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Mon Feb 18 2008 11:12:09

Online Sellers and Shipping Woes

By: Ina Steiner

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Last fall I received an email from a reader who was upset that Amazon was no longer accepting USPS Delivery Confirmation (DC) as proof of delivery. She wrote that letter carriers scan DC at the delivery address only, not at the post office, so should be considered proof of delivery when buyers claim Item Not Received claims with marketplaces such as Amazon:

I happen to be not only an Amazon seller, but also married to a 20 year veteran USPS Letter Carrier, who is also a member of NALC (The National Association of Letter Carries, the Letter Carrier Union). Carriers are most certainly NOT allowed to scan packages at the post office-in fact, any carrier who's packages all start spouting scan times of 8am (which is before their "road time") will be disciplined. They are to scan packages **at the delivery address only**. If a package has a Delivery Confirmation scan, then it is 99.99% certain that package was delivered as addressed. (Obviously nothing is 100% but they work very hard to ensure it is delivered as accurately as is humanly possible). Yet Amazon is now currently denying 100% of claims where Delivery Confirmation has been used to ensure and prove delivery.

She elaborated and ended her email, "The logic that Amazon is using since the July 2007 AtoZ changes to deny these claims is severely flawed. Either kill AtoZ for sellers altogether, or do it right. But do not blame USPS."

Here is the Amazon policy in question and the part that has our reader so upset:

"Product(s) Shipped with Delivery Confirmation Tracking – Tracking Shows Delivery and Buyer Claims Item Not Received: The A-to-z Guarantee team will investigate the dispute. Amazon may contact the buyer to confirm non-receipt. If no receipt is confirmed, the seller may still be held liable for lack of fulfillment - Amazon will not cover service errors, including loss, theft, or postal/shipping issues. Amazon will, however, continue to protect sellers from fraudulent buyers and A-to-z Guarantee abusers."

I spoke to Shoshana Grove of the USPS about the fact that was not accepting Delivery Confirmation as proof of delivery in all cases, and here's what she said:

The policy in question is for Amazon Sellers. Reading their policy below, it appears that if there is a dispute, i.e. the Delivery Confirmation Tracking shows delivery, and the customer claims non-receipt, that the claim is considered on a case-by-case basis. It appears that loss or theft after delivery or loss due to misbeliever might not be covered by Amazon. The seller could still choose to cover the loss. Amazon advises sellers to use signature confirmation and/or insurance for high-value items. These guidelines seem reasonable. I would always advise any buyer or seller to read the fine print carefully before making a purchase.

Unfortunately, I don't have a resolution for sellers who pay extra for DC and then lose claims, finding themselves out both the item and the shipping costs. As I noted in January, Amazon replaces products they've shipped to customers when they receive claims, even after customers' neighbors have signed for them!

The USPS is working on something called Intelligent Mail, which I first read about in the blog, but today the Washington Post has an article that does a good job of explaining it (be sure and read the end). While it's a tracking service for Enterprise customers, I wondered if it could be integrated with PayPal Shipping Labels. I've asked several eBay and PayPal executives if this is what they are referring to when they say they are working with the USPS to improve tracking, and they say they can't comment on specifics.

Shipping and tracking issues get more difficult for sellers who ship internationally. One thing eBay sellers have complained about for years is that eBay won't let them block individual countries, but rather, it lumps certain countries together. I brought this up with Jeff Clementz of PayPal and John McDonald of eBay's Trust & Safety, in an interview earlier this month. I asked them why a seller wouldn't be able to block, say, Italy - which some sellers have told me has a notoriously bad postal system - but still ship to other European countries. John said it was a good idea (as if eBay had never heard the suggestion before). I tend to think the reason eBay's never unbundled countries may have more to with the way eBay prioritizes its programmers' time rather than eBay being unaware of the problem.

The high cost of shipping is hurting more than small online sellers. Catalog company Lillian Veron has had major layoffs and is now looking for a new owner, according to MultiChannelMerchant. Citing devastating increases in postal and parcel rates, coupled with a paper price hikes and a decrease in value of the U.S. dollar, Muoio says the company was left with no alternative than to find a new owner.

Consumers are being squeezed (especially with the word Recession being tossed around so much), and etailers are feeling the pinch. I'll end this long post with a letter I received from another reader this week, this one a buyer, not a seller. I've never said online selling was easy!

