Postage & Packaging and Couriers
We all know that postage and packaging costs money. This guide gives you an idea the costs sellers incur when sending an item to the buyer.
So why do some buyers moan about postage costs?
They see on the envelope or package the price of the postage service the seller has used. They may not realise or do not want to know that the seller has other costs to consider besides postage fee charged by the courier.
The seller has to pay the following costs when posting an item to a buyer:
- Postage fee charged by the courier (dependent on size and weight)
- Materials used for packaging. This can be:
- Jiffy bags
- Polystyrene foam
- Insurance (optional in most cases)
Also the seller has to pay eBay and Paypal (or any other payment provider) fees.
Are the sellers trying to make extra profit from postage?
In some cases, it is true. For example, I saw a listing for some RBS £5 notes which state the postage costs is £3 via the seller's standard rate. What does it mean? Is it 1st class standard, 1st class recorded or special delivery? From the buyer's point of view, like you or me, there is no way to know which postage method.
When you see a listing which states the postage costs as seller's standard rate, ask them a question about the method of postage and what material they will be using, for example, 2nd class recorded in an envelope. Most sellers don't mind and they will tell you the truth.
However, most sellers charge reasonable postage costs according to the method of postage and materials used in packaging, for example royal mail special delivery of £5 for a banknote.
Why do some people moan about the state of packaging after it has arrived at their address (but do not state the condition of the item)?
Is it the seller's fault that they haven't packed the item in robust packaging? Is it the courier's fault for mishandling the package while it is in their hands? Generally, it can go either way. People who believe that the seller is totally responsible for the condition of the packaging before it arrives at their address probably are narrow minded and have no idea about the compensation schemes offered by various couriers, indicating that the couriers do sometimes mishandle packages.
About couriers, once the sellers' item in an envelope or a box is in their hands, the sellers' are not liable (or not responsible) for the condition of the package. The letter or package, regardless of weight, will be likely to arrive at your address slightly battered around the edges (sides and and maybe corners if it is a box), due to the fact that the package may be under other packages, thrown around by staff and thrown into large sacks. However, the item is in its original condition.
Therefore, the buyer has no right to complain to the seller on these issues unless the seller has not put the item in robust packaging. Unless the package or letter is sent recorded (registered) or special delivery, the courier is not liable for compensation for the damage of the item.
Finally, if the seller sends the item in a box, it is reasonable that the lid of the box must be taped tightly to avoid theft and unauthorised tampering. The instruction on the box on sale at various shops states that, for example, boxes on sale at the Post Office.
I sold a pair of citroen saxo headlight covers some months ago. The buyer (a northerner) moaned about the postage cost of £7.50 by 1st class standard I have charged him. [The package was very bulky so it was expensive to send. Also, as a non-business seller, I had to buy the necessary materials at retail price so this adds to the postage cost.] He claimed that the postage cost I've charge him is double the royal mail price for 1st class (packages that weigh between 1 and 1.25 kg) and 'sent in a tatty box, held togeva wiv tape'. [Looks like he doesn't know basic numeracy and typing in proper English. £4.52 x 2 = £9.54. That's double the postage costs.]
I honestly explained to him that postage cost includes packaging and I had to pass on the costs to cover the postage and packaging expenses I have occurred. After the item has arrived at his home address, he emailed me that the postage cost is £4.52 and claimed again that I've charged him double the postage costs (meaning I've made extra profit from postage). He then gave a petty neutral feedback This was far from the truth. The lid of the box was held together with tap to prevent theft and unauthorised tampering. The box must have arrived at his home a very slightly battered, may be due to the way they have handled the package.
I couldn't answer back to his claims on the feedback system because I already gave a positive feedback and used the follow up feature before he typed up his claim on his member profile. What made me a bit annoyed was that the buyer expected to pay the postage rate equal to the courier rate. He did not consider that I had to buy the box at retail price and take the item to the post office to send it off. [He has got my idiot vote.]
Before you complain to the seller on these grounds, please check:
- the courier's website for postage prices
- the price of the materials used for packaging (use Google to search for price of materials)
- the size of the package or envelope
- the approximate distance from the seller's address to the nearest Post Office. This could include petrol, car parking ticket and bus/train ticket costs
- condition of the item
The first four points gives you a rough idea of the approximate cost of sending an item to the buyer. Otherwise one will make themselves look like an idiot.
Tips for sellers
- It is a good idea (if you have a digital camera), to take photos of the package before sending it off to the buyer. This is because when the buyer complains that the package arrives at their address in a battered condition but does not state the condition of the item, you can send the photo to the buyer's email address to confirm that the package was in a better condition when it was in you hands.
- Secure the packaging of the item by firmly taping the opening of the envelope, jiffy bag or box. This makes it hard for thieves to seal items.
- Send the packages recorded or special delivery. Also ask for a proof of postage. This is because these have a tracking number (read up on it on the Royal Mail website) and you cannot be scammed. The buyer cannot complain to paypal stating that you haven't sent it so that paypal takes the money off you and then give it back to the buyer. Otherwise, you could end up with no money and no item.
- If the item is valuable, consider insurance that is appropriate to it's value. Be prepared to pay more for additional protection. Examples of services which include insurance (this list is not exhaustive):
- Royal Mail Special Delivery
- Royal Mail Airsure
- Royal Mail International Signed For
- Parcelforce Worldwide
- Parcelforce Wordlwide Global Express
- Parcelforce Wordlwide Global Priority
- Write PLEASE DO NOT BEND, FRAGILE and/or PLEASE HANDLE BY HAND if you need to ensure that the item arrives in it's original condition to the buyer.
- For bulky items use appropriate materials, such as foam and old newspapers, and use an appropriate sized box or jiffy bag to make sure that they are well protected against knocks and bumps whilst the package is in care of the courier. Otherwise the item is more likely to be damaged and when you apply for compensation from the courier you will fail since the package provides insufficient protection from the rigours and stresses from normal handling by courier workers.
- DO NOT try to be clever by skimping on postage costs by putting items like the ones which have the same thickness as a stack of 40 or so leaflets in an envelope. Unlike the stack of 40 or so leaflets, item will be damaged and the buyer will be unhappy. You may not get positive feedback. For example, I bidded on and won two sets of Bank of Scotland bridges sets of banknotes. Although the seller was trying his best to package the items in an appropriate packaging to protect them whilst in transit. Unfortunately, he failed so the items arrived damaged because the items were in a large envelope with 'Please do not bend' so the Royal Mail thought that the envelope contained papers or equivalent. Therfore they put the package into the same process as cards, that is, in the automated sorting machines which may have caused the damage. If he spent about a few more pounds by putting them in a small box inside some old crumpled newspapers, the problem would not exist.
- Regarding international postage costs, check carefully by weighing the item in the packaging and state appropriate costs as posting to a location outside Europe is more expensive.
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