AuctionBytes Blog
Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling.

AuctionBytes Blog The AuctionBytes Blog has been giving a voice to online merchants since its launch in 2005. Named one of the world's top 30 blogs in 2008 by "Blogging Heroes." Weigh in with your thoughts on the joys and pitfalls of selling online.
Thu Mar 27 2008 17:57:18

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

The low dollar is making US items attractive to overseas shoppers, a potential sweet spot for online merchants. But the challenges of international shipping could make it a high-risk venture. AuctionBytes will tackle the topic in an upcoming article, and we'd like to hear your thoughts.

What shipping methods do you use for international shipments?

How do you minimize the risk of claims of non-receipt - do you mail using tracking? Do you limit your sales to certain countries?

How do marketplaces make it easier (or more difficult) for merchants through their policies or features?

What would you like to see shipping carriers do to help your business?

What would you like marketplaces do to help minimize the risks of international shipping?

Have you ever had problems getting a package through customs?

How do buyers and sellers deal with the many fees that are tacked on for international buyers (examples are welcome).

When you leave a comment, please be sure and describe the type of items you buy/sell. Sellers, let us know how the cost, size and fragility of the items you sell play a factor in your decision to sell internationally and how you ship.




Comments (34) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Thomas Kramer

Thu Mar 27 18:37:12 2008

Sell on Ebay primarily Ebay Id allsportsoutletscom I right now limit to Canada and still have to put a huge disclaimer. I ship 99% UPS. Right now this is the most efficient way not USPS. They have higher fees with Canadian Customs. The customer must pay a Goods and Services Tax and a Brokerage Fee on top of shipping. I have received negative feedback even when I make this disclaimer. And forced to pay back some fee for threat of Negative feedback. Extortion(sp) I am about to stay in the US regardless of lost opportunities. Tom Kramer

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Beady Eye Guy

Thu Mar 27 20:04:59 2008

I ship USPS to all countries worldwide.  I ship music, toys and movies.  Rarely do I have a lost item (except in Italy and Canada sometimes) so overseas shipping has become very lucrative for me.

My items are low priced goods, so customs rarely is an issue.  Some customers are frustrated that a package can take 21 days to arrive, but many times they get it within 10 depending on the country.

I am a powerseller thanks to foreign buyers and they also constitute 50% of my Amazon biz (I do an average of 5-7K per month just on Amazon).

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Elsie Fitzgerald

Thu Mar 27 20:20:49 2008

If USPS can ship to the US, Hawaii, Alaska, and US territories with "Delivery Confirmation" as a tracking tool, then why can't we use it Internationally?  I would ship worldwide if there were some type of tracking that Ebay would accept.  I've lost many items and payments on items shipped especially to Canada.  

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Karen Johnson

Fri Mar 28 01:23:19 2008

Approximately 10% of my sales go internationally--mostly Europe, Australia and Canada.  I always use USPS with insurance, done through Endicia postage.  I had one package held up in USA customs for a month, and had actually shipped a replacement.  Both packages arrived a day apart!  

I've heard tales that if one ships other than post office, and the recipient doesn't pay the duty, it can be charged back to one's shipper account.  Apparently the post office will not leave it without duty being paid, but other carries will.

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: patricia

Fri Mar 28 01:33:05 2008

I offer artwork for sale - I do not offer larger works to overseas customers because of the costs involved.  I do offer small paintings and the collectible ACEO size paintings worldwide.  To date, I've had no problem with them.  I do have one beef, I sure wish Paypal would offer first class international shipping instead of just express or priority - both of which are far far too expensive.

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Gravy

Fri Mar 28 02:00:50 2008

International shipping is definately risky. I have had great success in getting my items to where they need to go, but one mishap erased my profits on 15 sales. It was a hard one to recover from and left me wondering if I was just doing free labor.

Some international buyers do not or will not read the listing completely. Another challenge is extortion. I have had several buyers demand that I circumvent customs by labeling my item as a gift, which I refuse outright.

One thing that continues to peeve me is that the USPS continues to raise rates, but their overall operation has not changed much. I would like to see REALTIME TRACKING on domestic and International orders. I would like to see more blue mailboxes in my BIG city and I would like to see some of the clerks trained better. Thank International shipping might be more profitable.

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: William

Fri Mar 28 07:03:02 2008

This is a real sore spot with me. PayPal keeps touting their new seller protection policy for powersellers, while we sit and wait for our ''invitation'' to participate. The new policy (if it ever really happens) would take some of the risk out of selling internationally.

