Monday, January 16, 2006


When I began selling regularly on eBay, I assembled a list of Frequently Asked Questions for buyers. That list has since become outdated; some of eBay's software has changed, and in other cases I've modified my own policies and practices. Here's an update.

[Please note: This was drafted as a personal FAQ and is separate from my article, How to Sell on EBay.]

Q: Will you discount shipping if I buy multiple items?

A: Probably not. Most of my auctions tend to be the "1 CENT CD" variety. Without explaining why or providing a cost structure analysis, let me answer this way: I'm selling on eBay because I'm trying to make money, and I didn't get these compact discs from the CD fairy. If I'm selling them for a penny apiece, it's because I can afford to (barely). If I discount them further, I lose money. That's not going to happen.

If you think that's unreasonable, I'd politely remind you that you're buying a mint condition CD delivered to your door for $3.01. That's damn cheap — and I often swap out a used jewel case for a brand-new one, free of charge. Also, please notice that my competition charges $3.95 for shipping and handling. I charge only $3.00.

Q: Why do you only accept PayPal?

A: Because it's easy. Frankly, I think the PayPal executives are a bunch of crooks who should be thrown in jail. But I've been selling on eBay for nearly seven years, and I've tried a lot of methods. The fact is, when you allow checks and money orders, many people don't pay. It's not malice; they intend to pay, but they never do. They click an auction as a whim, an impulse purchase; but they procrastinate and they never actually mail the check. They're used to buying everything with credit cards, and they expect online transactions to be completed online. By making it easier for them, I've nearly eliminated that problem.

Q: When will you ship my item?

A: As soon as I receive payment. If your payment clears in the morning, I might even ship your item that afternoon. I collect mail from a PO box, which means I visit the post office almost every day. And I don't like clutter — which means I'm as eager to ship your item as you are to receive it.

Q: Will you leave me Positive Feedback?

A: Yes. Check my profile and click "Left for Others". You'll see that I've actually left more feedback for other people than I've received myself. I always reciprocate feedback.

I understand the importance of building your feedback profile, particularly as a new user. I know there are sellers who collect hundreds of positive feedback entries without ever leaving one for anyone else; frankly, that's a pet peeve of mine. In fact, if you've left more than you've received, I probably won't leave feedback until I receive one from you. But I always reciprocate feedback.

Q: Will you leave me Negative Feedback?

A: I hate leaving negative feedback. I believe most problems can be worked out and tarnishing a person's business reputation should never be a first response. But there are situations where it's appropriate — so yes, I might.

Many users are afraid to leave negative feedback. Check my profile. I'm not afraid of retaliation. I think my customers are smart enough to recognize retaliation for what it is, and my record speaks for itself. You can't threaten me. I don't like to use negative feedback — but if you don't pay, I will.

Q: What happens if the winning bidder doesn't pay?

A: See above. After that, I'll offer the item to the second-highest bidder at one dollar above the third-highest bid. In other words, you'll get a chance to buy the item at the price you would have paid if the deadbeat bidder had never existed. This ensures that no one will "shill" my auctions (artificially inflating the price for other bidders).

Q: Why do you charge so much for international shipping?

A: Because I don't like to do it. International shipping is much more complicated than domestic shipping. You need to consider the item and design the package so that (1) the item gets from point A to point B intact, and (2) customs agents are able to easily inspect the contents without disturbing the package for the remainder of its trip. You need to receive precise address information from the buyer, who often doesn't understand much English. You need to fill out paperwork. You also need to coordinate payment, which can be difficult with overseas bidders. Generally speaking, international transactions are more trouble than they're worth.

I've tried restricting international buyers from bidding on my auctions. It doesn't work. There are no adequate software restrictions, and people ignore warnings. So I've changed my strategy. Since I can't prevent international buyers from bidding on my auctions, I discourage them by inflating my shipping fee. This is perfectly legal, and I am completely forthright about it. My auctions terms clearly state these charges, and nothing is hidden or added after purchase.

Q: Will you make an exception for my international shipment?

A: Maybe. If you ask before placing your bid, I'll consider your request. If you're Canadian, for instance, your shipment should be relatively painless and I'll probably agree to reduce the fee.

However, I will not make any exceptions for bidders who dispute charges after the auction's close. My terms are always clearly stated, and I keep them short and simple. You are required (and reminded) to read all auction terms before placing your bid:
You are agreeing to a contract -- You will enter into a legally binding contract to purchase the item from the seller if you're the winning bidder. You are responsible for reading the full item listing, including the seller's instructions and accepted payment methods. Seller assumes all responsibility for listing this item.
All questions should be resolved before placing your bid.

I understand that mistakes happen. I've made them myself, neglecting to read the terms carefully and missing something important. But I accepted the consequences, and I expect the same from you. If you wish, I'll gladly acknowledge your mistake when leaving your Positive Feedback ("Bid by mistake, but still paid in full!! Very honest and trustworthy!!!").

Q: I saw an item listed in one of your auctions that I want, but I didn't win the auction. Do you have any others like it?

A: Probably not. I'm a private individual, not a company. But feel free to email me and ask. At the least, I may be able to tell you where you can get it.