Shipping Observations - From a buyer perspective
First off, before I tear up the shipping practices of most, I want to say that having the world open to shop from, via ebay, is so much better than trying to find things from a few larger mail order shops or buying local with few choices (pre-internet). It has made finding hard to find things almost easy in many cases. However, it is also frustrating to buy 15 cards and only be able to get them from 15 different sellers and have to pay all that extra shipping cost! It is a cost of doing business online, but that doesn't make it easier to swallow. COMC is helping with that battle, but the selection is only as good as what sellers send them.
So, I was opening some packages last night and noticed a larger percentage of plain paper envelopes than I usually expect or receive. There were maybe 15 total packages and about 1/3 were PWE. The discussion of the right amount to charge/pay for shipping is highly debatable, but I generally try to build the cost of shipping (when known) into my purchase price threshold. This can cause you to miss opportunities if sellers are asking what you feel to be inflated s/h fees and you bid lower accordingly. Maybe on the flip side, you bid more because the seller offers free or highly reduced shipping. In the end, when it is all said and done, all that really matters to most buyers is that the item arrives safely.
I will admid though that I always check my PWE items against the invoice to see what I was charged for shipping. I don't concern myself with the package pricing, because it is all in a pretty consistent range for the most part. On occasion, someone will gouge, but i already know that going in. However, most sellers don't exactly specify HOW they will ship your item for the price they are charging. You might agree to pay their rates, but do you always agree with HOW your item is handled and/or shipped?
Take this example. Say a seller charges you $5.00 for a single baseball card. Assume you are shipping West to East Coast, so the shipping charge will be as high as it gets for domestic shipping at 3-4 ounces. You receive that card in a padded mailer (recycled).
Now consider this example. Seller charges $2.00. Same assumptions about shipping coast to coast as the first example, but this item comes in a PWE.
How do you feel about the two examples? At first glance, some might think that the first example is charging a bit much. It seems the typical single card shipping price in a padded mailer is around $3.50-4.00. This is another $1.00 on top of the typical asking price. I used a recycled mailer in this case for a reason I will disclose shortly, but it could be a new one too. Doesn't really matter to most buyers. In the 2nd example, maybe you are happy to be paying $1.50-2.00 less than the average s/h price, but do you still feel that good about it when you see that PWE? We assume the cards from both packages arrived in acceptable condition and that no damage occured via the mail.
This brings me to my point:
Ebay does offer postage rates at a discount from the USPS rates, but for the purpose of this thread, I will use USPS quoted rates. A first class padded mailer from West to East coast, 3 oz comes to $4.06 on USPS. Assuming the recycled mailer, the seller covers their cost and makes $0.94 profit. Even with a new mailer, if bought in bulk (500 4x8 padded mailers on Amazon, $26, free delivery with prime), they cover their cost and still make abount $0.90.
Looking the same way at the PWE transaction, the seller is using what we will assume to be a current rate forever stamp ($0.55). There is no "non-machinable" surcharge being purchased. Sometimes you can buy bulk and get a small discount per stamp. If you were smart and knew you'd use a lot of stamps and had the money to buy them in a massive amount, maybe you are still using up your &0.39 stamps, the issue price of a forever stamp when it debuted. Envelopes cost next to nothing. A 500 count box on amazon with free delivery (prime) is $20. That really actually seems costly to me, I don't recall ever spending anything close to that for a box of envelopes. I'm sure they are even cheaper at your local Target or Walmart. That is less than a nickle per envelope though, for the legal size with the peel and stick seal (funny how padded mailers are only a few pennies more than a PWE nowdays!!!). This seller has $0.60 into the transaction and is making $1.40 of pure profit.
When you dive down as far as I did for this exercise, you see that the PWE seller, although cheaper overall to the buyer, is actually taking a bigger risk with your delicate card AND is likely making more profit just from shipping than if you had been given the padded mailer option. They are definitely not passing on the savings to you, the buyer. It is for this reason that, although I want to pay as little as possible for shipping and protect my cards in the process, I almost always opt for a padded mailer when given a choice and expect a PWE user to charge me no more than $1.00 or I feel cheated.
In my examples, both sellers are actually making money off shipping, but this does not count any other packing materials they may use and want to "cost" against buyers, such as pens, tape, etc. it also does not take into account labor, fuel, and other costs associated with having to mail something that can't just be dropped into your closest mailbox. Lastly, the fees associated with selling online, be it listing, final value or PP fees, are not considered into the s/h formula, but it is clear that some or all of these other costs are being partially or fully covered in some cases with the pricing examples i used.
It really makes you appreciate the special sellers who customize their selling habits to offer the best possible pricing and service to their buyers through bulk supplies & ebay shipping labels, passing along cost savings where possible, while still covering their core costs.
As someone who has been clearing out their non-PC via ebay and their listing promos over the last year or so, I came to the following conclusions/decisions especially since I do not own a printer:
- I would rather pocket more per card and "skimp" on shipping - but I pass on that savings. For example, if a card averages $10 dlvd in completed listings, mine is listed for $7ish + $1 PWE shipping. If I sold for $10 dlvd and shipped via bubble mailer, I would pocket $5.50ish after shipping ($4) and ebay/paypal fees related to shipping (I think 13% combined).
- I have found that most buyers understand $1 and declaring in the listing that it will be PWE are ok with it. I had one leave negs citing shipping method and ebay removed them as the listing was clear. I had one buyer say it did not arrive (risk without using tracking, but it was $7 dlvd). No one has cited the card being damaged.
- My delineation for cards to ship via bubble mailer is can I get more than $13 dlvd for it. It is not worth my time an effort for post office, fees, etc. for low end cards. I charge $4 in, my listings so I lose a little bit via bubble mailer, but I know buyers avoid $4.50 and more or dock the star ratings.
- I am selling inserts and autographs. I am not using PWE for thick and jersey cards. Eventually, I will ship those off to COMC. They will get damaged in the sorters and that is not worth the headaches with ebay.
Separately as a buyer, I do roll my eyes when I pay $4.50 shipping and it was shipped with ebay's postal program. I know the seller pocketed over $1 in the process.
Brad, that sounds like a good plan to work with.
The ebay postage deal really has had me thinking over the last several batches, because I sell so infrequently. I only tried it for the first time within the last 1-2 years! I have no problem selling stuff at breakeven cost for shipping/packaging, but because mostly it has been low $ stuff, I don't want to lose money on the shipping end. This has happened a few times where the item was heavier than I thought. I thought free shipping would be the easiest route, but you can't count on items selling for enough to cover that cost either. I suspect if I got going and sold a lot of stuff, eventually the customer base grows and things start to sell better, like the bigger name consigners who frequently seem to get oddly high amounts for their items.
Since I am one of those sellers that use EBAY/Paypal's shipping, I charge $3.99 for mailing in a bubble mailer.. The cost to ship around the US varies from $2.96 on up.. I've had items that cost up to $3.60 to ship.. You have to remember that EBAY takes fees from what you charge for shipping, so you don't really make that extra $1 you think they are making.. I do have an HP printer that I print out a receipt and a label.. (not a piece of paper taped to mailer).. So I have to cover the fees for new ink which normally runs around $400 a year..(it's not cheap to print in color), and I use the larger 6x9 bubble mailers as well..
Originally Posted by Brad
I sell on EBAY now to thin out my stuff since I retired this last June and I don't want to move all these cards with me.
I buy off of EBAY as well and other online stores, and when I look at what I am buying, I take into account what they charge for shipping and include it into my purchase..