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: zeak

Fri Mar 28 08:53:25 2008

10-15% of my buisness is overseas
i use usps exclusivley better bang for the buck and no hassels with duty fees.

important to remember paypal only recognises express mail as covered under new policys and this is extremely expensive.

i have had problems here and there with all countries but italy and spain seem to be the biggest problems. spain has strict policies regarding used clothing and italy has a very slow and corrupt mail system i stopped shipping to both.

usps.com has sections regarding restricted items and rules for each country. they also have a section that shows the status of foreign country mail systems (delays due to strikes and such)

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Jeanne Grazier

Fri Mar 28 09:01:18 2008

I do very little business internationally.  I have learned from your comments that I should be shipping UPS instead of USPS.  I only accept PayPal.  I had one humorous (in hindsight) incident.  I shipped a sheepskin coat to Japan in a used box from Staples.  It was returned with the message that it contained hazardous materials.  I thought it was because of the word Staples on the side of the box.  It turns out that there was a small 2 inch label on the box with a code that indicated the box had held Hazardous materials before.  All is well that ends well.

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Robin Crosby

Fri Mar 28 10:47:35 2008

Ming:

You got it all wrong.  I'm not in San Jose.  I've spent 7 years selling on eBay and am now living comfortably on the east coast and working part time when I want to, not NEED to.  Read that again in case you missed it.
You see, I actually learned something.  To manage selling as a business and not a hobby. I manage my business and make money despite what taxes the IRS hit me with or what FedEx did with shipping prices or what eBay did with final value fees.  It's called business acumen.

When you get done selling your mom's used oven mitts from her basement and sucking up to David and Ina (who shockingly never went to Northwestern J-School), take a long, hard look at your life and wonder what you might have to deal with if you couldn't sell online -- like get a job and be part of society.  You would have to shave the hump on your back, feed your mule, put on a suit like Quasimoto and interview for night watchman positions at the local condo complex. Or maybe the local XXX movie theatre working in the ticket booth.

Long live eBay and its $60 BILLION in GMV!

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Dirty Steve

Fri Mar 28 10:52:08 2008

If this is such an important venue for important active sellers and your boycott has been so miraculous... why then are eBay's listings up 10 percent year over year?  Hello!!!!!

Could it be you are all sand bagging and actually listing items while barking about being on strike? -Two faced jerks- Are you seeing the opportunity to actually sell more while real strikers strike?  Wouldnt that make you all the GREEDBayers?  

And all your silly focus on dropping listings is like saying that the ozone has a hole in it.  The company has been taking bad sellers and bad listings out back and beating them like an step son for many quarters now.  Its taken down category after category to keep guns and other absurd items off.  And, because eBay now has mulitple sources of revenue -- most of it from outside this country -- it doesn't have to sit back and be held hostage by all your whining.  

Strike all you want.  I'll be in Chicago with everyone else who makes money from home while you cry to auctionbites.com

You're all a bunch of frauds

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Ken

Fri Mar 28 10:59:48 2008

Coming from the other side of the pond, i have sold a lot of items internationally, from Ireland, to Europe and the US. These items ranged in size from photos to dvd players, shoes, fine china.
I very rarely used non-insured/trackable postage where possible, as you have no come back if it goes missing. I think it is very important to offer postage with and without insurance, but explain clearly why you recommend one over the other.
Sales to the UK and Europe for larger items were sent via shipping company, as it was cheaper and fully traceable.
Items to the US are sent registered with a track and trace number. Size definitely dictated items which were available to the US, basically if it was too large to be classed as a packet, it wasn't sold to the US as it was uneconomical to post, and shipping via dhl/fedex et al was not an option.
I will not ship to locations where i cannot provide some option for traceability.
How do buyers and sellers deal with the many fees that are tacked on for international buyers (examples are welcome). I think that it is important that as an international seller, i clearly show the S&H costs, and that i am not trying to extort buyers overseas. This is even more the case now with the weaker dollar.

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Dave

Fri Mar 28 11:46:35 2008

We offer high end tile products and ship about 10% internationally, mostly to Canada, England and Australia.  

We used to use FedEx Ground to ship to Canada.  FedEx sends the recipient a bill for the duty.  Someone decided to not pay for it and we were charged about $60.  After calls to FedEx and UPS, we were informed that that's their procedures.  The USPS won't give the package to the recipient without them paying the duty.  So we use Priority Mail International for all international packages.  You only get a Customs Declaration number to track by, but fortunately, we haven't had a lost package in 5 years.  Knock on wood!

