eBay sellers gouge on expedited delivery costs

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I’ve become a great fan of Amazon Prime since I started using it, mainly because I no longer have to worry about what the shipping prices are so long as I click the “Prime Eligible” button.

eBay postage prices however still annoy me immensely. Take an item I purchased this evening – the seller is offering “Fast & Free” postage. I still have an issue with eBay describing anything up to three day’s delivery time as “fast”. Fast should be buying on a Sunday evening and receiving delivery on Tuesday. That aside however it’s the postage prices for alternative delivery methods which really rankle.

Shipping OptionsI have no idea how much the seller is paying his 48 hour courier. However it’s unlikely to be less than about £4.00. We all know that there’s no such thing as free postage so that £4 is included in the purchase price.

With £4 postage already being “charged”, how on earth can the seller have the gall to charge an additional £9.99 for Royal Mail Tracked 24 – an effective cost of £13.99. Even a seller only shipping a couple of thousand items per year can get Tracked 24 for around £5.50 and Royal Mail’s discount for downgrading to Tracked 48 is about 50p. Charging £9.99 is ridiculous.

Again the Special Delivery cost of £12.99 doesn’t appear to take into account the £4 postage that’s included in the item price. A more realistic price point would be £8.99.

Have you reviewed your postage prices recently? Are you massively overcharging for enhanced postage options? If you are there are two things that might happen. Buyers in a hurry for their items will simply shop elsewhere and you’ll miss out on the sale, or they’ll pay the price and then ding you with some harsh feedback or detailed seller ratings.

You might say my best option is simply to shop with another retailer… the problem is that I’ve got this Amazon Prime account and all the time that sellers are offering ridiculous expedited delivery charges on eBay that’s where I’m likely to head.

One day eBay will wake up to the fact that whilst the headline postage offered may be reasonably priced (or free), some sellers are still gouging on expedited delivery charges. If sellers don’t set more reasonable prices one day eBay may decide to make all costs mandatory which will probably upset everyone. It might stop me from shopping with Amazon Prime though!

26 Responses

  1. I agree with the issue over the prices here, some what weird options for the seller to offer and I also agree about the fast and free.

    However I disagree that consumers would go elsewhere, the simple fact is 99% of customers on ebay want the free option and they think it’s going to be delivered tomorrow with full tracking on a £5 item.

    We offer free RM 48 on our items and we offer ‘next day’ for £3.99 which I think is a bargain, however we are lucky if 1 in 1000 orders ever choose it. We offer the same on Amazon and around 5-10 out of 100 orders customer opt for it.

  2. I challenge the articles author and anyone of this mindset to go on eBay as a seller, create a listing with accurate weight and dimensions,and see for yourself what the shipping cost is. Most of us sellers only charge the exact calculation. As a matter of fact I put the dimensions in and let eBay’s system calculate the price so its exact.

    Believe me, we wish shipping was cheaper as we would sell more. If I were to offer free expedited shipping I might as well just give everything away, I won’t make any money. You will basically pay my shipping cost and I’ll give you the item for free.

    Yes, amazon prime is great. If I had a few million customers paying $100 a year I could easily arrange a shipping solution that wouldn’t cost the buyer. Unfortunately, that is not the situation for eBay sellers.

    I realize there are some sellers who add on to the shipping fees however they do this to cover materials and labor for mailing sometimes, other times to make a little more money.

    More often than not, however, it is the buyers who have an entirely distorted idea of current shipping costs. If you looked into it beforehand you would never have made the argument you just posed.

  3. I no longer sell on Ebay, but I still buy.

    I’ve seen Special D charges of £2,000 to put off buyers from opting for next day delivery.

    To get the fast and free boost, you have to offer special D, which is a pain to process for some sellers.

    The answer is to stick a prohibitive price tag on it, so no-one will go for it.

    The same applies to free to postage. I’ve seen sellers select the 40 day surface mail option for their free delivery.

    Again, the aim is to get the customer to pay for their delivery, but to still qualify for the Ebay boost.

    Life is good away from Ebay!

  4. In days of yore (if my memory serves me) shipping charges on eBay were not subject to fees so 1p items with £20 were more common.

    I prefer to have a free shipping level and then charge only the additional cost to me for overseas or UK shipping upgrades.

    As you say Chris, as a buyer, Amazon Prime is unbeatable, I have even had occasional Sunday deliveries.

  5. I understand your gripe with that free delivery option not being deducted from the other postage options. Most people want their items fast, I believe that most consumers would pay more to get it quicker. I think the overcharging comes down to ebay taking a % of your postage. I’ve also stopped selling on ebay as the prices are ridiculous. So yes you have x amount for paying for postage, but then you have to buy the box to ship it in and sometimes bubble wrap, these all eat into a sellers profit.

  6. Amazon Prime is only good if you are confident you will buy sufficient goods this way to justify the cost. If you don’t do this, it is a waste of money unless you really do need everything next day.

    It may be these charges look wrong, but life isn’t fair, and as a consumer you have a choice where you buy. Don’t like the charges? Buy elsewhere. As someone else commented, take up on any kind of premium service is minimal. However, it does take longer for the seller to handle, and if this seller has a courier collection, and so has to make a special journey to a post office for Tracked 24 or Special Delivery then they are probably charging something like what it actually costs them in fees, materials and time. It s the seller’s commercial decision, and entirely up to them.

