7 Common Problems with Postal Addresses, and How To Fix Them
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11 September 2016
Despite what you would think, the addressing of packets is not always simple with Ebay and Paypal.
Ebay sends a message with an address, then Paypal sends a message with an address, and they do not always agree or look right.
Yet, for seller protection, the seller is allowed to use either address!
Normally, I would use the Paypal address to send items but I have had some problems so will often check with the buyer where I am not sure. In fact my "thank you for your order" type emails have a note about the addressing in them - though I think most people don't read this!
So I will go into a bit more detail below about some of the problems that occur with addressing and how to fix them.
Problem : The Ebay email shows a buyer name, and in the address, a company name. The Paypal address shows the company name but no buyer (person) name at all.
This is because Paypal has only ONE field to display buyer name OR company name on the address. If there is a company name included then no buyer name is shown on the Paypal address or emails. This could cause confusion as to the intended recipient, for example :
- if an individual orders a personal item to be delivered to a work address for convenience and their name is not on the packet this could cause both confusion AND embarassment ;
- If an individual uses a trading name and a residential address, the surname may be more useful for delivery as written on a bell or post box.
Solution : I always pick out the buyer name from the Ebay order and add it to the Paypal address before the company name. This will make it far easier for the item to find its way to the relevant person, especially if the company is more than a few people in size. However, some companies have an Ebay account and the buyer name is not the intended recipient in all cases. But as far as I am concerned, that is for them to sort out!
Similarly delivery to a residential address will be easier as you ensure the address includes enough information.
Problem : The Ebay address is different from the Paypal address.
If the name is the same, and both addresses appear to be residential addresses, the discrepancy could be due to one of the following :
- someone who often uses their parents' address for orders instead of their own. Fine if they are close, it probably wouldn't matter which address you picked. If they are a long way apart it may be a good idea to check.
- someone who has moved house recently, or even a while ago. This is more of a problem, once I sent an item to an empty house which no-one had the keys to! I always write to the buyer to check. If I receive no response I will send to the Paypal address by default ( this isn't necessarily right but I have to have a policy to stop items being overly delayed, and at least I tried to check if there is any later complaint).
If the name is different but related :
- I use the Paypal address. E.g. someone buying a gift for their mother might send it directly to their mother's house.
If the name is different and unrelated :
- Probably an item is being bought for a friend or work colleague. Use the Paypal address. If the Paypal address is unconfirmed and the item is valuable, check with the buyer. Be careful with correspondence.
If the name is the same, the Ebay address is a residential address and the Paypal address is a business address :
- I used to check, but now I send every item to the Paypal business address, including the buyer name from the Ebay email - as this is usually a deliberate move by the buyer for convenience of delivery. The only problem there is that the business address may not be a confirmed address and so may not give the seller protection in case of a claim. If you are not sure, contact the buyer. If the item is valuable and you are not sure, it is your right to insist on a confirmed address.
Problem : The Ebay address is in one country and the Paypal address is in another.
If one country is the same as yours, use the Paypal address. This is because the buyer should see only local postage options when ordering to a local address, or only international postage options when ordering to an address in a different country. So they are unlikely to be making a mistake and the Paypal address should be the intended address. Be careful though if this address is unconfirmed.
If both countries are not the same as yours, it is definitely wise to check with the buyer which country to send to. If an Ebay message is not responded to, email them to both Ebay and Paypal email addresses and change the subject line to include "Question about delivery address re item xxx". Wait for a reply and chase up after a couple of days if no response. If still no reply I would usually go ahead and ship to the Paypal address at least for small items, but this may be different for you so evaluate for yourself!
Problem : The address is to overseas and you are not sure if it is complete or formatted correctly. Often the order process will mangle international addresses somewhat.
Solution : With a bit of experience you will find this can be manually corrected without needing to contact the buyer. Mostly you can check local address formats for different countries very easily online. Most often moving the postcode to the correct place is all that needs to be done. I also convert the country name to capitals. I have a sample address format sheet for various countries stuck by my desk for quick reference.
