Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Mar 6 2012 18:12:27

Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

By: Ina Steiner

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Some eBay sellers are still reeling from the news that they will lose Top Rated Seller status because of a new policy that requires they upload tracking information on at least 90 percent of their orders. I found out that the USPS is testing a new first-class mail tracking service - but it's doubtful it would come in time (if at all) to save TRS status of sellers feeling the pain of the eBay Spring Release.

We detailed the problem of eBay's new TRS tracking requirements in this March 1st Newsflash article. Sellers who put low-cost items such as postcards, stamps or decals into a regular envelope and put a 45-cent stamp on it are unable to get Delivery Confirmation from the USPS for First Class Envelope and report that other alternatives are too expensive.

One such seller wrote to me today to say eBay customer service reps are telling her she would only have to pay an extra 19 cents to add DC to her envelopes. "This of course is not the case," she said. "A stamp for a first class letter is $.45 while the minimum cost for first class with tracking is $1.64 even through eBay shipping. What eBay failed to realize or investigate was that in order to provide delivery confirmation the item must be shipped as a first class parcel with a 3/4 inch minimum thickness. The difference between $.45 and $1.64 is $1.19, NOT $.19." On top of that, sellers would have to purchase more expensive envelopes.

USPS First-Class Tracer
In the fall, the USPS requested permission to run a test of a First-Class Mail Tracer and began testing the service at 50 retail locations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. (Retail locations that already carry gift and greeting cards were chosen as test locations.)

"To use the Tracer, customers apply an adhesive barcode to the mailpiece directly below the stamp. Each barcode has a unique number that can be tracked through usps.com. The barcode also has a unique Quick Response code that can be monitored using smartphones or other mobile devices."

The First-Class Tracer label is scanned by existing mail processing equipment during processing, and the USPS expected First-Class Tracer labels to be scanned about two times for local mail and more than two times for mail pieces traveling between plants to their destinations - however, the labels will not receive a delivery scan.

During the First-Class Tracer market test, the Postal Service was planning to test two packages, a five-label pack and a ten-label pack, and to test per-label prices of $0.20, $0.30, and $0.40 (specifically sold at $0.99, $1.49, and $1.99 for 5-packs, and $1.99, $2.99, and $3.99 for 10-packs).

Since the product does not provide a delivery scan, it's not clear if eBay would accept First Class Tracer as a tracking method as it does with Delivery Confirmation. Another challenge is its retail-only status - that means it wouldn't be available through online postage services so would require sellers to manually upload the tracking information to eBay.

But if eBay did accept First-Class Tracer as a tracking method, and if the USPS did launch First-Class Tracer, we'd like to know how much would it have to cost to make it affordable to eBay postcard, stamp and decal sellers? If it cost 30 cents and allowed you to use it on a regular envelope with a 45-cent stamp, would that allow such sellers to retain their Top Rated Seller status? And how are you coping (or planning to cope) with the new requirements?

Before you get your hopes up, the test is set to run for two calendar years, unless the Postal Service decides to request an extension for an additional year, establish First-Class Tracer as a permanent product on a quicker timeline, or terminate the test early.

More information is available on the PRC website in this PDF file. Hat tip to EcommerceBytes reader Jason B. for finding out about the test on the Stamps.com blog.
 




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

by: unaware This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 6 21:02:17 2012

If you are shipping stamps or postcards or other relatively flat items all you have to do is cut two scrap pieces of cardboard, place your item in between and tape shut all four sides closed with sealing tape. A soft sided envelope has to be 3/4'' thick for DC but a stiff item does not. You can ship up to 3 ounces for the $1.64 first class package price with delivery confirmation and only use scrap cardboard packaging... I ship postcards, model decals and small catalogs this way all the time... works fine. I know this does not solve the problem for low cost items like stamps but I just wanted to point out that you don't have to follow the 3/4'' thick rule if your item is in a stiff package.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Tue Mar 6 22:32:12 2012

Thanks, @unaware - good to hear from someone who has actually been doing it.  

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

by: manny This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 01:14:13 2012

Any hope yet for EU sellers shipping such items to US buyers? While eBay tries to encourage sellers to sell worldwide, the only solution I can see to get round this stupid eBay-made obstacle is to, either ban US buyers form buying such items, which defeats eBay’s logic of lusting after ever increasing commission rate,  or make it clear to them that: thanks to eBay, a $10 item will cost $13 to ship to the US and let them complain directly to eBay. Sorry, I forgot; we are no longer allowed to communicate with buyers. What on earth are thinking? For God sake’s, go back to school and learn your numbers !  

