What eBay Sellers Should Do when an Item Goes Missing

While the majority of eBay packages do arrive at their intended destination, it is an unavoidable fact of life that some do not. Whether delivered to the wrong address or damaged enough for the label to be unreadable, having an item go missing is disappointing for both eBay buyer and seller.

Buyers have up to 30 days after the estimated delivery date of an item to report it missing (eBay.com). Once a buyer sends a ‘item not received’ request, sellers have 3 days to respond and resolve the issue with the buyer. After this, eBay will step in.

This article will explain what sellers should and should not do in the event that an item is not received by the buyer and how to reduce the occurrence of such issues in the future.

Check tracking information first

It is good practice for eBay sellers to upload an item’s tracking information as soon as possible. Not only is this helpful for the buyer, it usually reduces anxious messages to the seller concerning the location of the item.

When a buyer opens an ‘item not received’ request, the first thing a seller should do is check the tracking information. A seller’s next move will depend on the most recent status shown on the item tracking information.

If tracking information shows item lost, refund the buyer

eBay’s position on missing items is clear – buyers are entitled to a refund under the Money Back Guarantee. If the tracking details show that the item has been in transit without movement for more than 7 days (10 for international shipments), refund the buyer the full sale amount including the shipping cost.

If the seller does not have any kind of tracking information, the resolution is the same. The buyer is entitled to a full refund. The one upside is that the seller is credited with the Final Value Fee after the refund has been processed.

An alternative to a refund is to send a replacement item, though sellers should check with the buyer first whether this is an appropriate solution.

Make an insurance claim with the shipping company

The next step for a seller with a missing item is to make an insurance claim with the shipping company. This usually involves providing proof of the item’s value (a PayPal transaction record is one example of evidence) and a copy of the original shipping receipt.

No insurance? Seller without shipping insurance will likely find themselves out of pocket for missing item transactions.

If tracking information shows item delivered, wait

With valid tracking information showing that the item has been delivered to the intended destination within the correct time frame, the seller does not have to refund or otherwise resolve the situation with the buyer. The seller does not have any liability for the missing item.

In this situation, it would be a good idea to ask the buyer to:

  • Check with other household members that they did not forget to mention a package arriving
  • Make a thorough search around the outside of their house to make sure that the package was not left in an unusual place
  • Ask neighbors whether they have received any packages on behalf on someone else
  • Contact the shipping company to request more details about the delivery
  • File a police report if they suspect the item was stolen

The ‘item not received’ request will close automatically within 24 hours if the tracking details show that the item was delivered to the same zip code as the buyer’s listed address.

What not to do when an item goes missing

Having previously discussed what sellers should do when an item goes missing, here are some pointers of what sellers should definitely avoid when dealing with ‘item not received’ claims.

Refuse to claim responsibility

It is not possible for sellers to claim that they cannot be responsible for missing or damaged items, even if stated in an item listing. Under eBay’s Money Back Guarantee rules, sellers must take responsibility for missing items unless tracking information proves that the item was delivered correctly.

If a seller does not refund a buyer when required, eBay will forcibly take the funds to resolve the situation.

Ignore the buyer’s messages

As mentioned, the Money Back Guarantee entitles buyers to a refund if the item is not received. Ignoring messages from the buyer or the open transaction claim not help or progress the situation. eBay will take action and the seller is the one with most to lose.

How to reduce problems concerning missing items

As much as it is not possible for an eBay seller to ensure that all packages are delivered safely, on-time and to the correct address, there are a few ways to reduce the problems caused by missing items.

Always send items with recorded delivery

Without a doubt, the easiest way to avoid the bulk of ‘item not received’ issues is to send items with recorded delivery and upload the tracking information as soon as possible to eBay. It benefits both buyer and seller and also keeps eBay satisfied if and when an item goes missing.

It is eBay policy (since October 2020) to require sellers to use signature confirmation for any orders worth over $750.

Purchase shipping insurance

Shipping insurance protects sellers in the event that an item goes missing in transit. Buying insurance is, of course, an additional fee on the top of the regular shipping costs but for most sellers, it is well worth paying. This is especially the case for higher value items.

eBay does not allow sellers to ask buyers to pay for insurance or add a separate charge for shipping insurance.

Keep tracking details safe

When shipping items, be careful to carefully keep and store tracking details for future reference. There are many different ways to do this but the most important aspect is make a system that works and continue to use it.

As proven in this article, having tracking details can be the difference between having to provide a refund and not having any liability or loss at all. The other key takeaway is to upload the tracking information as soon as possible.

Since September 2018, eBay.com users have been required to upload tracking information before the estimated delivery date has passed to be able to appeal ‘item not received’ requests such as those mentioned in this article.

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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