The difference between great and poor service

By Chris Dawson October 7, 2014 - 8:20 am

DVD PurchasesLast month on the 24th I ordered two similar DVD box sets. It’s been a very interesting comparison between great service and mediocre service and goes to show why some seller find meeting eBay’s new standards a breeze whilst others struggle.

The DVDs were priced similarly – £10.99 and £11.96, the difference in cost really didn’t bother me. Both items were at or close to the top of eBay’s Best Match search (mixed with Region 1 DVDs, I wanted Region 2). Both items offered free 1st Class Royal Mail postage, although one promised next day despatch and the other a three day despatch. Estimated delivery dates were Friday 26th for one DVD and Tuesday 30th for the second.

The first DVD turned up on Thursday 25th September, a day earlier than promised. As you can imagine I was delighted with the speed of delivery and the product was as promised… a DVD box set. However the delivery experience set into start contrast the service from the second seller.

The Second DVD still hadn’t turned up by the 2nd of October and hesitant to ever cause a dispute I regretfully last sent a “Where is my item” message through eBay. As expected they asked me to check the Royal Mail Delivery Office but that was already closed.

Excess PostageFriday and Saturday I was too busy to go to the Delivery Office, but a card arrived telling me I had a parcel with underpaid postage. Today I want to collect it and there with £1.24 excess postage was my DVD. The PPI stamp said it needed to be posted by the 26th, but if so with 1st class post you’d have expected it to arrive way before the 2nd (even with the postage to pay).

The seller was lovely in their communications, instantly refunded the excess postage, which to be honest is a perfectly understandable mistake – they’re probably posting out a ton of DVDs and the postage would be fine for a large letter, but as a box set this was a small packet). However the fact remains they promised delivery in six days (compared to their competitor who delivered within 24 hours), and then they missed their six day delivery promise by a further ten days (would have been seven days if they’d paid the correct postage).

If asked the question “Would you buy from this seller again?” the answer would be “Yes”. They had great communications and everyone makes mistakes. It’s just a shame that their slow postage let them down.

What do you find acceptable service nowadays? Let’s dismiss the excess postage issue as mistakes happen, but parcels don’t generally take a week to arrive via 1st class postage or was it that the parcel was delayed by up to six days due to the underpaid postage? Either way posting after three days seems slow to me.

  • Gary
    3 years ago

    If the seller stated 3 day dispatch and did indeed dispatch in 3 days where is the issue?

    Unless I have missread things?

    If I want something fast I go for same day or 1 day dispatch. If I want something cheap or unique I am happy to settle for a slower dispatch.

    What (for me) is unacceptable if is a “promise” is not honoured.

    (PS the Royal Mail revenue protection thing is a money generating scam most of the time and does more harm than good for Royal Mail and its customers as shown in this example. They don’t refund when things are overcharged do they? Example first class arriving after 2 or 3 days.)

  • Tony
    3 years ago

    Personally I wouldn’t purchase from any seller that had a 3 day dispatch time.

  • Mark.T
    3 years ago

    The point that struck me on reading you article is…

    ‘How many eBayers would take the time to analyse the situation as you did?’

    In a 140 character world, too many people go straight for the dispute button.

    As a small scale eBay seller, I would do the analysis and, in this situation, reach the same conclusion. The seller’s errors were rapidly acknowledged and dealt with.

    I would go further and say that having the (unfortunate) opportunity to see how a seller responds to a problem tells you far more about them than a different seller whose transaction is so smooth you barely pay it any attention.


  • peter s
    3 years ago

    I have to agree with Gary personally, if the seller stated 3 day dispatch then it’s not poor service as you got what you paid for. If you wanted 1 day dispatch then you would have been better buying off a different seller. Personally I always try and dispatch the same or the next day but some sellers may be only part time and at work during the day and therefore only able to post items a couple of days of the week.
    Also re the revenue protection thing I had a seller send me an item that was 20p underpaid, Royal Mail stuck a sticker on wanting me to pay an extra £1 on top of the 20p, luckily the postman ignored it / didn’t see it and just put it through my door anyway.

    • 3 years ago

      Three day despatch is pretty poor, but the reason I didn’t get what I paid for was with a three day despatch and 1st class post delivery was estimated in 6 days and they missed that promise by a further 10 days!

