EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 85 - December 15, 2002 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 6

Online-Auction Seller Shipping Survey: Results, Part 1

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Two weeks ago, AuctionBytes conducted a survey about the shipping habits of online sellers. 470 U.S. online sellers participated. The results showed some unanimity in preferred shipping methods, but disparity in the way respondents handled insurance claims. In this issue, I'll cover methods of shipping and the problem of damaged goods and returns. In the next issue, I'll relate how survey participants handle shipping-insurance claims.

How Do Online Sellers Ship?
Online auction sellers overwhelmingly favored the U.S. Postal Service, with 80% of respondents choosing it as their preferred method of shipping. Interestingly, higher volume sellers showed an even greater preference for using USPS. Of those listing 80 - 399 items per month, 84% preferred USPS, and of those listing 400+ items per month, 94% preferred USPS.

Q.) What is your preferred method of shipping?

  • USPS 79.8%
  • UPS 13.7%
  • Fedex 3.3%
  • Other 3.0%

Are Damaged Goods a Problem?
Nearly 90% of respondents said that damage "never occurs" or "occurs rarely" during shipping. Preferred method of shipping was not a factor in the level of damage that occurred.

Q.) Out of every 100 items that you ship, how many on average arrive damaged?

  • None 44.0%
  • Occurs rarely 46.0%
  • 1-2 8.4%
  • 3-5 1.3%
  • 6 or more 0.2%

How Do Online Sellers Handle Returns?
Results were all over the board concerning return of merchandise. When asked who pays for shipping if an item is damaged, nearly 39% of respondents said that they would not reimburse shipping if an item was returned; 29.4% said that they would reimburse shipping, but would not pay for the cost of shipping the item back. Nearly 20% said that they would pick up shipping both ways, and 12.4% said they did not allow returns at all.

Q) If a customer wants to return an item because it was damaged, do you reimburse shipping?

  • No 38.7%
  • Yes - one way 29.4%
  • Yes - both ways 19.6%
  • I don't allow returns 12.4%

Clearly, this illustrates a personal choice in how to conduct business. Outlining your return policy in your Terms of Sale would make good sense.

Shipping is clearly an important part of any e-commerce business. In the next issue, we'll publish the survey results to questions about who pays for shipping insurance, how many sellers require insurance, and how insurance claims are handled.

About the author:

David Steiner is President of Steiner Associates LLC, publisher of and the merchant directory. David, a former television producer, handles business development and advertising for EcommerceBytes. You can reach him at

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