Enforced Free Postage and Packaging

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From 19th October 2009, eBay enforce free postage and packaging for all media items sold on their site (books, annuals, magazines, comics, DVDs, VHS videos, computer games, music CDs, records, cassette tapes etc). This is applicable whether you are a big business or a private individual.

What it means is that the free listing policy introduced earlier in 2009 has become a joke, as none of us can afford to sell for 99p and then pay for the postage and packaging. eBay tell us we should make the start price inclusive of the expected postage and packaging charges. This will lead to the following…

1.    It will cost you a listing fee to list it as it will start at more than 99p.
2.    eBay will profit from your postage and packaging charge when they take their 10% of your final sale price – eBay always frowned upon sellers
       who profited from P&P charges, now they’re doing it!
3.    If you sell more than one item to the same buyer, you will not be able to offer a postage discount as eBay will have already taken their cut of
       your postage charges (see below).
4.    The Post Office charges will still be the same but you will have to make the rest up out of your small profits.

Regarding Point 3 above…

It was quite the norm, if you sold multiple items to the same buyer, to offer a postage and packaging discount to the buyer, a) as an incentive to buy multiple items and b) because shipping multiple items tends to use less packaging and costs less in postage than shipping separately.

Here is an example…

I buy Doctor Who comics at £2.65 each, usually two at a time as they are issued that way. Each of the two auctions stated postage was £1.60. 2 x £2.65 bids = £5.30 and 2 x £1.60 postage and packaging = £3.20. Total would have been £8.50 but the seller then applied a postage discount so that I only paid £2.10 as postage and packaging, making the total to pay as £7.40.

Now the seller has to factor the P&P costs into his auctions so each comic is listed at £4.25 with the postage and packaging listed as ‘free’. I buy two comics and now have to pay £8.50 – that’s £1.10 more than I used to pay. If I buy four comics, well, you can see where I am heading…

It means that sellers will start to enormously profit from the postage and packaging element of their auctions, something that is in direct contravention of eBay’s own policies, yet now promoted by ebay themselves! Continuing the example above, four comics bid price would have been £10.60 with a discounted postage and packaging charge of £3.00 (total £13.60) – now it will cost me £17.00 and the seller will be making an extra profit of £3.40!

The free postage and packaging policy should be abolished immediately and perhaps replaced with a capping policy, like the one they had on annuals earlier in the year, where they enforced that P&P could not exceed £2.75 for an annual. When introducing a capping policy however, it should be tied in with the seller requiring to state the weight of the package so that the cap is set correctly. Some annuals are very heavy and £2.75 does not cover postage alone. Second class postage has a weight limit of 750g, anything over having to go first class or parcel post.

Alternatively, the policy should be limited to business sellers only, something they already know for every seller on eBay, as they insisted in 2008 that we all indicate whether we are a business or a private seller. They know I am a private seller and yet still force me to offer free P&P. Ridiculous.

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