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Richard

Fri Mar 28 23:05:55 2008

hi

Im in Canada - I sells books and mostly ship internationally mostly via surface mail -- mind you, my items are usually around 10 to 15$ so its not big deal to most people if they're ever lost -- which has happened only once in 4000 transactions .

But since the USPS has done away with surface shipping, I don't shop in the US anymore. Would love to with your low-valued $.. but its not a bargain with those prices for shipping.

We also use to buy CDS, lots of them.. but curiously when our American friends sends us gifts , the postage is about 2$... and there are now tons of CD sellers on eBay charging up to 7.50$ to ship one CD -- either they're scamming or they're clueless that Canada is NOT an international destination like the rest of the world.

ebay is now trying to 'define' the various marketplace shipping policies  -- it would help if they educated buyers instead of feeding them their never ending FREE SHIPPING mantra.

Richard

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Tim

Sat Mar 29 03:37:17 2008

I sell overseas, but the risks are much greater with more work to ship these items.  And, as noted above, one problem wipes out more profits than USA shipping.

I have a package lost in Germany now... looks like I'll be eating $90, including $22 in shipping.  The USPS and eBay/PayPal are no help at all... unless I ship via Express... which is so expensive that I wouldn't get any overseas sales to worry about!

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Keith

Sat Mar 29 08:35:05 2008

I am a seller of whatever I can make a buck or two on (ebay user name THEBIDKAHUNA)... With that said my main catagories are Military Insignia (small items) and Scrapbooking Stuff (Large Items) I only ship via USPS using endicia and also use the ''SCAN'' form which gets domestic items as accepted by the post office (check out there rates for all the extras) Oh and searching online with endicia for a shipping record is great and if you need help with something they have English speaking techs that know their stuff.  I spoke with my postmaster about my international packages which is about 40% of my sales since the mighty US dollar is in the toilet.  When I drop off my stuff the agents will do what's called a ''zero PVI'' which get's the international IN THE SYSTEM... Now bare in mind that UNLESS you ship EMS you don't really have any tracking that the pin heads at PayPal/eBay will accept when an item doesn't get there... With endicia you can insure all international regardless of the class of service.  I have had only one package not show up (so says the buyer)and that was to the UKRAINE and will see what it's like to put in a claim with endicia (can't be any worse than USPS).  Yes international is expensive, just look at rates to Australia and trust me the folks down under know how to look at USPS.com and see the rates too so they will understand that you are not ripping them off and pay a fair price for a much wanted item if they can only get it from you.

MORE IMPORTANT STUFF TO CONSIDER.....

DSR's will effect powersellers % and international can destroy your ratings.  FYI STAY AWAY FROM ITALY, CANADA IS OK MOST OF THE TIME!!!

The type of items you sell, I do not have problem one with Insignia collectors as compared to scrappers who don't seem to read the auction completly.

USE THE SHIPPING CALCULATOR if you have a ton of listings it will be a great help when the postage rates change and will make things CLEAR to the buyers.

HANDLING FEE's  I charge a greater handling fee for international for a couple of reasons being, it covers insurance cost's and the ''higher maintenance'' required for international buyers...

In closing if you are in the USA and you do not sell internationally you are walking away from a ton of sales.  Just be sure to try and understand how people think and what they expect in other countries (it's like us calling a company and getting a call center in INDIA) we all know how frustrating that can be LOL!

Just a couple of more things for all the complainers just get a life business is what it is on eBay and it will probably get worse before it gets better.  If there was an equal venue I would be there.  99 out of 100 times that you treat a customer how you want to be treated will end up being a ''good'' transaction.  If I can be of any help hit me up on SKYPE I am ''thebidkahuna''

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sat Mar 29 15:11:20 2008

While some of Keith's ideas are good ones, I for one have grown more than a little weary of omniscient sellers (especially those who can't spell or punctuate properly or write a grammatially correct and/or complete sentence) telling other sellers to "grow up" and/or "get a life" when legitimate complaints are aired against ebay.

You, sir, like some others on these blogs are in need of a course in courtesy and respect for others as are most of the ebay employees who couldn't elucidate a logical argument even if they were reading one written for them in one syllable words.

Here are some other shipping facts:

1. A seller can go directly to the USPS Click N Ship website and print out their own pre paid postage labels with the SCAN feature. If you don't pre pay your postage, you can download the new USPS Shipping Assistant software whose advantage is that it's much faster than using the USPS website. For Priority Mail items, delivery confirmation is currently free on or offline.

