Learn to buy and sell antiques and collectibles

Lowering eBay Shipping Costs and Problems

Some general notes and advice about saving money on shipping.

I wrote this new article in September 2018. When I put it online I found another article with 21 additional eBay shipping tips. That article has other tips than these. There is another link to the 21 tips at the bottom of this article so you can click over after reading this page.

Quick Shipping Notes:

  • If shipping labels print too small it may be your page set up scale has been changed. I had this happen to me as I was writing this article, and eBay was unable to help me. I'd changed a setting a few days earlier tryting to print a two page email on one page. In your browser go to File >> Page Setup. Then on the Format and Options tab the correct settings are Portrait and Scale 100 %.
  • Special handling costs $10.00 and comes in postage due. These are stickers the post office will give you. I put them on a few boxes one day, thinking it would show the buyer I cared. I had complaints from buyers a few days later about their packages coming in postage due.
  • Parcel post sometimes is too slow and can result in eBay giving your buyers their money back while the box is in transit. I had this happen twice with big Tonka type trucks. Tracking just stops being updated. I think this is because the box is buried under a pile of other boxes, but the mailmen on the dock say that it could also be the box is in a trailer or cart that has been forgotten at a sorting center.

    After a week or so, the tracking is updated and the box starts moving toward the buyer again. In one case the buyer called me on the phone when the box showed up and sent me a check. In the other case even though tracking finally showed delivery, I was out the money, the postage, eBay and PayPal fees and the $100 toy truck. Now I always use Priority mail or First class mail. I still use the slower and cheaper media mail for books because they don't seem to get lost or hung up.
  • Media mail and First class postage is always cheaper than Priority mail. With the eBay postage discounts and buying small boxes from Uline it's still cheaper than Priority mail. I buy book mailers from Uline. The mailers are about 60 cents each, but really save time compared to wrapping cardboard around a book, and I pass the cost onto the buyers.
  • Priority Mail Regional A boxes are always cheaper than a 2 pound package sent by Priority mail. These are for use by shippers who purchase postage online.
  • A quick rule of thumb about shipping type: If you can pack an item safely under a pound it goes First class, if it's over two pounds and fits use a Regional A box. If it doesn't fit in either of those, use the eBay label system to check for the cheapest cost option.
  • Don't forget that you pay eBay and paypal fees on the shipping charged to your buyers. This is about 13%. It used to be that eBay's discount in the label system at least covered the fees.

    As of June 30th, 2018 eBay labels show a cost of $12.45 for a medium flat rate Priority Mail box, and a regular price of $13.65. This discount doesn't even cover the eBay fees much less the cost of the label or Paypal fees.
  • Watch out for price jumps when combining items. If you do first class mail there can be a big jump when your box crosses the pound weight into Priority mail boxes. For example, I charge $6.00 to mail a 16 ounce package. A 17 ounce package to New Jersey from Arizona costs $12.90.

    I had this happen earlier this year and only charged the buyer $12 shipping. I got two negative feedbacks from him for not giving him a discount even though I lost money on the box.

    Oddly here, raising the shipping cost to $8, or even $9, instead of $6 stops these complaints. This doesn't always work because some buyers will not bid on the items with higher shipping charges. Test it with your items.
  • I get buyers who send me long complaints about my poor packing aftewr they get their purchase. I send out about 2000 packages a year, and rarely get anything damaged. My immediate response when someone complains about my packing is they are playing games. In one case the buyer sent me a picturte of a broken train that had a DIFFERENT number on the side. With theyse people since you can't win the eBay case, just refund them if needed, file an insurance claim and block them.
  • People who complain about shipping before a listing ends will never be high bidders and can be ignored. I put them on my blocked bidders list. I also check to make sure they aren't current bidders, and cancel their bids if needed. More on this below.
  • From my experience dealers don't whine about shipping to get lower prices. They tend to make up other reasons or play games seeking partial refunds.
  • One last point about Ebay seller protection, the 2018 Fall Seller update says going forward you must upload tracking information BEFORE the estimated delivery date or you'll automatically lose item not received complaints. If you use eBay labels tracking is uploaded automatically.

Do Not Ship To Unconfirmed EBay Addresses.

You can tell an address is confirmed by looking just below the address on the eBay labels pages. If it says “Eligible for Seller Protection,” it's a confirmed address. If tracking shows the box is delivered to a confirmed address, but the buyer claims he didn't get it eBay will cover the loss.

Warning – When I was writing this article I called eBay support about canceling a sale because the buyer's address was not confirmed. The eBay rep. told me on the phone that the shipping address on the eBay label is always confirmed. When I heard that, I asked for his supervisor and the supervisor confirmed was correct.

Also with seller protection, if the buyer claims he didn't get the package and the tracking shows it wasn't delivered because of “Addressee Unknown” eBay will close the item not received case and remove any negative feedback when shipping to confirmed addresses. You get to keep the money here.

On the other hand, if you ship to an unconfirmed address and the buyer complains he didn't get it, eBay will refund the buyer with your money, and keep the final value and Paypal fees.

