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The problem with free postage is that it’s free

By Chris Dawson June 26, 2014 - 7:08 am

Roger is a small seller on eBay, he’s also a buyer. He’s also a frustrated buyer who wishes eBay would do something about their outdated postal discounts options. He knows free postage is actually “Postage included” and feels there should be a way to discount free postage costs for multiple purchases. Here’s what he had to say:

I just purchased a matching pair of used door mirrors for my car from the same seller, both were listed with “Free P&P”.

Acting shrewdly before I purchased I contacted the seller to see if they would reduce there overall amount as the sales were combined. They agreed and I asked for an invoice.

Almost immediately back came a message stating “eBay customer support advise that we cannot discount postage where item is offered with free p&p.” They instead stated that, upon my purchase at full price, they would issue a refund to the discount agreed through PayPal.

What a hassle! Yet both I and the seller were simply conducting our business . . . let me stress that . . . “our business” . . . in a healthy manner not unlike many all the time.

eBay and PayPal still got their FULL FEES on a sales price that no longer existed!

Is there nothing that this Little Dictatorship won’t reach into the gutter just to squeeze the maximum out of their “customers”?

Oh . . . hurry up and get many times more customers eBid!

Here at Tamebay we acknowledge that customers like free post, hell we like it ourselves, so eBay have a point when they encourage it. However when it stops helping sellers charge a reasonable postage cost to buyers something is wrong. There’s a simple solution for eBay – amend the outdated postage rules to allow a discount off the purchase price for multiple purchases when free postage is offered – maybe 10% or similar. That way sellers can easily offer postage discounts reflecting their lower carriage costs.

We’re aware that there are some offers you could do with Promotions Manager, but that’s really a merchandising tool not a shipping tool. It’s intended for short term marketing promotions, what we need is the postage discount rules amended taking into account free postage, to make Roger’s buying and selling experience simple, trouble free and enjoyable.

  • Paul
    3 years ago

    If you want eBay to introduce the 10% discount do you think eBay will reduce their fees to accommodate that reduction ?
    There is no such thing as FREE P+P we all know that.
    We still charge P+P on the first item and anymore items bought do actually go free, as long as it’s all paid for in one transaction and not one by one.
    I have lost count the number of times customers buy 10 + items, pay for them one by one and THEN ask for a discount on P+P to which we always refund back as they all go in one parcel.
    We then have to phone up eBay CS to get the fees back on those refunded P+P costs and with them it’s like treading treacle….we do get it back with the annoying “As a matter of courtesy we will do it this time” crap but it should be refunded back automatically….they take it automatically they should pay it back the same way.
    I did try this “FREE” P+P but it was a nightmare, they still paid for them one by one and sales dropped drastically because looking at the selling price it didn’t look a good option to buy multiple purchases

    • Alex
      3 years ago

      WOW!!! I’m just amazed its taken this long for there to be a post on this issue.

      I don’t agree with eBay’s drive to “encourage” sellers to include free postage on listings (encourage under threat of crap search placement if you don’t). I also don’t agree with eBay charging fees on shipping, nor do I agree with PayPal charging fees on shipping (ohhh, lets not forget eBay and PP are the same company) – I actually don’t agree with their excessive fees full stop!! But if you do happen to meet the requirements for a 10% discount on eBay fees by jumping through all the hoops then the saving is actually only about 1% of sale value – i.e. equals virtually nothing and offering free post may put you at a disadvantage. And remember, you can always recoup some costs, within reason, by inflating shipping slightly so is the 1% really worth it?

      As I see it, by offering free postage you actually increase the overall item cost so when buyers filter by “Price and P&P” you end up much lower down in the search results which is obviously not good. If buyer does not filter by “price and P&P” then you are relying on the effectiveness of eBay’s Cassini search engine to give you placement under “Best Match”. In my experience Cassini and Best Match is seriously flawed so I normally do 3 day listings and rarely offer free postage. Consistent high placement in search results is vital to selling on eBay. Cassini is far from perfect. Low price and item duration seem to be the two most important factors when searches are generated. Furthermore, most buyers do not filter the results so you really need to be high up on that first page. Short listing duration and low price seems to achieve this best.

