eBay UK Seller forced to refund Global Seller Programme sale

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GSP globalLet’s start with this: eBay UK’s Global Selling Programme (GSP) is a good thing. It should be, and most usually is, a stress free and effective way for British eBay sellers to ship to buyers overseas.

If you opt in your items are presented to buyers in other countries but your liabilities are minimised. The buyer pays an additional shipping fee and all you need to do is send the item to the GSP warehouse in the Midlands. eBay takes care of the rest. I’ve used it myself and it was successful.

The particular joy is that you as a seller are protected. Read the terms here. You’re supposed to be protected from refunds and defects as long as you item makes it to the warehouse. Specifically, eBay says: “You aren’t responsible for item loss or damage that occurs after the item is forwarded by the UK Shipping Centre.”

But that wasn’t the experience of EW Blakeney who wrote to the Observer to report that she had a buyer from Germany via the GSP and then, contrary to the eBay terms, also had to refund in the event of a dispute. The cash was directly taken from her PayPal account.

You can read the full debacle here in a piece called: eBay flouted its own refund policy when parcel didn’t arrive.

This story is frustrating on several levels. Firstly, it’s never good for eBay to be criticised in the press. That hurts sellers. Secondly, it took press intervention to make good in the dispute. Thirdly, it’s another example of how eBay as an organisation just isn’t working effectively as an entity. It’s a classic: “not my counter” situation.

My views on this are reflected in a post I made a few weeks ago called: Is eBay making progress on buyer fraud?

In this GSP case, it’s clear that the seller did fulfil their commitments and was subsequently sent around the houses to get it sorted out. All monies were correctly returned, only after press intervention. eBay called it a “straightforward ­process mistake”. I prefer the crude military term: SNAFU.

Sort it out, eBay.

15 Responses

  1. more llke this please Dan
    the unacceptable is the normal trading environment on ebay
    out in the open can only help

  2. I’m a massive fan of the global shipping programme. It’s exactly the sort of problem the marketplace can and should be addressing. And by and large it’s done extremely well. However, this is a customer service problem, not a gsp problem. We had exactly the same issue as the Guardian article: item sold to German buyer, claim raised and refund deducted from Paypal. We were able to get a refund after about three months of arguing back and forth between cs in Dublin and cs in Germany. The essential German argument was that as they don’t have the gsp there, the rules to refund didn’t apply to them…

    It’s not simple, but customer service design can’t be approached in the same way as coding. Product owners need to spend as much time explaining to cs heads the principles and examples as much as they do the process flows to the developers. Furthermore cs needs to have feedback loops in place to understand how and when these mistakes ate happening rather than seeming to rely on the press department to find their repeating errors.

    This stuff is hard: almost impossible to get right first time – so eBay need to give themselves the time and space to improve, but more importantly the culture which puts the customer at the heart of what they do.

  3. I wouldn’t touch the GSP with a barge pole, and I love the amended terms and conditions that state pitney bowes will not attempt to recover cuistom duties in the event of a return. Classic ebay – good idea, abyssmal implenmentation

  4. I had a similar experience with a Spanish customer.

    He was not home when the courier chosen by eBay in Spain tried to deliver and after 3 attempts they officially returned the item to the depot.

    As this is eBay’s courier, I could not contact them so I assume the goods were destroyed.

    After 6 weeks, the customer opened a dispute saying they had not received the goods.

    I replied explaining GSP and suggesting they contact eBay to get a refund.

    Customer then proceeded to open a dispute with Paypal.

    I replied instantly with numerous screenshots from eBay showing the status of the parcel, the fact it was GSP, proof it had been delivered to the GSP Centre etc…

    Case was closed at Paypal about a week later.

    Not really that straightforward! And the fact eBay and Paypal both have dispute policies and are now separate companies does not help.

    No idea what happened to the customer…

  5. ~
    A lot of eBay systems fall into the box ‘excellent idea’, work well for 95% of the time, but are very flakey at the edges. eBay management seem happy to trot out the line ‘most customers were not affected’, rather than ‘we are very sorry we had an issue and we have sorted it’.

    I recently was asked by the buyer to cancel one item from a multi item order. I correctly picked the item in the res. centre and all looked fine. But eBay refunded the whole of the customer payment having had authority from me to refund for just a small part.

    It cost me time, it took up my customer’s time and over 2 weeks on I have just had a payment from the customer (less a gesture amount from me for his inconvenience and trouble).

    eBay should be better than that. Every issue gives more chances for off eBay sales and eBay doesn’t really want that does it?

  6. How is eBay’s gsp a good thing for sellers of lower priced items ? A journalist making such a sweeping statement risks alienating a large part of their readership methinks – going by the number of posted comments on many days, you need all the contributors you can get don’t you ?
    I send items overseas using normal letter post, as do many hundreds of other online sellers, and I’d love to see the figures which show that the gsp is ‘a good thing’ – it surely isn’t cheaper for the buyer, and I cannot imagine it’s easier for a seller who loses sales due to increased postage costs.

  7. we think the gsp is a great idea a few tweaks and we would think it was fantastic and use it exclusively
    a managed return process is a must before we could commit ourselves to it totally

  8. I’m sure i said this would happen as soon as they mentioned the GSP. you’re never protected with ebay unless you’re a dodgy buyer or hold a press pass. end of story.

  9. I had an item go to Germany via GSP. The customer claimed the item wasn’t as described and wanted to send the item back. He opened a case. Maybe the description did not translate well. I promised the buyer a postage refund when the item was returned.

    The buyer sent the item back via DHL and then once it got to the UK Parcelforce got their hands on it, where it is now, who knows but definitely not with me.

    The case was escalated, the buyer got a refund and for my efforts I got a defect and a negative as well as losing out on £135.

    Talking to German Ebay Customer to support is impossible. I was basically told the item shows it is on its way back to you, so that is why a refund was granted. Are the rules on Ebay Germany different? I kept asking but could not find out.

    Every time I try to speak to UK customer support, they pass me over to the Germans, who tell me according to their tracking the item is delivered, when if you clearly check Parcelforce there has been no movement for a month.

    I am very tempted to stop GSP sales for anything over £30, as when things go wrong there is absolutely no support and I always lose out.

  10. Ebay do have different rules for different countries. This is kind of related…

    I had a buyer in the UK – registered in the UK buy from me in the UK but somehow 3 hours after purchasing the item (about 2am UK time) he managed to open an INR case via USA customer support with the reason “I’ve not got the item yet”

    I rang UK customer support and they said they could not help me because the case was opened via US customer support. This is despite the fact that no part of the transaction has anything to do with the US or the .com site.

    I did not know if I should send the item or not, as the customer did not respond to any attempts to contact them. I had to wait until 2pm for US customer support to open. The courier for the order collected at 1pm.

    US customer support rang me back at 2pm. I explained the situation and they told me to just send it the next day and to 100% not cancel the order.

    I finally send the order a day late, the customers gets the item, signs for it…

    Then complains that they just didn’t want it and I should pay to get it back or face negative feedback. Great!

    My point is that none of the different teams can speak to each other or know the rules from each site.


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