|Sun Mar 16 2014 20:43:55|
eBay Sellers at the Mercy of USPS Tracking
By: Ina Steiner
eBay has placed increasing importance on tracking numbers in order to help it learn if sellers ship their orders in a timely fashion. In order to be a Top Rated Seller, for example, eBay sellers must upload tracking within their stated handling time on 90% of all transactions. Tracking also helps sellers in the case of a dispute.
But the phrase "between a rock and hard place" comes to mind when considering the position online sellers find themselves when it comes to eBay's requirements, the rock being eBay, and the hard place being shipping carriers. That frequently means the United States Postal Service, for lower volume shippers in particular. The reality is, USPS tracking problems do occur, and eBay judges sellers for factors outside their control.
USPS experiences glitches in which it recycles tracking numbers - see this August news story - and the problem crops up periodically. Last week, a reader wrote to me about duplicate tracking numbers:
"A couple of months ago, I shipped 2 different packages (on different days) with tracking numbers. It turned out that there was a duplicate tracking number on another package (mailed from a different post office here in Miami) for each of the packages that I mailed. I brought this to the attention of the manager at my PO. When I was at the PO this AM, the clerk told me that it happened again to 2 other people. It seems that there are duplicate tracking numbers "floating" around out there that have the potential for creating quite a mess with those of us that sell on eBay. My packages with the duplicate numbers showed the packages being initially scanned at my PO but then going to 2 totally wrong sorting facilities and being delivered to a totally different addresses than my packages were supposed to go to. My packages did end up being delivered to my buyers but the scans never showed that they were delivered (lucky for me that my buyers were honest!)."
Another problem I'm increasingly hearing about is a delay in the acceptance scan; it's appears to be a chronic problem since last fall. In a letter published last week, a reader wrote:
"A few weeks ago I noticed that my local USPS was "processing" packages 5 to 7 days after the packages were being dropped. The acceptance scan showed up to a week late, customers were not happy and were accusing me of shipping very late. Delivery was taking 12 days on average, after the "acceptance" date. It was either packages were being sent ground shipping or something else."
Glitches and delays happen - just ask Amazon or any online merchant about the week leading up to Christmas 2013. If eBay is going to rely on USPS tracking to judge sellers' performance, it seems reasonable to make allowances when tracking or delivery goes awry, but it's not clear there's any way for sellers to get a pass when things outside their control go wrong.
Is USPS tracking reliable, and what is your experience when something goes wrong? Feel free to share your war stories here.