|Tue Mar 6 2012 18:12:27|
Distant Hope for TRS Sellers Impacted by eBay Tracking Rule
By: Ina Steiner
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.