Once upon a time…
there was a girl who put a thousand quid shirt in the post, the ordinary post, with no tracking. It went to Australia, to a buyer with -1 feedback, who’d paid with a credit card (this was before PayPal was even thought of). And she thought nothing of it.
This same girl regularly used to put wads of dollar bills into envelopes and send them to sellers in the US, and she always got her stuff. And nobody thought anything of it at all.
eBay’s changed a lot in the past 15 years. Not least, that sellers (and buyers) are more and more concerned about being ripped off by one another. It’s not unreasonable: I’ve had buyers claim non-receipt and been reasonably sure they were lying, just as I’ve had sellers claim they’d sent me something “and it must have been lost in the post”, and been reasonably sure they were lying too. As a recent commenter asked, how do we, as sellers, protect ourselves from false claims of non-receipt?
Here’s the bottom line: you can’t. If a buyer wants to rip you off, they will – and they’re probably going to get away with it. Everything about the eBay system, PayPal and the law goes in their favour. The trick is to tip the odds as much as you can towards this not hurting you.
Proof of Posting
I still see sellers on eBay saying “I always obtain proof of posting”. PoP is not proof of delivery, but it is a good indicator that if a buyer doesn’t receive their item, the seller is going to say “claim from Royal Mail then”; I run a mile when I see this. If you’re relying on PoP, you’re going to have some unhappy buyers pretty soon – and you’re putting off plenty more. Not worth the paper it’s written on.
If you send goods big enough or expensive enough to need to go by courier, your life may be a little easier: tracking is *usually* better and *usually* online. There’s probably a way to claim for lost items, and you may even have a good enough relationship with a courier that claiming isn’t too painful. Even so – check what you’re covered for. Loss? Damage? Buyer claims non-receipt, courier swears delivered? It may not be as simple as you hope it’s going to be.
If you’re relying on recorded or special delivery “insurance” for lost items, bear in mind that you’re only covered for the cost price of the item, not its sale price. You may also have to wait for the buyer to confirm non-receipt of the item to RM before your claim is processed. In any case, the claims process is slow, and clunky – so unless you’ve sold something expensive, claiming is going to waste more time than it’s worth.
Then there’s PayPal seller protection, which requires online tracking. Though RD and SD qualify, they don’t protect you against negative feedback and buyer complaints. Handling your customers with courtesy and avoiding the official eBay complaint channels is probably a better way to do that.
Things are particularly difficult for those of us who sell small, inexpensive items that can only really be sent by post. Do you double your item price by insisting on recorded delivery, or stick it in the post box and cross your fingers? Personally, I always went for the latter, figuring that lots of lost sales cost me more than a couple of lost packets. And that’s alright, so long as you allow for it –>
Here’s what I used to do: I knew that some of my packages would go missing. I knew what percentage that was (less than 1%) and I made allowances for it in my pricing. I’m told that retail stores do the same: apparently one large chain adds 2% to everything to allow for shoplifting. You’re going to get losses: stop worrying about whether they’re lost in delivery or nicked by buyers, just allow for them. Stop looking at profit on a per-transaction basis, and look at the bigger picture. Your business will thank you for worrying about something more important.
In conclusion, I’d say this: if what you’re most worried about in your business is buyers ripping you off – you’re in the wrong business. Sell in a different category, sell in a different marketplace, or give up selling online altogether. Because if you can’t trust your customers, who can you trust?
PS Someone in the comments is just warming up to have a go at me about this. How dare I suggest that buyers be allowed to get away with it? This is theft, it should be stopped, etc. etc. Well, yes – it should be stopped. But you can’t stop it. Make a decision with your head and your spreadsheet – not with your righteous anger. It’s a business decision to build this into your costs, and concentrate on the things you can control.