      But there is a flip side. When I do offer free postage and buyers contact me directly to order, many of whom then purchase multiple items, I rarely get asked for a discount so having already built shipping costs into the total price, and after allowing for the increased weight of multiple items, I actually end up with a greater overall margin. What’s more, International buyers often pay additional shipping for a courier, etc.

      Whilst fees on shipping are costing me a little more overall, on balance its not quite as bad as it may seem!!

      I would be more concerned with the likely problems that will surely come in August from Managed Returns and Defect’s.

  • Stuart
    3 years ago

    I agree and I don’t.

    Everyone has gone on and on about free shipping, customers do think it is ‘free’ as often there are grumbles about the product price when they forget postage is in the price they paid.

    However a huge amount of websites, ebay included, now offer free shipping, it is some what seen as an industry standard. I have never seen any other website offering a discount when you buy more than one item because of the shipping.

    A lot will offer deals, you mention the promotions manager, to encourage you to buy more as they, and we know, the more you buy the cheaper the shipping gets per item.

    This is surely how you could use promotions manager as we do on cheap items were we have to charge a minimum for the product to be able to offer free shipping, we now offer them buy 2 get 1 free.

  • jimbo
    3 years ago

    As a seller I am happy with things as they are. Postage discount rules would just take another bite out my margins. Fixed postage is the standard, be that “free” or charged.

    Why change a rule for the exception?

  • Weeze
    3 years ago

    Any discount given at the point of sale is simply reducing what eBay can take off the seller in fees so of course they are going to make that as hard as possible to achieve..

    I’ve also often wondered how legally compliant the whole ‘free p&p’ thing is. First it’s not ‘free’ it’s included in the price, so the description of it as ‘free’ is a moot point. Second aren’t all costs associated with a purchase supposed to be clear and transparent? By embedding postage into the price that’s one cost that becomes obscured.

    And as for ebid if anyone’s cracked that please give me some tips, I feel like I’m broadcasting into the void.

    • jimbo
      3 years ago

      “Second aren’t all costs associated with a purchase supposed to be clear and transparent?” – I’m not sure. With “free postage” the postage cost just becomes another expense which is absorbed by the business as a whole. Like stationary or rent.

    • Alex
      3 years ago

      Obscured? eBay transparent? Compliant (whats that?)

      Have I missed something?

      The number of times I have explained selling fees to buyers who mostly purchase, who are then usually shocked at the sellers costs on eBay and PP.

      eBay deliberately “obscure” everything. Look at the way eBay bill monthly the Final Value Fees (so you never really know the actual cost unless you look carefully and do the maths) combined with PayPal immediately charging fees on payment (but again no breakdow provided as to actual cost, transaction charge, currency rate, etc – you always have to look hard to find out). This is all so you can’t easily see the actual cost unless you really try and they know few will bother. Transparancy? Gimme a break…

      This is all very deliberate and only professional sellers have any idea of fee structures. Most casual or private sellers don’t look or realise the cost, and thats exactly how they want it.

      Then there is PayPal who operate like a bank with zero accountability or transparancy. If PayPal was a UK registered company they would require a banking license and fall under FSA regulation and supervision. They would never be able to operate as they do. Aside from having to comply with a raft of regulatory requirements they would also have to answer to the Financial Ombudsmum. For horror stories take a look at: http://www.PayPalsucks.com You will be shocked at how they have treated some people.

      eBay operate like a Dictatorship or Cartel (aka Mafia) and do exactly as they please, again exactly how they want it. Wake up!! Its all very simple: dance the tune or go elsewhere, they don’t care.

      Shareholder value is the priority but its all dressed up as caring for buyers, and occasionally sellers. Reality is its all eBay first, buyers second, and sellers are a sad third – despite actually providing the revenue. Sick eh?

      Transparancy…..? Cmon….!!

  • Robert C
    3 years ago

    I offer free postage on all of my items, but I also offer separate listings which are multiples of singular items. These all offer free postage but clearly are at a discounted rate to take into account I’m not having to pay postage costs twice.

