eBay Shipping Costs for Seller 67% Higher than Originally Calculated

I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with eBay for about 8 years now. If found it handy in the past to try and sell more obscure items on eBay than Craigslist when I didn’t think I would find locals that would be willing to pay what I wanted for the item.

In all that time, one absolute thing has always stood clear to me: I’ve always felt like I was getting fucked when it came time to print out shipping labels.

I couldn’t put my finger on it and didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Year after year, ever time I went to ship a package, no matter how detailed the listing had been, I always ended up coughing up more money for shipping than eBay had charged the buyer for.

I was really incensed by this 2 years ago when I went to sell off about 10 pieces of hardware from a desktop computer I was dismantling. I actually took the time to weight each part in it’s box as well as measure the dimensions before listing it just to make sure eBay charged the buyer the right amount. I figured “hey I can’t go wrong here, eBay/PayPal is integrated into UPS and USPS and they have the dimensions and weight, this will be dead on”.

NOTE: When you enter the shipping method, weight and package dimensions, eBay tells you how much shipping will cost before the listing is posted. It is all automated, no way to get it wrong.

So fast forward to current day and I just got done selling a few things on eBay, one item was 8x8x4 and weighed 6lbs (I listed it at 8lbs to compensate for margin of error). eBay told me the shipping would cost $15, so I listed the item and the winner paid that. When I finally go to print out the shipping using the integrated seller tools, eBay decided that shipping was now 67% higher ($25) that I would have to pay out of pocket:

What the hell… I told eBay the weight, dimensions and carrier method (USPS Parcel Post, the cheapest service USPS offers) 5 days ago, and now the cost of shipping is 25% higher? I smell shenanigans…

I decided to go directly to USPS.com and price out the same package. What I found out was that USPS Priority Mail, the fastest method USPS offers, was 60% cheaper than eBay’s calculation:

I went with the USPS.com purchase and sent the package, but this confirms my long-time assumption that eBay has been dealing in shenanigans when it comes to shipping fees. If the real cost of this package was $18 (or less, since eBay was instructed to price out Parcel Post) where is that extra $10 going? USPS doesn’t need it, and I’m sure eBay and USPS have a mass-discount deal arranged for directing people to use USPS… so let’s say eBay/PayPal’s cost for Parcel Post was actually more like $10 or $12… where is that 100% markup going since it’s coming out of my pocket?

And before you say “Yea, but you compared different shipping methods!” I also calculated the cost for “Parcel Post” (exactly as eBay had) using the dimensions and weight and got an evencheaper quote:

I declare shenanigans all over this…

It is interesting that instead of transparently passing this onto the buyer, eBay saddles the seller with this burden? And what can the seller do, eBay already passed the policy that sellers cannot leave feedback on buyers. So if I found this shipping cost too high (and it’s eBay’s fault) and I decide to cancel the transaction, the buyer will give me negative feedback.

All I’m seeing right now are a bunch of hidden policies and functionality in eBay intended to spur shopping (buyers), increase revenue and leave the sellers with the tab for the whole thing. I also realize this punishing behavior may have a lot to do with the fact that I’m a small-time seller on eBay. I’m sure mass-listers and the big-box stores that were recently allowed to start mass-listing on eBay don’t experience this as they would pull their listings in no time flat.

For anyone experience the same thing, I’ve had better luck using Craigslist and Amazon Marketplace.

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About Riyad Kalla

Software development, video games, writing, reading and anything shiny. I ultimately just want to provide a resource that helps people and if I can't do that, then at least make them laugh.

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17 Responses to “eBay Shipping Costs for Seller 67% Higher than Originally Calculated”

  1. Sue Wong March 10, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    The problem with your incorrect shipping cost is because you mistakenly entered “Large Package” as the package size when you prepare the shipping label.

    When you select “Large Package” on Paypal, Paypal automatically uses the 20-pound rate for all packages up to 20 pounds.

    By USPS definition, Large package is when any dimension (Length, Height, or Width) measurement is over 12 inches. Your package is not consider as a large package.

    If you choose the “Package/Thick Envelope” option, other than “Large package”, the shipping rate would have come out correctly on Paypal.

    • Riyad Kalla March 11, 2010 at 6:44 am #

      Sue,

      Thank you for the reply. When I created the auction, I didn’t select a package size, I chose to enter my own dimensions as mentioned above along with weight — so I entered *Exactly* the dimensions of the box which did have 2 dimensions larger than 12 inches and it’s weight.

      I tried to remove any margin of error by being exact; that is why eBay infuriates me so.

  2. j smith September 19, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    I used ebay (as I have before) to print a shipping label. The label would not display or print. Waited over 1 hour for “chat” support and was asked to void the original and “clear cache and cookies” and try again. Long story short: it never displayed or printed the label and each time to tried (and voided) I was charged $12.48 by Paypal. It is now over $37.00 (Paypal charges for label) and I will not receive a credit for over 15 days. The item was only around $50.00 bucks! I make nothing, ebay and Paypal have both my money and my buyer’s. Very discouraged.

    • Riyad Kalla September 20, 2010 at 5:46 am #

      j smith,

      I’m really sorry to hear about your experience. PayPal is notorious for these types of things and more recently, holding accounts hostage for months on end and either keeping the money or dispersing it in chunks to the account owner.

      I’ve been seeing it a lot in the software community, the Open Spaces conference organizer had all funds for the conference frozen and only after weeks of faxing business documents that were unrelated to the conference to PayPal did they authorize him a *single* 24hr period to withdraw all the money from the account before they froze it.