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

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

Wed Mar 7 01:22:06 2012

Now that Todd Lutwak is gone, would it be possible for ebafia to hire a VP of Seller Experience with (1) some Experience as an ebafia Seller and (2) an IQ above 85 and (3) an interest in helping ALL sellers be successful thereby making ebay more $ucce$$ful?

Dare we hope that some new blood might also possess even a dash of common sense?

Will the new VP of Seller Extermination, er, Experience be an adult with real world experience or another Silicon Valley empty hard drive whose MMPI suggested a non sociopathic personality.

Bye, bye Todd baby. Go help destroy another greedy corporation and its customers.

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

by: fvh This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 01:30:06 2012

"What eBay failed to realize or investigate was that in order to provide delivery confirmation the item must be shipped as a first class parcel."

I hope that they realize this now and make exemptions. I'm a TRS seller who sells coupons mailed in a $.45 stamped envelope for free. I can't afford to loose my TRS status, pay for tracking on all my envelopes, or expect my buyers to absorb the cost.

And if I hear "just try it" one more time...  

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

by: fvh This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 01:32:37 2012

@Ming Harsh! But as always... I like it!

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Wed Mar 7 01:52:35 2012

If you read the postal rules if an envelope does not have a slight bend to it you have to send it by First Class Package Mail. Any items that are paper will have a bend to it and any stiff cardboard will not and one piece of corrugated cardboard in the envelope is stiff.
The reason for the rule is that all regular first class mail will be going through machines and they will not be handled by hand anymore.
That is why the Post Office is testing the labels so a person can track the mail through the sort points only. It will not give delivery confirmation.
Anyone who sends items of value through the mails and does not have a stiffener in the envelope is playing with fire if they expect the item to not be abused by the machines or by the actual person delivering it.
In all of my years I have had regular envelopes folded with magazines and junk mail that the mailman had to fold in order to get it into the standard delivery box.
It is a fact of life.

Bill

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

by: Carol This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 03:12:54 2012

I don't know if this would help sellers who ship in letter envelopes, but adding a packing peanut to an envelope makes it thick enough to be considered a ''package'' by USPS.  I do that occasionally when shipping a very flat item in a small padded envelope.

This would probably work for strong letter mail envelopes.  If I were one of the sellers affected by this change, I'd be doing some serious thinking about alternative venues or selling in lots.

While I understand the concern of sellers, I have to wonder how there can be enough profit in a $1 or $2 item to make such things feasible to sell individually.  Even if the merchandise cost nothing, ebay and, particularly, paypal fees would eat up a very large chunk of the total sale.

Since it would take hundreds of sales per day to produce a modest daily profit (and I assume that pulling the item, packaging it, and printing a label is time-consuming), selling very inexpensive items on ebay seems like a very hard way to make a living.

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Wed Mar 7 07:09:36 2012

@Manny, The preceding blog post about Canadian sellers has a piece in there about EU sellers, in case you hadn't seen it.

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

by: Long Time eBay Seller This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 07:25:29 2012

Unaware, you say ''you don't have to follow the 3/4'' thick rule if your item is in a stiff package.''

Not true I fear. I've been shipping flat FCM letters for more than 14 years now. Most of the time you can get away with either rigid OR thick, but not always. Some USPS offices require them to be BOTH, as I found to my customer's dismay, as he was charged postage due for an upgrade to Priority. So I always ship with cardboard and in a bubble mailer for those things I want to go with DC.

And Carol, you say ''adding a packing peanut to an envelope makes it thick enough to be considered a ''package'' by USPS.''

The problem with that is, when the item is machined it can cause the peanut to crease the paper item inside, or crack the toploader, damaging the item. Had that happen too.

The real problem is that eBay has put into place a rule that impacts the multiple millions of items that get shipped by eBay sellers as First Class Mail Letters. Our customers don't want to pay for DC,and we can't roll the price of it into our item cost.

eBay, frankly, doesn't care. They have said they know this new rule will not allow some of us to retain our TRS status, and they suggest we find other ways to deal with things.

eBay doesn't care about small sellers now, and I don't think they ever have. All eBay cares about is their bottom line. And until this new rule begins to affect that, no changes will be made to it.

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

by: Redlion This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 07:49:16 2012

I have been shipping Decals now for about four years and the two pieces of stiff cardboard do NOT always work. Not great for the profit center when a customer contacts you and tells you they had to pay over $3.00 for their package when the cost of the contents are only $2.55. It even makes it worse when the postal carrier tells your customer you tried to defraud the postal system.

The new "tracer" would be an ideal solution, but with it only being in the testing stage for the next two years this isn't going to help any of us at the point in time.

Two scraps of cardboard per order is easy enough if you are an "occasional seller", however when you are shipping out hundreds per week just sources that amount of cardboard is an issue let alone the amount of time it takes to process the order.

