A reader informed us that eBay has begun undercharging his buyers for international shipping - and since he can't reach anyone in eBay customer service who can help him, he's left paying the difference.
The problem is proving costly for our reader, named Bill. For example, Bill said eBay charged three of his European buyers about 60% of what he had to pay for shipping in a single day, costing him about $50.
Based on his description of the problem, we suspected the problem might be related to a change USPS made in January, so we reached out to shipping expert Eric Nash who has written about the postal price change on the Stamps.com blog.
Here's the reader's initial description of the billing problem:
"I have multiple items going to Europe. All buyers were only charged about 60% of what I have to pay for shipping, even after my discount. This has occurred on 3 items today, so I suspect this is a major problem, perhaps the reason eBay's customer service system appears to be overloaded. This also happened earlier in the week to a few domestic sales, and for those the $ cost difference was not worth calling eBay. All of these have been associated with First Class mail, USPS.
"I cannot absorb over $50 in added shipping costs, so will probably have to contact the buyers directly to explain they either have to pay the additional shipping, or I will issue refunds if they wish."
Compounding the problem, he has been unable to reach the right person at eBay customer service. "Once I get thru to the automated greeting, and explain who I am and what my problem is, they transfer me to "somebody who can help." After waiting between 2:04 & 3:04 minutes, the call is diverted to a fast busy signal, then disconnected. Happened 6 times before I gave up," he told us.
He then sent the following example:
"It happened again, I sold a package to France, eBay billed the customer $12.60, but then hit me for $22.33 after my discount. For a $25 item."
We sent Bill's letters to Eric Nash of Stamps.com
. Here is his response to the reader:
I can certainly understand your frustration on this issue as the extra shipping costs you are being required to pay ($22.33 instead of $12.60) is taking up a huge chunk of your profits!
This issue is related to a major change the USPS made back in January for First Class Mail International Large Envelopes/Flats. On January 21, 2018, the USPS restricted the use of First Class Mail International Large Envelopes/Flats to only documents - merchandise could no longer be shipped with this USPS service.
The merchandise restriction was implemented in order for the USPS to comply with requirements set by the Universal Postal Union (UPU). These requirements were set in order to help process packages through International Customs quicker. The UPU is an organization that coordinates postal policies among member nations and includes most of international postal services, including the USPS for international delivery.
Since most eBay and e-commerce sellers only ship merchandise, they will now need to upgrade their international shipping service to First Class Package International Service to ship these products. This upgrade of shipping service comes with a significant increase in cost, as you have noticed:
USPS International Shipping Service - US to France, 1 pound:
First Class Mail International Large Envelop/Flat: $12.60
First Class Package International Service (eBay Discount): $22.33
In looking at the eBay Shipping Calculator today, it appears the calculator is showing the First Class Mail International Large Envelope/Flat rate for documents of $12.60. I’m not sure if this is also happening for Calculated Shipping on your listings but if so, that would cause this problem and I think you could contact eBay Customer Support.
Stamps.com has an option called the Global Advantage Program that allows sellers to use a variation of the First Class Mail International Flat service (it is more expensive than First Class International Flats but much cheaper than First Class Package International Service).
When using the GAP program, your International Large Envelope/Flat is shipped to a Postal Processing Facility address in the U.S., where packages are consolidated (Customs Forms are applied and sent electronically) and then sent to the International Recipient's address. You can get more info here
With the GAP program, that 1 lb. Flat traveling from Maryland to France would be $16.80 rather than $22.33.
Hope this information proves helpful!
We sent an email inquiry to eBay about the shipping calculator rates for First Class Mail International on Friday, with no response as of yet.