EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 3074 - May 28, 2013     1 of 3

eBay Global Shipping Program Exposes Sellers to Bad Feedback

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In its push to promote international trade, eBay is making U.S. sellers vulnerable to negative and neutral feedback. The concept of helping international buyers purchase items from U.S. merchants by providing freight forwarding and associated services is nothing new (eBay did a deal with Shop Airlines in Japan a number of years ago), but the Global Shipping Program (GSP) takes the concept to a new level. But eBay doesn't appear to have built mechanisms to fully protect participating sellers for factors outside their control.

The program works as follows. When a buyer in the UK purchases an item from a U.S. seller who is opted into the GSP program, the seller sends the item to a domestic location and eBay's proxy, Pitney Bowes, is then responsible for international delivery to the buyer. The key to the program is that the cost of the item plus the full domestic and international shipping charges as well as taxes, duties and custom charges are all displayed to the international buyer fully - before they click the buy button.

It sounds good in theory - if the buyer doesn't like the high costs of international fulfillment, they will move on rather than purchase the item. But as almost any eBay seller can tell you, it doesn't always work that way. Buyers often purchase items and complain about costs after the fact.

eBay promised to protect sellers from ship cost and ship time DSRs on GSP transactions, and on the eBay help page, the marketplace explains how sellers are protected:

  • Although you're responsible for getting the package safely to the US shipping center, you won't be charged if the item is damaged or lost during international shipping.

  • You're also covered by PayPal Seller Protection, so you get the same protection for your international sales that you get within the US.

  • If a buyer opens an eBay Buyer Protection case and the international shipping provider is found to be at fault, the case will not count toward your seller performance.

But eBay does not protect sellers from negative or neutral feedback ratings, even when the cause of the bad feedback is clearly due to the high costs of the GSP program. A longtime EcommerceBytes reader received a neutral feedback rating from an international GSP customer who praised the item in the associated feedback comment, but said the shipping costs were too high.

It's worth noting that the seller had been quite pleased with the program up until this point, but said there's no way to get the neutral feedback rating removed even though it's clear the buyer left it due to the fully transparent GSP shipping costs. She even noted the shipping cost wasn't much higher than she herself would have charged the international buyer.

At least for now, sellers can choose to opt in to the GSP program, although eBay caused a lot of confusion when it recently updated its User Agreement, so reviewing GSP settings after July 1st is advised.

Why would eBay protect shipping cost DSR but leave sellers' feedback ratings exposed? We've got a question in to eBay's PR department to find out.

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About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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