Shipping Charges and Shipping and Handling Fees

Q: "Can I post an eBay listing asking buyers to calculate their own shipping fees?"

A: No—eBay requires you as the seller of an item to calculate and quote shipping and handling charges.

Q: "I sold something on eBay and discovered later that I had miscalculated the shipping amount. Can I e-mail the buyer after the auction closes and ask him to pay the corrected amount?"

A: No. Your eBay listing is a legal contract between you and your buyer. While you are allowed to set your shipping terms, it is up to you to make sure your shipping calculations are accurate. If you make a mistake and shortchange yourself, as you did here, you cannot go back to the buyer and ask him to pay you more money. You will have to absorb the extra shipping cost in this case.

When quoting shipping charges in your eBay listings, there is no substitute for knowing exactly what the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, or Federal Express (or other carrier) will charge. If you can't do this in-house, package the item before you list it, bring it to your local UPS Store or post office, have it weighed, and have the postage applied right there. That way you will know to the penny what the shipping charges are, and you won't make any mistakes.

Q: "Do my shipping charges on eBay have to reflect 100 percent the actual amount I have paid for postage on each item I sell? Or can I estimate shipping charges to save time?"

A: If you are selling multiple identical items, it's okay to estimate shipping charges to save time as long as you never ask the buyer to pay more than the amount you actually quoted in your listing for shipping (see the answer to the previous question).

If you are selling items that are not identical, then estimating your shipping charges becomes a bit riskier. Experienced buyers on eBay (especially those who are also sellers) have a pretty good idea how much postage costs for different sizes and weights. If they see you are off by a buck or two, they probably won't be too concerned, but if they see you are gouging them (for example, by charging $25 for shipping when the average shipping cost by U.S. Priority Mail is only $5), they will raise a fuss with both you and eBay. One of the surest ways to anger your buyers and get into trouble on eBay is to overestimate your shipping costs when setting up listings. The best approach is to make sure each shipping quote reflects your actual postage cost, to the best of your ability.

Q: "What do I do if the eBay Shipping Calculator shows one amount for USPS, but when I go to the post office they charge a higher amount?"

A: eBay allows you to put a Shipping Calculator on each listing to help buyers determine what the shipping charges will be before they bid on the item. Like any software tool, the eBay Shipping Calculator is only as good as the information you put into it. Since, as the seller, you are the one who programs the Shipping Calculator with the size and weight of the item, your zip code and other pertinent information, any error is likely to be your fault (although there have been occasions when the calculator didn't keep up to the minute with changes in U.S. Postal Service rates). Generally, if you use the Shipping Calculator and the actual postage is greater than what the calculator determined, you cannot go back to the buyer and ask for more money.

There is no substitute for knowing exactly what the shipping charges are going to be for each item you sell on eBay before you list the item (see the answer to the previous question).

Q: "Can I charge my buyers a handling fee on top of my shipping charges?"

A: Yes, you can, as long as it's reasonable. The Excessive Shipping Charges Policy on eBay is so important that it deserves to be quoted verbatim:

Sellers may charge reasonable shipping and handling fees to cover the costs for mailing, packaging, and handling the items they are selling. While eBay does not prescribe exactly what a seller may or may not charge, eBay relies on member reports and its own discretion to determine whether or not a seller's shipping, handling, packaging, and/or insurance charges are excessive. Shipping and handling fees may not be listed as a percentage of the final sale price.

Sellers who want to be sure they are in compliance with this policy [should] charge actual shipping costs plus actual packaging materials cost (or less).

In addition to the final listing price, sellers are permitted to charge:

Actual Shipping Cost: This is the actual cost (i.e., postage) for shipping the item.

Handling Fee: Actual packaging materials costs may be charged. A handling fee in addition to actual shipping cost may be charged if it is not excessive.

Insurance: Sellers offering insurance may only charge the actual fee for insurance. No additional amount may be added, such as "self-insurance." Sellers who do not use a licensed 3rd party insurance company may not require buyers to purchase insurance. This is a violation of state law.

Tax: Only actual applicable federal, state, country, city, VAT, and equivalent taxes may be charged.

For cross border transactions, sellers may not collect tariffs and duties. However, buyers may be responsible for actual, applicable tariffs, and duties as requested by respective country laws.

Refer to

So, for example, if you hire a student intern to pack boxes for ten hours a week, it may be appropriate to spread his or her weekly wages over the average number of successful listings and add that as part of your handling charge. It would not be appropriate, however, for you to value your time at $250 an hour and add your average packing and shipping time per listing as a handling charge (only we attorneys get to do that ©).

Q: "Must I specify in my eBay listings how much is a shipping charge and how much is a handling charge?"

A: No, you do not need to break these out. The total amount should appear in your listings as a shipping and handling fee. What you cannot do on eBay is post one amount in your listing as a shipping charge and then tack an additional handling charge on after the listing closes.

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