Easter’s upon us, and even eBay sellers are thinking about taking a few days away from the PC. But what do you do with your listings while you’re on holiday? You could be like one poster on the PowerSeller Board and take a supply of all your lines on holiday with you, so that you can immediately post anything that’s ordered while you’re away. Personally that fails my definition of ‘holiday’, so let’s take a look at what you can do to take a few days off without your business collapsing.
I’m assuming here that you don’t have employees or a chum who can take over the entire show for you. If this is an option, then take it, you lucky thing. Next best might be someone who can deal with your email: however carefully you flag that you’re away, there’ll be one buyer who’ll slip through the net, and if there’s someone to respond to them, so much the better.
eBay’s holiday settings
eBay provide several “Shop Holiday Settings” options: find them in My eBay > Manage My Shop > Related Links. (Sorry, if you don’t have a Shop/Store, then these aren’t an option for you.) Choose from any or all of:
- Make my Fixed Price listings unavailable
- Display holiday message in all of my available listings
- Display holiday message near the top of every page in my Shop
These look like they’d cover all the bases, but in fact, none of them is adequate on its own, and even in combination, it’s easy for a buyer in a hurry to ignore all your messages.
Hiding fixed price listings works for new buyers, but buyers who have already purchased can still see and purchase from the listings. I’ve also heard numerous sellers say that buyers who’ve been watching their listings have also been able to purchase: whether this is accurate or not, I’ve not been able to prove, but suffice it to say that hiding your fixed price listings is potentially buggy. Auctions are not hidden with this option.
Displaying a holiday message on listings is the choice of sellers who want the holiday, but not the associated loss of income. The problem is that the message eBay display is not very noticeable: that yellow stripe across the top of listings is too easy to ignore, and buyers do.
A holiday message on your Shop pages can back up a message on your listings, but again, isn’t foolproof. Buyers can move from search, to your listing, to checkout, without ever visiting your Shop home or category pages, so don’t rely on this option for important communication.
In summary, eBay’s holiday settings are useful, but if you’re going to be away for more than a couple of days and don’t want to come home to angry and disappointed buyers, it’s worth backing them up in other ways.
Remember you need to actively turn holiday settings on and off: it’s incredibly easy to spend time crafting your message but forget to actually click the radio button to display it (I speak from bitter experience 😉 ).
A more visible message
It’s pretty easy to add a more visible message than eBay’s to your listings:
- If you’re not already using it, turn on eBay’s listing frame (Manage My Shop > Marketing Tools).
- Make a 310 x 90 pixel graphic with a BIG MESSAGE that you’re away.
- Upload the graphic as your new Shop logo.
- Don’t forget to change it back to the old logo when you get home.
The most important issue here is communication: buyers who’ve been told they have to wait a few days will generally be okay about it; buyers who think they’ve been ignored will panic.
- Change your SMP automatic payment emails to add the “delayed dispatch” message.
- Auto-respond from your email account (at server level if you can) to PayPal payment emails. Auto-responding to eBay emails is also an option, though direct email to eBay’s disguised addresses seems so hit and miss recently, it’s not an option I’d rely on.
Remember that it’s not only new buyers who will email; people who’ve already bought from you will also email, and you need to have some kind of response to them that tells them you’re away.
Pull all listings?
If you’re more worried about bad feedback and PayPal chargebacks than loss of income (e.g. you already have the sword of seller non-performance hanging over your head) or eBay is only a small part of your business, then pulling all your listings might be an easier option.
Whether you end listings or just try to hide them will depend on what you sell: if it’s batteries or car parts or something else that people need urgently and that you’ve advertised as next day delivery, ending those listings when you can’t meet the delivery schedule is fairer on your buyers. Remember if you relist within 7 days, you won’t lose recent sales scores in best match.
Some people have said that saying “I’ll be away” looks unprofessional. Personally I don’t see anything wrong in admitting either to being a one person band or to needing a holiday – but if you have issues with either, then ending all your listings (and making your website unavailable too) for the duration might be preferable.
If you ended all your listings before you went away, then scheduling some to start a few days before you get back is a good idea, though bear in mind that if you’ve got your BINs hidden, any new BINs you schedule will also be hidden. And if you’re not going to be available to answer ASQs, it might still be worth putting the yellow stripe on your listings.
Or do nothing
I’ve been asked by a few sellers recently variations on the question, “I’m not going to be able to post on Wednesday, should I put my vacation settings on?” My response is an almost-unqualified ‘no’. Most eBay orders can take an extra day for delivery without problem; most buyers know that first class isn’t guaranteed next day. But there are steps you can take to make this easier: don’t promise one day handling time on your listings; 2 days is safer all round, even in normal circumstances. If you offer Special Delivery, then buyers reasonably expect quick dispatch too – so you might want to flag your day off in this instance.
Business sellers are required by law (within the EU) to display their address in their eBay Shops. This understandably raises concerns when indicating absence. I’ve got around this (or tried to) by saying “I’ll be away and I don’t trust my partner to post your order” – other sellers have mentioned being closed for stock-taking or moving premises. There’s no easy answer – but I’d guess that you’re more likely to be burgled by someone who’s seen you carry your suitcase to the cab, than by someone trawling eBay for empty addresses.
There isn’t one easy, catch-all answer. What you do will depend on what you sell and most especially on how long you’re going to be away. In summary, here’s my advice:
- If you sell things that people need overnight, end your listings.
- Otherwise, if you’re going to be away a week or less, use ALL eBay’s vacation settings options, plus emails as above. This is one time you can’t overcommunicate.
- If you’re going to be away longer than a week, at least hide your listings, and consider ending them altogether.