eBay UK push trackable delivery

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I had a rather strange marketing email from eBay yesterday, extolling the virtues of trackable postage “to help protect my eBay earnings”. If you missed it, here’s the text of the message:

If you sell items of significant value on eBay, wouldn’t you feel happier knowing that your earnings are protected? By adding online trackable postage to your listings, you can get full protection* for eligible items you sell on eBay, as long as they’re paid for with PayPal.

Why do I need online trackable postage?
Proof of delivery is one of the key requirements for an item to be fully eligible for PayPal Seller Protection*. If your eBay item cannot be tracked online, your sale may not be protected because you won’t have proof of delivery. So if by any chance the item gets lost in the post and the buyer makes a claim, you could lose out on your hard earned money. Online trackable postage starts from just 75p, which is worth the extra piece of mind.

Help protect your eBay sales by adding online trackable postage to your listings:

  • Log in to My eBay and go to your ‘Sell’ page
  • Select your ‘Active’ listings and click the ‘Edit’ button
  • Select a postage option such as recorded delivery, which includes online trackable postage

And don’t forget you can print and pay for your postage from your computer with PayPal’s online postage centre.

I feel pretty disturbed by this email. It feels like some kind of protection racket: “wouldn’t you feel happier knowing we’re not going to break your kneecaps?” We all know about PayPal seller protection, and the risks we take not sending packets with trackable delivery. But many of us make a considered decision to work like that:

  • trackable delivery is an inconvenience for the buyer: who wants to have to queue at the sorting office on Saturday to pick up their 99p CD or packet of beads?
  • trackable delivery is an inconvenience for the seller: it adds hours to our paperwork.
  • if we’re selling smaller, cheaper or replicable lines, it’s often not worth it to bother even with recorded delivery; we’ll take the risk, self-insure, and deal with it if there’s a problem later on.
  • 75p doesn’t buy you proper trackable insurance: half the time, posties sign for the package themselves and pop it through the letterbox: the only people who are truly better off from recorded delivery are Royal Mail.
  • adding a fiver or more to every order for special or courier delivery is not economically viable for a huge percentage of us.

Trackable or not is a decision that sellers should be left to take: it’s our risk, our sales, our margins – so let us make the decision ourselves.

Then there’s how this sits with eBay’s other postage initiative, the one that says sellers in media categories and technology categories and accessories categories have to offer free postage. Frankly, it’s a damn cheek for eBay to say “offer free postage” in one breath, and “make all your items trackable” in the next: that’s another 75p or more that sellers with ever-tighter margins have got to squeeze into their start price. It’s not going to happen.

I hope very much that this is a misguided promo for PayPal seller protection, and nothing more. Perhaps the eBay reps who are now dealing with buyer complaints are finding things a little bit tougher than they expected. It must be hard for them, finding out that sellers who say “some buyers see eBay as a source of free stuff” are actually telling the truth – and that eBay has just committed to underwriting that. If we had everything sent recorded delivery, it’d be Royal Mail’s problem instead.

In their rush to out-Amazon Amazon, I can easily imagine a scenario where eBay mandate trackable postage on all listings. It’s easy for the huge sellers they seem to want to court these days, who are using home delivery networks as part of a larger mail order business. But if you’re an independent seller, often the post is all there is – all you want, and all your buyers want. They already killed off the sub-99p items, which decimated Crafts. Forcing sellers to use trackable delivery would all but kill the lower-priced end of eBay UK, and that can’t be good for buyers, sellers *or* eBay themselves.



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