Topics in this issue:
- eBay news – feedback purchase scams.
- eBay Vs Amazon – one reader’s view.
- How to avoid giving a refund.
- Ask Molly – Is Royal Mail the cheapest?
Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of The eBay UK Bulletin.
Molly is back and raring to go after a two-week sabbatical. It’s my longest holiday for years and it is taking a while to get into the swing of things.
I am still ploughing through e-mails so please bear with me if you are waiting for a response.
It is quite a long bulletin this week to make amends for the break so please feel free to stop for coffee halfway through. Included is a very comprehensive breakdown of eBay vs Amazon and a warning about cheating sellers. Yes, they are out there.
[For admin details for this newsletter, please scroll down to the end.]
1. EBAY NEWS – FEEDBACK PURCHASE SCAMS
I wonder if you were aware of this particular scam?
Not sure how to report it as my email was returned saying the address is no longer used to accept email, and I don’t have the time to report each individually. I thought maybe you’d like to highlight it in a future issue?
I only came across this as I recently had a problem with a seller, and given their attitude was puzzled how they had got such high feedback.
When I looked deeper it transpired they had got 229 feedback in the last 30 days but had actually only sold a dozen items in that time. The rest had come as buyer feedback on a few accounts mostly China based and offering items starting from a penny including free delivery. I wonder if these items ever arrive or if their purpose is purely to boost feedback scores.
Buyers place a lot of faith in a seller’s feedback score so when one is manipulated it strikes at the heart of the whole eBay ethos. eBay should be able to act in these instances but only if they are notified.
If you suspect that a seller is manipulating their feedback totals please let me know at the usual address and I’ll forward to eBay.
2. EBAY Vs AMAZON – ONE READER’S VIEW
At present, I sell on eBay as well as the Amazon UK, France and Germany sites. Like eBay there are pluses and minuses with selling on Amazon.
On the plus side, you open up your products to a very large audience but it is a very cut throat market with very low margins in some instances. Like most online sales, you need to find your niche.
Overall Amazon seem much less flexible on how products are loaded, how shipping charges are defined and in my experience customers are much more of a headache compared to eBay. Amazon nearly always side with the buyer when there are issues.
If you are selling as a merchant then there is a fixed monthly fee and a final value fee (including shipping). Amazon fees can also be high, up to nearly 30% on some categories like jewellery which can really cut into profit margins. Payments are made every 14 days into your bank account.
The biggest difference when compared to eBay is that essentially there is only one product page per product. This means the first seller to load a new product owns the images and all the descriptions, etc. All you can do it add your own selling price.
With the exception of a few categories, every product must have a barcode which often results in sellers ‘stealing’ barcodes off other products. I’ve often discovered that I could not load a product because someone else had used the barcode on a different product.
With some categories you also have to be vetted before you are allowed to sell in that category. This results with many items being loaded into the wrong category by less than scrupulous sellers to avoid the ‘vetted’ categories.
All in all this can be a real pain when trying to load new products if the product already exists but has been loaded incorrectly.
Because essentially there is only one product page per unique item (barcode), on many lines you are competing with a number of sellers so unless your store gets the ‘buy box’, you are less likely to get a sale, especially if you are competing against Amazon themselves or someone who is using ‘fulfilled by Amazon’.
My biggest bugbear though is the feedback system. Because most buyers never bother to submit feedback, you tend to get a higher percentage of poor feedback.
Most buyers do not realise there are actually two feedback systems, one for products and one for sellers and in most cases they leave feedback against the seller when often it relates to the product. If the review is purely a product review then you can get it removed if it has been posted against the seller but it is yet another hassle. Most of the time Amazon refuse to remove feedback even when it is totally unjustified. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve received bad feedback for stuff not arriving only for it to be returned to me weeks later as ‘unclaimed’.
To make matters worse, you cannot block users like you can on eBay and if you refuse to dispatch an item it counts as a fault against your rating.
Lastly, they have a stupid rule that unless you get a certain number of sales between September and November, you cannot sell toys in the run up to Christmas, no matter how long you have been trading.
Despite all of this, I’m still selling on Amazon but as I run down my stocks (I’m now retired) I will drop Amazon first without hesitation.”
What more can I add?
3. HOW TO AVOID GIVING A REFUND
I have been an eBay seller in a modest way for about 10 years and have encountered many of the problems you write about. Just recently, however, the boot was on the other foot… a big problem as a buyer.
I treated myself to a designer handbag, against all the advice of my savvy children who said that not everything on eBay is the genuine article. The handbag was listed as ‘New with Tags’.
