide. Please feel free to send me a message through the email message system to cdsgamesnmore1. Thank you for reviewing this guide, and I hope that it has helped you.