Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Thu Jan 11 2018 21:21:08

eBay Exposes Actual Postage Costs in Apparent Glitch

By: Ina Steiner

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Online shoppers can get very grumpy about shipping and handling charges, and savvy sellers often use "stealth postage" to keep their actual shipping costs private. (I dug up an EcommerceBytes article about stealth postage from 2003!) 

But a reader who buys and sells on eBay said the company is exposing actual shipping costs to buyers in the purchase history section of their accounts.

"At least for me, eBay is displaying what the shipping label cost the seller, not what I paid for the seller's shipping cost," the seller said. 

How obvious would this be to buyers? "I don't know if the average buyer would notice this; I did only because I was getting information for my taxes," she replied.

The reader provided an example showing a seller had charged her $15 for shipping an expensive purchase, "but if you look at eBay's records, you will see that it shows the postage was $6.25, which is what the seller would have paid for the Flat Rate Envelope the items were mailed in," she said.

She herself wasn't concerned about the discrepancies from the point of view of a shopper. "As a buyer, I know going in what the shipping cost is, and if it is overly inflated I won't buy the item. In the case of the screenshots I sent you, the items in the lot were so cheap that I didn't mind paying an egregious amount for shipping."

But from the seller's point of view, she said, "I don't know if I'd want my buyers to know what I was adding onto my actual shipping cost," especially if she added a handling charge (which she said she personally does not).

Some sellers go out of their way to use "stealth postage" so their shipping labels won't display the actual cost of postage. Do you mark up your shipping costs, and do you expect marketplaces to keep the information private?

Comments (22) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Exposes Actual Postage Costs in Apparent Glitch   eBay Exposes Actual Postage Costs in Apparent Glitch

This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Fri Jan 12 00:03:10 2018

Yes, I mark up shipping costs (with a handling fee) on overseas sales.

Why? Well, eBay and PayPal charges me a commission on what the buyer pays to mail the package, and if there is a foreign currency involved, PP tacks on an ''exchange fee''.

And don't even think for one second that anything leaves my home to a destination that is not in the USA is not sent with insurance. Since I have a professional business, someone has to pay these fees. If an International buyer wants to purchase, he can make a decision- the total mailing fee is front and center.

No, eBay should never tell a buyer how much the actual mailing label costs, It is bad business for BOTH the seller AND eBay itself. If buyers perceive that they are overcharged, they will take their business elsewhere.

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by: ZZ This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 00:26:29 2018

The OP doesn't quite get it as she says she will pass as a buyer if shipping is too high. Wake up and learn to add 2 numbers together, get a total, and do the same to the competition before comparing total prices.
No need to make something so simple so complicated.

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

Fri Jan 12 00:33:35 2018

Is this another covert ebafia tactic to compel "free" shipping" or just more overt incompetency?

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by: Jester This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 01:43:48 2018

On my listing, it now states to the customer through eBay invoked wording the price of shipping and handling and then tells the potential buyer the price of that. So the handling price may not be shown to the buyer only the shipping cost.

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by: skl3255 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 03:27:23 2018

I do not show the actual shipping charge on my packages.  When determining the shipping charges for my listings I calculate what the fees taken by eBay and Paypal will be so that I can add that back in as a handling charge to the shipping charges.  I also add in the insurance charge for my First Class Mail and economy packages.  At the end of the day my shipping charge is what it actually cost me to get that package shipped.  I don’t make any money on the shipping.  However, most buyers don’t realize what it costs us and fail to realize that sellers pay fees on shipping.  Buyers also don’t realize that we have other expenses like our shipping materials whether that is the boxes or shipping envelopes. Bubble wrap and foam peanuts and the shipping label. At least 95% off my shipping materials are brand new.  It’s only the boxes that I reuse even though I do buy shipping boxes as well.  The only handling charge I have is the added fees by eBay and Paypal.  I would be very unhappy if eBay showed the actual shipping charge to the buyer.  I seriously doubt that they would let the buyers know that they are charging sellers 10% on the shipping

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This user has validated their user name. by: mcfiver

Fri Jan 12 03:59:18 2018

This is a non-issue for me as I simply try to recoup actual shipping cost - and that includes factoring in a small percentage for new shipping supplies I use and the 10% fee charged by eBay/PayPal. I've found customers understand and accept this as long as it's not onerous. I've found the savvy shopper usually does the math prior to purchase and includes it in their buying decision, along with seller's reputation, item quality, listing & photos clarity, etc.