On receiving the bag I discovered that the bag had been well used, was badly worn and there were no tags. The ‘dustbag’ was ‘home-made’ and the stitching on the zip fastening had come undone. I can’t be sure if the bag was a fake, but it certainly wasn’t as described.
The seller wasn’t interested, told me hadn’t seen the bag as it had been wrapped by the shop [amazingly he had taken photos]. In the end I went to eBay in the certain knowledge they would help me out [in my experience the buyer always comes out best]. Eventually the seller agreed to a return and sent me a return label. I paid extra for a signed-for delivery. Royal Mail were unable to deliver and it was taken away for collection by the seller. To cut a long story short, the seller didn’t collect the parcel so I can’t get a refund.
This case has been going on for 3 months and I am getting nowhere. My problem was genuine, certainly not a scam; I have been the victim of fraud and eBay will do nothing.
It’s been a hard lesson to learn that not all sellers are like me or the people who read your bulletin. And all buyers aren’t like the buyers from hell that are sometimes discussed.
I’ll feel better for sharing this, the seller I have dealt with is giving genuine eBayers a bad name!”
I never really thought about what would happen if the seller didn’t collect a return, it is a good thing for us all to be aware of. Please let me know the seller’s ID and I’ll ‘name & shame’ them.
On a more general note your children are quite right, eBay as any other place where money changes hands will be open to fraud. No matter how careful you are it is likely that eventually you will be defrauded. This might be when buying perfume from a city street seller, saying yes to a telephone survey in a moment of madness or buying a batch of fake Lego figures at a bootsale (which happened to me on Sunday).
Thankfully it seems that the majority of eBay sellers are straight but there are certainly bad ones out there and you have fallen foul of a glitch in the system.
4. ASK MOLLY – IS ROYAL MAIL THE CHEAPEST?
Loved your book. Was so inspired and I am now branching off on my current business to start a new one and sell on eBay.
I have a question… I know you will get this such a lot. It is regarding postage. I am doing my research for my new eBay business and I will be sending the items as a large letter – weighing under 100g.
Is Royal Mail truly the cheapest?
As well as doing eBay, I feel that doing a GroupOn deal will really help give me a push and launch the business, but the lady I have been dealing with has confused me with the postage. She said:
‘We need each item to be tracked. Signed for is ok for us. However, are you sure that isn’t more time consuming? You would need to stick individual stickers onto the parcels. I just want to make sure you are aware of the increased workload before we go ahead.
Please remember that we need the tracking details uploaded by the end of the following working day.’
Do you know what the cheapest tracking options are for large letters and small parcels?”
Most of my cosmetic items are under an inch and also under 100g and Royal Mail is the best for me, I use their PPI pricing, 2nd class works out at 63p.
Tracking is the safest option and it sounds like the GroupOn lady prefers that, for parcels with a value of £25 or more I use Hermes which costs £2.78 (if you drop off at a parcel shop), Royal mail PPI recorded (signed for only) costs £3.85 (2nd class). Signed for only comes into its own when the parcel has been delivered, if the postie scans it properly.
I am not familiar with GroupOn or the system they use so not really sure which option would be the easiest to use, I would be tempted to start in a small way and explore the various options. Great way to do this would be to check out www.myparceldelivery.com. Thanks to Hazel for sending in this comparison site.
As your online business grows price may be replaced partially with ease of use so a more expensive courier may be the best option if their premises are just round the corner or they collect. I am a simple guy [Lady Ed - aren't most men?] and just use Royal Mail for day to day stuff and Hermes for tracked and odd size parcels as there is a drop off point just round the corner, next to the cafe.
If you have a question about eBay or home working in general, please send it to me at the usual address. I will reply personally to every email I receive and, remember, there are FREE copies of my book available for the best questions, tips or stories.
– END NOTE –
Check out Harriman Intelligence for the latest news from Molly HQ.
Time for a quick correction. In the last bulletin I mentioned that the cost of sending a ‘large letter’ (up to 100g) into Europe had fallen to £1.52, this is not correct. The price is indeed cheaper than it was but is £2.45. The Post Office lady was confused and charged me the letter rate. Lego figures, even fake ones, are more than 5mm thick.
This presented me with a dilemma as I am not interested in taking the PO for a pound, half a million and I might think about it, so I mentioned this to the lady but there is no way of making redress. The point of this story is a warning that should the PO make a mistake in your favour there is no way of correcting it after the event – you will be stuck with the difference.
Author of the bestselling title, The eBay Business Handbook, available direct from the publisher Harriman House.
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