eBay Tip #21 – My eBay Mistakes

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I have made many errors as a seller on eBay. You might call my eBay mistakes, doozys or even epic fails! It’s all part of the learning process! I look back on them and can now laugh, but the truth is we all make mistakes and hopefully reduce making too many of them!

Where the Heck is That Item?

It is inevitable that you will sell something and not be able to find it. That is one of the worst feelings to have as a seller. Being organized helps avoid this situation, but it happens to the best of us. There are a couple of ways to handle it.

  • 1) Send an eBay message to the buyer, tell them the truth about not being able to locate and refund their money.
  • This is a last resort because you will get a ding from eBay as a seller. Not a great option in my opinion.
  • 2) If you can find another item like you sold, buy it and send it to the buyer with a note about what happened.
  • Better than the ding from eBay. An out-of-pocket expense, but problem remedied.

Oops I Sent the Wrong Item!

This has happened a few times to me. Most memorable was selling two similar Bear figurine statues made by Lalique. If you are unfamiliar with Lalique glass, it is made in France and can be quite expensive. These two pieces were signed and were bought by buyers from Russia and Spain for in the $600-$800 range.

Without needing to say it, this was going to be an expensive mistake. When I realized what I had done, I began communicating with the buyer of the larger bear statue. One he received it, I had him ship it to the person in Spain and visa versa.

International shipping is not super difficult, but there is Customs and cost. I was able to work with both buyers through translation issues and distance obstacles. It all worked out. Both ended up with their correct Lalique bears. Thanks goodness! Talk about a heart stopper!

On another occasion, I had a shipping helper who was a dream! She would get all the orders ready each morning: find the appropriate boxes, pack them up, weigh them and print the shipping labels. That allowed me to concentrate on putting up more listings.

On this particular day I was at a one-day conference in San Francisco and she was handling my eBay office on her own. I checked in with her mid day and she told me we finally sold “the football”. She didn’t realize that we had two different footballs. One was a junior model made by Wilson (selling for $12) and the other was a flattened, signed Oakland Raider’s memorabilia type ball (selling for $200). They had very different looks and value.

You guessed it, she shipped the wrong one. My helper had no idea, since she was not a sports loving person, one ball looked just like the other to her. I was able to fix the situation over the course of a few days, and it had a happy ending. Again that was another heart stopper.

Shipping Charges Too Low

The other eBay mistake that can happen commonly is to not charge enough for shipping an item that was sold. Since I use free shipping on most of my eBay items, I have to make sure that the selling price covers the cost of shipping. That does happen once in a while.

On eBay it is not a good practice to ask the buyer for more money. So if one loses on that particular transaction, I look at it as “paying for feedback”. Meaning the best result out of that sale and loss on shipping costs, is receiving a positive feedback rating from the buyer. I rationalize it as my cost for feedback from them. Hopefully they will leave it for me, but sometimes we don’t calculate all the right numbers on every single transaction. Move on and make better calculations next time!

That’s the way it goes! Hopefully it won’t happen too often!

On eBay, since there are costs on the listing side (after using your free listings) and costs on the final sales price, the shipping costs are one more added to the mix. As long as I have a positive cash flow and sell some higher priced items in a month, all is good. It is the cost of doing business on eBay.

Lost in the Mail

The last area of epic fails for me on eBay is when a package is lost in the mail. Luckily, this problem seldom happens: maybe once in a thousand transactions which is about once a year in my long eBay career. Mail delivery has gotten better with real time tracking, but this one time was different.

I sold a pair of ice skates to a woman in the East. We both followed the tracking to see that her package was heading through the south and then north again, to many other states than where it was supposed to end up. Then the tracking just stopped, never to be updated again. She never received the ice skates, no amount of inquiry helped find the missing package. The USPS medium flat rate box was shipping by Priority Mail and automatically comes with $50 insurance, which I finally had to claim. I refunded her money, leaving a disappointed buyer.

Luckily, that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, but is in my list of epic eBay fails. All sellers have them and as I say to newbies all the time, “once you make a big mistake, chances are you will never make that one again!”

For you eBay sellers or buyers out there, do you have any eBay mistakes you can share? I’d love to hear about them!


Tip #21

  • Goal: If you have an eBay mistake, try to fix with buyer
  • Task: Send eBay message, along with apologies, and refund without delay
  • Task: If you can’t find an item that sold, replace with another – even if you have to purchase and send to them
  • Task: Laugh at your mistakes and try to learn from them
  • Task: Most of all, move on, no one is perfect!

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Author: Anne Zarraonandia

Anne Z is a certified USPTA tennis and pickleball professional who takes her many years of experience in teaching tennis to the online arena. Anne breaks down the tasks of online selling into simple language, especially for those who don’t have much computer, internet, or photography background.

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