Buying on eBay & Amazon: Tracking

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From the more recent purchases made on Amazon and eBay only a couple shipped from Amazon and one from eBay had tracking. All the purchases were relatively low value so really didn’t justify paying for tracking, but some sellers have some surprising tactics in their attempt to stop us “stealing” their items.

As reported earlier this week, one seller marked a DVD as “faulty returns” in the vain hope that neither the postie nor my neighbours would purloin the item. Having marked the parcel as faulty, they then emailed to explain that whilst the item definitely wasn’t faulty, it was marked as such to ensure it was safely received. That’s a really confusing buyer experience. They also said that it was tracked which it wasn’t.

A second eBay seller who shipped an item second class post had a fake “scanned on delivery” sticker on the back of the parcel in yet another attempt to ensure I didn’t claim non-delivery.

In both these instances can’t help wondering what the sellers would say if I claimed that the parcels hadn’t arrived.

It’s a lot easier for sellers who ship heavier items, as soon as you ship by courier you’ll automatically get tracking thrown in, but for Royal Mail it’s an additional cost of £0.95 for the Recorded Signed For service. For many products tracking would make the total product price uncompetitive.

I’m certain that tracking means that you’ll get fewer “lost” items. I remember one case where a buyer rang up asking where their Cisco Router was and as soon as I told them it was tracked and signed for a couple of days earlier they said “Oh, I bought one a few days before and thought that was first to arrive, if I’ve got yours it’s the other seller’s router that missing”. Without tracking I’d probably have been facing a lost item claim.

Tracking is an expense through, it’s notable that none of the 15 DVDs we purchased recently had tracking paid for. Do you ship items on a tracked service and if so which postage methods do you use? If you don’t ship on a tracked service do you use tactics such as false tracking barcodes in an attempt to deter fraud? As a buyer what’s your impression of a seller that thinks you may be dishonest?

50 Responses

  1. As I am a Virtual Assistant and help other start-ups in various fields and one of them is customer care also. Thanks to the business which we deal with have tracked service and hence the buyers have a very good experience while buying and we too have a good service to provide as we know exactly where the item is and how long it would take to reach the customer. I prefer the tracked service.

  2. Sellers using deceptive methods to try and avoid ‘lost’ products is clearly wrong and should be discouraged and discontinued by any seller using such a ruse.

    However the simple fact that some sellers are restoring to subterfuge to avoid ‘Loss’ is evidence that these same sellers are concerned about ‘theft’ by buyers and that is perhaps more worrying than the tricks being used.

    Once sellers lose confidence in the platform they are selling on that platform becomes tainted, regardless of the truth state of ‘Loss’, and this is where I think eBay has lost the plot.

    Any professional seller will have experience of dubious claims and like any retail or for that matter any business should include ‘Loss’ in their business plan. For 7 years I accepted that a small percent of my sales would be ‘Lost’ and that loss was so small as to have no significant impact on my business.

    However the percentage of ‘Lost items’ has increased year on year, and goes mad at Christmas.

    Several months ago I decided that I had more than my fill of eBay and would close my shop (30,000) positive feedbacks, at Christmas. (Now closed!)
    That decision was incredible liberating and allowed me to deal with ‘I have not received my item’ customers in a manner I have wanted to for a long time. With nothing to lose I told these customers in the 3rd response email (If you are not happy open a dispute). A bit reckless maybe, but I didn’t care; I was going to close anyway. Well guess what not one of the 12 or so complainers opened a dispute, and their items turned up.

    Sellers have been saying for a long, long time that eBay is not protecting them. Opening a dispute should be the appropriate course of action for all these ‘Lost items’ and eBay should monitor regular claimants and it should not count against the seller regardless of the outcome.

  3. The amount of fraud on eBay is beyond a joke. eBay sit back and allow virtual car fraud to continue unchecked.

    The Police don’t follow it up because it’s low priority (disposable income loss is low compared to assault/murder etc and rightly so);

    Banks don’t care because the funds are untraceable once mixed;

    Have you seen their UK tv adverts? “From eBay with love” / “All your gifts in one place” – complain to Advertising Standards Authority if you don’t get your item!

