BAM eBay Buyer Blog

Posts for eBay buyers about buying on eBay

Have Shipping Costs for Some Items Reached a Tipping Point?

Have Shipping Costs for Some Items Reached a Tipping Point?


After choosing to buy a winter coat at a retail store (well, a discount retail store), I considered its heft and wondered if this item would be worth buying online, or if the weight of this type of thing now made it too costly to get a really good deal on a site like eBay. I weighed it in a box to see how much it would cost me to ship if I were a seller, and it came to $25.25 for Priority Mail. 

(If it could have fit in a flat-rate box, it would have been, say, $18.75 for a 2-day Large Flat Rate Box, $13.45 for a Medium Flat-Rate Box, or $6.80 for a Small Flat-Rate Box. (Regional Rate boxes were not applicable in this scenario, according to the USPS. com web site).

You have to figure that even if an online price from a seller on, say, eBay was less than the $25.25, it had been factored into the item's price. Given that I only paid $48.00 for this coat on clearance from the store, and I was able to try it on, I wondered if the appeal of shopping on eBay for a bargain of a winter coat made sense anymore.

Then there are the expectations of shoppers today. Many of them will go for free shipping, especially as it is offered more and more places these days, such as of course, on Amazon Prime items. According to a study by JDA Software Group, Inc., free shipping remains such a high priority for consumers that 69 percent of respondents have spent more than they planned, just to reach the minimum threshold to receive free shipping. "This trend is particularly prevalent during the holiday season, with 80 percent of respondents who shopped primarily online during Black Friday/Cyber Monday last year claiming that they spent more than they intended in order to meet a free shipping threshold," says the JDA press release.

However, when I do a search on women's winter coats, there are lo and behold actually plenty of items that are low-priced and offer free shipping. In fact, the first page of results -- and beyond -- show items offering almost nothing but free shipping, with a few auction items with shipping thrown in. The choices on the first page range from $19.99 for a "Women Ladies Winter Puffer Padded Quilted Zip Up Jacket Coat" and $23.56 for a "Women Long Sleeve Hoodie wool Winter Warm jacket coat trenck parka outwear," up to $199.99 for a name-brand BURBERRY LONDON Parka Women's Down Puffer Winter Coat.

As you drill further down into the listings, you can find other recognizable brand coats that do actually charge shipping, such as a "J CREW Large Wool Cashmere Charcoal Gray Lined Women's Winter Coat - L" for $49.95 plus $12.95 shipping. I also saw a heavier Abercrombie & Fitch fur-lined coat selling with $14.50 in shipping, but in auction format with a starting bid of $10.

So it seems at least with the top pages on eBay, there are few to no shipping prices over about $14.00.  This, however, doesn't mean you won't find them built into the item's price, especially with the name-brand items like the Burberry London one.

What do you think? Is there a line in the sand you won't go over for a shipping price, when it comes to certain heavier items? Do you find that those "free shipping" no-name-brand items such as winter coats from China meet your needs? Or are you wiling to pay more for shipping to get just the right item, such as a certain brand?

And with selling items, are you hesitant to put the real shipping price of a heavier item in, and do you just build it in to the price of the item? Or do you avoid selling heavy items? Post a comment here!


Enterprising Seller Uses Cat in His Photos; A Turnoff?

Enterprising Seller Uses Cat in His Photos; A Turnoff?


This blog post of AuctionBytes calls out a seller on eBay who has been using his pet cat to get attention on his listings. It seems to be working: according to the Forbes article that features the story, seller Tim Dombrowski has been getting "plenty of messages, about three per day," he says.

It started out as an accident; "As I took my pictures," Dombrowski says, his cat Mercedes started wanting more attention and sitting next to his items, "so I just started using her to pose,” according to the piece. “Then she started to stand up, really hamming it up good."

The cat is apparently becoming a celebrity, according to AuctionBytes. But while this whimsy is reminiscent of the old-school days of eBay, when quirkiness reigned, it begs the question, are pets in product photos a turnoff?

Generally sellers mention their items come from a pet-free and smoke-free home, if they mention the environment at all. And many folks shiver at the notion that their item may come with any kind of pet hair and dander. But, as AuctionBytes points out, the items Dombrowski is selling are antiques and collectibles, so less likely to be affected by any kind of squeamishness.

But how would you feel about seeing a pet in a product listing? Would it turn you off whether it was a collectible or an edible? I once wrote a piece for EcommerceBytes about a cat that had been photographed by a seller of tea; that seems a definite no-no. Or is this kind of thing something that can bring more fun back to eBay? What do you think? Post a comment here!

EBay Struggles to Appeal to Younger Consumers; Should Vintage Be Forgotten?

EBay Struggles to Appeal to Younger Consumers; Should Vintage Be Forgotten?



EBay is trying hard to appeal to younger consumers such as millennials, according to a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal. "It is rolling out improved search features and personalized recommendations and reviews. A new ad campaign stars a supermodel, and wine is now available," according to the piece. (The supermodel is model Karlie Kloss, who is shown in an ad outfitting an apartment with things bought from eBay).

The message of wanting to be a "one-stop shopping" place and shedding the "grandma's attic" reputation came from
executives during the company’s third-quarter earnings call last Wednesday. "EBay reported revenue grew 5.6% to $2.22 billion, beating analyst expectations for a third straight quarter of sales gain -- signs that the company’s new e-commerce strategy is starting to pay off," per the Journal article.

