Shipping Large Items

Q: "Up to now I've dealt with mostly small items on eBay, but now I have an extremely large item that I want to sell. How do I deal with shipping for this extremely large item?"

A: Unless you have access to someone (such as a UPS Store) who's experienced in packaging large, heavy, fragile, awkward, or unusually shaped items, you have two choices:

1 . You can require the buyer to pick the item up locally (making sure you specify this in your eBay listing—use boldface or all-caps fonts for this, as many buyers will overlook it if they skim the listing quickly.

2. Use one of several Web-based services that provide trucking service for eBay sellers. Two of the best are and

Pickup by Buyer

Q: "I listed a cell phone that someone bid on and then sent me a message saying that they live in the same city I do and would like to meet in person instead of having me ship it to them. I have mixed feelings about this; it would definitely save a few dollars in shipping costs, but I'm not completely comfortable with the idea of meeting someone and I really don't want them to come to my house. Also, I would have no way to prove that they received the item or that I delivered it."

A: Since you have not specified "local pickup" as one of the shipping or delivery options in your eBay listing, you are not required to have the buyer pick it up. You may insist that the buyer pay the delivery charges specified in your eBay listing.

Having said that, though, check the buyer's feedback score and rating—if this is clearly a solid eBayer there's probably not much to worry about, although you should not meet the buyer at your home. Pick a neutral location, such as a local UPS Store, post office, fast-food restaurant, or diner. Also, do not accept PayPal for payment, as you will not have online proof of delivery and your transaction will become ineligible for PayPal's Seller Protection Policy (see Chapter 11).

Items Lost or Damaged in Transit

Q: "I mailed a buyer an item and when the package arrived at the buyer's home he said that it was "received without contents." I can assure you the package was mailed with the contents, and I show it as being delivered via USPS without insurance. Should I refund the buyer the selling price of the item or the full cost to include the shipping that I had to spend? Should I refund at all?"

A: Whenever an item shipped via the U.S. Postal Service is damaged or opened in transit, the Postal Service marks it in some way to limit its liability (for example, "received in damaged condition" or "opened in transit"). Ask the buyer to e-mail you a digital photo of the package with a close-up of the Postal Service's markings; if they can't do that, ask them to return the package to you for evaluation. If it appears that the item was damaged or lost in transit to the buyer, you are legally responsible for that and should refund the buyer's bid amount plus any shipping and handling charge. If the package bears no such markings (or if it appears that the markings were forged), then you are not obligated to make any refund, although you might want to offer the buyer something, to avoid negative feedback.

Q: "I shipped an item to a buyer that was totally trashed in transit. This person has bought from me before, so I know he's not playing games. I offer all my buyers the opportunity to buy insurance, but this one didn't. The item was unique, and I can't replace it. I want to do the right thing here, but I really don't think this is my fault. What should I do?"

A: This is one of the most unfortunate seller-buyer scenarios on eBay, because both the seller and the buyer here are good guys who have done absolutely nothing wrong. The bad guy is the common carrier, who is not involved in the dispute.

Under the law of just about every state, it is the seller's responsibility to deliver an item to the buyer in good condition. If this doesn't happen because the item is lost, damaged, or destroyed in transit, it is the seller's responsibility to make good. Period. If the seller has not properly insured the item with the common carrier, the seller has no recourse against the carrier and is basically out of pocket and out of luck.

For a seller to disown responsibility for a lost, damaged, or destroyed item, two things must happen:

1. The seller must require the buyer to purchase insurance for the item in the amount of his winning bid or the fair market value of the item—making it optional is not enough.

2. The seller must notify the buyer that if the item is lost, damaged, or destroyed in transit, the buyer's sole recourse is an insurance claim against the carrier.

If either of these two steps is not followed, the seller remains liable for merchandise that is lost, damaged, or destroyed in transit.

Since it is often not feasible to require the buyer to purchase insurance on all items you sell on eBay, most eBay sellers adopt the following commonsense policies to keep damaged or destroyed item disputes to an absolute minimum:

• Package all items extremely carefully, and follow the carrier's packaging rules to the letter.

• Require the buyer to purchase insurance if the item is unique, high-priced, or irreplaceable.

• Offer insurance as an option on all eBay listings, regardless of the item's value, size, or cost (and tell bidders up front what the insurance will cost).

• If the buyer fails to buy insurance even though you offered it as an option, and the item is unique, extremely valuable, or irreplaceable, buy the insurance yourself and treat it as part of the selling cost of that item (do not include it as part of your shipping and handling fee, as that violates eBay policies; see Chapter 8).

For an actual transcript of an e-mail exchange between a seller and a buyer in exactly this situation, see pages 146-147 of my book The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book.

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