I have heard of many U.S.-based eBay sellers who do not offer international shipping. Their reasoning is they don't trust the "foreign" buyers enough to take the risk. They're afraid they will be taken to the cleaners by someone they can't go after if the buyer decides to act dishonestly.
Certainly, there is some risk involved when selling internationally, but risk is present in dealing with buyers everywhere—even here at home. The idea that a foreign buyer is more likely to be dishonest is not true in my experience. I have sold many items to buyers in Australia, Japan, all over Europe, Canada and many other places around the world. I have not had any more trouble with my overseas buyers than I have had with my domestic customers.
Honestly, I rarely have trouble with any of my buyers at all. If I deliver what I promise, then most come away from the transaction happy.
With that said, it is necessary to approach selling on eBay, domestically and internationally, with some good old fashioned wisdom. We need to have a set of rules that will minimize the chances that we'll get tripped up by the occasional dishonest buyer.
What can you do to minimize your risk as an eBay seller? Here are a few tried and true approaches.
I would start to worry about it when the cost of the item sold gets big enough to hurt
Cover your assets
Never ship an item internationally without delivery confirmation and insurance, if you are worried about replacing a rare or pricey item. If you are shipping a low-cost item, or something that you have a good supply of, you can skip this suggestion.
I, personally, would not worry about shipping a $10 item internationally without insurance or delivery confirmation. If I get taken, I can absorb the cost. But I would start to worry about it when the cost of the item sold gets big enough to hurt, or I if don't have another one to replace the originally sold item.
No money? No dice
Never ship an item until the payment is cleared. This is especially true if the payment is coming in the form of an e-check or some other form of payment that is not instantaneous. This is a good policy for all your sales, not just international. In other words, don't ship an item until you have cash in hand. While this won't help if the customer decides to dispute the sale and ask for their money back, it will help keep you from shipping an item that never ever gets paid for.
Tell it like it is
Be very clear in your listings. The particulars of the item for sale such as size, color, condition and any other descriptions you can think of need to be clearly spelled out in your listing. This step will do two things: It will keep most buyers from making a purchase because of incorrect information about the item, and it will help ensure eBay is on your side in the case of a dispute where the buyer complains about something that you clearly spoke about in your listing.
Some countries are hotbeds of scam operations, and you are best to steer clear of these
Heed the warning signs
Be aware of the problem spots. There are some places in the world that are just not good places to ship to. Thankfully these are few. As an eBay seller, you need to be wise in choosing where you will sell internationally. Some countries are hotbeds of scam operations, and you are best to steer clear of these.
A little research in the eBay Forums or Discussion Boards, or with a search engine, will give you a good idea of where the problem spots are around to globe.
Consider the opportunity
Don't cut yourself short of a sale! I've had many auctions go up in price because of offering international shipping. Here's a great example: I had a chopper-style motorcycle listed with a reserve of $12,000. I had it listed as freight shipping, and specified that I would ship internationally, with the caveat that international buyers must make shipping arrangements.
Because I listed it this way, there was a bidding war between two buyers in Poland and Germany that brought the chopper up in price—and it ended up selling to a sniper from New York City! I feel that had I not offered worldwide shipping, chances are the bids may have not met my reserve price, and there would not have been a sale.
What it all comes down to is this: Can you afford to limit your available audience of potential buyers? Do you want to? I don't. Part of the beauty of eBay is the size of the audience. Your willingness to entertain a worldwide audience for your products, or not, can mean the difference between success and failure as a business on eBay.
Other Entries by this Author
Danna Crawford, CEO of PowerSellingMom, Inc.
, has been a successful eBay seller
since 1997. In 2008, she received eBay's Community Hall of Fame award, as well as the Golden Ribbon Community Seller Award from eBay Giving Works. As an eBay Certified Education Specialist, she teaches at the community college and university levels, and frequently speaks on topics such as how to make money blogging, writing eBooks and more. Crawford can be heard every Friday night on her Internet radio show, PowerSellingMomRadio
, and in weekly webinars at VirtualOnlineLearning.com
Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.