In a few instances you may wish to use a wider label, for some particularly long addresses that can't be split easily!
If still in doubt about the address, contact the buyer and ask them to respond by Ebay message, or email, with the correct full postal address. They will normally be quite happy to do this.
Problem : The address and buyer name has all been typed in in small letters. It is incredible how little thought some people give to something so important as their name and address! It is also incredible that Ebay and Paypal make no attempt to either refuse or correct a poorly formatted address, or to encourage the buyer to correct it. They simply accept it and leave it for every single seller to worry about.
Solution : I have never mentioned to any buyer about how badly their Ebay or Paypal address is written, except in a major case like a house number or name being missing. I wish I could though, it is so frustrating. I hope some buyers read this and improve their address!
I used to manually correct every address which really annoyed me as well as wasting my time.
Now I use Label Wizard, a PC application which you can use for free or pay a small fee for. It has an autocorrect feature for addresses; although this not perfect, it does magically correct a great many addresses, removing much of the work. It will not split the postcode, which I do manually. A great many people write the postcode all together though there should be a gap in UK post codes.
The Label Wizard autocorrect works best for UK addresses. International addresses should still be corrected manually otherwise the autocorrect may make things worse not better.
Problem : The address is in a country I am not comfortable shipping to.
Ebay provides generalised destinations for international shipping that you can allow or disallow. Although the areas may seem fine on an initial look, actually you may find you have agreed to some countries you would not have chosen to ship to.
For example if you add postage rates for Europe, did you know that you have now agreed to shipping to Russia?
Although I do ship to Russia, it can cause problems, not least of which is that items can take between 2-8 weeks to arrive and Ebay are likely to allow the buyer a refund before that time is up! Many sellers would not willingly ship to Russia.
Refusing an order could result at worst in a negative feedback and/or poor DSR ratings.
Solution : It is possible to go deeper into the shipping options and exclude individual countries.
- You can do this when listing, under "Excluded Postage Locations" for an individual item or listing.
- Or for all future listings, and/or to apply to all current listings, you can apply a blanket exclusion in My Ebay, Site Preferences, Postage and Packing Preferences, Show, Exclude postage locations from your listings, Edit.
For an existing order, all you may be able to do is contact the buyer to ask to cancel the sale, or for items of value to ask them to pay for tracked / insured shipping if they haven't already. They may not be happy, but in many cases they will be understanding. The key here is to be polite and honest. You can also ask them whether they usually receive items without problems from your country, and how long it generally takes for delivery. This may give you some insight into likely issues, and you would also then know your buyer's expectations. Also, check the buyer's feedback and the feedback they have left for others. Bear in mind that for exceptionally long delivery times, the feedback window will have already closed!
Problem : The buyer has a confirmed Ebay address in the UK but is asking me to ship to an unconfirmed Ebay address overseas.
Solution : I have covered this topic in other guides but it also deserves a mention here I think. A buyer may be living or travelling away and have a temporary address overseas, it is up to you whether you ship to an unconfirmed address, and to a country where you may not normally ship. Best to check both the buyer's feedback, and the feedback they have left for others before deciding. Also give the buyer an estimate of delivery time, if you know it, to make sure the address will be current for long enough for delivery. Offer a tracked and insured postal option if you wish the buyer to use this, which may involve asking for an extra payment to cover it.
If you are unhappy shipping to the overseas address you can also offer to ship recorded and/or insured to a UK confirmed address for a friend or relative to then forward on. The buyer would then have to organise for the item to be sent on at their risk.
This problem may also occur with people who do not originate from the UK and whose main address is overseas, or who wish to send an item to a family member overseas. Again it is up to you to decide how to deal with this and additionally there could be language and understanding problems. Also be aware of any countries known for scams shipping overseas (Fingers crossed I have not had problems with this to date).
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