I'm Having Trouble Packing and Shipping This Stuff

When Do You Ship?

Q: "I sold something on eBay last week while I was away on vacation. When I came back, there were several e-mails from the buyer screaming at me for not shipping the item, and demanding his money back! Do I have to do that, as I was away for only a few days?"

A: In order for a transaction to qualify for PayPal's Seller Protection Policy, the item must be shipped within seven days of the listing close. Under federal law, a seller must ship an item within thirty days of accepting or receiving payment. Other than that, it is up to the seller entirely to determine when to ship an item to an eBay buyer.

The vast majority of eBay sellers put a sentence in their Terms and Conditions saying when they will ship an item. If you did that, then all you need do is point this out to the buyer. Many eBay sellers put a vacation notice up on their listings when they are going to be away for a lengthy period of time—this helps to manage the buyer's expectations and humanizes you as a seller.

Assuming you didn't indicate a shipping time on your eBay listing, then it becomes a question of how long you were on vacation. If it was longer than seven days after your eBay listing closed, I can understand why the buyer is getting a little antsy right now. If it was only a couple of days, then this buyer is being unreasonable, because it takes time for an eBay seller to pack and ship an item, and it can't always be done within twenty-four hours of the listing's closing date. In either case, ship the item immediately and send this buyer an e-mail explaining that you were away and apologizing for the slow response.

Although eBay does not require you to do this, it's always a good idea to send an e-mail message to buyers the minute you receive their check, money order, or PayPal payment, confirming that you received the payment and telling them approximately when the item will ship. This almost always puts buyers' minds at ease and lets them know they're dealing with a human being who will follow through on the commitment to sell the item. By not responding, you scared the dickens out of this guy—good thing he didn't report you to eBay as a nonperforming seller!

Q: "How long after receiving payment must a seller ship the item to the buyer?"

A: If payment occurred through PayPal and the seller wishes to make use of PayPal's Seller Protection Policy, then the seller must ship within seven days of receiving payment from the buyer. If payment was not made through PayPal, the seller must ship within thirty days of receiving payment, under a Federal Trade Commission rule.

While most good eBay sellers send buyers an e-mail letting them know when the item will ship, this is not required by law. A busy, harried seller might not send such a notice at all. As long as the seller ships on time, though, the failure to give notice does not give the buyer the right to post negative feedback or otherwise take action against the seller.

Problems with Buyer's Address

Q: "Is it okay to ship to a buyer who does not have a confirmed address with PayPal?"

A: It is never recommended to ship to a buyer who does not have a confirmed address with PayPal (see Chapter 11), because it gives buyers with dishonorable intentions the ability to claim (falsely) that they never received your shipment. Some buyers, of course, do not have PayPal accounts at all and won't have a confirmed address or an "ID Verified" address with eBay. In such cases you have to rely on the buyer's feedback score and rating to determine whether it's okay to ship to the address the buyer gives you.

If a buyer has a confirmed address with PayPal and asks that you ship the item to another address, be very careful—doing this renders the transaction ineligible for PayPal's Seller Protection Policy (see Chapter 11). Again, check the buyer's feedback score and rating and ask via e-mail why he or she wants the item shipped to a different address; if the buyer has a high feedback score and positive rating, and his or her explanation is plausible (for example, "It's a gift for my mom who lives out of state, and I don't want to have to lug it all the way up there"), it's probably okay.

Q: "I sold an item in an auction that was set up to ship only within the United States, but the winning bidder lives in Belgium! The shipping listed only domestic services and I made sure to mark that I shipped only within the states in the options feature when I first put it up for sale. However, I did just discover that I hadn't blocked bidders who were outside of my shipping area in my seller preferences. I changed my eBay seller preferences right away, but I'm still new to selling, so I'm not sure how I should handle this. What do I do?"

A: Don't you just hate it when bidders don't read the fine print on your listings? Generally, you should monitor your listings to make sure bidders qualify under your Terms and Conditions. Whenever you state clearly that you will "ship only within the United States," that translates as "foreign buyers need not apply." Unfortunately, many foreign bidders don't read that far down the listing page, and you will get foreign bids. While the listing is pending, the best approach is to cancel their bid and send them a short e-mail message explaining why you did so.

Since your listing has closed, you have two options. You can either:

1. Find out how much it costs to ship the item to Belgium, and ship it anyway, especially if the buyer has a high feedback score and positive rating.

2. Report the user to eBay as an "unwelcome bidder"—eBay will credit you for your final value fee, and you will then be able to either relist the item or offer your U.S.-based underbidders a second chance offer to buy the item.

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