2. Endicia uses U-PIC insurance out of California. You can as easily set up your own FREE account with U-PIC. There are many excluded countries in either case -- many of them in Latin American and in areas of political and/or social unrest or war. There'a also at least another similar service, DSI, also out of California.

If there are any advantages to using Endicia for international shipments, I'm not clear about what they may be because the advantages Keith alludes to are available direct from the source free of charge including online USPS volume discounts.

The two principal advantages for using private insurance companies for domestic and international shipments are generally (not always, though) lower rates than either UPS or USPS and the actual insurance amount doesn't show on the shipping label if one wants to inflate the actual insurance charges from their buyers which I personally believe is a deceptive business practice.

Requiring insurance is at least a partial solution to the unfair and self serving PayPal requirement that proof of delivery must be online.

If an item doesn't arrive, the buyer sends a letter to the private insuror, and the seller can elect to refund the payment or have the insurance company send the check directly to the buyer. If the buyer refuses and reports to PayPal, the fact that the buyer wouldn't send a letter is part of your defense. You can always require the buyer to report the theft to their local police and enclose a copy of the police report with their letter. You might be surprised how many times you never hear another thing about a 'missing' package.

If ebay REALLY wanted to ameliorate a lot of these shipment problems, they could easily do so by requiring sellers to insure every shipment and by notifying buyers that insurance is now a requirement.

Ebay could also allow sellers to determine for themselves which countries they will and won't ship to.

There are, for example, some countries in South America that these private insurors won't cover. U-PIC, for example, excludes shipments to Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador while DSI excludes the abover as well as Mexico. USPS has no such restrictions for its insurance, but USPS does exclude certain categories of items. The exclude list is available online.

Similarly, the same is true for some countries in eastern Europe, most countries in the Middle East except Israel, and many if not all of the countries whose names end with the suffix -stan.

Sellers can also exercise decretion about whether online tracking is really necessary for repeat customers who've earned the seller's a trust.

Another consideration is the value of the sale. For example: under $100? Use IFCM with insurance. Over $100? Use International Express Mail. Explain to your customer that Paypal requires online trackability for the buyer ans seller protection policies.

Of course, ebay could very easily allow sellers to determine for themselves which countries they will or won't ship to which sellers SHOULD be able to do. For example, a seller can put"I don't ship to Italy" in the product description, but that means nothing to ebay. An Italian buyer won't be blocked, and since ebay doesn't care what ANY of your policies are, that buyer will still be able to neg you for non shipment or for any other reason.

Likewise, the reverse is true for South Africa which is relatively safe for international shipments. But who in their right mind would ship to Ruwanda or Nigeria or even Kenya? Yet ebay omits the enrire continent of Africa from list even though there is a South African ebay or ebay-partnered site.

The undeiable fact that ebay has never helped sellers to determine where they'll ship is simply another example in a very, very long list of ubiquitous ebay greed tactics.

By the time anything gets resolved on an international shipment gone wrong, the 45 day window to get FVF fees back has expired. So ebay loses exactly NOTHING, and the sellers absorbs the full impact of an international sale gone wrong.

The bottom line here is that if ebay and PayPal were to make some very minimal changes, many types international shipment problems would be eliminated or at least the risk to sellers could be reduced. Since neither ebay or PayPal are customer oriented, however, don't hold your breath.

Also it's important to remember that USPS Express Mail to Europe is a bargain for them! First, even after currency conversion, it costs them a lot more to send their various forms of Express Mail International. Our dollar is now worth about half of the British pound sterling silver and getting close to that in euros. So for many it's as if they're getting International Express Mail at about half of what they have pay especially when one consider that the first $100.00 of insurance is covered in the $25.00 cost (less to Canada).



Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: Keith

Sat Mar 29 16:53:12 2008

Hey ming great job including your spelling... but you sir do need to get a life...

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

by: dave

Sat Mar 29 16:57:16 2008

My solution to all of this is simple. I no longer ship internationally. Problem solved.

Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping   Joys and Pitfalls of International Shipping

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sat Mar 29 17:12:03 2008

You know, Keith, some people's minds work faster than others allowing them to get a lot accomplished in a very short period of time.

Click to view more comments
1 2  [Next Page]


Login is required to post comments.
To sign in to leave a comment using your AB Verify User Name, fill in the form below. If you have not yet signed up for AB Verify, or if you'd like more information, go to the Registration Page
.

Login for AB Verify
Be sure and use your email address and password to log in.

 
Email:
Password:
 
 Forgot Your Password?
 Even though you are signed in with the AuctionBytes Blog, you will have to sign in to the EcommerceBytes blog. But you can sign in with your existing AB Verify info.