      They also freeze donations as well as seen here:
      http://tortoisesvn.net/howpaypalscrewsopensourceprojects

      It really is a shit company. I have a few friends that used to do software dev there and the horror stories they have from the “inside” pretty much match what we see on the outside. Pure chaos dictated by overbearing, ego-driven management teams with a disregard for customer service. They just compensate for that with a bigger advertising budget.

  3. Katrina Larrabee November 23, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    We are selling some books – and even by scanning the bar code and choosing priority mail, ebay would only let us charge $4.00 for shipping. However – the priority mail envelope of the size to fit the book is $4.75. How does that make any sense whatsoever?

    • Riyad Kalla December 1, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

      Katrina, that is exactly the type of things I see here as well whenever I sell using eBay. They even hook into the USPS postage system and KNOW how much postage is… it isn’t a guess. Very frustrating.

  4. Dave Nelson December 2, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    Here it is December 2011 and eBay and Paypal are still ripping the seller off. I sold a 3lb camera lens today and eBay only collected $15 for shipping, but Paypal is charging me $25. Total rip-off!

  5. Ebay Sucks! December 8, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    I have had the same problems on ebay with their shipping as a seller. i contacted ebay & apparently if you don’t use their labels, then you have to pay more than what the shipping calculator calculates. They said that by printing their shipping label, you get a 30% discount on the shipping, which is what the calculator figures out for you. so you end up paying the difference if you do not use their labels.
    They own paypal, too so they are making money on that end.
    They also own shares of craigslist–can you say monopoly.
    I only hope that buyers wisen up & stop using ebay & sell on amazon marketplace or bonanza.
    i, as a buyer, will not shop on ebay ever again!

  6. Anthony August 20, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    I’ve been on and off eBay for 13 years myself, and can totally relate. I sold ten items recently, and each time I have used eBay to calculate the postage for an item, it ends up costing me out of pocket. As of today, I will calculate postage myself and charge flat rates before listing anything on eBay again!

    • Nicole October 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      Yes,Ebay rips us off with their shipping calculator.I sold a pair of boots 2 days ago and I only made $2.99 on them after my costs were paid and I got ripped off again when the buyer paid me and paid less for shipping than I actually paid for.It’s just not worth it !

  7. FlowerP February 2, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    I just had the exact same issue and I am so mad. I am not a business and now I have subsidize the shipping out of pocket. It makes no sense!

    I also wonder what else I can do avoid this issue in future. Should I list things as heavier and bigger than they are to make sure I don’t pay for shipping myself?

    You basically are forced into a shipping cost when listing.

    Unclear, uncool, unfair.

  8. DJ February 8, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    I am disgusted with ebay and paypal’s shipping calculator and fees. I enter as much info as possible for the shipping calculator before I list the item. More often than not, when i take the item to USPS, I get stiffed. Plus ebay now charges a % of the shipping fee. I typically did not specify in the ad that there is an extra ebay shipping fee, nor did I charge for clean bubble wrap etc. On some items that I sold, I actually lost money. On one occasion, the calculator was a few dollars higher, and the customer accused me of ripping them off (even though I had not charged for the ebay % or my shipping expenses). I will now add a “handling fee” that will be the cushion for a margin of error.

  9. Ross June 25, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    I have a similar issue actual dimensions listed and weight under calculate shipping,buyer pays 8$ less than it costs me when I goto PayPal to print lable,on then one customer service did a test on ups.com cost was even higher,ebay is screwing us blind,corporate greed board rooms coming up with complicated algerythems so there own people can’t figure out what’s wrong.but they are getting rich on our overpriced shipping cost via shipping %,and raising generated sales by showing customers deflated unrealistic shipping prices the sellers have to eat or get negative feedback,for being accused from buyers of overcharging,

    I am looking for any other way to sell,anywhere possible these people don’t give a shit about you it’s a sham of smoke and mirrors,and nomore class action lawsuits to fight them as you had to agree with the terms they put out this year or go hungry as in close your buisness,

    shame on you ebay you make me sick!!!!!!! ,also where is our wonderful icc who is to monitor buisness practices like these,sequester? Light are out in the icc building also,I’m sure.

    Sorry to rant but this is complete B.S !!!!!,!

  10. Steve July 6, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Ebay and Paypal are both companies with an ethic of manipulation and exploitation of their clientele to boost their numbers. I can’t afford the time to type the many examples of manipulative policies I’ve noticed without even looking for them.

    “All I’m seeing right now are a bunch of hidden policies and functionality in eBay intended to spur shopping (buyers), increase revenue and leave the sellers with the tab for the whole thing.”

    That’s exactly it.

    Don’t ever check your brain at the door of eBay or Paypal.

    Don’t ship through eBay. Just say no and deal directly with your shipper.

    And, when you enter the weights and dimensions into your listing for eBay to calculate what the buyer will see, enter high weights and larger dimensions if you want the shipping amounts reported to the buyer to be fair to you. You can always send the buyer a refund if it shakes out that the buyer paid too much for shipping. Besides being the right thing to do, it will probably please your buyer greatly to be surprised with a shipping fee refund.

    • Cindybin November 9, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      I’m going to start doing this as well, entering higher weights. I’ve had too many surprises at the post office where I lose money on shipping. Also, why didn’t you chastise the writer of this blog for using profanity? Am I the ONLY one upset by this??? If so, how sad is that?

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