      16 days for delivery really is pretty crap whichever way you cut it.

    • Rai
      3 years ago

      You had to pick it up because it was unpaid postage, which you said in your post to dismiss as a mistake. They informed you to check the post office on Thursday, which was 1 week 1 day (6 working days) after your order. Most importantly since it was held at the post office we have no idea when it actually arrived. You aren’t guaranteed to get a note through the door same day after all (just when convenient).

      If you aren’t holding the postage mistake against them, you can’t hold the time it took you to go to the post office against them either. I’m also struggling to see where you got 16 days from, as I’ve counted by hand to make sure and I’m still only getting 14 days up to today…

      The fast despatch seller certainly left a better impression, but your initial post and responses seem inconsistent in your expectations.

    • Mukesh
      3 years ago

      The Royal Mail take up to 15 working days to deliver standard mail (1st class/2nd class, 1st class recorded/2nd class recorded)…I am also surprised that you are making the mistake that buyers constantly make, in not differentiating between dispatch & delivery…. Your goods were dispatched by the seller, but were delivered by the Royal Mail.

    • Lee Pearce
      3 years ago

      Whilst we all being pedantic, Royal Mail do not consider an item lost until 15 working days have passed since dispatch, ie they are not going to anything until this time frame has been reached.

      Delivery aims are:

      1st Class – 1 working day delivery
      2nd class – 3 working day delivery aim


  • Gerry007
    3 years ago

    Of course the other problem is when RM take forever to actually deliver an item in their possession.

    It always amazes me when a 2nd class item can be delivered next day & another packet seems to drift around (somewhere) for days on end…..

    • 3 years ago

      You’re right.. I can’t count. It was still pretty poor at 12 days though!

    • Mukesh
      3 years ago

      If you had bought the same items from 3rd party sellers on Amazon, Amazon would have told you (During checkout) to expect delivery between 3- 12 days… Ebay overpromises on delivery- and therefore raises expectations of buyers(such as yourself Chris), and causes headaches for sellers….. In terms of differences between packets & Non-packets.. Letters & large letters are sorted by machine, packets are sorted by hand….Therefore, I can post out a single dvd & a boxset at the same time, to the same address- and the boxset will on average arrive some time after the single dvd…… In terms of comments on here about processing time- many experienced sellers deliberately add a few days to handling times on Ebay(in spite of dispatching the same or next day), precisely to avoid the email hassle from buyers, who have been told by Ebay that they will receive their low value items that are being sent by Royal Mail in a day or two.- It is purely about buying time, and creating a buffer zone……… Also in the media category (a subject for another thread), there are currently 14 million titles that are in print- if anyone thinks that there is a single seller who carries stock of each in-print title they are deluded….Stock is ordered from the suppliers on sale by sale basis- and either fulfillment is used directly or indirectly. (On top of which most small sellers of media content on Ebay- buy their stock form other online retailers such as Amazon, and wait for the goods to be deliverd to them, before forwarding on to Ebay buyers- unless they dropship directly to the customers)………… What is needed on Ebay- is simply an average delivery time, based on buyer feedback i.e. buyers simply let Ebay know the exact dated that they they received the item- and Ebay produces stats based on when the order was placed and paid for- to give potential customers an average deilvery time for any item…. (Incidentally if anyone thingks that Royal Mail sort out 1st class items from 2nd class they are also deluded- ask yourself why no other country in the world has 2 tiers of postage for domestic inland mail. 1st class/2nd class is simply a hangover from the 1970’s – and continues due to the regulator placing burdens on the Royal Mail in terms of targets for 1st class delivery. Only Special Delivery mail is stripped out from the rest & prioritised)