    Fill in their security questionaire:

    eBay are like stocks and shares: don’t spend any money you can’t afford to lose!

  4. In my experiance Royal Mail “signed for” is just as likely to go missing as standard 1st class.

  5. Any email I get that says where is my item and the delivery time has past…I go down the following route

    1) Are they a Seller.
    2) Any history of this in Feedback left.
    3) Did they ask any silly questions prior to purchase like, hey if I buy 3 do i get free postage or can you discount me blah blah blah.

    If the answer is yes to any of the previous options experience tells me a scam is on the cards and get ready for battle regardless of tracking

  6. 184 tubs of tablets and cleaners ‘never arrived’ via Royal Mail this year so far through eBay.

    One single bottle via our websites and they do triple the volume.

  7. To Amfm:
    … ‘it arrives with return address’s on often … ‘
    If you really have evidence of this then you should go to Ofcom because it could mean that RM are acting in a way that would be deemed fraudulent.

  8. we use royalmail airsure a lot, tracked but not signed for, it cant be coincidence that the same day we get an item not received message the tracking shows the item has been delivered ? when we give the tracking info, the buyer either does not reply or responds saying they have just checked the mail and it has been delivered, and even stranger its always USA buyers who seem to send this email on the day of delivery?

  9. Surely if they have their mail boxes well away from the house, such as at the bottom of the drive, they check it every day? I am certain that I would. If they are not checking it surely that would make it vulnerable to theft by the ungodly or even animal or insect infestation. Let us also not forget about Identity Theft. A Mailbox full of such as Bank Statements and letters from Utilities for days would be an open invitation.

  10. Well when i lived there you could set your watch by the USPS guy.

    Perhaps packages are delivered by a seperate person and are not there at the “regular” time, hence these folk double checking and discovering they have their item after all.

    No idea about crime or insects, but touching someone elses mailbox was grounds for getting shot where I lived.

  11. Only 200 sales and just had my first item not received case opened. Contacted me asking when he should expect delivery. Next time I hear from him, he’s made a claim and is asking for a refund. It’s a 150cm package. Not likely to go missing is it!!!

    I should be able to insist he confirms he has checked with the sorting office and his neighbours before giving this scammer a refund. Hell, I should be able to wait for Royal Mail to finish their “investigations” without fear of penalty!

  12. it does not help matters either when you make a stand against the partial refund keyboard terrorists and insist on a return or nothing,and they then get a full refund from ebay as customer service gesture and thet even keep the item too, when they make a claim

  13. Of course the fact that the customer has no legal obligation to return an item is always pleasing too.

  14. Tracking and signatures are only worth anything if the couriers/postpeople bother to get them from the customer. The number of times that I have had something delivered without being asked for my signature (checking the tracking later shows a forged signature).

    For a more foolproof proof of delivery the couriers should take a photo of the person they hand the item over to. This would potentially stop a large number of claims.

  15. I didn’t mind so much when Royal Mail allowed us to claim for anything that was lost.
    But since they removed the facility to claim for anything other then non-delivered tracked-mail (UK or overseas) I really get annoyed when I lose something.
    The financial loss I can cope with. As many have said you just factor it in to your business model.
    It’s my inability to get over the fact that I have (or may have) been ripped off that sticks in my throat.
    About 2 months ago, as mentioned in a reply on a previous thread here, I added a “Shipping Scan” barcode to all my address labels.
    It doesn’t say “tracked” or “Scan on delivery” or anything like that to mislead a customer. Just “Shipping Scan”. I use Linnworks and use barcodes for shipping anyway to help print the label off using Royal Mail DE.
    My products are lowish value, £5 – £18 and in most cases the extra tracking, especially overseas, has too much of a negative impact on sales.
    The results since I have shipped with “Shipping Scan” on the label?
    One parcel lost to Slovenia. I would normally be counting much more in the way of losses at this time so I think it is having a positive contribution on the number of false claims being made.
    A pal has recently done the same and has noticed a similar result.
    I think sellers are having to think like this since the Royal Mail turn their back on their responsibility and eBay couldn’t give a hoot.
    e.g one customer in the USA earlier this year claimed in eBay Messaging that they hadn’t received their package and that the address they had registered in eBay was about 3 years out of date!
    I politely said “tough luck, I sent it to the address you had listed”.
    The item wasn’t tracked. Customer opens up a case. I submit the case to eBay thinking that since the customer had admitted that they moved 1500 miles 3 years ago, then eBay would tell them that it was their loss. How wrong I was. I lost the money and my DSR’s were dinged.
    So it’s down to me to protect my losses now and I’ll do anything I think I need to.