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

Wed Mar 7 07:55:10 2012

We sell stamps, have been in business for over 40 years and have selling on eBay for 15 years. We have never used delivery confirmation. Items valued at under $400 are mailed by first class mail at either the one or two ounce rate and we don't have problems. eBay is just creating problems where they don't exist.

By the way, we don't take Paypal either and we get along just fine.

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

Wed Mar 7 07:58:55 2012

We sell stamps, have been in business for over 40 years and have selling on eBay for 15 years. We have never used delivery confirmation. Items valued at under $400 are mailed by first class mail at either the one or two ounce rate and we don't have problems. eBay is just creating problems where they don't exist and now they want to penalize us for being successful.

By the way, we don't take Paypal either and we get along just fine.

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

by: unaware This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 08:20:09 2012

Long Time eBay Seller:

Perhaps you are shipping First Class Mail Letter and not First Class Mail Parcel. I know that the rules for FCM Parcel are OK with stiff packaging with DC... as long as it is not soft-sided and shipped FCM Parcel with DC it should get through just fine and per USPS regulations. I am going to guess that I have shipped at least 500 items this way and so far (knock on wood or hard plastic surface) have never had a single problem... no missing items or postage due or anything. As stated though it will cost you $1.64 which does not help sellers shipping very low dollar items but with my $6.99 minimum sale price per item and a typical $2.49 charged to buyers for FCM with DC shipping I have been doing fine.  

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by: unaware This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 08:33:26 2012

Redlion:

Same is true for you: Were you shipping FCM Letter or Parcel? If you try to go ''cheap'' by using cardboard and slapping one or two FCM stamps on it well then you will have problems and if you are selling decals for such a low price I suspect that is what you are doing. I am not a ''occasional seller'' but a full time TRS with close to 6,000 100% positive feedback and 5,5,5,4 rating. Finding scrap cardboard has never been a problem for me... I'm swimming in the stuff. Walk through a Wal-Mart anytime of the day or night and with a polite request they will give you just about all of the clean scrap flat cardboard you could care to cart home.  

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by: older but not wiser This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 08:42:01 2012

I sell postcards and philatelic items. Not only do I use first class letter rate but I also use stamps. Good old fashioned colorful commemoratives which is what buyers ask me for. Collectors don't want metered mail or ebay labels. When eBay talks about pleasing buyers they should try asking the buyers ... or maybe even the sellers (Oops,what am I thinking!)  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Wed Mar 7 08:48:13 2012

@carol
"While I understand the concern of sellers, I have to wonder how there can be enough profit in a $1 or $2 item to make such things feasible to sell individually.  Even if the merchandise cost nothing, ebay and, particularly, paypal fees would eat up a very large chunk of the total sale."

Very simple:

"We lose $0.01 on every sale, but make it up in volume...."

Everyone as a different business model (tax shelter?).

Peace,

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by: Whatever This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 09:09:12 2012

Good luck to those folks who ship with an envelope using the barcode thing. I can't even get the postal employees to scan my regular barcoded first class packages without raising a stink EVERY time. They tell me they don't have time - they say ''don't you trust me to do it later?'' they say they don't have to. It's ridiculous. Postal employees have a long way to go in regards to understanding how crucial it is to ebay sellers that they (PO) simply perform their job their paid to do. Can't even imagine them coming up with a solution to the newest problem since they can't do the job they have now.

Perminate Link for Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule   Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule

by: Ed This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 09:29:24 2012

Good Luck
I would really worry about this tracking working. If the Post Office does not track Priority Packages 12"x11"x6" that weighs almost 5 pounds Example Tracking 420 13440 9101 1288 8230 0095 0506 82) what is the chance of them doing it on a first class letter.

eBay need to get out of the shipping business until they decide to start buying merchandise and opening retail store like Wal-Mart.

They forget they are nothing more than a web site and their sellers  are not Wal-Mart or Best Buy. Just because the big box retailers offer free shipping to their stores their customers still have to pay for the gas to get to the store. We all offer Free Shipping to our shipping locations just like them. We just don't have thousands of stores.

eBay should open a few thousand store and we could sell our merchandise to eBay and they could sell it to their customers.

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by: bscottcpa This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 7 10:35:46 2012

I am a buyer of stamps on ebay and I do not want to pay more fees to get a 40 cent item.  Neither do I want an email telling me the tracking number--just more clutter.
Also, I want regular US Postage stamps on my envelopes not some label - I think eBay wants to kill the hobby. You ever heard of biting the hand that feeds you - they are doing a good job with these new rules.  However, they did not ask us the customer - they just decided what was good for us.

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