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Sun Mar 17 2013 15:06:08

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

By: Brian Cohen

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eBay recently filed a patent application for "Flexible Shipping Delivery" with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Not quite a "virtual receptionist," bidders/buyers would not have to be physically present but would be able to sign for items from a remote location (e.g. from their cell phone) for shipments requiring signature confirmation.

eBay describes the conundrum in its patent:

The user will typically have to specify the destination address where the user would like the item to be shipped. The destination address may be, for example, a residence address or a business address of the user. However, the user may be required to be physically present at the destination address for items requiring a signature confirmation. When the user misses the delivery, the user typically would have to pick up the item at a predetermined location causing much frustration and wasted time.

and of course their solution:

"...(The invention is) sending notifications of shipment statuses and opportunities to adjust delivery options to a customer. The shipping delivery application can store the user's preset delivery preferences and electronic signatures (or any other types of encrypted identity/confirmation mechanisms, such as fingerprints, Personal Identification Number (PIN) codes, etc.) to transmit to the shipping carriers when needed. "

"...For example, when the shipping carrier is at the customer's door and no one is there to receive the package, the user's electronic signature can be sent to shipping carrier to literally sign for the package, so as to save another trip for the carrier or the customer. In addition to storing the users preset delivery preferences and the electronic signatures, the flexible shipping delivery application can facilitate in real-time the statuses of the shipment to the user and the communication of the user's preferences to the shipping carrier. These notifications can be sent to and from various platforms, such as mobile devices."


There is a funny quote usually attributed to the movie Bukaroo Bonzai and it goes like this, "No matter where you go, there you are." The Flexible Shipping Delivery embodies the spirit of this passage. Although there are still hurdles in shipping logistics yet to be overcome, we are coming closer to the reality of wherever you are, your item can be delivered.

While sellers should applaud this patent as it removes barriers to deliver your item, it opens up the door to questions of liability in case of an insurance claim. I was reminded of Google's driverless car and lawmakers recently asking the question, "Who is to blame if a driverless car gets in a wreck?"

As we delegate responsibilities to automated processes and those processes malfunction or do not provide the desired outcome, it starts to become confusing as to who is liable. There will also be resistance from sellers who believe the physical presence of the buyer for delivery confirmation to be sacrosanct, and without further review of patents of major shipping companies, I would guess they believe the same.

In addition to "Flexible Shipping Delivery," eBay also recently filed for the clever "Third Party Token System for Anonymous Shipping" (a.k.a. anonymous shipping).

eBay has also rolled out eBay Now: "From your phone to your door in about an hour" where eBay's "valet" "will pick up and deliver the item to you...We go to a local store, pick up the item, and hand deliver it wherever you happen to be."  

With eBay's recent adventures in shipping, one has to wonder if eBay will ever make a major move in shipping sector. eBay is making the eBay experience a closed circuit from point of purchase to delivery if it cuts out the middle men. Some have even speculated that eBay's anonymous shipping patent is one way to shift towards a "Fulfilled by Amazon" type experience where Items are offered by a third-party sellers, but shipped from an eBay fulfillment center.

One only needs to look back at the acquisitions of Billpoint and PayPal and to find the eBay experience becoming a self contained ecosystem.

UPS has a market capitalization that rivals that of eBay. However eBay's market capitalization is twice that of FedEx. Make no mistake, this is highly speculative in nature. While PayPal was purchased for a mere $1.5 billion over ten years ago, FedEx is about a $35 billion company today.

As eBay removes the number of functions outsourced to others, the only middleman left will be you the seller.

What do you think about eBay's Flexible Shipping Delivery? Let us know below!

About the Author
Brian Cohen has been an active member of the eBay community since May 1998. He currently trades under the member name Bidofthis.com. His first AuctionBytes article was published in May 2002. Brian can be contacted through his website at BidofThis.com where he always has a "little Bid of This and little Bid of That."




Comments (11) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Sun Mar 17 19:08:07 2013

New avenues of potential seller abuse keep coming out of this company, doesn't it??

I as a seller do not want my item valued at $250 or more left on a buyers doorstep.
If you WORK during the day WATCH for a slip from your Post Office, where it will be safely held for pickup.

Mass Howler

PS: Now ebay THINKS they can do SHIPPING better and smarter that the shipping companies- WOW.

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Mon Mar 18 00:56:52 2013

Run away! Run away! As fast and as far as you can!

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

This user has validated their user name. by: elpereles

Mon Mar 18 01:11:02 2013

WTF! Is a patent application or just other fee excuse? Or worst other stupid idea to increase stress to the sellers and the USPS.

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 18 01:16:50 2013

Yep and I am gonna remotely buzz in the CABLE GUY and his brother in law Guido into my HOUSE if I am not home when they get there too.

Gonna be a cold cold COLD day before either of these will happen in my 'lil world.

What happens AFTER the package is left out on the porch?  Will ebay "Valets" insure and assure that the item STAYS there?   Who's to say that THEY won't grab it after the item is "signed for"?  

And as far as ebay getting MY items into their grubby 'lil mismanaged paws to open and inspect and drop and dirty and steal--Yep THAT'LL happen.  

Any one on here old enough to remember the old luggage commercial with the "Savage Baggage Handler" who was actually a gorilla?

That's pretty much what comes to MY mind when it comes to ebay handling ANY aspect of "shipping".  

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

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

Mon Mar 18 02:49:48 2013

UPS is currently running one of "Logistics" ads about this concept.

As far as ebafia and PrepayPal are concerned, however, this concept would be in direct contradiction of the PreyPal policy that holds sellers accountable for alleged INRs when packages are forwarded by the original addressee to another party.

This is another example why this corporation has gotten too large, and its own employees are so ignorant of existing policies that they're constantly creating Catch 22s for sellers.

This is a disaster waiting to happen until USPS gets its scanning and tracking protocols up to snuff.

The genius who created the monumental failure concept of one day urban delivery and ebafia branded delivery vans should be relegated to restocking the ebafia latte and health food vending machines.

These idiots just don't live in the real world.

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

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

Mon Mar 18 02:50:57 2013

Make that ANY forwarded package that allegedly doesn't arrive.

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 18 12:34:17 2013

I am sure that this "verification of Digital signatures" will cause no problems for ebay sellers!
JUST WHAT will sellers and ebay DO when buyers say these EXPENSIVE items are MISSING from their porch-WHO will REIMBURSE in these instances??
I can see it now- a buyers 13 year old son is home and signs for the package- the buyer says that is not my signature- Item free it will happen REGULARLY.
New strategy for buyers to receive VERY EXPENSIVE items free- let somebody ELSE sign and SAY- it wasn't signed for by me, we didn't receive- PO MUST HAVE misdelivered- REFUND.
BRILLIANT JD!
MH

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Mon Mar 18 15:08:23 2013

Yet another vague and overly-broad software patent. It's ridiculous for patents to be issued for such non-specific ideas. This is not an invention, just an idea and it doesn't deserve patent protection.

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

by: PowerSeller2007 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 19 08:02:43 2013

The USPTO would be so stupid to approve ebay's patent.  No toxic patent should be issued that would harm the free market.

It could be that ebay got the idea from an ebay seller and not an ebay original idea.  Therefore ALL emails sent by these people to ebay should be kept and notarized as proofs.

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

by: Terry in Texas This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 19 12:05:33 2013

I'm with Annie. and i'm running as fast as i can......

eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery   eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery

by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 20 03:24:34 2013

Patent nonsense. This is about as original as allowing your next door neighbor to receive a package for you.  



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