The Best Kept Seller Secret on eBay...Exposed
eBay can be a haven for great buys and hard to find items, which is why it has become a multi-billion dollar corporation and global market leader. As with any marketplace, you will always find a certain element that practices underhanded, very common ripoff tactics.
This guide will help you steer clear of those sellers looking to rip you off on, among other things, shipping and handling fees. The more people that get educated to these eBay scams, the better chance eBay has of maintaining a reputation of being the very best place to buy or sell just about anything you can put a price tag on - and to my mind, that is well worth preserving.
Low Starting BidA very common practice is for a scam-seller to offer an item at a ridiculously low price. Example? I would love to be able to link to an eBay auction that shows this taking place (eBay doesn't allow these guides to link to specific auctions), but the one I am looking right now has an MP3 player - new, factory sealed for $23.00 - Buy It Now!
This particular MP3 Player retails for about $45.00. The prospective buyer sees this price, and in a flash (in hopes of buying it up before anyone else does), clicks on the Buy It Now Button - then 'buyers remorse' sets in. During the PayPal Checkout Process they realize that the seller has assessed a $37.00 Shipping and Handling fee. That's right, $37.00 for "Priority Mail" shipment. Their actual cost? $4.60. You have just been scammed. This happens a lot. A lot more than you might think - to a greater or lesser degree. They realize this $37.00 fee is not 'seen' by eBay, and doesn't get included in the final value fees.
"See Item Description"Some sellers when creating an auction will employ tactics such as setting their shipping and handling notices to "See Description"' and list their shipping as "flat rate". This requires the buyer to 'dig' a bit for the answer to the question, "how much does it cost to ship?". The seller will then bury the $50.00 shipping fee on a $25 cell phone at the bottom of the page, and may even decrease the font size on that portion of the auction. Many buyers, myself included, sometimes get excited at seeing a low price on the item they want, and just bid in haste - let's face it, bidding on an auction, especially towards the end, can be a very emotionally charged experience. Sometimes people let their emotions get the best of them, and do not read the entire auction. Some sellers know this, and use it to their advantage. READ EVERY WORD in an auction listing...
every-last-word. If you take nothing more away from this guide, let it be those three words - read every word. The extra time could save you a bundle.
Calculated Shipping Costs
Another very popular scam or ripoff is the handling portion of the "calculated shipping cost" option. This requires the prospective buyer to enter in their Zip code in order to get exact shipping cost prior to bidding.
Here's the problem:
A seller can add ANY amount to the standard shipping charges when creating the auction. That's right, when the seller is creating the auction, they can select the "Calculated Shipping" option for their auction, and in so doing, they can then add to the "Handling" portion of that setup, any figure they want as a 'surcharge' for their "handling" of the item. Many people don't want to trouble themselves by clicking on the calculated shipping button prior to bidding and typing in their zip code to actually find out how much the package is going to cost them to ship, or they don't notice it - some sellers know this, and exploit it...to their benefit.
The first time (and the last time) I got suckered into this was when I won an auction for a vintage baseball trading card of Mickey Mantle - it of course was a 'calculated shipping' auction. The card cost me about $75.00 - guess how much it cost me to get it shipped to me? $17.00. No insurance, just came in a Priority Mail box that weighed no more than 5 ounces. Actual cost? $3.85 at that time..now it would have cost $4.60. Ripoff, plain and simple. I never clicked on the calculated shipping button, but if I had, I would have seen $17.00 S&H and looked elsewhere for my Mantle card - if I would have just taken the time.
"Fool me once"...that's enough for me.
Insurance? What Insurance?Some sellers looking to take your money will assess an "insurance charge". Pretty straight forward right? One Problem... when the package arrives, you guessed it, it's not insured - no insurance sticker...nothing. Many sellers when confronted with this will state, "it's self insured"...Self Insured...right...what exactly is that? It's a Scam, that's what it is.
After reading this guide, I have had seller's who use this "self insured" tactic email me trying to justify this 'option'. Here's the bottom line - Insurance without any formality to it, to my mind, is not insurance at all; It's simply more profit to the seller. Insurance companies exist to make money...enough said. These "Self Insured" eBay seller's might, in fact, honor their insurance claims, but that does not take away from the fact that they are, especially if they sell in high volumes, making good money using 'self insurance' in their auctions...that's why they do it.
Buyers, make certain the seller has excellent feedback. If you do not want to weed through 5000 feedbacks in the last month to get to the negative/neutrals, go to www.toolhaus.org and type in their username - you'll be amazed with what you find.
"Discount Shipping Available" & "Combined Shipping Available"This can be a slippery slope - especially with those items that are not of considerable weight, and/or size. If a seller is offering a discount of a few bucks for multiple purchases, ask yourself "how much does the item weigh"? Most legitimate businesses, whether it is an eBayer seller or 'Best Buy', offer shipping discounts based on WEIGHT. If an eBay seller is selling different kinds of 'widgets' and offers you a $1.00 discount off the $5.00 per item shipping costs, only to take all 3 items and place them into an $8.00 Flat Rate Priority Mail box that they would have used regardless of the number purchased, you are still left paying some portion of shipping costs on the other items. Why? Increased profits for the seller - Follow any dishonesty like this, and it always leads to money.
If it seems reasonable that the multiple items you are purchasing would NOT dramatically change the cost of shipping, ask the seller about it. If they are unwilling to ship the items to you for a reasonable cost, then move on. There are far too many sellers on eBay that will be honest about the shipping charges. The thrust of this example is, if you are looking into a multiple item purchase from a seller that offers combined shipping discounts, do not get too intoxicated on the idea that they will save you money. READ THE FINE PRINT, of the discount being offered and see if it passes the 'sniff test'. If it doesn't, as I said before, there are multiple sellers, selling the same item...find the one worth 'their salt'.
SummaryIt is important to note that eBay now allows excessive shipping and handling fees as a reportable offense. It became so much of a problem for them, and there had been so many complaints to eBay about it, they simply had to give the [eBay] consumer some way to report this ever growing problem. To report a S&H ripoff simply go to the bottom of the auction page in question, and click the "report this item" link. You should be able to navigate from there.
I want to thank everyone who has emailed me with their stories...or should I call them 'nightmares' about these problems. It is amazing how many of us have been ripped off through S&H scams in particular. Please keep the emails coming, I appreciate them very much. This guide has become, far and away, the most popular Guide on eBay, thanks in large part to those of you who have clicked "yes" at the bottom of this screen.
As for the handful of sellers that have emailed me telling me that they take offense to this guide, only to spend the next 4 paragraphs justifying their "handling" charges to me - please don't bother - you know if you are charging too much, and if you are, please stop ripping us off. If you want increased profits, incorporate that profit into your item, not some hidden 'handling fee' or 'phantom insurance fees'...people are getting wise to it, and are tired of it.
The Risk in letting the Cat out of the Bag
It is not only the buyers that are reading this, sellers do as well. Those sellers of questionable character are going to take these ideas and use them to their advantage, if they are not already doing so - all the more reason to look out for these all-to-common scams on eBay.
Spread the Word!
Want to help spread the word? The more people that select the "yes" button for this guide being helpful, the higher up on the 'Guide List' it gets, thus getting more exposure for eBayers to read and learn. It is my goal to completely eliminate these scam practices on eBay. Possible? Perhaps not, but the more people we educate about this scam, the more money they save, the more aware they become, and the less sellers are apt to try and rip people off with scams.
Safe Buying Everyone. And remember, read every word.