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Avoiding Potential Problems When Selling on eBay

We’ve just had one of those months on eBay when seemingly everything that could go wrong did go wrong. In fact, over a period of five weeks or so, we encountered more problems than in all of our 9 years on eBay put together :shock:. We’ve had non-paying bidders, parcels going astray, packages returned undelivered and an item was broken in transit. We also managed to send a package to the wrong buyer :oops:.

So What Caused our Problems on eBay?

Why has a system that has trundled along smoothly for so long with only the occasional hitch suddenly hit this rocky patch? Is it simply our turn to be victims of Murphy’s Law, and we must carry on regardless until ‘Murphy’ decides it’s time to move on? Or is there something we could have done to prevent these issues?

Having given the matter some thought, we have to admit that whilst there are a couple of things that were beyond our control, some of these problems could probably have been avoided if we’d done things a little differently.

Sending a buyer the wrong package was obviously our fault. That gave us a short, sharp reminder to check and check again that the correct packing slip and address label have been matched with the correct item. It’s easy to lose concentration when carrying out mundane tasks so it’s important to ensure that we are exposed to as few distractions as possible when carrying out this work.

Preventing Damage to Products in Transit

Although we always take care over our packaging, with a little more thought we probably could have avoided the breakage that occurred. The item in question was a picture disc shaped like an apple which we packed in the same way that we pack all our vinyl – sandwiched between two cardboard stiffeners and mailed in a card envelope. This is fine for standard LPs but in the case of this apple-shaped record, the  ‘apple stalk’ was broken off when our buyer received it. With a little more thought and a little less complacency, we would have realised that this particular record was more vulnerable than a normal LP and we could have added some extra protection, thus avoiding the need to refund a disappointed buyer.

Whilst most buyers are honest, there will always be the odd few who are out to get something for nothing so the seller will, of course, want to ensure that the buyer’s claim is genuine. If the item is damaged beyond reasonable repair it is, arguably, an unnecessary expense to insist upon its return so the seller may choose to accept photographic evidence of the alleged damage.

Minimising the Risk of Undelivered eBay Packages

There was nothing we could have done differently to prevent two packages being returned to us by the Post Office. One was returned from Belgium with a label stating that mail was no longer being received at that address. After checking that we had correctly addressed the parcel, we contacted the buyer and he confirmed that the address was indeed correct. He also said that he had received several other packages that week and he had no idea why ours should have been returned. We checked his feedback, and as he had given and received positive feedback in recent days it was evident that his other purchases had indeed been delivered.

As it was through no fault of our own that the package had been returned, we offered to either resend it at his expense or refund the cost of the item (but not the postage and packing charges) and he chose to have it resent. He has left positive feedback so presumably it was delivered without any further problems.

The second package that was returned to us had been delivered to the buyer when no-one was home and had subsequently not been collected from the delivery office. We emailed the buyer twice giving offering to resend it or refund him but he never replied so we sent a refund (using the Paypal ‘refund’ option) and as yet we have had no response.

Dealing With Non-Paying Bidders

In the case of the non-paying bidders, there is little, if anything, we could have done to avoid these.  We have set up “Buyer Requirements” in our eBay account (as explained in this post) but there is really no way to ensure that all winning bidders will honour their commitment and complete the transaction. The feedback system is now so loaded in favour of the buyer that it has all but eliminated a seller’s ability to leave feedback which would alert other sellers to potential problems. Although most buyers are genuine, it is almost inevitable that every seller will have to suffer a non-payer from time to time.

Sellers can now open an unpaid item case within four days of the listing ending, although we normally send the buyer a reminder on the fourth day and open a case if they haven’t paid or contacted us by the end of the seventh day.  In our experience, the buyer usually pays promptly once they receive notification from eBay that a case has been opened. If they don’t, we allow another week to pass before closing the case and requesting a final value fee refund from eBay.

Packages Lost in the Post

To the credit of our postal system, this is the first time we have ever had a package go missing in transit. When packing an item, we always check that the address given by eBay matches the one on Paypal, especially if it is an overseas address as there is sometimes a slight difference between the two. If there is any significant discrepancy we contact the buyer to confirm which is correct but if there is only a slight difference we always use the address given by Paypal.

Here in the UK Royal Mail offer compensation for packages that get lost or damaged in transit but there are numerous terms and conditions to be met and again, as we discussed in an earlier post. As our lost package only contained a CD with a value of £2.97 we refunded the buyer and wrote it off, it just didn’t seem worth the hassle of making a compensation claim.

Attention to Detail Helps Keep eBay Problems to a Minimum

Now that ‘Murphy’ has jolted us out of our complacency he seems to have moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere, and things have been running smoothly for the past couple of weeks.  Hopefully, if you keep your eye on the ball and don’t make any of the mistakes we made, ‘Murphy’ won’t come knocking on your door :-)

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