Part of the appeal is supposedly that eBay has a higher-percentage mix of new to used items now, with 80% of the items on the site are new, and 86% sold at a fixed price. Auctions are supposedly the antiquated model of the Internet, and what with more people knowing how much things are worth because it is easy to do research on the Internet, they aren't as fun anymore, according to the piece.

But is this really true? Even in the piece, it's said "many millennials are open to buying vintage or used offerings," according to Ken Seiff, managing partner at early-stage retail technology venture capital fund Beanstalk Ventures and a former retail executive. “But that’s not the direct message of eBay’s new marketing campaign,” he said.

And a frequent eBay buyer, Jason Burke, recently purchased three ’90s-era T-shirts, a bolo tie and some old video games via bidding or fixed-price sales, according to the piece. He is 34 years old, and says vintage clothes are cheaper on eBay than at stores near where he lives in Brooklyn.

Many of the changes eBay is making, such as its cataloging of items which allows a clearer presentation of factors such as brand and item features to buyers, and no doubt its amped-up ad presence, are bringing new buyers to the site, and one seller said her sales of both new and used fashion items are up.

I still see sales in my own vintage items as being strong, although admittedly that's most of what I offer. And even if the auction format is not as popular as it once was, people are still dickering: I get a lot of "best offers" on items rather than outright bids.

I think it's a good thing eBay wants to increase its offerings of new items and appeal to younger buyers; I just hope it doesn't lose its vintage soul in doing so. It can be strong in new items and still be the go-to place for the unique and the offbeat.

What do you think about eBay's efforts to attract younger buyers? Is it working? Are you a younger buyer yourself?  If so, what kind of mix of items would you like to see on the site?  Post a comment here!

After How Many Days Should an EBay Unpaid Item Dispute Open Automatically?

After How Many Days Should an EBay Unpaid Item Dispute Open Automatically?




Recently an eBayer wrote to the EcommerceBytes Letter to the Editor section about the Unpaid Item Assistant.  The seller had the UPA set to open a claim two days after a sale. But they had sold an item four days ago and noticed that the UPA still had not gone off.

"When I checked my settings they were set to have UIA file after 8 days. I called eBay to ask if it was a glitch and was told that eBay is changing the minimum amount of time to file automatically to 8 days."

However, EcommerceBytes Editor Ina Steiner, who is checking with eBay about the matter, said "The help page on eBay still says four days," and noted that "We'll send an inquiry to eBay. Let us know what you are seeing."

Meantime, some people in the comments had thoughts about opening a claim automatically two days after a sale.

"Personally?" wrote one, "Two days is incredibly short. I would not feel so strongly, except an unpaid item claim can DAMAGE a bidder."

They further added, "There are plenty of valid reasons to NOT use the instant payment function. One that comes to mind first is buying multiple items that can be shipped together. Another is having a question about shipping arrangements (example, seller offers only UPS Ground and I really want and will pay for Priority Mail, for the fragile item I've bought)."

This eBayer also said they "snipe a lot of items, simply because our electric goes off almost routinely, and I have to use DSL and cannot rely on a last second bid to get through in time. So I expect an invoice since the snipe service can't handle an instant payment too."

Another suggested it may be a factor of combined shipping charges. "Ebay hasn't changed anything, this is just a misunderstanding on how this works.  If you offer combined shipping for those that purchase from you in a given period, the UIA can not be set for a time period that is less than your combined shipping rule. For example, if you offer to buyer that you will combine shipping charges for items that are purchased within 7 days, then your UIA can not be set up for anything less than 8 days."

Personally, I like to give buyers plenty of time to pay when buying something.  I do not use the UPA at this time, but if I did, I would probably set it to 8 days to be on the safe side about complying  with any combined shipping that might be a factor.

What do you think is the ideal amount of time for the Unpaid Item Assistant to open an Unpaid Item case? Four days? Fewer days?  Is eight days too long? Post a comment here!

How Do You Think a Marketplace Fairness Act Would Impact You as a Buyer?

How Do You Think a Marketplace Fairness Act Would Impact You as a Buyer?


EBay recently hosted a roundtable with sellers including the owners of eWastedirect and sunrisegolfshop. Among the items discussed with U.S. Rep Eric Swalwell were the Marketplace Fairness Act, which these sellers said would force them to "seriously curtail" their business or close them entirely.

I hadn't heard about the Marketplace Fairness Act in a while, which aims to make certain sellers, such as those making $1,000,000 gross sales, collect sales tax in all states which require a sales tax, regardless of whether the seller has a "nexus" or "physical presence" in that state or not. 

One million dollars may sound like a lot, but when you consider that is gross sales, and is before taking out a seller's costs, you could be talking about quite a few sellers who don't necessarily have a high profit margin.

Obviously online sellers will for the most part be against this, as it may bog them down in a quagmire of paperwork regarding the sales taxes, and collecting it. 

But how do you feel as a buyer having to also pay a sales tax to a place where you previously did not have to? Would that impact your purchase choice, or would you take it all in stride? 

According to this entry at the TaxJar blog, sellers would likely struggle trying to figure out which of the 10,000 sales tax destinations their customer was in.  And, suggests the blog, the seller may even decide to stop selling into certain states. Now, that this might mean for you as a buyer is you no longer have access to purchase that item online, at least from that certain seller.

The Marketplace Fairness Act certainly does seem a quagmire from my perspective. And one wonders how the large online selling sites would handle it, and whether the costs to figure that out and implement it would also ultimately get handed down to the consumer. 

How do you feel about the Marketplace Fairness Act as a buyer? Is it the idea of paying some amount more money in tax that bothers you, or the whole concept, or are you for the tax?  Post a comment here!