    If a customer asks for a discount on a multiple that I don’t list… then I just list one with the relevant discount and let the customer know.

    This has worked fine for me, and it helps me keep things free postage – which in turn helps with best match and being in ebay’s goodbooks.

    • Tony C
      3 years ago

      Now that’s a clever way to do it. Nice thinking; I like that.

  • tinker
    3 years ago

    we list multiples of very similar items individually
    if a buyer buys more than one item in reality they are paying double treble or even quadruple or more “free” postage lol

  • Donna
    3 years ago

    I’m slowly removing “free” postage from my listings as I have had a massive drop in multiple sales.
    Seeing as TRS is an impossible goal to reach in August I no longer intend to try and keep it

    • Alex
      3 years ago

      Don’t worry about it, no one will have TRS after Defects and Managed Returns start in August so we will all be on a level playing field, and eBay will save on the paltry discount on FVF’s – not that eBay see that as a motive, after all they want TRS and want to give good sellers discounts on invoices!!

      Happy days!! ;)

  • DavidR
    3 years ago

    The Advertising Standards Authority last week banned Holiday Inn from advertising Free Breakfasts, see below, same as Free Postage ?

    Holiday Inn Express has been ordered not to describe breakfasts as being free when they are already included in the price of an overnight stay.

    The advertising watchdog upheld three complaints against the InterContinental Hotels brand’s advertising on TV and its website.

    Banning the adverts, the Advertising Standards Authority said: “We told InterContinental Hotels Group not to refer to breakfasts as being free if the room rates were inclusive of them.”

    ICH told the ASA that the use of ‘free breakfast’ in advertising was implemented by the Holiday Inn Express brand in the UK in April 2011.

    The hotel giant said that breakfast had always been provided for free to guests since the first Holiday Inn Express hotels were opened in 1996. The company said that breakfast at these hotels was described as being ‘complimentary’ before April 2011.

    ICH asserted that the use of the claim ‘free breakfast’ was used by its competitors in the same manner in their advertising and that the use of ‘free’ was also frequently used outside the hotel industry, an example being ‘free wi-fi’ at a number of well-known fast food chain restaurants and coffee shops.

    But the ASA in its judgment today said: “We considered that the hotel room rate was inclusive of the breakfast, regardless of whether guests chose to take the breakfast.

    “Therefore, we concluded that the claims ‘we give you a free breakfast’ and ‘free breakfast’ were misleading.”

    • Alex
      3 years ago

      ASA is a closed club.

      Their senior and totally impartial staff who are obviously above reproach accept “corporate entertainment” and “days out” from major companies with big budget advertising and promotional spend. This is very normal within the marketing industry. That said, do you think they will rock a boat without a VERY good reason?

      IMO: Not likely.

      The purpose of “corporate entertainment” is, and has always been, to “develope relationships and contacts in a social and perhaps informal environment” (considered by some as greasing the wheels and currying favour). Read that as you wish.

      But it may be worth a “Freedom of Information Act” question to find out exactly what “freebies” they get and from whom. I expect they are totally above reproach and I am speculating when I say there is a possibility that major prime time advertisers (like eBay and PayPal) may feature highly on the list with corporate “freebies” like: Ascot, Theatre, Dinners, West End Shows, Football, Olympics, All Expenses Paid Industry Events, Overseas Travel, etc, etc…!

      Now I’m only speculating but it could make interesting reading…. :)

  • Kate George
    3 years ago

    This is why I don’t usually offer “free” postage. It makes my stuff look expensive (especially when I’m up against cheap Chinese junk) and it makes discounts hard. I’m sick of Ebay dictating how I run my business, as I make my own jewellery I’m planning to try Etsy for some of the more expensive items. Ebid never really worked for me.

    • James
      3 years ago

      Let us know how Etsy goes. It would be nice to trade on a site where a buyer isn’t under the expectation of being ripped off and people can solve issues in a civilised, friendly and grown up manner.

    • Weeze
      3 years ago

      Do try Etsy, that’s where I moved to. It’s a bit of a learning curve and still quite unknown in the uk. It’s not great for sales but it is good, I’m sure it will gain momentum as the word gets out there.