I may not be doing this right, but wanted to try to tell you how discouraged I am with a lot of the sellers on eBay now. I don't sell, just buy, and since the announced changes in what the sellers have to pay, the prices for shipping have gone through the roof. I don't think a piece of jewelry should have a shipping charge of $8 or more. And that is just one example. Now I am checking the shipping very carefully to be sure I don't spend more for that than for the item. If the sellers can't make it without gouging the buyers, then they should quit selling. Some things do cost more to send - china, glassware, very heavy items - but slipping a piece of jewelry into a padded envelope and putting some postage on it should not jack up the cost to ridiculous levels. Even if I would dearly love to own some of these items, the shipping costs completely turn me off and I pass them by. I hope the sellers wise up before too long and realize that they are driving buyers away. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I'm sure other buyers have noticed this same thing.


Comments (14) | Permalink

Readers Comments

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by: Mary Ann

Mon Feb 18 12:33:01 2008

I was away on vacation at Christmas, and USPS scanned as delivered a shipment to me from Bookins, even though our mail was on hold at the Post Office until we returned. So, I would say that not 100% of DC items are scanned on delivery at the address. Our package should have been scanned as delivered when I arrived at the PO to pick up my mail and restart delivery after our trip.

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by: jsicolts

Mon Feb 18 13:19:10 2008

Not surprised Amazon is doing that. They gave us such a hard time as well. At and DC is of course proof of mailing & delivery.

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by: jackieh41

Tue Feb 19 06:01:31 2008

I think the person complaining about the shipping really does not realize what it costs to ship items,  especially if they are professionally and well packaged to insure or try and prevent damage during shipping.  This type of packaging also increases weight.  It is a very very tight margin.  To pack a piece of jewelry into a padded envelope,  at least in most cases is not adequate.  And,  then,  the complaints regarding the amount of time the package costs to ship always come,  even though a seller may ship daily.  I think that there are indeed sellers who gouge buyers,  but most are just trying to get their products sold and out in one piece, as quickly as they can.  Shipping is not only getting the item there,  but the boxes, cushioning,  water protection, and in the case of jewelry,  the smaller jewelry box.

Lots more going on here,  and more costs  than most people realize.


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by: jsicolts

Tue Feb 19 06:34:20 2008

We state on our listings : Negative feedback for Shipping & handling fees are ignored. ....
The Postal disservice is the culprit here.
We would like to see the postal service Privitized.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers and Shipping Woes   Online Sellers and Shipping Woes

by: Renee

Tue Feb 19 07:38:32 2008

With the new postage increase coming it May and increased fees at eBay the little seller is toast.  There is no way to absorb these hikes without passing them on to the buyer but if we pass them on to the buyer no one will buy.  On top of that PayPal and eBay can hold our money for 21 days, require us to pay double or triple for signature confirmation and snatch funds out of our bank accounts when they decide to refund a buyer whether we agree or not.

This is the way I think it should work.  Sellers pay no listing fees, no postage and no final value fees.  Buyers pay all fees.  How long do you think eBay would stay in business if that were the case.  eBay and PayPal need to rethink who pads their purses.  They work for us, the sellers, not the buyers.

eBay, PayPal and Buyers have to leave us some margin for profit.  We need to feed and provide for our families just like they do.  

I use to say that eBay was the great equalizer.  It did not matter if you were a mega corporation or one man show, on eBay you each had an equal chance.  Not anymore.  eBay has lined up with the big boys and the rest of us are not allowed to play.

And, just curious, but when is someone (the government) going to put a halt to these postal increases.  They seem to be coming every six months now.  In my business, if I am not making a profit, I have to cut corners and layoff employees.  Why doesn't the US Post office have to do the same thing.  This is getting truly ridiculous.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers and Shipping Woes   Online Sellers and Shipping Woes

by: fish noir foul

Tue Feb 19 07:58:07 2008

FYI: The new Postal Rates are not across the board increases. Presorted rates are actually being DECREASED. This is effectively a shifting of revenues from big business mailers to the little guys.

To the buyers who think seller shipping rates are too high. Just don't buy the item. Why should seller not offer it? It doesn't make sense.

