PAYPAL SELLER PROTECTION - COMBINED POSTAGE WARNING!
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9 February 2009
MANY SELLERS OFFER TO COMBINE POSTAGE ON THE ITEMS THAT THEY SELL TO MAKE POSTAGE CHEAPER FOR BUYERS.
BEWARE! THERE IS DANGER LURKING!
(PLEASE BEAR WITH ME ON THIS, BECAUSE YOU NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO GET CAUGHT OUT, EVEN IF YOU'RE AN EXPERIENCED EBAYER.)
PayPal is a great system for both buyers and sellers, but sometimes there can be tears when buyers or sellers don't follow simple rules.
Combined postage has the potential to be a real minefield, because PayPal rules state that you have to send an item by a method that can be tracked online, but if you think carefully about it, if you put item 2 into the same package as item 1, then which item have you actually sent that can be tracked online? In theory, PayPal are looking for two tracking numbers, but you only have one. They could therefore accept a buyer's argument that they did not receive item 2 and make a chargeback to your account. PayPal are very rigid in their rules, so although it may seem human and sensible in the case of a chargeback case to tell them that you combined items, they will tell you that they still want online proof.
HOW TO PLAY SAFE AND SIMPLE ON COMBINED POSTAGE.
From reading the PayPal rules, this is the safe way to combine postage:
1) On your listing, if you state that you are willing to combine postage, add to that sentence: "If you want your items combined into one postage, WAIT FOR A FINAL INVOICE and tell me when you have finalised your purchases. DO NOT PAY BEFORE THE INVOICE ARRIVES!".
2) When the purchaser has indicated that they have completed their purchases, issue an invoice for all the items together, stating one price for (tracked) postage.
3) By doing this, you are officially creating "one item" and PayPal should reasonably be expected to believe that you did indeed send all items together.
4) Although you may feel awkward in doing it, if a buyer pays for two items separately before you have had chance to send an invoice, then strictly speaking, you should refund the amounts paid and get them to pay again when you have sent an invoice.
WHERE SELLERS GET TRIPPED UP.
Very simply, when they sell items and demand "Immediate payment required" and the same person buys more than one item. This does not give the buyer the opportunity to wait for an invoice.
Strictly speaking, you then need to despatch each item separately to have online tracking that qualifies. In a way, this should sort itself out because, if you think about it, it's not really practical to offer combined postage in such cases because each time the buyer pays, he pays for postage as well.
(Immediate payment is good for selling single items where you don't want to be messed around for payment, but think about how you will adapt it for multiple items where the buyer would like a combined postage discount.)
WHERE GREEDY SELLERS GET TRIPPED UP.
Quite simply, by not offering combined postage discount, but then combining multiple items in one package to a single buyer anyway, hoping to pocket the savings themselves. But even if they arrive safely, an aggrieved buyer could simply state that postage was paid for each item but only one was sent - and the seller has not a leg to stand on, because where's the tracking numbers for all packages that should have gone out?
ANOTHER (SLIGHTLY COMPLICATED) WAY TO OFFER COMBINED POSTAGE.
If a buyer does pay before the invoice is sent to them, and you do wish to offer combined postage, you can make a refund of their excess postage payments, BUT, do it after the package has been received and feedback left. (And because PayPal ignores feedback as proof of delivery, it would be better to ask for an e-mail confirming to you that the buyer had received all items.) Obviously, this is NOT the best way to go about a smooth transaction.
WHAT I DO FOR VALUABLE PACKAGES.
A third way that I use is to set my tripod and camera up on my packing table and literally video the packing process. Although not proof of delivery, of course, it does have a powerful impression on buyers if you can advise them in your despatch e-mail that "if there is problem with Royal Mail, let me know because I have the video proof for you to give them", then the implicit understanding is that you have taken time to document your package in advance.
If you do take the video option, (generally more suited to expensive items), make sure that you video the final package weight as well. When the Post Office issues your tracking receipt, it will show the weight to three decimal places, (i.e. 1 gramme). If that weight matches, (near enough), the weight on your video, then no-one can say that you took an item out after the video was switched off.
I hope that this small guide has succeeded in showing you that you have to play smart and fair with PayPal. Their logic is not the same as yours, and they aren't there to make things easy for sellers at the moment - they need more buyers and will also tend towards making decisions in favour of the buyer. You need to make your case as watertight as possible.
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