Friday, August 08, 2008

Buyer's Guilt

In recent weeks, I have had some very good luck on eBay. My most recent acquisition is a vintage Fiesta carafe in cobalt blue. The auction listing didn't include a shipping cost so I wrote to the seller, and asked how much S&H would be to my ZIP code.

He quoted me $9. That sounded fair for an item of this size. So I placed my bid and won.

The package arrived safe and sound in today's mail. And according to the postmark, the seller spent $14.25 to ship the carafe to me. He had to eat that other $5.25. The ending price for the carafe was $9.99. Factor in eBay fees, and the seller made very little money.

I read may tales of disgruntled buyers who feel they are being gouged by sellers who heavily inflate their shipping costs. I was one of them when I got burned on a deal several years ago (details below). But I very rarely hear about buyers who got a break on shipping.

Shipping breaks have happened to me more than once in the not-so-distant past. I have won auctions or bought items from sellers who paid more in postage fees than they charged me. One such seller even reads this blog.

And I feel guilty when that happens. Usually I'm the first to brag when I get a giveaway bargain. But not when I'm so undercharged for mailing costs. I come away with a sick feeling that my good deal is coming at the expense of some one else's bottom line.

That's not that to say that I'm never overcharged. That has happened more times than I care to admit. Years ago, a seller tried to charge me $12.95 to ship a shoebox-sized package of Legos. And this was back in the days when shipping one of those freebie USPS Priority Mail parcels cost a flat rate of $3.50.

I managed to talk the seller down to $8.95. According to the postmark, she only paid $4.95. Neutral feedback was left. I could have left a negative, but I felt partly to blame for not seeking a quote before auctions end. I will never do that again.

So, when I'm overcharged for shipping, I get angry. But when I'm undercharged, I feel--at best--a slight twinge of guilt.

I'll take anger anyday.


RainbowDishes said...

I am horrible about guessing the correct shipping. I would say about 75% of the time when I think I have asked for enough to cover shipping, I usually am way under. The other 25% I am very close. I have never been more than a dollar over on the charge.

Good deal on the carafe. I only have a red carafe in vintage Fiesta. Very classy shape on the carafes.

Ms. Val said...

Craig, do you ever use the USPS online shipping calculator? I'm not sure how accurate that is. Short driving to the PO for a quote or buying an electronic Pitney-Bowes scale, I'm not sure how sellers do it.

I know very little about the seller's side of this issue. The only selling I've ever done was a few GameBoy cartridges. I even waived my $3 shipping cost for one boy who had been saving up for one of the games I was offering. He paid my B-I-N price in exchange for free S&H. Later, I got an email from his mother, thanking me for giving her son a break.

I'm very happy about the carafe deal. The repaired chip and lack of a stopper don't bother me. Especially considering that is, well...older than my parents.

RainbowDishes said...

I usually use the USPS website, but my problem is I always, always under estimate the weight of the packaging. I have been working hard on getting my website up and running. One of the features is that it will show you the estimated shipping of the items in your shopping cart. At first, the estimates were WAY HIGH! I think it was asking for $15 for a 1 pound package. I finally got that fixed and now the estimates look legitimate. After I start adding stuff to the website, I will do a few test runs. But it looks like I am ready to go after the items for sale are added.

Ms. Val said...

Well, do keep us informed. When you get your website up and running, I'll most likely throw some business your way.