I do agree some sellers gouge but the only time it bother's me is when they have an item I think is worth, say, $10  (including s&h) that they offer for 99 cents and $8.99 S&H.

If the item is defective they will return my 99 cents but pocket the S&H charge.

This happens with SD Memory cards. They cost about 50 cents to ship.

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by: RatherRuss

Tue Feb 19 10:11:27 2008

My question to buyers is, why not go to your local store and get it?  If they have, if they don't just figure what the shipping is plus the cost and decide if you want or need it at that cost.  Sellers set prices according to their needs, so unless you want it, skip rules say they have to sell it cheaper, whether the cost of item or shipping, and no one is forcing you to buy....???  If I don't like the price on a lot of CDS because shipping made it more than going to the store, I skip complaints, no negatives, nothing....and remember unless the seller says he will deliver it to your door, there is someone between you and he or she, the post office, the UPS, the Fedex, a trucking company and this is meat space, not cyber ain't instantaneous.  I used to be in mail order with catalogues, 10,000 every six weeks, 20,000 customers (would that ebay provided that) and over 5 years, less problems that 4 years on ebay with barely 400 sales a what is the difference???

Perminate Link for Online Sellers and Shipping Woes   Online Sellers and Shipping Woes


Thu Feb 21 08:53:09 2008

Buyers complaining about shipping costs are out of line placing blame on all Sellers in general. Yes, it's true that there are some Sellers who over-inflate S&H Fees. But for the rest of us, we have no control over the increases continuing to rise, no thanks to the USPS. I charge a $2.00 S&H fee on all packages. Buyers don't understand how expensive mailing supplies can be. All items are sent in bubblemailers & envelopes with bubblewrap when additional protection is needed. Items sent in boxes are also wrapped in bubblewrap & packing peanuts are added for extra protection. By the time I pay the additional fee for Delivery Confirmation, I'm lucky if I make an extra 25 cents per package.

If these same Buyers who are complaining about shipping costs tried their hand at selling, they would feel differently.  And if they don't like paying for shipping, then let them shop at a store where the prices are generally over-inflated & sales tax is added to the cost.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers and Shipping Woes   Online Sellers and Shipping Woes

by: Shadow Fire Promotions, Inc.

Thu Feb 21 21:00:54 2008

Delivery Confirmation is still not infallible.  We have a Post Office box, and an item was scanned as delivered, but never put in our box.  We're currently in the process of pursuing legal action with regard to it.  Most carriers (at least in Chicago) are EXCEPTIONALLY lazy, and don't want to work.  As you may or may not know, the Post Office is considered a government job, and thus, nearly impossible to fire someone from.  As a result, carriers don't feel they have an obligation to work, since they can't be fired.  The end result is non-delivery of mail and mail theft.  If your package is scanned "delivered", the Post Office considers it gospel, and will refuse to check into the matter for you, despite their scanners requiring workers to check them out, so it would be very easy to determine who scanned your item delivered.  Signature Confirmation, despite being twice as expensive, is the only way to actually guarantee a package arrival.  Delivery Confirmation rests within the hands of your Postal Employee and if he feels like working, or not, and if he likes what is in your package or not.  Anything that resembles a CD, DVD, video, or anything else WILL be "checked" by Postal Employees.  Checked, of course, meaning stolen by Postal employees.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers and Shipping Woes   Online Sellers and Shipping Woes

by: lisa

Fri Feb 22 13:14:17 2008

Regarding shipping charges:

Buyers need to remember that shipping does not equal postage.  Shipping is postage plus expenses.  Expenses are things such as peanuts, bubble wrap, boxes, mailers, gas and time.  These things are not cheap.  

Shipping on eBay is reasonable when compared with most major retailers and mail order catalogs.  If a buyer disagrees, they shouldn't bid, rather than asking sellers to stop selling.

The same buyer who complains about excessive shipping charges is often the same buyer who complains about poor packaging.  They seem to want premium packaging for free.

In this specific case, however, the buyer thinks a piece of jewelry would make it safely to her if simply slipped into a padded envelope.  I think she would be bitterly disappointed when her  item arrived smashed.

As a buyer, I love shopping on the internet from the comfort of my own home.  When I see shipping charges that give me pause, I consider: Do I really want to change out of my PJs, put on shoes, drive around town, and use up my time and gas hoping to save a dollar?

