EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2751 - March 01, 2012     1 of 3

Sellers Question eBay on New Shipping Requirements

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At eBay's Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday evening, sellers called in with various concerns. But eBay staff who fielded sellers' questions seemed unprepared for the onslaught of questions about new shipping requirements.

New policies impact sellers differently, and it appears that sellers of very low-priced items such as postcards, stamps, decals and artwork will feel the brunt of some of the changes. In fact, during the Town Hall meeting, three separate sellers told eBay managers that they might be forced off of eBay once the new policies take effect.

At issue are sellers who use First Class mail - Letter. These sellers literally put items such as postcards into a regular envelope and put a 45-cent stamp on it. According to the first caller, Laura from Kentucky, there are 1.9 million postcards for sale on eBay, all shipped typically first-class mail without delivery confirmation of any type.

"If I am forced to switch to delivery confirmation with tracking, it will increase my shipping costs 200%," she said. "I truly don't understand why categories like this that have been historically first-class mail - I have never had a single first-class item go missing - I don't understand why there can't be a weight cap, say under 3 oz. we can put in an envelope and put a stamp on it. Our customers aren't willing to pay for delivery confirmation."

One buyer actually called in to confirm Laura's claim - she said she did not pay extra for tracking. "Why should buyers be forced to buy items with tracking?" she asked.

The sellers who called said they are Top Rated Sellers who sell low-cost light-weight items, and said if the new policy that requires them to provide tracking information on 90% of their orders in order to retain their top-rated selling status goes into effect, they will be forced off of eBay. If they don't offer tracking, they lose the 20% discount eBay provides Top Rated Sellers, and if they do offer tracking, their shipping and packaging costs will increase.

"I sell stamps; I have a perfect record now," said a caller named Clark. "I pack everything in a #6 envelope, I use postage. I have had no losses in past years. If I raise prices to cover tracking I'll no longer be competitive. A lot of sellers will exit stage left and move to a place like Bidstart."

"The majority of my items are under two dollars," said another caller named Leah. "I put them in a #10 envelope and send them on their way. It does not make sense to raise shipping beyond what the item actually costs. A buyer isn't going to pay $5,$6 for party favors when now they are only paying $2.70. They only have to scan the item when it is delivered (not when you drop it off)."

eBay's Jim (Griff) Griffith spoke about new tracking information requirements during a podcast interview with EcommerceBytes on Tuesday. In a follow-up comment, a seller said, "Delivery confirmation is NOT available for USPS First Class Letters and neither eBay nor PayPal even support printing such labels." When asked to respond, Griff provided the following information:

The reader is correct for USPS First Class Letter. However, USPS First Class Mail is available through eBay's Print Postage flow and the price includes Delivery Confirmation. First Class Mail differs from USPS First Class Letter:

  • The envelope has to be at least 3/4 inch thick;
  • The envelope cannot weigh more than 13 ounces
  • The minimum cost is $1.64 (including DC)

Update 3/3/12: A reader wrote to say sellers should carefully read the USPS rules about DC, pointing out these eligibility requirements:

a) The surface area of the address side of the parcel must be large enough to contain completely and legibly the delivery address, return address, postage, and any applicable markings, endorsements, and extra service labels.

b) Except as provided in 10.2.2c, the parcel must be greater than 3/4 inch thick at its thickest point.

c) If the mailpiece is a parcel under 401.1.0 and no greater than 3/4 inch thick, the contents must be prepared in a strong and rigid fiberboard or similar container or in a container that becomes rigid after the contents are enclosed and the container is secured. The parcel must be able to maintain its shape, integrity, and rigidity throughout processing and handling without collapsing into a letter-size or flat-size piece.

Read more comments from sellers in this EcommerceBytes Letter to the Editor, eBay Tracking Requirement Puts Pressure on UK Seller Margins and on the EcommerceBytes Blog, Live Blogging eBay Town Hall Meeting on SR1 2012.

UPDATE 3/4/12: Also see the EcommerceBytes Blog, "Canadians Get Relief from New eBay Tracking Requirements."

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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