Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Jan 20 2016 21:50:22

Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

By: Ina Steiner

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The rising cost of shipping is on sellers' minds as new 2016 postal rates took effect on Sunday. Some sellers fumed over the fact that the US Postal Service provides special rates to China Post and other Asian postal services that make it cheaper for Chinese sellers to reach US buyers for lightweight packages than for domestic sellers.

It's an issue we've been writing about for a long time, and we've been digging into it again this week as we also keep up with Sunday's rate changes.

"How much does it cost to send an 12 oz. e-Packet from Beijing to Los Angeles," a seller asked. "I'll bet it cost less then the same package going across the street to my neighbor. This is where I have a problem!"

Another reader pleaded with us to publish the ePacket rates in a chart side by side with the rates they pay to compare them in black and white. 

In October, the USPS told us, "The countries that have ePacket agreements with USPS are China, Hong Kong and Korea Post. We are unable to disclose rate information as it is commercially sensitive information of the USPS and foreign postal operators."

We asked the USPS again this week for the newly negotiated (October 1, 2015) ePacket rates with China Post, and received the following link to rates found on Chinese-language China EMS website

As it happens, Internet Retailer published a chart this week that shows a Chinese merchant can ship a 1.8 ounce package for $5 to the US with basic tracking through ePacket with a delivery time of 7 - 10 days. That compares to a basic China Post Airmail rate of $2 with no tracking and an express 2-5 day delivery with advance tracking from FedEx, DHL, or UPS for $40.

In June, when Amazon complained about ePacket rates to a Congressional subcommittee, we exposed the culprit: terminal dues, which are governed by the Universal Postal Union that sets "last mile delivery" rates between international postal services.

As Kenneth Corbin wrote in that article from June, "The Postal Service has said that it is trying to press for a better ePacket deal with China, but that its leverage is poor, given that China can always scrap the bilateral agreement and allow rates to revert to the more favorable UPU terminal dues."

He followed up with another article in December citing a report by the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG), which also took issue with the ePacket product.

So what can be done about terminal dues set by the UPU, which is set to meet in Istanbul this fall? Will anything be done soon to change a system that the OIG says puts small U.S. sellers at a competitive disadvantage?

Based on our initial research, the answer to the latter question is probably not. Expect to see more coverage on this issue as we continue reach out to experts and gather more information.

Comments (36) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Wed Jan 20 23:23:11 2016

The $2 price has to be a lie.

Here's a eBay item for .68 cents Buy it Now with FREE shipping from China.

171615515900

With eBay, Paypal and shipping the seller would be losing money.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: epuise This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 00:34:15 2016

WHY would USPS CARE if China takes its business 'elsewhere' ? The USPS LOSES money on those ePackets. Well, maybe when us U.S. customers' out-boud/overseas shipping business DROPS because WE are completely uncompetitive, they will realize they can't force 'the golden goose' to pay their (China's) way.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

This user has validated their user name. by: thehosst

Thu Jan 21 00:34:29 2016

This is incredible. Manufacturing jobs gone to China and postal rates at a great disadvantage, customer support jobs gone to India but internet and calling services much lower to offer more obstacle to businesses in the USA.

What really makes me very upset is the fact that eBay, Amazon or even the USPS haven'tr announced such a big change in postal prices and people are starting to complaint about why the shipping is almost same, if not more than the cost of an item.

Ina, is a well known fact that eBay sets selling caps on sellers, and I do not mean listing limits on items or dollars, I mean you sell no more than $xxxx a month. With the postage rates eating a big chunk of that sales restriction, do you know if eBay is considering reviewing those selling restrictions? As of today, we are pretty much working for eBay and USPS and our profit has been reduced to a very small percentage. Sometimes I think that eBay top execs see every seller as if we are all listing diamonds or rolex watches.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: expertbenefits This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 01:01:33 2016

USPS is thinking of the huge growth in China but they forget that China's super growth, while still good by comparison ( or it appears to be) is slowing down. Wonder if their model for e-packet pricing takes this into consideration? It's a wild card; exports could increase especially with the help of USPS. What if they misjudged the bottom line impact? UGH our rates will go up even more! it's like when PGE here in California made a HUGE error like a huge accident in San Bruno the rate payers pay. It was a tragic thing that resulted in deaths due to old gas lines but when you have a monopoly that is what happens. Fines then they raise rates to make up for it.  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: thebobman This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 01:21:54 2016

>well known fact that eBay sets selling caps on sellers, and I do not mean listing limits on items or dollars, I mean you sell no more than $xxxx a month.

