Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Letter to eBay - bogus fee

Here's something I sent to eBay today.

For those who don't sell on eBay, here's the 411. eBay makes money in a number of ways. As a seller, you can be charged when you list an item for sale (depending on how prominently you list the item, the number of pictures you post, etc); you can be charged after the item is sold (with a percentage of the closing price that is the Final Value Fee (FVF); you can be charged for your use of PayPal which is owned by eBay (a percentage of the payment made).

For the most part, I don't mind the fees - eBay provides a means for me to sell certain items that I otherwise would not sell so it's a win-win for everyone. What I object to is the sneaky stuff; the unexpected; and frankly the unfair. In the past, eBay has never charged a FVF on the fee a buyer pays for shipping. This makes sense - the buyer is paying the seller to pack the goods and send it in some manner. A seller typically enters the weight of the item and lets the buyer select from one or more delivery services. Pretty straightforward and accurate. Buyer pays seller to ship, seller ships, done.

Some sellers try and bend the rules by artificially setting very high shipping rates. They know that buyers won't bid up the item as much since buyers tend to look at the overall cost - item + shipping. For those sellers, they end up selling items for less but still receive the same overall fee when shipping is added. And best of all, since the FVF is charged only on the closing price, they pay eBay less. As a buyer, I've seen a few such sellers but not many - they are rare as far as I can tell.

Sometime this year (April '11?) eBay responded by charging a FVF on shipping. I wasn't aware of this until today. Below is the letter I sent them. To me, this fee falls in the above-mentioned sneaky and unfair category. Not that eBay cares of course. I won't get a response since I used the general feedback web page. But does feel good just to send it.

"You must hate sellers. Really. I guess I've been too trusting; never scrutinizing your invoice. Today I took a look and finally noticed that you now charge a FVF on shipping. WTF!

I try to be honest with my buyers and only charge what I pay to ship. I never realized that you were robbing me all along. Tell me, what's the point of entering an accurate package weight and shipping method if you only get to actually see 91% of it?

I called eBay customer service about this today. I was told I could avoid FVF on shipping by providing Free Shipping! Now that's brilliant! Now I get to pay the entire shipping cost instead of just the 9% you took. I was then told I should start the auction at a higher price to cover the cost of shipping. So now that just moves the FVF on shipping to FVF on the item. You come out the same, the customer pays more and usually, that means they don't bid as high so guess who loses. Customer service must think the sellers are all idiots. Or maybe most are like me and never noticed the change.

I know a few former eBayers. They're "former" because they're fed up with your nonsense. You see, I don't mind the FVF on the item's closing price; that's an HONEST fee. But the FVF on shipping? That's underhanded fine-print-like sneaky stuff. It smells; it's rotten. And there's no way for a seller to compensate because the best we can do is add a flat S&H fee (oops, there goes another 9%), not a percentage like you're taking.

In case you haven't figured this out, at the end of the day, it's about the integrity of the process. You've failed with this one."