    Who knows the reason? It is speculation, and only the seller can say. But don’t dis the seller unless you know the facts.

  7. >> Who knows the reason? It is speculation, and only the seller can say. But don’t dis the seller unless you know the facts.

    Good point. Chris – why don’t you declare your interests and ask the seller?


  8. I gave up Amazon Prime when the price shot up as I simply didn’t use it enough PLUS I also found many items did not quality PLUS I found I wasn’t getting the prompt delivery I expected. Prime Instant Video has a poor selection – the things I want to watch are usually extra. Shame – Prime is a good idea, but poor execution.

  9. We charge £1.95 more for 1st class and £3.65 for Special Delivery. The latter does not cover our additional costs, but if a customer is that keen we don’t mind taking a small hit.

    What happens frequently however is the buyer purchases with the free post option and then sends a message stating they need it urgently. In most cases we end up upgrading to 1st class for free rather than says “if you just pay £1.95 we can upgrade your service”.

    Related to this is the unrealistc expectations ebay creates by posting estimated delivery times. They are always optimistic, particularly when sending via Global Shipping Program (which is a whole other kettle of fish).

  10. the express shipping costs is not just the difference between outbound “standard” and “express” stamps.

    there is usually extra handling involved, often coming out of the standard automated que, and being manually processed / handled.

    if there’s the tiniest delay, customer will demand FULL refund for postage, not just the difference (which either i wont get back from the courier, or its such a pulava its not worth putting a claim in).
    – often going through ebay managed returns, so there isnt an option to refund postage only, just return the whole bloody thing for refund, thus doubling the postage costs.

    then if its damaged/faulty, or the customer just doesnt like the colour, they will also expect the return shipping to be expedited, at my cost of course, and still have the full outbound postage refunded (whether they’re due it or not, as you know, ebay dont care either way and refund gratuitously).

    where do these factor into your calculations?

    costs are costs. if the ebay regime insists on the seller burdening all these costs, then either the seller doesnt offer expedited, or you pay what it costs.

  11. I really hope you don’t buy anything from me. You are the typical “I bought this and your delivery says it should have been here today but it’s not” idiot customer. We have to use Royal Mail because it’s cheap, and cheap means that it’s not reliable. I always get idiots telling me that Royal Mail first class is next working day. If that was the case why do they offer special delivery? Please get a life and go outside for some fresh air.

  12. Don’t forget folks! Remember to add on 20% vat to your shipping prices as hmrc want their cut so if tracked is £5.50 as Chris suggests, I’d suggest £7 as a fair price to allow for the vat you are legally obliged to gather, as well as any packaging costs

  13. Amazon also make profits on shipping. If you aren’t a prime customer you pay £1.49 delivery for a DVD, when in reality amazon pay pence to deliver it.

  14. Ebay sent us a little lesson in how to use thier discount marketing tool when I pointed out we seldom sell multiples on ebay, and seldom sell single items on our website. so to use ebays discount marketing tool , first off everything has to be freepost… oh dear, they so dont understand. There is a big opportunity to sell up the postage weight limits at no further cost to buyer or seller – all ebay cn manage is this ridiculous freepost nonsense.- there is no such thing , and buyers are not that stupid (well, mostly..)

  15. Another reason many sellers will charge so much for next day delivery is simply the hassle in processing such deliveries.

    Our courier DHL operates on a 24hr schedule (mostly when they can be arsed) however we simply advertise everything as 48hr delivery.

    For smaller cheaper items we charge £9.99 to £12.99 for next day delivery which would normally go royal mail large letter. If we didnt have DHL’s 24hr service on hand we would have to start driving to post offices on a regular occasion and thats an hour lost each day for 1 or 2 small packages.

  16. In the 2-3000 transactions since they brought this in I think I’ve had 1 customer go for the expedited delivery.

    First off the cost includes ebay fees, paypal fees, VAT on ebay fees. If it costs me £5 extra i need to charge £5.75 extra or thereabouts.

    Secondsly I print my own labels. Works for me but the paypal transactions don’t make it obvious the person paid for speedy delivery – so it could get missed.

    I really don’t want it. I’d be happy to lose every single order where somebody wants expedited delivery. With a normal order if anything happens that I can’t ship that day, car breaks down, I miss the post, I’m out collecting stock etc then it’s ok. I do get about 95% of orders received by 4pm out the same day – but if the pressure is on, I HAVE to do it and risk neg feedback if I don’t then I’ll happily lose the business so I price shipping high.

  17. Interesting article, as a seller I’m probably guilty of this.

    It has come about as a result of the gradual continual changes ebay has forced upon its sellers.
    Most sellers charged postage on top until ebay forced everyone to offer free postage to keep TRS status.

    Sellers then accepted this cost as an additional ebay fee but didnt always increase their prices to reflect this, rather just made the cheapest option free to quality for TRS, but didnt consider the others and left them at the actual postage cost, bearing in mind ebay take a fee on postage.

    I find buyers used to agree to pay more when postage was itemised, because they accepted it as a necessary expense, i know some sellers abused this but it costs what it costs and buyers would pay it. Now they expect it to be free but sadly for us sellers it isn’t, and it goes up every year. You cant however put your prices up every year and remain competitive in a saturated marketplace that is stagnant and losing market share left, right and centre.


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