How does that work, and how does one figure that out?

Below is my sales last year (rounded to nearest $100), middle column is ebay, right is Amazon. If they were really putting selling limits, shouldn't I see less variation from month to month?


jan 2799 3500
Feb 4199 2800
mar 3500 4300
apr 3200 3300
may 6000 4600
jun 3500 4400
jul 3300 5100
aug 4100 5200
sep 3100 4800
oct 2100 3400
nov 4200 4900
dec 3100 4700

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

This user has validated their user name. by: thehosst

Thu Jan 21 02:45:40 2016

thebobman, you have fewer sales than medium size sellers ( 15 to 30K a month ) so I guess you represent a less risky type of seller as eBay says. Once you reach a certain amount of sales, the selling limits are implemented, I can assure you that I sales of 30 days in the first day of the month, I wouldn't see any more sales for the rest of the month no matter how much I lowered prices, free shipping, fix pictures, add pictures and all that waste of energy stuff to keep you entertained click ads unwillingly so that eBay makes more money just for you being there. I have analytics for 4 years, my selling limits haven't change for 4 years, even with postage prices going up every year and adding 10,000 more items. eBay is a HUGE waste of time unless you are bored, do money laundry or are of course as the article says, selling from China : )

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 03:42:21 2016

Yes they have selling limits and if you sell a higher ticket item that put you close to their amount, you will not sell one more item for at least 7 days. Hopefully, the new CEO will fix that. As for Chinese sellers they are paying about 16 cents per e-packet with delivery confirmation. That is why the Post Office's deal with the Chinese is Classified. Make this an issue with those running for Office. The Legislators are the only ones that can fix this. Although, in my opinion it is a direct violation of Civil Rights for a US Government Office to benefit one group of citizens above another, even if they are International.
The other thing you all can do is quit buying Chinese item via mail order. Go to local dollar or import stores. Educate your friends and family members too. The business you save may be your own.  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Thu Jan 21 07:14:24 2016

thehosst is right. I know without a doubt once I reach a certain limit my sales come to a halt. I've spoken to the lying eBay CSRs about this over and over and they deny it. I call a big BS on that one.

I never get excited about a week of good sales because I always KNOW that the next week or two will be crickets.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

This user has validated their user name. by: White Rabbit

Thu Jan 21 08:01:04 2016

I received an item from china a month ago. the postage on it was 72c

My cost to mail it in the the usa? $2.60

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Thu Jan 21 08:59:50 2016

Don't look to Congress for help. Half of those idiots hate postal workers for having a union and decent benefits.  They're perfectly happy to run the USPS into bankruptcy, either through insane fiscal policies or turning working Americans against each other.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 09:09:46 2016

oh well, taxpayers and users of the postal systems can pay for china,

I order tons of e-packets from china, ''one piece at a time'' even if I need 100 pc., the cost to taxpayers and the postal users on most items, is at least 20x more then the actual cost of the item.

it's A TOTAL LAUGHABLE JOKE, and I COULDN'T CARE less, totally DONE with fighting it for way too MANY YEARS, have joined the club, it's less stressful

China is currently the second largest economy in the world, soon to be Number One.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: thebobman This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 10:20:37 2016

>thebobman, you have fewer sales than medium size sellers ( 15 to 30K a month ) so I guess you represent a less risky type of seller as eBay says.

Thanks, I guess I always assumed that I was a "bigger deal" than I really am. My items tend to be one of a kind, obscure computer/business related items. It takes 3 months to sell 50% of what I list, but generally 90% sell through in 12 months.

I made this pivot chart showing day of the month, and number of orders on that day in 2015 (so I got 32 orders on the 1st of the month with all months combined in 2015). Granted, 31st is smaller because not all months have a 31st. To me it seems little variation, and some bumps in sales after a typical payday. I used to have a daily sellthrough of 1% (I would get 1 sale a day for every 100 items I had listed), but dropped to about 0.6% because I have more OOAK and more slow sellers w/higher margin.