    • Dean
      3 years ago

      Most of my items are shipped from stock and are dispatched same day if ordered before the 3:45pm collection time.
      However one particular brand is handmade to order.
      It takes 48hrs for the manufacturer to receive the order, put it in the order queue, manufacture it and then dispatch it on a 48hr service.
      So I have to realistically set them as a 2 working day dispatch in eBay.
      It’s not great service but it is what it is.
      Unfortunately the manufacturer won’t ship internationally so I have the item shipped to me and then once received (on a 48hr service which is how the manufacturer operates) I dispatch internationally. So that is in reality a 4 day dispatch (2 days to make, 2 days to receive to myself). Now when you try to list an item on eBay you can only set one dispatch time, which I set to 2 days. Although I put in my item specifics and my item description that international dispatch will be at 4 days, the eBay estimate still shows 2 days. And as far as eBay are concerned the dispatch time is all that matters. What’s in the description or item specifics is trumped by your set dispatch time in cases of dispute etc. because as we know, and as eBay acknowledged to me, customers don’t read descriptions (generalisation).
      When I asked eBay customer support if the answer was to list an item separately with a dispatch time of 4 days, for international buyers from the UK site, I was told that it would violate duplicate listing policy. The answer they said, was to change the dispatch time to 4 days on all said listings and under-promise / over-deliver for UK customers by shipping in 2 days as usual. As if 4 days dispatch wouldn’t put a customer off buying in the first place. Mmmm…… Not the solution.
      So I agree that eBay need to have a good look at now they present dispatch times to customers and what they permit a seller to display.

    • JD
      3 years ago

      You could have 2 listings and not violate policy.
      1. On eBay UK shipping to UK only on 2 day despatch.
      2. On shipping Worldwide but with UK excluded on 4 day despatch.

  • Dan Eales
    3 years ago

    As a member of the operations team for an online retailer who utilises eBay, I see the situation time and time again where buyers hold US responsible for errors and issues raised by our couriers. We always take responsibility for courier mishaps, obviously we choose to use them. But throwing all of that anger and frustration at us doesn’t always seem fair, especially considering that once our orders leave us we have no real control.

    As Lee Pearce correctly stated stated, Royal Mail “AIM” to deliver orders within 1 day for first class and 3 days for second class but these are estimates that are no where near consistently met. He has also correctly stated that sellers CANNOT submit a claim for a lost item until 15 working days have passed, meaning that customers are further agitated when told that no action can be taken until the 15 working days have neared or passed.

    Another issue we are more than aware of at this point is that eBay are displaying misleading delivery estimates on eBay listings based on Royal Mail’s inaccurate delivery schedules. They are not giving sellers the freedom to set their own delivery estimates and are instead display delivery estimates that are based on Royal Mail’s delivery “aims”. And this is one of our biggest issues because at the end of the day, this estimate is on OUR listing. Therefore, in a customers mind, we set it and we are responsible for it being there. Another great example of this is the “Free Standard Delivery when you buy two or more items”… We offer free postage across the board and therefore this is an extremely redundant feature for us that has done nothing but cause more emails and phone calls because it is confusing customers. If sellers had the freedom to set their own delivery estimates, the original author may have had the opportunity to see that delivery on the ordered item would be more than 6 days based on the sellers experiences with Royal Mail. Maybe 5 working days for 1st class and 10 for second class.

    With regards to comments some people are making about a high dispatch time, I would ask you to consider this. eBay are bringing in a lot more in the way of punishing sellers for bad performance. One of these metrics is based around the whole “Where is my item?” and delivery times. Now, considering that sellers are unable to set their own delivery estimates, would you rather be penalised on your seller rating because of Royal Mail incompetence, or would you rather risk a hit to sales in order to raise your despatch estimate therefore giving a longer delivery estimate?

    At the end of the day, eBay sellers at the moment are being squeezed to meet targets left right and centre in a system that is far from perfect and very far from complete as well as constant system outages and bugs. These on their own are bad enough to keep our account live. But when you then add in customers opening cases because the item hasn’t arrived two days after dispatch and leaving negative feedback for the same reason, it’s added pressure that we then have to spend time and resources on, and that time and those resources could be better spent within the organisation refining procedure and improving our customer experience.

  • Rich
    3 years ago

    The real difference. Where the seller deals with a problem quickly and leaves the buyer feeling ‘on top’. In the above example I might even have refunded a fiver and offered profuse apologies.

  • northumbrian
    3 years ago

    ebay has managed to turn buying and selling into a war of attrition
    its a them verse us game of point scoring

Recent Comments

9 mins ago
Northumbrian: Who or whatever gets the job is there for eBay’s benefit and profit Any thing that...
34 mins ago
eBetsy: Concierge IS superb and is slated to roll out to all sellers, hopefully by the...
4 hours ago
Alan: This will make it more difficult for fresh and "alternative" Youtubers to spring up (though...
7 hours ago
Returns: James hit the nail on the head This is a useless article ! Why not talk about...