  16. I send from overseas. My Ebay operation is mainly limited to UK, Scandanavia, parts of Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as these are the only areas I could consider safe to send without tracking. Loss rate to UK is quite small really, and getting even smaller since the introduction of buyer protection, but I did have an awful time worldwide during October for some reason.
    From experience, I’d consider 90% of claims to be false or due to buyer incompetence, eg, forgetting to change address, you learn to be like a detective
    after a while. I can say this because unknown to the buyer my registered items to the USA suddenly became trackable, and the results were truly eye opening.
    I’ve also had good success by indicating that items can be traced, providing proof of postage that may have been a little embellished, and asking that a simple legal declaration be made.
    I’m thinking of also informing buyer’s that all refunds/part refunds will be declared to Ebay buyer protection for the purposes of profiling dispatch performance (anybody think this is a good idea, and if so any better wording?)
    Maybe it is my cynical devious mind, but the false tracking sticker seems a bit of a wheeze, and arguably fair game. I figure a genuine claimant won’t be put off since he/she obviously would not see it.
    Great article, which deals with the dark side of Ebay in a constructive manner.

  17. Anybody up for creating an A4 sheet of “Shipping Scan” labels for an Avery sheet that we can all copy and print off?

    What size is recommended for maximum effect?

  18. Produced “shipping scan” labels in 10 minutes using my Avery software on a J8160 template. That is 21 peel off labels per A4 sheet.

    I’ll scan a copy in and email it to tamebay and if they want tamebay can offer it as a free download.

  19. I can understand the reservations although how often do you see company barcodes on packages that are not related to anything created by the actual shipping agency.

    These don!t mess up sorting systems or at least there are no reports of such incidents. I would guess that sorting systems are geared up to recognise certain characters at the start of a code and to ignore any code that does not contain these characters.

    Avery do offer free software as a download to enable label design for their label templates. Those who wish to consider the idea could download the software.

  20. I send all my items by a tracked or signed for method. I recently changed to Airsure as it allows me to track it, and RM too, if i have to call them. International Signed For can go missing once out of the UK. I have had similar experience with USA buyers with airsure who strangely clain INR on the day or maybe two to three days after delivery, and they either do not reply or say, they just found it in there box when i give them the delivery details from the USPS site.
    My gripe is that ebay do not follow their own Policies concerning dispute resolution. i recently had a buyer claiming an item was Not as described, it was untrue, but i agreed to a refund on return as we have no choice in these matters, the buyer claimed they had sent it back, but the tracking details on the dispute page was blank, a few days later they said it had been returned to them as i was not at home and it was not collected, despite the time scale for delivery/non collection/return to them as being impossible, they said they had proof and sent me a picture of a badly falsified RM return label-the dates were changed. i reported this to ebay with the pictures, the buyer raised to a claim, and ebay found in their favour and i got a non resolved case strike on my account, because i had not given a full refund before i received the returned item so as not to be hels at fault-this is ebays offer in the dispute process, and also for not giving a refund when the item was not returned! The buyer followed none of the rules of the dispute and i got a neg from the buyer!
    Ebay recommends tracked signed for shipping, but then say, when the postage and packing DSR’s get low that buyers prefer free postage! Minimum costs: UK recorded 1st is £3.75, International signed for/Airsure £9.75

  21. It is never a good idea to ship without some sort of confirmation. Even on low priced items it can lead to quite a bit of headache when trying to answer buyers who want to know where their items are at. I don’t know about in the UK but in the states it only costs about twenty cents extra to get confirmation. Well worth all things considered.


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