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Sellers Quiz eBay Shipping Team on USPS Rates and Wrinkles

eBay held a live-chat session to answer sellers’ questions about the new USPS shipping rates that went into effect on Sunday. The discussion revealed several wrinkles in eBay’s implementation of the new rates into its online-postage printing system, as well as disappointment that sellers weren’t seeing greater discounts given eBay’s perceived bargaining power with the Postal Service.

In October, eBay had said it was working directly with the USPS to keep shipping rates low, and said, “In the past, we’ve been able to leverage the shipping volume eBay sellers generate to secure great discounted rates.”

A seller asked, given the hype preceding the rate increase, why was eBay only offering the same increased Commercial Base or Commercial Plus rates offered by services such as Stamps.com? “I’m certainly not the only seller disappointed with the results of eBay’s “negotiations” with the USPS regarding the Jan 17 rate increase,” the seller wrote.

eBay’s response: “We were able to continue offering Commercial Plus pricing to all sellers with eTRS status or 300+ transactions.” However, the USPS raised Commercial Plus rates significantly as it phases out the program.

eBay continued, “Also for Priority Mail Express and some of the international products, we were able to offer discounts lower than published rates.” A seller asked eBay to provide a chart of these rates for sellers’ reference. That request was not addressed.

eBay is also experiencing some technical issues – its bulk label printing program is displaying in decimal pounds instead of in ounces, which eBay’s Shipping Team representative said eBay was working to fix, along with a problem for sellers trying to print First Class Package Service between 13 – 16 ounces.

eBay is also unable to provide sellers with First Class postage labels for items weighing over 15 ounces but under 16 ounces due to a limitation of its system, but two eBay employees insisted that sellers print FCPS labels at the 16-ounce weight, despite that going against USPS rules that if a package weighs 16 ounces, it must ship Priority Mail, not First Class.

“Unfortunately, due to system limitations, we couldn’t put 15.99oz into our systems,” eBay said in the live chat. But despite eBay’s reassurances that sellers should proceed in printing labels for items over 15 ounces as 16 ounces but as First Class, sellers remained concerned that the USPS would deliver those packages as postage due.

Summary of responses relating to the issue:

Seller: “So if I have a package that weighs 15.2 ounces, I can’t ship via FCP due to eBay’s system limitations?”

eBay: “No … print using First Class package with 16oz. We are treating 15.99oz as 16oz in our system.”

Seller: “The problem is the USPS seems to be treating 16 ounces differently than eBay!”

eBay: “If you put in 16oz on the eBay label platform, it will be treated as 15.99oz and a First class label will be produced.”

Seller: “Jonathan, are you saying that if you use eBay shipping and put 16 ounces in, the weight of 15.99 will BE PRINTED ON THE LABEL? Or are you saying that the eBay system will just recognize the 16 oz. as being 15.99 and charge you for 15.99 ounces but 16 ounces will appear on the label? If the latter, the package could get rejected by the USPS.”

eBay: “We appreciate all the feedback and can appreciate the concern that you have. We are aware of the situation, are working with USPS and our product teams to ensure that you are not impacted. This was due to systems limitations. Our guidance is as follows:
14.1-15.0: 15 oz
15.1-15.99: 16oz
If you have issues with USPS, please private message me.”

eBay: “The label will say 16oz. To better protect yourself and buyers from potential overage charges, you can always ship via Priority Mail.”

Seller: “You can’t be serious”

Seller: “No we don’t want to ship Priority we want the special rates for FC up to 15.99”

For context, a package sent First Class Package Service weighing 15.99 ounces costs $3.65, while a package sent Priority Mail weighing 16 ounces costs $5.75 and up, a difference of $2.10-plus.

You can find the Live Chat session on the eBay website.

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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. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.