NOPE!  I'm willing to pay the seller to do that for me.  I'm willing to pay them to package my item carefully.  That's why I shop online.

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by: Julianna

Sat Feb 23 10:49:55 2008

The problem I, as a Canadian seller, have with USA buyers is this:  they simply do not understand my country's postal system and rates.  Our rates are not USPS rates.  In most cases if not all, our rates are higher on average than theirs, nor do we have cheap services such as Media Mail for smaller items.  

I post my listing fees on my auctions, but I constantly get dingged on my DSRs for shipping rates by USA buyers.  This makes no sense to me.  Buyers should not be able to ding ANY sellers when S&H rates are clearly posted in the ad when they place a bid!!

As well, Canadian sellers cannot track a Small Packet item.  Thus, buyers who claim non-delivery always win Paypal claims because we cannot "prove" that Small Packet items have been sent.  This leads to a lot of unscrupulous buying practises.  Ask any Canadian seller.

Another problem is that Canadian sellers cannot track any traceable item beyond the USA border.  We can only tell buyers when the item left the Caandian sorting facility.  After that, it is in the hands of the USPS, who do not track Canadian packages.

Lastly, Canadian sellers suffer poor DSRs (and risk neutrals and negatives)when sending items to the USA becuase of slow shipping times.  USA buyers need to understand that buying an item from a Canadian sellers makes it an INTERNATIONAL sale, subject to Customs inspections.  When Customs detains a package for inspection, it can add up to 72 hours to the delivery time.  Customs does not contact shipper when they do this, so we Canadian sellers have no idea if an item is being held up in Customs.  

I advise my buyers to check the postmark to prove I did MY part in shipping the package in a timely fashion.  After that, they cannot blame me - they can blame the slow postal services of both our countries.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers and Shipping Woes   Online Sellers and Shipping Woes

by: Lisa

Sat Feb 23 14:38:19 2008

Your comments are very interesting to me.  They exactly describe the problems I have had as a USA seller with Canadian buyers.  In fact, I reluctantly quit shipping to Canada because of the same issues you cite: slow shipping times, increased expense, unwarranted neg due to customs.  

My only negative is from a Canadian buyer who was angry at the amount they had to pay for customs, something over which I did not have any control.

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement: "Buyers should not be able to ding ANY sellers when S&H rates are clearly posted in the ad when they place a bid!!" AMEN!

Perminate Link for Online Sellers and Shipping Woes   Online Sellers and Shipping Woes

by: Julieanna

Sat Feb 23 22:52:15 2008

Hi Lisa, I understand that it works both ways.  I think a little education goes a long way.  That is why my Terms Of Service in my auction are sooo long - seems I HAVE to post them to cover myself.  That is, if only my USA buyers would take the time to actually READ them.

You said:  ''My only negative is from a Canadian buyer who was angry at the amount they had to pay for customs, something over which I did not have any control.''

Actually, this IS something you can do.  I find that, when buying from a USA seller, they often do not write the Customs form properly.  The value of an item being shipped is SUPPOSED to be what the buyer actually paid for the item, and that does not include the S&H.  Many times, USA sellers will fill in the form with some random amount, or include the S&H.  Anything valued at over $19.99, and we will have to pay duty and brokerage fees, which can be very high.  I believe a seller who does this deserves not-so-stellar FB since they shouldn't be selling to Canada in the first place unless and until they understand Customs.

It's different for USA buyers.  They can accept a Canadian import valued up to $200 without uincurring any duty/brokerage.  

So much for NAFTA, eh?

Perminate Link for Online Sellers and Shipping Woes   Online Sellers and Shipping Woes

by: Adam

Thu Mar 13 03:31:27 2008

Delivery Confirmation does not provide information of delivery to the address, only the ZIP code. No wonder Amazon will not accept is as a confirmation of delivery to intended addressee's address.

low cost Delivery Confirmation service gives you the date, ZIP Code™ and time your article was delivered.

From DC FAQ on
''What can I do if my Delivery Confirmation mailpiece hasn't been delivered? ... Delivery Confirmation only provides you with a confirmation of the delivery date and time once the article has been delivered to the addressee's Post Office; it does not provide for any tracking through the mail stream...''

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