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I buy an awful lot of ceramics on eBay and regrettably far too many items arrive broken, usually because they haven't been properly packaged.

I am saddened by the loss to the world of irreplaceable items which I've painstakingly singled out as being of interest to me and taken time and trouble to win in auctions which have usually lasted an entire week. Little wonder many collectors will not take the risk of buying on eBay.

They may have been bargains, or they may have been expensive, but it matters not! When my postman delivers battered parcels - usually leaving them on my doorstep under our "Christmas Tip" arrangement which saves me having to collect them from the Sorting Office - I know they're going to rattle and I know I haven't really won at all! Such disappointment after all my efforts is immediately followed by the realisation that ahead of me lies another disproportionately lengthy task of trying to salvage something from the wreckage.

Did I pay extra to have my purchases covered against such breakage, or wasn't I given the choice? Does it matter anyway?

Even if I paid for insurance did it actually cover the breakage of ceramics which are, after all, susceptible to damage? Which courer service was used and what are their terms?

Was my prized purchase properly packaged and, if not, will that fact invalidate any insurance I may have paid for?

Did I do anything wrong to deserve all this hassle? Could I have done anything differently?


So here we go again. First I must photograph my broken treasure and then communicate with the vendor. The reply I get will determine whether the vendor is going to act honourably or not. Most often the answer is NOT - blame the courier. Don't you love those listings which state non-acceptence of any responsibility once the parcel has been sent? Even when the vendor is honourable I'm frequently asked to store the damaged item AND its packaging in case needed, or even to add to my loss by sending everything back. Yes, I know I could drive 5 miles to the sorting office and try to persuade them to return it for free but that costs even more in terms of transport and time. Most often the vendor suggests I make a compensation claim on the courier and some even send me the appropriate form!

Need I go on? You've all suffered the same fate I expect and even if you haven't YET you soon will. You may eventually get some or even all of your money back but you'll always disappointed!

I am writing this Guide in the hope that eBay might issue some useful guidelines, advice, or even rules. Currently their Detailed Seller Ratings are more concerned with Postage and Packing Charges and Dispatch Time!

My own policy as a seller in such circumstances (although I do everything possible to avoid the risk of any damage by over-packaging and therefore only suffer exceptional breakages - like "run over by forklift truck") is to IMMEDIATELY make a full refund including postage and then personally sort the matter out with the courier. I also use the following test to ensure my packaging is safe:

"Drop the finished parcel onto a concrete floor from a height of 3 feet". If the contents survive the packaging is probably adequate! Heavy or multiple items in the same parcel need extra special protection.

Go on - I challenge you.

Here are my own thoughts on the matter:

The contract for the carriage of goods is between the vendor (who packs and sends the parcel) and the courier, and in the event of damage to the parcel contents it is therefore the vendor who must make any compensation claim. The vendor is fully responsible for his or her own packaging standards and cannot refute this responsibility.

The vendor is also responsible for resolving the situation with the purchaser - that innocent buyer who's bought the goods and even paid for them to be sent. The poor purchaser hasn't even seen the goods until they arrive and surely can't be held responsible for anything in the packaging or delivery processes.

No amount of FRAGILE tape will protect badly packaged parcels. The fact is that parcels are handled - not always carefully - and stacked, and probably several times. They are simply boxes to their handlers who spend their lives moving them from one place to another. How many broken suitcases do you see on Airport carousels having merely been loaded onto a plane and later unloaded?

If the receiving of damaged purchases is disappointing to the purchaser the situation is best avoided by over-packaging, even if that results in a marginally increased postage cost. The current eBay drive towards FREE postage is likely to encourage vendors to skimp on packaging to keep postage costs low and is particularly unhelpful. Indeed, postage is NEVER FREE - it's simply absorbed into the vendor's costs to be met from sales proceeds, and it means that vendors actually pay eBay commission on postage!

The current eBay Detailed Seller Ratings should include a criteria for packaging standards and place less emphasis on dispatch time, for example:

Excellent, Good, Acceptable, Lucky, Poor (contents broken).

Wouldn't you rather receive your purchases undamaged even if a little slower?

So how about it eBay? Tell us what to do and how to do it.

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