    • Rick
      3 years ago

      Jane, you say you’re sick of eBay dictating how you run your business. You’re forgetting something, with an eBay shop, it is not your business, it is their business. This is how eBay views sellers, and frankly, it’s probably right.

      eBay should only ever be one revenue stream to your core business. There are plenty of other ways to diversify, because to rely entirely on eBay – or anybody organisation – is crazy.

  • James
    3 years ago

    We get the same where we work. We may charge £6 for an item but it actually includes £3.90 post and packaging.

    A buyer buys this item expecting a £6 item when in fact it is a £2.10 item, so they give you a negative complaining about the quality.

    I like the fact the price of an item is upfront, but it should say something like “£6 including £3.90 p&p”.

    It just misleads people and raises expectations, which does no one any good.

    Also negative feedback left on Amazon actually relating to how the buyer feels about a product is removed if you ask them.

    Ebay refuses to remove such feedback. You could offer excellent service and speedy delivery, but because a buyer has these raised expectations they will happily leave you a nasty negative + defect, a second after they have opened the parcel.

    Why does Ebay never talk to sellers before implementing changes? I think someone should really look into how they operate.

    • tinker
      3 years ago

      ebay have a seller council where they talk to sellers then use info gained to preempt concerns and give the guff

    • Alex
      3 years ago

      Seller Council?? Do they really?

      I wonder who they speak with (certainly not me, thats for sure) and after speaking what notice they take?

      LMAO!! :)

  • 3 years ago

    This article addresses a problem which no longer exists, at least in the United States. The new Store format allows you to set pretty much any type of discount you prefer through the “Manage Promotions” feature. We offer a 10% discount on all multi-item orders and free shipping on everything.

    • Jon
      3 years ago

      Dave I sell lots of one off items so the discount promotions are useless to sellers like me who sell one off items. I want to be able to offer (buy one CD get another for half price). There is no way to do that using any of eBay’s discount systems. Obviously nobody wants to buy 2 of the same CD.

    • 3 years ago

      Jon,

      We have no multiple quantity listings, but this new discount DOES work.

      Take a look at this page:

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-5-AVON-YIN-YANG-TEA-SET-FOR-TWO-B-W-CUPS-STAINLESS-STEEL-BALL-INFUSER-/261514018554

      It says, “EXTRA 10% OFF WHEN YOU BUY 2 OR MORE”.

      To the right, it says, “See all eligible items”. WE chose which items would be eligible, and in our case that was our entire inventory.

      Now scroll down to below the photos. You can select ANYTHING in our store, and eBay automatically calculates the 10% discount to the right.

      This information in this article is pathetically outdated. You CAN do this now!

      Dave

    • Jon
      3 years ago

      That’s very interesting Dave. Almost exactly what I need. Can you discount by shop category? I can’t dispatch a CD with a poster so I would need to discount by shop category or ebay category with items that fit in the same packaging. Unfortunately we don’t have that option here in the UK. What is it called & whereabouts is it located? Is it part of selling manager? I would like to ask ebay UK if it’s in the pipline. Normally we are about a year or two behind ebay.com. How long has it been available to you? This would be a dream come true for me. I don’t know where to look it up but I will have a nose around the .com site. Not sure if I will se what you see though because I don’t have a .com shop only a .co.uk shop.

    • Roger
      3 years ago

      Um . . . Dave? What you see above is one of many issues that users of eBay.co.uk and, I suspect, eBay.ie have to put up with. Not sure whether eBay react to criticism faster in the US due to it’s market size leaving us to struggle with unpopular terms until they fall in line or whether, and I’m being cynical here, eBay don’t actually use us as a testing bed for ideas first.

      The only way UK eBay sellers have parity with US sellers is that we have to list on eBay.com directly and not as an international postage zone . . . and even then it wouldn’t surprise if many areas of the US site were “off limits” to our IP addresses . . . the classic one is that we are unable to view or list in your “mature audience” sector.

    • 3 years ago

      One more thing, Jon. You can set the discount to be just about anything you want to be. Look it up.

