How to Deal with Shipping Delays on eBay

However sophisticated and wide reaching our global mailing system is, occasional shipping delays are a fact of life. Weather, holidays, emergencies and, of course, global crises can severely interfere with the regular flow of mail. Packages on their way to international destinations can get stuck in customs for weeks and months without rhyme or reason.

Sometimes, there are no external factors involved to cause shipping delays – mail just gets stuck somewhere along the way. It’s frustrating, but also completely unavoidable.

Though with different perspectives, eBay sellers and buyers both have to deal with the inescapable problem that is shipping delays. This article will provide tips and advice to help handle the issue on both sides, with the aim to reduce stress and dissatisfaction.

As a seller:

Upload tracking ASAP. Providing tracking information is an essential part of the eBay shipping process. Not only does it provide seller protection if the item is delivered late or not received, but it will also satisfy the majority of curious or impatient buyers.

Manage expectations. Sellers should always be realistic with their shipping and handling times. It is much better for an item to be delivered slightly early to a buyer than to miss the estimated delivery date.

Extend handling times. If shipping delays seem to be a recurrent issue, extending the stated handling time is one option to lessen the potential impact for buyers. If the problem continues, think about switching shipping companies (though keep in mind ‘final note’ at end of article).

Communicate. The best method for dealing with shipping delays as a seller is to communicate clearly with buyers at all times. If it is a busy time (e.g. Christmas, a holiday weekends) or the buyer lives particularly far away, let them know in advance that there may be a delay. Keep correspondence simple and to the point and avoid patronizing language.

Empathize. Even if you feel that the buyer is being unnecessarily impatient, try to understand how they feel. They may be concerned about the item getting lost or it may have been exceptionally expensive for their budget. Perhaps they are concerned about being scammed or are simply new to buying on eBay.

Encourage patience. Although it sounds obvious, sometimes people need to be reminded that the mailing system is not as fast as we’d like. Reassure the buyer that the item was shipped on time and any liability for delayed delivery now lies on the shipping company

Remain professional. It is so important to maintain composure when dealing with frustrated buyers. Consider taking a short break away from the computer before replying to angry correspondence, as to avoid responding in a similarly negative manner.

As a buyer:

Be patient. No matter how desired the item may be, always keep in mind that the seller is human. They also want the item to be shipped out on time, but sometimes, this just isn’t possible. If a seller offers a explanation for the delay, give them the benefit of the doubt and move on.

Have reasonable expectations. The seller has a responsibility to meet the handling and shipping time as stated on the item listing. It is unfair to expect a seller to work faster than communicated. They may have hundreds of other items to package and ship.

Remember that the seller has limited control over shipping. Once the item is in the hands of a shipping company and the tracking number has been uploaded to eBay, the seller has as much control as the buyer concerning delivery.

Always consider the time of year. It is not secret that the mailing system can be slower at certain times of year. The winter holiday season (late November to late December) is always a pinch point and it should be anticipated that any kind of shipment will take longer to arrive in December. Holiday weekends also slow things down, with one less business day in the week.

A final note

Specifically with the current global situation in mind, it is important to recognize that these are unprecedented times. Many online retailers and marketplaces are experiencing increased demand, being processed by a reduced workforce. Shipping companies are also feeling the pressure, increased workloads and adapted delivery systems.

Patience and respect are crucial to keep the online marketplace a positive place to sell and purchase items. Always keep in mind that there are real people behind each step of the shipping process, including (but not limited to) eBay sellers, post office staff, mail sorters and delivery drivers.

eBay has published pandemic shipping advice for sellers here and will be protecting seller performance for a period of time.

Experienced sellers, what are your tried and tested techniques for dealing with eBay shipping delays?

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.

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