continued from How to Sell on Ebay, page two
12. DON'T INFLATE YOUR SHIPPING CHARGES
Buyers are annoyed when they purchase a $5 dvd on Ebay and discover - too late - that they have to pay an $8 shipping charge, when they know that media rate shipping of one dvd is less than $2. They would usually feel much comfortable paying $10 for the dvd, and $3 for shipping, even if the total amount is the same. More people may look at auctions with low bids, but if the shipping charge is outlandish, the buyer is likely to look elsewhere, and feel distrustful of the seller. Excessively inflating shipping charges is also a violation of Ebay's terms of service.
Determining shipping costs in advance is difficult if shipping an item is not flat rate but zoned, and depends upon the location of the buyer, since you don't know before you have a buyer where you will be shipping. In Ebay's training program for becoming an Ebay Education Specialist, Ebay recommends that U.S. sellers shipping domestically calculate the shipping cost for the furthest distance from them in the continental U.S., and indicate that shipping charge.
I heartily disagree, and also disagree with choosing a midpoint distance so that you profit on some shipping charges and lose on others. When the buyer who lives 50 miles from you and paid $10 shipping receives his package from you and notes that postage was only $3, he may not be very happy.
I also don't recommend letting the buyer use the postage calculator on your listing page to determine shipping, since you then forfeit the option to add on a small amount for shipping materials, or must specify that as a separate handling charge. Adding a small fee for your shipping materials (and indeed your shipping time if you are packaging a fragile item, like china) is perfectly acceptable, but you will fare better if you incorporate them into your postage costs.
My own suggestion: Calculate the postage to a location near you and also the postage to a location as far as possible from you in the U.S. and indicate in your listing that the shipping amount will be in the range between those two costs, depending upon the buyer's distance from you.
13. OVERESTIMATE THE SHIPPING TIME
Tell your buyers (in your listings, invoice and payment confirmations) the estimated shipping time for the shipping methods you offer. But don't use the U.S. postal service or Ebay estimates - especially around Christmas. If the post office says that media rate or parcel post shipping time averages 5 days (not true!), then indicate 10 days, or 10-14 days.
You are NOT responsible for the speed of the US Post office or UPS but buyers' will frequently praise or criticize you in their feedback because the shipping time was more or less than they expected. Let them be pleasantly surprised that they received the item sooner than you told them it would arrive.
14. PACKAGE YOUR ITEM CAREFULLY
Package your items carefully, in many cases sealing them in protective wrap before placing them in a padded mailers or boxes, with enough breathing room so that they can survive rough treatment. Remember that postal employees often throw packages around, drop heavy packages on top of smaller ones, and leave packages out in the rain or snow.
Don't attempt to save 50 cents on packaging materials by insecurely packaging your items, and letting your customers decide whether or not to buy insurance. Usually they won't, but if items are damaged, customers will blame you, want a refund from you, and may give you negative feedback, whether or not they insured their items.
You can save money on postage costs for priority mail by using the free materials the U.S.P.S. provides. You can save packaging materials that you receive for your own orders, or pick up materials for free from local stores who recycle theirs.
Personal recommendations: I recommend joining your local Freecycle.org list (set preferences for nomail so you can check listings on the Web) and posting a notice for packing peanuts. Many people have bags of styrofoam peanuts that they no longer need. Also, an excellent low-cost online store for purchasing shipping supplies in bulk is Uline.
15. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
15. Answer your customers' email within 12 hours if possible. Have Ebay or Paypal send an automatic invoice as soon as the auction ends, and follow it if you wish with your own personalized invoice the next time you are online.
Promptly acknowledge payment soon after your customer pays, indicating when and how their order will be shipping and when they can expect to receive it. Include a packing slip indicating the item, item number and your contact information inside the package, with a personal thank you.
If you must use form letters, do so, but at least customize them so they don't sound as if they were written on an assembly line or as if no human being is available to personally attend to their concerns.
Indeed, you will elicit customer goodwill when you write your own your invoices, sometimes adding an informal note. A line such as "Be sure to check with the manufacturer before purchasing third party lenses with this digital camera - not all of them work. I learned the hard way!" might endear you to a customer whom you just saved from hours of disappointment and financial loss.
Indeed, you may discover that some of your customers who purchase items that once were dear to you, share common interests with you. A lively exchange of emails may result, and in some cases, online and even offline friendships may develop.
This is not such a rare occurrence. In my eight years selling on Ebay, I've become online friends with several dozen of my customers, five have visited me in Boston, and two have vacationed with me. Many put me on their favorite sellers list, and purchase dozens or even hundreds of items from me over the years.
All it takes is attractive, accurate listings, conscientious service, prompt communication and one friendly suggestion or inquiry added the top of their invoices.
Go back to How to Sell on Ebay, page one
Tracy is a certified Ebay Education Specialist conducting Ebay
in the Boston area; and an Ebay consultant helping people worldwide
how to buy and sell on Ebay as well as Amazon Marketplace. She is also
an Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements instructor. See further information on her Boston area classes and consulting.