Sellers should be very careful when using eBay to print FedEx shipping labels, a reader warned us. The seller recommended opening a FedEx account as a way of comparing eBay rates with FedEx direct rates (eBay offers a 37% discount off FedEx retail rates). And sellers should monitor the charges, comparing the eBay estimate with the actual amount it charges on its invoice, they said.
We took a look at the way the system works - it's explained on this help page
on eBay.com. It outlines the services it supports including FedEx SmartPost, Home Delivery, and Ground, and what the weight and dimensional restrictions are.
eBay warns sellers on that page about FedEx dimensional weight ("Dim weight") charges, "which means that using a larger box than you need could cost you more." That's because, as eBay explains, "the higher of the scale weight or dimensional weight will be used."
FedEx also has certain surcharges, such as an extra fee for delivering to a residential address rather than a business address. eBay warns: "Be sure to indicate if the buyer's address is a residential address (this should be done automatically on our label platform, and could mean a difference in cost.)" eBay doesn't mention whether it factors in other FedEx surcharges in its estimates, such as fuel surcharges.
eBay also notes that, "When you create a FedEx label on eBay, you see an estimated cost, but FedEx will assess the actual cost to be invoiced to you." eBay pays FedEx directly, and then adds sellers' FedEx shipping label costs to their monthly eBay invoice.
With all that said, the reader explained that beginning in February, they started noticing major discrepancies between the eBay estimates and the actual eBay charges.
"For example: I had a shipment for a customer who paid $35.07 for shipping, eBay said the FedEx shipping would cost $30.69, so I printed the shipping label with a weight of 20 Lbs. and shipped it out. I went to www.FedEx.com after it was delivered and looked up the tracking number to see what weight FedEx had for that shipment, FedEx said the weight was 22 Lbs. When I got my FedEx Invoice the weight was 51 Lbs. AND THE COST FOR THAT SHIPMENT WAS $51.40. Let me remind you here - The customer ONLY PAID $35.07 AND THE LABEL COST AT THE TIME I CREATED IT WAS $30.60 ! That is a $20.80 DIFFERENCE IN COST."
That sounds like it could be a dimensional weight issue - sellers also discussed overcharges and dim weight issues in this thread
on the eBay boards.
But the seller spoke to a FedEx who reviewed the box dimensions and said it had not been a factor. So how did FedEx show the weight at 22 pounds, but eBay ended up charging the seller for a 51-pound package? The seller said each company is blaming the other.
The reader told us that they keep track of FedEx estimates and actual charges (eBay only provides tracking numbers on their invoices, not the customers' names). You can then look up the tracking number on FedEx.com to see what it recorded as the weight of the package.
But the entire exercise of comparing rates and tracking charges and then disputing overages with customer service reps back and forth sounds as painful as an IRS audit.
The reader recommends just opening up a FedEx account and forgoing the eBay discount.
But there are tools sellers can use to compare rates among shipping carriers and print shipping labels that will also upload tracking information to eBay - we recently wrote about one such tool
in January, for example ("Comparing USPS, UPS, and FedEx Rates on One Screen
If you're having discrepancies between the shipping cost collected from buyers and what you pay shipping carriers, let us know. What advice would you offer sellers who are mired in a shipping quagmire?