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eBay Confuses and Irks Sellers with Holiday Shipping Discount

eBay is extending commercial rates it receives from the U.S. Postal Service to more sellers during the holidays, but for some, the practice is raising a number of questions while irking others.

The eBay Labels program allows sellers to pay for postage and print shipping labels on eBay and pay using PayPal. The USPS tracking number is automatically updated on My eBay and the eBay order details page, and eBay sends an email with the tracking number to buyers so that they know the item has shipped.

Because eBay added a “holiday shipping discount” designation to the postage cost section this season, sellers who’d already been getting the discount were wondering if the discount would end for them after the holidays. One reader noted, “For the first time when I printed a label with eBay Shipping the expires label had the same discount, but it showed as HOLIDAY discount – to me that means that that discount is going away after Christmas.”

Another reader wrote, “Just noticed eBay is offering holiday 20% discount on shipping-example- Flat rate padded envelope is normally, $5.95, but with normal eBay shipping label discount we have been paying $5.70. Today, Nov 1, when I go to print out label, it notes, $5.95 for shipping minus 20% holiday discount = $5.70. What is this? Does this mean when the holidays are over, eBay is planning on eliminating the normal shipping discount? Please note we are not Top Rated Sellers due to shipping rates feedback. I looked on eBay’s message boards and they indicated the 20% is on top of TRS discount.”

She later wrote back to say eBay customer service told her to disregard the message, telling her “it was verbiage since everyone now has the 20% off shipping discount for holidays and we shouldn’t lose regular discount after Dec. 31.”

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Other sellers also noted the fact that eBay added a line about a discount on their eBay Labels invoice, but eBay continued to charge them the same amount for postage. “eBay is now going out of their way to take credit for a shipping discount that they have nothing to do with,” wrote one seller. “For example: All packages weighing up to 3 ounces result in me paying $1.69 in actual USPS postage costs. Recently as I was printing my shipping labels from eBay/PayPal’s integrated Pitney Bowes “Purchase and print USPS postage” page, I noticed the following line, in green, has been added above the “Total: $1.69” line: Your Holiday Discount (18%): -$0.38.

“The amount hasn’t changed… but the Holiday Discount comment has suddenly been appeared. Am I justified to be angered by the hubris of their latest spin on reality? Or should I send them a thank you letter for providing me with a discount that I’ve been getting for the last 10 months?”

eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore had previously explained that eBay was extending during the holidays the discount that Top Rated Sellers and Platinum/Titanium sellers receive to all sellers who had 50 transactions or more per month, and said Gold/Silver Sellers (those with 300-2,500 transactions/month) would receive a deeper discount than they get year-round.

One seller explained his understanding of eBay’s holiday postage discount program in a discussion board, writing, “The only “Holiday” part is that until Dec 31, the eligibility criteria for who gets Commercial Plus rates have been extended to anybody who’s not a TRS but had more than 50 transactions last month. So unless you’re in that select group, prices are the same and the “holiday” discount is the discount you’ve been getting all along.”

One EcommerceBytes reader wrote, “I sell and ship a lot of postcards on eBay. So I know that to ship a 3 ounce envelope 1st class postage with a tracking number is always $1.69. Imagine my surprise when eBay shows a “discount” in shipping – for the Holiday Season they say. They up’d the price of shipping and “discounted” it back down to $1.69.

“Same thing for 13 ounces which is what the weight was on this grouping of stainless steel flatware. They up’d the price of 13 ounces 1st class postage to $3.77 and then “discounted” it back down to $3.38 – THE NORMAL SHIPPING COST. And if you go to www.usps.com the shipping rate for 13 ounces is even lower: $3.32! How can eBay get (away) with this?”

Yet another seller wrote to EcommerceBytes explaining that because they had taken a vacation and did not have 50 transactions for the month preceding the promotion, “Now eBay is telling me that I don’t qualify for the Holiday Savings program. I qualified all year for a discount, but now sellers who are not Top Rated are being given a discount and mine has been taken away. No wonder so many people are mad at eBay.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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.