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Jan 12 05:20:59 2018

99 percent of the buyers don't read and can hardly find their way to the coffee pot in the morning without a road map and a flashlight.

One would think that the same flashlight would be needed to find their way to the purchase history.

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by: treasureattic This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 07:47:11 2018

"99 percent of the buyers don't read and can hardly find their way to the coffee pot in the morning without a road map and a flashlight.

One would think that the same flashlight would be needed to find their way to the purchase history."

^^THIS!! Reading has become a lost art in this country!

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by: salesrep1 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 08:04:30 2018

It also shows up on each item if you bought multiples! Why they show any shipping charges is kind of screwy.

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by: lindysthings This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 09:14:43 2018

Simple fix. I have never made a label on Ebay, and never plan to. I have an account with Stamps.com and also a business UPS account. Both give me great discounts. The less Ebay knows about my labels the less they can add on charges.

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by: geoffreymason This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 10:08:35 2018

I try  to make it as simple as possible. Most of my items are flat, in envelopes, and ship USPS first-class. (Books ship via media mail.) I charge a nominal fee that does include handling, travel, supplies, and covers ebay and paypal percentages. On multiple orders, I often opt for insurance at my own cost. I mail my pieces from the Post Office window, so my customers can clearly see from the label what I've spent. So far, no buyer complaints after 17 years of operating this way.

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This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Fri Jan 12 10:09:43 2018

You know, if you conceal shipping costs, you're only paying lip service to a free market, which requires perfect information to create perfect competition.  The only argument you really have is unreasonable customers that see said information laid bare and don't have the impulse control to move on if they don't like the price.

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by: lessthanthreerecords This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Jan 12 10:39:35 2018

I offer free shipping as my standard domestic option on everything I sell.  However, I do charge more than the actual cost for additional services (expedited and international).  For one, eBay charges me 9.15% of the domestic priority price as a FVF, so that needs to be figured in.  Second, PayPal fees are higher when a buyer pays with a foreign financial account.  Unfortunately, there is no way to charge a buyer extra to offset this fee.  However, it can be assumed that in MOST cases, buyers with a foreign shipping address will be drawing on a foreign financial account.  So, part of the increase is to account for that.  In addition, first-class international mail can not be insured, and priority international is significantly more expensive.  If I'm going to ship an international parcel first-class, it's a risk on my end, so I normally charge somewhere between the actual cost of first-class and the actual cost of international priority with insurance.  That way, I make a little extra on most sales to offset the cost of refunding the entire purchase price (including the shipping cost) when an item goes missing or gets damaged.  Yes, I do "hide" the price on shipping labels.  However, if buyers are that interested, they can go to usps.com and enter the weight (which IS printed on the label) and figure it out.  Would I prefer that eBay not expose this information?  Yes.  But in the larger scope of eBay glitches, this is not something I'm going to lose sleep over.

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by: spooky This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 11:01:36 2018

my shipping prices are always disclosed during the listing or auction. I never add after the sale fees such as insurance, I pay those myself if I want them. But I very much agree that as a buyer I want "fair" shipping. I know what many say - just add the amount into your total thinking beforehand but that is not how most people's thought process works. If I win an item at auction and the mailing cost is $20 but the seller mails it for less than $10 it bothers me but I would never leave bad feedback or anything like that. Here are my 2 major complaints about shipping - sellers who list items over 4 pounds weight and just pull a price out of their a**, if I live close to the seller why am I paying same fee as someone who lives 3000 miles away. I often message the seller that I will not bid since your shipping is not zip code based. The second big thing with me: sellers who list they will be shipping Priority but end up using first class or parcel post for example; if I am paying for disclosed beforehand Priority do not downgrade me. As a seller I very often upgrade. If you sell on eBay here is a little trick to remember - if your buyer has paid for parcel post always check it Priority costs you the same or a little less as Top rated Sellers get a big discount on Priority so why not use it to upgrade at no extra cost to the seller.  