1 32
2 31
3 23
4 39
5 29
6 33
7 32
8 28
9 24
10 36
11 27
12 26
13 32
14 27
15 28
16 29
17 28
18 36
19 35
20 26
21 38
22 40
23 32
24 21
25 41
26 36
27 25
28 29
29 26
30 27
31 17

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: Frank F This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 10:28:11 2016

Its beyond believe that this is allowed to go on, with the Chinese actually 'direct retailing' to the American consumer, undercutting American Small business and hurting our job market and economy, and all the while getting subsidized shipping from our government paid for by the very same American consumer and American businesses.

This is so ANTI-American its pathetic and if Congress or someone in the government doesn't take action its will be a travesty.

EVERYONE should contact the Capital (202-224-3121), select senate or House and enter your zip code and you will get options to connect with your Senators and US Congressman! Call ALL of them and explain what is going on and TELL THEM you want this ANTI-AMERICAN PRACTICE TO STOP AND NOW! Let's all take a stand on this!

Oh and BTW, you see all the bills and laws going into place on Syrian immigrants and visa's for people from certain countries. That is PROOF that this works, as we have 10s of thousands of people call their offices so that they know that this was a BIG issue that MUST be ADDRESSED. LET'S DO THIS and get the work out on all the blogs and social media!

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Thu Jan 21 10:30:25 2016

....and eBay also places selling limits on hard working small businesspeople in the USA.

Between selling limits and e-packets from China, the eBay Cosa Nostra nearly makes it impossible to succeed.

Question is, when Baba buys the site, will it get worse? Can't help but think a Chinese owned company would favor their own people.

Hopefully they will listen to their paying customers (sellers, NOT buyers) and learn from the many mistakes the Bay has made. If not, they shouldn't waste their time and money expanding to the USA.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Thu Jan 21 10:45:53 2016

China's economic growth rate is the slowest in 25 years?  Karma?

Just remember, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: Randy This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 11:34:47 2016

@maxmad
How are tax payers involved? The Postal Service doesn't use tax dollars.  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Thu Jan 21 11:39:50 2016

Why should US Postal customers subsidize chinese sellers?

Every single person who uses the US Postal Service is paying for cheap chinese junk to be shipped to America.

SOMEONE NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: toyman This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 11:45:32 2016

What about the OTHER end of this problem??! The lightweight stuff is a dollar here or there. Let's talk the other end, the 4 to 5 pound packages.

I sell collectible cars and, 3-4 years ago, I had a HUGE International business, because these cars weren't readily available in other countries.

The first International rate increase (a couple years ago), turned my healthy business into a small sidelight business. This increase should finally wipe it out all together.

These diecast cars went from around $28 - $30 each to ship, a few years ago, to $50 - $55 shipping for each, to, now, $65 to $75 for shipping 1 car!  In many cases, the cost of shipping more than doubles the cost of buying the car!

Who, in their right mind, is going to consider buying from America at those shipping prices?!

Thank you USPS for your incredible business ineptitude wiping out a large portion of my business.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: shut1968 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 12:22:33 2016

USPS has stated time and time again that they intend to bring all of their international rates up to be on par with UPS and FedEX.. my question is if it cost the same or close to the same to ship using USPS,UPS, or FedEX who in their right mind would opt to use USPS??  We use USPS because it's cheaper, NOT because the service is better, while USPS may have improved some over the years their International service is still pretty much crap and was already over priced.

With the cheap shipping rates into the USA I've noticed a huge rise in bootleg/counterfeit Asian knock-offs especially in the Media sections. I've seen a huge amount of bootleg DVDs and Vinyl Records coming in from South Korea and search results are pulling International results up with USA items.. it's becoming a mess.

In regards to selling limits everyone has them, both eBay and Amazon, they've been placing limits on sellers for years, Amazon is just as bad, throttling your sales when you've hit a "velocity limit".. when someone tries to purchase your item and your under a limit a little notification will pop up telling the customer the item is currently not available from that seller so they have to purchase it from another seller.  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China   Online Sellers Fume over Low ePacket Postal Rates from China

by: Toledo Maude This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 21 12:24:17 2016

In 2013, the USPS raised international rates by 56%.  There went one third of my collectable business.

Now, I no long bother to list destinations other than the US.  

I must admit that I am completely surprised and pleased with orders from the West Coast (my most expensive shipping destination).  How much longer will West Coast buyers put up with these sky high shipping prices?

I did see a few international orders in 2015.  These were for large ticket items where $30 to $80 in shipping did not seem unreasonable.  

For 2016, any international orders (the few) will just be luck.

I wonder as well, what is the USPS thinking with these huge rate increases?  

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