It used to be you could cancel a sale if the buyer had an unconfirmed address. Now you can try to cancel the sale, but eBay will allow the buyer to decide if he wants to cancel the sale. If he isn't willing to cancel the sale, you have to ship to him and risk a negative if he pays.

If he hasn't paid send him an invoice with a really high shipping cost. For example, while writing this article, I sent a man an invoice with a $1290.00 shipping charge. This was on a $20.00 toy truck. He won't pay that and buyers who don't pay can't leave feedback. (Ebay doesn't charge final value fees on shipping until the buyer pays so there is no cost in sending a huge invoice. )

This number has to be high – at least $1000 dollars. When I first started this policy, I raised a $40 shipping charge to $90 to make the buyer go away and he paid it without noticing the extra cost.

Raising the shipping cost like this is also a good way to drive off buyers who try to renegotiate the price before paying. I put a complete exchange with a whiney buyer where I used this tactic below.

One last point on unconfirmed addresses. . . If you change the address in the eBay label system, you might loose seller protection. For some reason Canadians often have addresses that are too long for the eBay labels.

Local Pickup

If you allow buyers to pick up items, you must require payment with cash or a local check. I am a Arizona merchant and I can turn bad checks over to the AZ Attorney General's office for collection so I take local checks. You might not have this option, so consider taking only cash.

Actually, over 35 years I've only gotten one bad check from a local buyer, and he was a regular buyer whose wife had overdrawn their joint checking account. I called him on the phone and he brought me cash the next day and covered my bank fees. He is still embarrassed about it 20 years later!

If a buyer picks up an item he paid for with Paypal, he can complain to eBay that he didn't get it, and eBay will refund his money and charge the cost to your eBay account. There is no tracking number for local pickups so you'll lose any case. I had this happen on a $20 sale a few years ago.

Most buyers are ok with this. Some buyers will try to play games. I had a man a few years tell me on the phone one evening he would pay me cash the next day. The next morning he paid me with paypal and then tol me he would not waste his time going to the bank to get cash since I had to take Paypal by eBay's policies. I told him to pay an additional 15.00 for shipping or I'd refund his money.

I refunded his money and blocked him from bidding on my listings in the future.

Since this happened, I don't send an invoice for local pickup until AFTER the buyer has picked up the item and paid with cash or a check. This way if the buyer pays with paypal, I just mail the item and have a tracking number.

After the buyer picks up and pays, I send the invoice with free shipping/local pickup so eBay doesn't charge me final value fees on the shipping charge listed in the auction, and then mark the item as paid.

I got a message from eBay while I was writing this article saying I was in danger of loosing my top rated seller status because I hadn't uploaded tracking on some of my sales. These were all local pickup sales. I didn't respond to it, but did make a note to myself to seek more ways to cut out eBay's fees in the future. I might start just cancelling some of the more expensive local sales rather than reporting them as paid. I'm sure a few of the buyers would be happy to split the eBay fees with me.

Insurance Information

  • USPS is cheaper than the Shipcover insurance offered by eBay. You can change the insurance carrier on the eBay labels page to USPS with the drop down menu. You can do this to check prices.
  • USPS insurance is included to $100 on Priority mail packages. This is actually very easy to file and collect on. I've done this twice this year – once for $60, once for the full hundred on a $200 item. In both cases I got a check from the USPS within two weeks. I just used a screen capture of the ended auction to show value, and the tracking number from the eBay order details page.
  • Speaking of insurance, eBay's seller protection will prevent a buyer from getting a refund if you ship to a confirmed address and the package is lost with an “Undeliverable Addressee Unknown” notation on the tracking.

    I had this happen in January 2018, when a buyer claimed he didn't receive the item. I called eBay on the phone and was told eBay would close the case and handle it. A confirmed address says “eligable for seller protection underneath it on the eBay labels page.

More on buyers and shipping complaints.

I bought a big collection of toy trucks earlier this year. There were 79 LARGE trucks.

To ship them, I bought boxes 20, 22, and 24 inches long to put them in from a local packaging supplier. I also got a bunch of boxes from Saxophones from a dumpster on my dog walking route – not just the instrument, but the instrument in a hard shelled case went in the boxes. Many of the boxes weighed over 30 pounds packed.

In a few cases I had to make my own boxes because the trucks were so big. I buy 4 by 8 foot sheets of cardboard from the box place for about $3.50 each. I know I can cut up other boxes, but folding a nice fresh sheet of cardboard is easier than dealing with some smelly thing dragged out of dumpster. Plus I just pass the cost of sheet to the buyer.

I had lots of complaint about shipping costs during the listings, but none of the buyers complained.

I charged one guy $90 to mail a truck. The truck sold for $925, and I made the box. I probably spent an hour packing that truck. I wrapped the truck in plain white newsprint, then wrapped it in bubble wrap, then in a layer of thick brown craft paper and nestled the whole thing into a box I'd made with Styrofoam sheets inserted on the ends. The packed box weighed in at 52 pounds.

He didn't complain.