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by: GotToGetOut This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 11:26:41 2018

Feeling Froggy --  you are so right.  Buyers are so confused now with their phones and they can't even figure out how to click a button to see the details for the listing.  I highly doubt they're going to do any purchase history search to see the actual cost of shipping.  Besides, what does it matter if it's clearly stated in the listing?  I often will do a sale where I indicate plate rate shipping of $10 for a 2 or 3 lb. package.  Then I find out it's going to CA and weighs 2 lb. 3 oz. so I have to ship 3 lb. and it's $12 to ship when the customer paid $10 for a $10 purchase.  That's a big hit for something I'm paying $2 selling fees for and another $1 paypal fees.   So, if I can somehow put cardboard around it and put it in a flat rate padded envelope for $6.30 thats what I do and the customer is paying $3.60 extra for shipping because I was innovative with the shipping method.  Is the customer going to complain if I had paid $12.44 to ship and he only paid $10??

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by: hopeforthebest This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 12:15:52 2018

Shipping is a profit center for me, no less than selling the product.

I don't care if the buyer doesn't like my shipping charge. They can go somewhere else to buy.

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by: Toledo Maude This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 12 12:37:35 2018

Several years ago, I closed the year in the financial hole to the tune of $600 where actual shipping charges (including packing supplies and eBay shipping fees) out stripped what I charged buyers for shipping.

No more ''Mr. Nice Seller'', my shipping charges would no longer be a bargain but including shipping, packing and eBay shipping fees.  I initially wrote off selling to West Coast buyers, but much to my surprise buyers on both coasts (near and far) continue to place orders for my high end collectibles.

I still end up in the ''shipping hole'' comparing costs to revenue collected, but the shipping losses are reasonable.

It has been nearly a year since a buyer dinged me with less than five stars on the cost of ''shipping and handling''.  

I am sure if eBay continues to post what the actual shipping charges were there would be ruffled buyer feathers.  

Included in every eBay order to a buyer, I include my own invoice where I footnote that the shipping charges include an eBay fee on shipping charges.  That this fee goes into eBay's pocket and pays no part of shipping and handling.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Fri Jan 12 13:50:55 2018

@lessthanthreerecords

Yes, you can purchase insurance on USPS First Class International using ShipSaver (third party coverage). Their price is very reasonable, and, so far, the process has worked well.

One thing you will have to note is the countries that are not included, and place them on your eBay ''Do Not Ship To'' list. Basically, the banned countries include Russian Federation, the former Soviet Union states, Mexico, South America, Italy, France, Southeast Asia, or other places with corrupt postal systems. And there is also a group of certain items that they will not insure.

Of course, if a claim is filed, you will need the buyer to fill out an online affidavit stating the loss / damage. But this is no different than what any other insurance companies would require.

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by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 13 08:32:22 2018

@RKTOYS

You mention 'conceal[ment] of actual shipping costs...". I note from the comments that just about everybody is now marking up shipping or handling [same thing] to cover the totally unjustified FVF rake-off. Supplies, labor, time, and travel are also expenses. I have to drive further to get to FedEx than my local UPS store, but UPS has jacked their rates so high, and slaps on 'rural surcharges' so often that I've stopped using them. eBay's 'shipping calculator' was out-to-lunch - and that lunch includes an unhealthy dose of CURRY, if you know what I mean! - on UPS rates years ago, and I doubt it's gotten any better as shipping rates in general have skyrocketed. When you're providing a good deal on a hard-to-find used item you need to make it worth your while. I like making sales but not so much that I can do it as a hobby and certainly not as a charity.

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by: buffalochick This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 13 14:41:14 2018

Smart sellers should probably charge what the label says....And build the rest into the price of their items.  You know this is just another ploy to show the chinese junk/counterfeit sellers first, again.  THEY charge you nothing or .99 to ship, their supposed actual cost.  Ebay just keeps pissing off sellers.  I don't even bother searching there anymore, just too much work for seeing only what ebay thinks I should.  Waste of time on ebay these days.  They may as well display the site in Chinese.  But wait.... chinese counterfeit sellers do not buy on ebay.  Logic doesn't stick to anything at ebay.

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