Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Random rant: No, really, our envelopes cost $8 each

If you've been reading regularly, you might remember that my son is a Thomas fanatic. So, in preparation for Christmas I've been doing a lot of eBay shopping for trains since the retail price of the wooden Thomas trains is ridiculous. (There's no way I'm buying that a 2 ½-inch wooden train with a magnet on each end is worth $12, but that's another rant.)

Luckily, I've found a great seller for my Thomas needs, but when it comes to other things, I always get a chuckle out of shopping on eBay. It happens every time I click on something that seems to have a reasonable price only to find out that shipping on the item costs twice what the item itself costs. Last week, I was shopping for some SD cards when I encountered this. The 1 GB cards were $5.99, which I knew was too cheap, so I also knew the shipping would be outrageous. In this case there were several sellers offering those cards with shipping ranging from $10 to $11.

What sent me into peals of laughter, though, was the one seller I clicked on who was positively indignant about people complaining about his inflated shipping charges. Did I mention that he also wouldn't combine shipping on multiple items? So two SD cards, shipped in the same envelope = $22 shipping, three cards in the same envelope = $33 shipping, etc. He explained that it was not just shipping but the price of the envelopes and labels that you were paying for, before ending angrily, "if you don't like my shipping charges, don't buy the item." OK, no problem.

I've sold on eBay and for years, and I understand you have to pay for envelopes, labels, etc., but let's break this down. First class shipping on an SD card in a padded envelope is, maybe, $1.50 max. Then, let's just assume that your envelope and your label cost $1 each (and those would be some very, very expensive labels and envelopes -- mine cost less than $1 combined), that's still $3.50. Don't try to tell me you need $11 to cover the cost of labels and envelopes.

Of course, we all know what's going on here. It's rampant on eBay. People want to offer a super-cheap price on the merchandise, so they jack up shipping rates to cover the loss they're taking on the sale price. It looks a lot better to have that SD card listed for $5.99 than for $13.99, and you hope people won't pay attention to the shipping until it's too late. I'm just wondering if anyone's really falling for that. Judging by the fact that I constantly see people bidding more on items than they can buy them for in the store, I'm assuming just for the feeling they get from winning, I guess there probably are. (That's also backed up by eBay's latest slogan, "shop victoriously.")

Here's a thought. Don't try to make up your losses on shipping and shovel crap down my throat about envelopes and labels. Give me the best possible price that you can give me on your item with a reasonable shipping cost. If it beats my local store, I'll buy it. If not, I won't. You won't have to worry about going on the defensive with people who are angry over your inflated shipping, you'll look better and your customers will feel better about you. Imagine that. Of course, it will never happen. That's just not the eBay way.

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