Which was nice of him since I'd paid $107 in postage and eBay /paypalfees, and probably used another $5 worth of packing materials.

Two points here. I bought the truck figuring it would sell for about $600. It went for $325 more than that so even loosing $40 on the shipping puts me way over where I expected.

Secondly, I said earlier NONE of the buyers of the large trucks complained. All the serious buyers were fine with paying reasonable shipping charges. Only game players and cheap Yahoos complained and they didn't bid enough to win.

This means we can basically ignore anyone who complains about shipping charges before the listing ends. I immediately block them from bidding and cancel any bids they made before complaining. That's part of my new Zero Tolerance Policy. back to article.

Buyer complains about shipping after listing ends.

Here's an exchange with a buyer who bought an item with $90 shipping in the listing who complained about shipping minutes after the listing ended.

I had a large backyard train on eBay and the buyer immediately sent me a message about shipping after it ended. :

Could you please double check on lowest/slowest shipping service/cost and let me know if it’s lower than $90?

I immediately raised the shipping cost to $900 and told him to go play games with someone else. He replied with:

Excuse me????? I respectfully asked a fair question about shipping and insurance. I don’t understand your reaction. I won the auction, would like to pay a fair shipping price if you’ll cooperate. What do you say....

I replied to that message as below:

Shipping was clearly shown in the listing, but you think you can whine and beg to get a discount. No. I don't want to play. No response to this message is required. Go away.

He replied:

Wow....what in the world has you so angry. Whatever it is, I’m sorry for that.

As for submitting the winning bid on your loco and tender, I clearly saw the $90 shipping. I felt it was a fair question to ask you to check on that shipping price as my experience shows that $90 is at least twice what actual shipping could be. But if you want to treat shipping as an extra profit center that’s certainly your prerogative. And it’s my responsibility to pay the $90 that was shown in the auction.

Please send an invoice with $90 shipping, not $900. Will you please include insurance? I’ll send payment through as soon as I get the invoice.

I never responded to the message above or any of his future messages.

About an hour later I got a call from a toll free number. It was a woman with an Indian accent calling on eBay. She was calling on behalf of a buyer who was having trouble working out the deal with me.

When she mentioned the buyer's name I recognized him as the loco buyer from earlier. I told her I wasn't interested in solving the problem with the buyer because I refused to deal with extortionists and then said I was going to hang up. She said, “Okay, have a good night” and we both hung up.

A few minutes later I got this message from eBay:

Good day! One of your buyers contacted "giacomo6" us today asking for your response for the item that he committed to buy from an auction. This is for the item name " NAME REMOVED ". ( ########### ) Your buyer was asking for the shipping cost for $90.00 but you provided him an invoice for the shipping cost of $900.00. Hopefully, you can keep in touch with your trading partner soon.

I sold the train to the second place bidder. For 10 less. It cost me $86.00 to ship to a slightly closer address. Meaning $90 was not an outrageous shipping charge.

One thing I should mention is this is a very desirable loco. There are others listed on eBay for prices between $900 and 1600, but they don't seem to sell often for the higher prices. I bought it with the assumption that it was a $500 loco and was happy to get $515 that for it.

I also looked at the feedback this yahoo left for sellers. About 25% of the feedback he leaves as a buyer has comments like “Seller resolved problem with generous refund.” and “seller provided refund.” Here's a nice one. . . “Seller graciously issued refund!”

I can be gracious, but not to extortionists.

Here's a message from him a day later:

The closed auction page that verifies I submitted the winning bid states that shipping is $90. Your invoice shows shipping at $900. Please correct the invoice to reflect the shipping charge of $90 that was listed in the auction. Once I receive the corrected invoice I’ll process a payment of $611.00.

For the next few days I received daily, and sometimes twice daily, messages similar to the one above.

A non-paying bidder case was opened against the buyer automatically after 4 days without payment. This didn't seem to have an effect on his many messages, but did get him to contact eBay again. That resulted in eBay sending me a message:

Hello seller,

Thank you for selling here on eBay. We are contacting you in regards to the auction that was won by giacomo6. This is the " NAME REMOVED ". ( ########### ). There is some discrepancy on the shipping cost because in your listing it says $90 however in the buyer's invoice it is $900. Please have this one fixed.

We are hoping for your kind consideration.


I ignored the message, the nonpaying bidder case closed without him paying, and, more importantly, I avoided any after the sale problems with this bum.

In this case I had to ignore a stream of messages from the first buyer, and I got $10 less for the loco. But the second buyer gladly bought the loco and did not complain about anything.

Now I might seem harsh here, but I certainly don't want to put myself in the position of either being out $180 in round trip shipping costs or giving this yahoo a partial refund because that's how he does business.

This is also part of my Zero Tolerance Policy. I'm just not willing to put up with this crap anymore. I'm not willing to fight or argue, I just shut them down and move on to more respectful bidders and buyers.

There is no reason to put up with these Yahoos. There are plenty of willing, polite and grateful buyers out there.

back to article.


PS. Here's 21 additional eBay shipping tips.

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