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Monday, April 07, 2014

eBay and "Shipping Shenanigans"

Like most stamp collectors in the 21st century, I use eBay to buy and sell stamps on a pretty regular basis. In many ways, the online auction giant has been a great help to stamp collectors in the way it has enabled us to connect with each other and with stamps we want for our collections, from all over the world.

Whatever you might think about eBay (some people love it, some people hate it), one thing is certain: It's very important to pay attention to what you are doing. Never assume anything!

Just this morning, I was checking eBay to see if there was anything new and interesting from Denmark, one of my major collecting areas. Because I look for cancels, plate flaws and varieties, I am often in the market for "lots and accumulations."

Indeed, I did find a couple of duplicated collections that seemed quite interesting-- as well as quite reasonably priced. That is, until I checked the seller's shipping terms. $12.00 to ship about 50 stamps from the UK to the US? Huh?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of the "cheapskates" who try to nickel-and-dime sellers and leave negative feedback because they were charged 50 cents for a letter that cost 49 cents to send. I understand we all have expenses when we sell stamps... personally, I charge 75 cents when I sell on eBay, because it covers the cost of the stamp (49c) plus an envelope, a glassine and the possibility that I will have to pay for a "second rate" after I've put a cardboard stiffener in the envelope. I feel that's fair, and if anyone wants to "argue" with me about that, I'd prefer they just buy their stamps from someone else.

But that's a really long way from charging US $12.00 for a letter that might cost £1.50 to mail (or about $2.50). To me, that loosely falls under the broader heading of "shenanigans" and "deceptive practices." Of course, that's just my opinion-- some professional stamp dealers may disagree with me.

Of course we always have the option to "move on by" if we don't like someone's postage rates, and that's precisely what I did. And so... the point of this article is primarily to remind people to READ the so-called "fine print" before you click on the "bid" or "buy now" buttons... and be sure you understand what the "real" cost of that stamp is.

In general, I have found that "discussing rates" with people who charge uncommonly high shipping rates is a waste of time. Why? Well, because they are typically in the business of "selling cheap stamps and making their profit on shipping" and so they are really not interested in hearing what you-- as a collector-- have to say about it. Sad... but true.

Overall, though, I continue to recommend eBay as a place to buy stamps... because the positive experiences FAR outweigh the negative ones.

What's YOUR opinion? Do you think sellers often "overcharge" for sending stamps? Do you fee that it's "fair" if stamp sellers cover their basic expenses to send stamps-- like envelopes, glassines and so forth? Do you ever try to "argue" with people who are charging high shipping fees, because you really WANT a stamp they have for sale? If you feel this topic merits discussion, please consider sharing to your Facebook page or favorite stamp forum!


Steve Radell said...

Very good article in all directions Peter. I'm like you in many respects, a couple of my favorite places - Tannu Tuva and Tasmania, are not really available much even in a big show.
I ask $1 for shipping and combine. I start losing interest in bidding if people want more than $1.50 or $2, $3 if overseas.
I'm equally not a fan of people posting cat minimum stamps ($.25) for 99c and then $1 postage too. Or folks that won't do any combining (or anything more than 50 cents for additional items.)
One hopes that consumers vote them out of business by not bidding, but some vampires always survive (Mystic comes to mind quickly.)
Yes all, read and vote with your bids and enjoy a great hobby!

John Dodson said...

I agree that a lot of sellers grossly overcharge for p&p on eBay, and there is no real reason for it, other than eBay's own greed which fuels the sellers to this action by taking 30%+ in fees.
I sell on, a much smaller but far friendlier site for stamp buyers and sellers- much lower fees (2%) mean that I charge a flat rate of £1 UK £2 US and overseas, and can charge as little as 3p a stamp. I always combine p&p, and even on orders of hundreds of stamps the most I charge is £3- if buyers pass the £10 or £20 mark I offer FREE P&p.
And I'm not the only seller who does this- over 150 stamp shops are available, most of the sellers are very helpful- I still collect myself- with a total of over 400,000 lots available.
Ebay is not what it used to be, a safe and friendly site to buy and sell, it's much more cutthroat business now, and its days as a platform for stamp buying and selling are on the decline, in my view.

Theo Featherstone said...

I agree with you completely, Peter. Watching the p&p is essential for a happy and fulfilling life as a philatelist/accumulator. I find it difficult to cope with a sender who risks you getting a badly creased item by not including a stiffener and then says its not their fault if a postman mistreats an inadequately packed sending. Ebay can be wonderful, and terribly frustrating.

Ray Petersen said...

First of all, I agree with your assessment of eBay. There are many eBay "bashers" who complain about the high fees or restrictive policies, but they do have the largest pool of customers anywhere. I specialize in cinderella material, so I need to have the best reach possible. As far as "shipping shenanigans" I think you are also spot on about that. I am like you, when I ship a single stamp or small groups (I am in the USA) my shipping fees are 75¢ to US addresses, $1.50 to Canada and the rest of the world. I look very carefully at my USPS rate chart to figure out the most economical way to ship everything. I also allow customers to "run a tab" for a while if I have similar items closing on multiple days. Sure, it is a little extra work for me, but it is also less work to send one shipment with 10 stamps to a customer than to send a couple items each day for several days to the same person. I think there are some sellers who don't really care about their customers, and like to squeeze as much profit out of shipping as out of the stamps themselves.

Ian - Norvic said...

TRACKED postage from the UK to the US now costs (since 31 March 14) £6.28 for 20g and £7.15 for 60g.

That's US$10 for less than an ounce, and US$11.50 for 2.1 ounces.

I agree that postage to the US ought to cost less - the figures above include £5/$8 for tracking. If the letter is lost in transit the Seller has no protection, and PayPal/eBay repays the Buyer without question.

POSTMAIL said...

Very nice, no my theme but I prestige the Philatelie in all moments

Peter B said...

Great blog post, thanks very much! As a regular ebay buyer I agree that high postage rates are a turnoff. However, I sometimes think it backfires on sellers as bidders either boycott the seller or reduce their bid prices to compensate for the high postage costs. Peter