Selling Internationally Successfully

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If you are selling on eBay you may be considering selling internationally - before you do I would recommend you read this short guide to understand the potential gotcha's of doing so.  Some of these may appear common sense - however many of these I have learnt the hard way.

Firstly a quick introduction - I sell vintage and retro homeware - (if you have time please look at my  store), which can range from anything from lighting and pottery to furniture and mirrors - as such I have experienced a wide range of logistical challenges both domestically and internationally.

When I first started trading I noticed that many people specifically did not sell internationally, asking on the forums why this was the case, many would claim other sellers 'ignorance' it was money on the table - I have learnt the hard way there are good reasons, but they can be avoided by reading this simple guide.  So with no further ado.

Don't send highly breakable items abroad

I sell a lot of mirrors - in 95% of the time I can package these in such a way to avoid damage in transit, from time to time less than careful couriers somehow many to break them using extreme force.  However the most likely time during transit a item is going to be broken is when it is handled, not when it is actually in transit.  Consider sending something from Brighton to Scotland - likely it will pass through 2-3 handlers before reaching its destination, each of these points are where a item is most likely to be damaged.  Sending abroad to say the USA you are going to have the 2-3 handlers before reaches the airport, another in the UK another at the destination and then multiple points at the destination country.  Therefore the same item is substantially more likely to get broken in transit - bare in mind that it is your responsibility as a seller to refund any damage in transit including courier costs.  So if it is damaged you will not only be out of pocket for the item you sold, but also the cost of transit which could be even more than the item costs.  We sent a mirror to the US, the mirror cost £100 and the courier another £100, it was destroyed in transit therefore we were out of pocket £200.  

DO request proof of damage 

So you have sent something abroad - you thought it wouldn't break but the client is angry, you don't want to risk your DSR's so you offer a refund.  However wait - there have been many cases of notorious buyers claiming damage - politely but firmly ask for proof (e.g. photographs) of the damage and the packaging if possible (couriers will ask for this in the case you claim for damage) do not refund without this no matter how much the client complains.  As long as you are polite and do the right thing, if the buyer leaves negative feedback because something has been broken, you have offered to refund but they refuse to show proof of damage eBay are likely to remove the negative feedback but ONLY if you have done the right thing.

DO send valuable items with signed for delivery

One of the classic mistakes (and one that I learnt the hard way) is to send postage with untrackable postage (e.g. Royalmail Airmail) - however in these cases if the buyer claims that the parcels did not arrive you are again liable.  Like above there are many buyers who pray on novice sellers and will claim the item has been lost and expect a full refund.  Again not only are you liable for the cost of the item but also the postage.  After speaking to many experiences international sellers will only send untracked Airmail when the value is less than £46, which is the amount of compensation Royal Mail will offer for standard Airmail.  If the value is greater than that either use Airsure or an alternative courier, whilst we all want to offer the minimum postage to clients we must also ensure that we protect ourselves from not so nice buyers.  We refunded + postage over £100 for a delivery to China who claimed it never arrived.  The buyer was in constant contact until we paid, we asked if it does arrive please would they let us know and we could arrange repayment - nevertheless we did not hear from them again and suspect all was not as it seems!

Don't send in multiple parcels

The maximum weight for Airmail small parcels is 2KG and sometimes it is tempting to send 2 separate parcels rather than use a courier - I would advice against it quite with 2 parcels you have twice the chance of at least one will get lost.

DO avoid countries with known scams

Some countries (e.g. Nigeria) have bad reputations for a reason and it's simply not worth sending to such locations.

DO write the address in any native dialect

This is particularly applicable if sending to a country with another character set (e.g. China, Russia etc) - whilst the sender may give you the address in English there is no guarantee that the local postman will understand.  I always ask the sender to give you the address in local dialect, often this does not appear properly on paypal etc, ask them to write it and take a photograph clearly giving the reason you want to do everything to ensure the parcel arrives.  Once you have this print it out and attach to the parcel, this minimises the chance of post getting lost.

DO be very clear on delivery times

Delivering abroad takes longer, fact - however some countries it can take longer than others (e.g. Brasil, China) - its important to point this out to the buyers as soon as possible.  Whilst the courier will state an estimated delivery time, it can take much much longer especially if held up at customs.  If you are clear to the buyers of this early then they will most likely give you some breathing space if items are delayed.  

DO be extra careful in selling overseas to new buyers

Dealing with new eBayer's can be challenging - there is certain 'etiquette' which is learnt with experience of buying on eBay given the extra complexity and chance of things going wrong selling internationally it may be prudent to gently refuse to send items overseas to new eBayers rather risk low DSR's or feedback.

I hope this guide helps sellers thinking of selling internationally, much of this I have learnt the hard way and cost me much frustration and money, however it is possible and does open up a whole new market to you.

Pete Moran

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