Small Business on Ebay - Postage & Package Charges

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The Small Business and Postage & Package charges on ebay

One of the most discussed topics on ebay is Postage and Package charges.  As a Power Seller I am the first to agree that some sellers have over-charged in the past and that ebay have tried their best to resolve this issue.  For every one that has over-charged there are hundreds that offer a fair package and postage charge. 

As a seller I look at what my supplier has charged, what it has cost them for package and postage and try to offer as near as I can.

However, as a small business I wonder how many of our customers; unless they sell on ebay themselves have considered what efforts go into despatching items and how the charges are incurred.  

One of the main difficulties for the Small Business is that other larger companies receive big discounts on Royal Mail postage rates and other courier companies who can afford to give free and reduced posting rates.  As a small business I do not receive any discount on postage costs simply because my business is not large enough.

This concept must be difficult for customers who are buying for the first few times on ebay  to understand and I can imagine they wonder why some sellers are charging more for postage and package than other sellers selling the same item.

Below I list some of the reasons for those extra costs:

First question is postage rates charged  - so lets have a look at

 postage costs:

The last increase by Royal Mail was significant, particularly for overseas postage rates, which I try to keep to a minimum.   When the last increase was announced, I did not alter my postage costs much but was shocked to see how much they had increased the overseas postal charges. I know that postal charges in other Countries are not as high as they are here and that overseas buyers must wonder why we charge so much. I can remember standing behind a Canadian in the Post Office one day who could not belive how much it was to send a small card via airmail. 

 With regard to the UK postage rates there have been three increases since I started as a seller so when Royal Mail increase their postal charges my postal charges have to go up as well.

I actually now try to avoid sending large items as I have been caught out so many times under-estimating the postage cost and having to pay the extra out of the business.  I do not consider it good business policy to ask customers for extra if I have mis-calculated postage costs. 

Why is being a small business important with regard to postage rates? The answer is  many small businesses do not receive a discount on postage from Royal Mail (even their small business discount requires many items each week.)

 A top rate ebay will despatch daily but this has difficulties when their daily despatch rate does not meet Royal Mail discount rates.  If they despatched weekly it might make a difference but that would not please our customers, nor be a good service from many sellers point of view.

Many sellers now use the  Royal Mail Smart Stamp service which should ensure prompt delivery and less chance of being lost in the post; it also gives proof of posting which is useful from the sellers point of view.  However like all services the Smart Stamp service is a monthly subscription. This adds to the postage costs as well as fuel costs if you are travelling to Post Office as I do to ensure prompt and secure delivery. Royal Mail charge for collection and again you have to despatch a vast amount to use this chargable service.

Insurance costs : I do not charge additionl insurance costs for items unless it is a large item going overseas but it is included in service I offer.

And then we come to

 package charges:

Many buyers do not give much thought as to what goes into package but it is very important from the sellers point of view as good packaging is as important as the product sold.

To ensure that you item arrives it has to be correctly addressed and I am sure you are not surprised to know that I often have to ask if the address is correct or why the surname is missing from the address details.  I spend a great deal of time each despatch ensuring that the addressee details are correct.

The most efficient way to produce a correctly addressed item is to use a labelling system.  I use a label writer system and use as many as up to 3 labels for each item despatched. The label writing system labels cost a lot of money but it saves on time when I first started I used to type or hand write my addresses and it used to take hours of my time.  Therefore the system reduced my time but I get through hundreds of addrsss lables on a monthly basis which adds costs to my packaging charges.

 Sellers spent hours of their time trying to find suppliers who offer the lowest prices and even a small business will have several suppliers for stationery.  I use good quality boarded envelopes for many of my products and these are one the most expensive postage items you can buy.  If you look an individual one from the Post Office or High Street store it will give you an idea of what they cost.  In addition I like to ensure they are well sealed and cannot be opened, therefore I use a vast amount of tape on a daily basis. You only have to look at the High Street stationers to see how much sealing tape costs.

It is a good idea to present  items in the best way you can and I like to keep to a high standard of presentation and to ensure the item arrives in good condition.  For many of my products I use a plastic wallet, these do not come with the product when I buy them and these are very expensive.  I buy by them by the thousand. These are an extra for the buyer but they can be used to store the product which I am sure must be appreciated by the buyer.

For some of my items I use ribbon and presentation coloured tissue paper so that they look nice.  I am always looking at new ways to add to the presentation of the item to the buyer but this does add to the costs of packaging.

I hope that all of these little extras please my customers but I do have to pay for them.

I think you can see from this where the postage and package costs creep up........

My advice to first time buyers is to compare items and read the small detail in the  description  very carefully regarding what is offered. Is it new or is it nearly new there is a difference.   Look at the shop policies, a seller who has good shop policies will be a good seller to buy from.

With regard to package and postage charges a few questions to look for is:

Does the seller say how the item is packed.

How long it will take to despatch the item.

What type of envelope if it is an item that needs to be kept flat. 

If it is a larger item does it say in the detail if it will be boxed.

 Does the seller offer free insurance, certificate of posting service. 

  Look at the feedback for prompt delivery, accurate description, and whether there has been feedback on non delivery.  I always do this when I buy on ebay.

You do need to consider here that sometimes items do go missing (the black hole I call it) and that if this happens it is not always the sellers fault. I always put a return address label on my items. We do have a replacement policy but not all sellers can or do offer this service.

If there is a delay in delivery consider :

 Are there postal strikes on in your area

Do you have a new postman (I had one delivery a while back where the postman delivered to the house next door where the owner was renting and was alway and the item was found 2 weeks later when someone turned up to check the post)

If it has not arrived within a week and it is first class post despatch - please send the seller a polite email asking if it has been despatch. Sellers cannot help you if you do not tell them it has not arrived and given them an opportunity to give you despatch information. 

 Many sellers, myself included use the automated despatch notice system, as soon as the item has been despatched, so please make sure it has not dropped in you blocked email box.

One piece of advice once you have accepted the postage and package charges and purchased the item do not complain about the charges afterwards unless your item has not arrived or has arrived damaged due to incorrect packaging. Once you have accepted the terms of the sale you have accepted that the postage and packaging charges are fair.  If you are not happy with the charges do not buy the item.


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