Selling,Shipping, Handling and Posting Items Abroad

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Selling on ebay has started as a hobby for us and has very quickly become something we do quite often now and thoroughly enjoy. This guide is to try and encourage other people to be aware of some things that we wish we had known before.

In the beginning and very naively, after getting very excited after selling some of the first load of items we listed, we eagerly packaged them up and took them to the post office and sent them all of. One of these items had been bought by somebody in America (which we thought was great , little old us doing international selling!). Not knowing all of the options for sending items abroad, we decided to use the cheapest - Surface mail.

All went fine, and we got good feedback for all of the inland items we had sent, but after a few weeks, the buyer in america contacted us to say that their item had not arrived. We telephone Royal Mail to see what we should do. They said that surface mail could take up to 6 weeks to be delivered to the US and that they were sure it would be delivered. The buyer reluctantly said that they would wait for the 6 weeks to be up.

Bang on time, we were contacted by them agai after the time had passed and said that their item had not arrived, and that hey had been fair enough to have waited such a long time and that they wanted a full refund. Mortified, we immediately refunded them the cost of their item and the shipping and handling charge. Afterwards, we contacted the Post Office and were told to fill in a p58 Lost / Damaged / Delayed parcel form, and to send it off to the appropriate office along with the Proof of Postage and the proof of market value ( paypal receipt ) . This claim took 11 weeks to come back to us , and it turned out that the buyer had in fact recieved thier item !! We had been well and truly scammed , and decided that it would not happen again.

So this guide is hopefully an outline of some of the things that you will need to know if you are going to be sending items abroad. Please remember that there are other restrictions on what you can and what you cannot send by each service , with sizes and weights an obvious issue. Alos, any prices / charges quoted here are correct today , the 19th of November 2006, but ay change in the future

First things first to anybody who sells anything to anybody and posts it off -


If anything was to happen, this is your only way of salvaging anything from a less than perfect situation with postage. I know that there are very often times that the people in the Post Office treat you like you are wasting their time and are less than gracious about doing this, but it is their job to do it !! These receipts are free , and you just have to ask for them when you post your parcels off. No claims will even be considered by Royal Mail if there is no Proof of Postage certificate.

Secondly , learn the basic differences in the different methods of posting items. Internationally, there are five possible options. Hopefully these little sections will help you figure them out


  • It is the cheapest option
  • It takes the longest time

 -Western Europe -  up to 2 weeks from date of posting

 -Eastern Europe - up to 5 weeks

 -North America - up to 6 weeks

 -South America, Africa and Asia - up to 8 weeks

 -Australasia - up to 12 weeks


  • If a parcel is lost or arrives damaged , you can put in a compensation claim with Royal Mail , but be warned that these claimed take up to three months to be completed after you complaint gets logged onto the system. Depending on how efficient Royal Mail are at the time, I can take up to eight weeks for you claim to even get that far !!
  • Once a complaint has veen successfully dealt with, so long as it is confirmed that they parcel was either lost or damaged in transit , as the sender you will entitled to compensation up to the market value of the contents ie whatever the buyer paid for the item or £32 , whichever is the least.You will not be refunded anything towards the cost of the P+p/S+H,or any value if the item in excess of £32


  • This is a more expensive service than Surface Mail, and in some cases, can cost twice as much
  • Expected delivery times are much faster than Surface Mail

- 3 days to Western Europe

- 4 days to Eastern Europe

- 5 days to anywhere else

  • The same as Surface Mail , complaints for lost or damaged parcels can be put in after a certain amount of time. And unfortunately , the waiting times for these complaints to been resolved are also the same.
  • Also the same as Surface Mail, once the investigation into your complaint is completed , you would be entitled to compensation up the the market value of the item you sent (max £32), but again, not any P+P / S+H charges .


  • Available on top of any Surface Mail or Airmail charge.
  • Costs an extra £3.50
  • This is a Priority service. This doesn't necessarily mean that it will definitely arrive any faster , but there are other perks
  • Signature required on delivery
  • Electronic tracking up to the point where it leaves the country
  • Handed over the the other country's postal service as a priority package
  • Standard £32 / market value maximum compensation for the item postage , but extra insurance is available to buy for items of a higher value , up to £500.
  • Cost of Postage refunded should an item not arrive or be delivered damaged.
  • Unfortunately , the same waiting time and procedures apply for investigation into your complain


  • The most expensive service
  • Available at an additional cost of £4.20 on top of the airmail charge
  • Only available to certain countries
  • Europe: Andorra, Austria, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Canary Islands, Corsica, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madeira, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Slovak Republic, Spain, Spitzbergen, Sweden and Switzerland.

    World Zone 1: USA

    World Zone 2: New Zealand
  • The same as International Signed For, items are electronically tracked up to the point where they leave the country , then handed over as a priority item. In most cases , confirmation of delivery should be available.
  • Again, Standard £32 / market value maximum compensation for the actual item, but the same as International Signed For, higher value insurance available
  • Cost of postage is also refundable
  • Remember, even for Airsure Parcels, the same waiting times for or during the complaints procedure apply.


We now have a policy that all of our overseas buyers should have a choice in the way that their parcels are sent. We send out an email to them before sending out an invoice. We outline these different policies with each method, and inform them of the charges for their item. This means that they can choose which method we should use, giving them a certain amount of say in what they end up paying for their item. It also means that before they have even paid for their item, we have informed them that if they choose a non priority service and something should go wrong, that they can only expect to be refunded the cost of the item.

On the other hand we do also have a policy for inland items that states that if it is proven through Royal Mail's investigation procedures that a parcel we send does not arrive, we will refund the buyer 100% even though we would not be refunded/compensated for the cost of our P+P. this could not viably apply to many items we send abroad , as it so often happens that the charges for sending abroad exceed the value of the items !!

We hope that this guide can be of some help to somebody, we ended up spending rather too much time and making a few mistakes before learning these facts , and thought that surely somebody somewher could learn from our mistakes the same way that we have !!

Good Luck Selling everyone !

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