      Dave

    • Jon
      3 years ago

      Hi Dave, I just spoke to ebay UK support & yes it is available! Aparrantly it’s so new that they have not promoted it at all yet. This is what I was told by the agent I spoke to just now. Last week they told me there was no way to discount by category etc. Absolutely not!

      It’s not uncommon to get a completely different answer to the same question. It all depends on how many agents you ask the same question. I should have remembered this golden rule.

      Anyhow thanks a lot for letting me know about it. I’m going to get on it this weekend.

      Not sure if you are aware but if you log into eBay .co.uk & view your listing Number 261514018554 you will see that the discount is not offered to anyone outside USA. The same here I would imagine but it’s better than nothing.

      Hopefully they will fix that but for now this particular discount option in our own country alone is better than none at all.

      Thanks Dave for all your help. Yr a star :)

    • 3 years ago

      Jon,

      Sweet, I’m glad to hear it. “Managed Promotions” is very new, but you would think the folks at Tamebay would have known about it.

      And thanks for the tip about not being able to see it in other countries. I will need to look into that further.

      Cheers,
      Dave

    • Alex
      3 years ago

      Good tip but I always believe the best way to sell on eBay is by being the cheapest supplier and running 3 day listings.

      Assuming you are cheapest then why offer a discount? After all if cheapest you will still sell your stock regardless of how many a buyer orders.

      Cheapest generally sells fastest!! :)

  • mw
    3 years ago

    I agree. Etsy feels better than ebay (though they are catching up) and makes Amazon look like it was created in and run from a garden shed.
    The one tip I came across that worked was to do something with it every couple of days. Add an item, buy something, change a listing, anything to keep it updated tends to works in your favour. They also have a Tv add for the UK (not seen it yet though). They need more traffic to create sales, but it’s a good starting point. Folksy is another.

  • Rick
    3 years ago

    Here’s a tip to buyers like Roger: stop being such penny pinchers! Two items cost more to pack and send. And the risk if they’re lost or damaged is twice as high.
    If you feel the need to haggle for a measly discount, contact the seller like he has done. There no problem!

    • Roger
      3 years ago

      Penny pinchers! OMG, what has the “auction market” come to, we should just accept what you’re given and be glad for it! Why not post all your items to eBay HQ and let them sell it for us! Remembering to “doff ones cap” when they finally trickle out what is left over for the seller!

      For your information the RH and LH door mirrors were listed individually at £35.00 inc P&P. I asked that if I bought the pair could I have a discount . . . the seller gave me £10.00 reflecting his need to get rid of the pair and not be left with one on the shelf!

      Penny-pinching . . . a 15% discount?

      Stick to the issue, that seller still had to pay ALL fee’s on the £70 that no longer existed . . . that is immoral!

    • Rick
      3 years ago

      Well the seller didn’t have to pay PayPal fees on the part that was refunded. And eBay fees for the refunded part would have been less than 70p.

      To get around this there were two ways….

      1. The seller could always have done a separate £60 listing for you to avoid losing the 70p and cancelled the other.

      2. The seller could have lieased with you, put on £10 sale discount on the item, at which point you would buy it.

      For buyers who refund the whole amount, eBay refunds the entire amount of fees when a cancellation request is opened.

    • Alex
      3 years ago

      Simple and better solution is get their phone number and deal direct.

      Assuming of course they are not 17 and still have basic communication skills (sadly lacking these days), and don’t use eBay to be anonymous!! :)

  • Jon
    3 years ago

    As for eBid…they really are about as useful as a barber shop on the steps of a guillotine. I have 3500 collectors items for sale on eBay. All are one off items not multivariations. I contacted eBid 3 times over 3 years asking for help with their import from eBay system which never worked. I have given them my phone number but they have never used it preferring to send frustrating unhelpful canned replies. If eBid were seriously interested in competing with eBay they would jump at the chance to have me on board. I have since given up with them because they will never be any more than a family run business. They will always be a waste of time & effort if they can’t be bothered to communicate with potential business sellers with a 3500 strong inventory. It’s a shame…they were our ouly hope!

  • e seller
    3 years ago

    I have several thousand items on ebid having successfully transferred inventory from ebay using some tool called ninja lister,pretty easy really ,only problem is I have sold one item in 6 months and the customer didnt pay for it? These are all model kits,paints etc etc so I don’t even see how ebid can possibly make any money at all ?

    • Jon
      3 years ago

      Yes I used Ninja Lister but it would not work for me. Seems that eBid is a waste of time on all levels. It’s a cryin’ shame. Or just a good old fashioned sham. Somewhere to sell advertizing space.

    • Jon
      3 years ago

      Ebay has just gone down again. It’s been on & off for the last half hour. Can’t log on with any browser.

      Server not found

      Firefox can’t find the server at cgi.ebay.co.uk.

      This page can’t be displayed

      •Make sure the web address http://www.ebay.co.uk is correct.
      •Look for the page with your search engine.
      •Refresh the page in a few minutes.

      Oops! Google Chrome could not find http://www.ebay.co.uk

    • Gerry007
      3 years ago

      .
      Go to:

      My computer > right click OS C > scroll down to proprieties > left click > Click disk clean up > select temp file/internet files/all > click OK.

      Often find this helps with connection issues….. by clearing out browser.

    • 3 years ago
  • DBL
    3 years ago

    You could add a variation if it’s available in your category of pack quantity. 1 for £5 and 2 for £8.50 for example. It encourages multiple purchases and only 1 20p paypal charge too.

    Been doing that for a good while. ;-)

    • Jon
      3 years ago

      Hi DBL….OK for mulitvariations yes.. but not possible on one off items. I don’t stock multiple items. Seems in UK they do have a % discout for non miltivariations. Not here in UK yet.

  • Alex
    3 years ago

    WOW!!! I’m just amazed its taken this long for there to be a post on this issue.

    I don’t agree with eBay’s drive to “encourage” sellers to include free postage on listings (encourage under threat of crap search placement if you don’t). I also don’t agree with eBay charging fees on shipping, nor do I agree with PayPal charging fees on shipping (ohhh, lets not forget eBay and PP are the same company) – I actually don’t agree with their excessive fees full stop!! But if you do happen to meet the requirements for a 10% discount on eBay fees by jumping through all the hoops then the saving is actually only about 1% of sale value – i.e. equals virtually nothing and offering free post may put you at a disadvantage. And remember, you can always recoup some costs, within reason, by inflating shipping slightly so is the 1% really worth it?

    As I see it, by offering free postage you actually increase the overall item cost so when buyers filter by “Price and P&P” you end up much lower down in the search results which is obviously not good. If buyer does not filter by “price and P&P” then you are relying on the effectiveness of eBay’s Cassini search engine to give you placement under “Best Match”. In my experience Cassini and Best Match is seriously flawed so I normally do 3 day listings and rarely offer free postage. Consistent high placement in search results is vital to selling on eBay. Cassini is far from perfect. Low price and item duration seem to be the two most important factors when searches are generated. Furthermore, most buyers do not filter the results so you really need to be high up on that first page. Short listing duration and low price seems to achieve this best.

    But there is a flip side. When I do offer free postage and buyers contact me directly to order, many of whom then purchase multiple items, I rarely get asked for a discount so having already built shipping costs into the total price, and after allowing for the increased weight of multiple items, I actually end up with a greater overall margin. What’s more, International buyers often pay additional shipping for a courier, etc.

    Whilst fees on shipping are costing me a little more overall, on balance its not quite as bad as it may seem!!

    I would be more concerned with the likely problems that will surely come in August from Managed Returns and Defect’s.

  • Dan
    3 years ago

    i recently made a promotion for buy 4 get 1 free.

    buyer buyers in january, buys two items.

    then few weeks ago makes offer on item, and in desc puts ” i would like another two, please be sure to put in the 1 free item, as i have bought 4″

    eg they wanted to buy the 4 items months apart, and still get a free item! the offer was put in place as the item costs the same to send 5-6 of as it does to send one.

    i really had to stop myself from emailing with “are you really that stupid that you dont realise they have to bought TOGETHER”

    im never surprised by what some people will try and get away with!

    • tinker
      3 years ago

      Buy one for the Price of 2 and get one free is our best seller
      lol

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