eBay's Global Shipping Program Puts Sellers on the Fence

Sellers, buyers wrestle over the new service's pros and cons.

by Sarah Brown
- Jun 19, 2013

It's been nine months since eBay launched its Global Shipping Program last September, and the service, so far, has received mixed reviews.

The Global Shipping Program (GSP) is meant to help international buyers with their purchases by essentially covering all import taxes and providing tracking from the U.S. to an item's destination.

GSP handles the international shipping leg

Last fall, eBay opened GSP to sellers in the U.S. who opted in, but it intends to make this program the default international shipping option for all merchants unless they opt out, and eBay will expand the service to other countries.

U.S. merchants who use GSP are responsible for shipping their international sales to designated shipping centers in the U.S., which are managed by Pitney Bowes, a mailing systems service. Listings that offer GSP automatically figure international shipping and import costs—plus a brokerage fee—and add them to the checkout process for international buyers to see.

eBay opened GSP to U.S. sellers who opted in, but it intends to make this program the default international shipping option for all merchants

The idea is that the shipping center will handle all of the customs forms and shipments once they leave the U.S., creating a "hassle free" experience for sellers and buyers who may otherwise be faced with added taxes and duties from their governments.

Some sellers and international buyers are happy with the results of the new shipping program so far, but others are skeptical.

Program needs more clarity

One complaint centers on the lack of understanding about the program. Buyers outside the U.S. are often surprised to find GSP fees on their invoice after they've committed to the purchase.

"Since opting in to the Global Shipping Program I have been bombarded with requests to remove import charges, change shipping prices and even had a case opened through PayPal for an item lost after it made the trip to the Australian carrier," says a seller going by the name wamaam in an eBay forum.

But wamaam later notes that, although the program may be more expensive than regular shipping rates, it seems to be lowering his shipping cost most of the time because he never offers First Class International as a comparative service. He would like to see improvements, though, like clear GSP cost explanations on seller pages and reduced import fees where these may not be necessary.

In short, eBay should be clearer with buyers about GSP costs.

"Something needs to be done to let buyers know that the seller is not in control of invoicing or responsible for lost packages once they have arrived at the shipping center," wamaam adds.

Something needs to be done to let buyers know that the seller is not in control of invoicing or responsible for lost packages

Program only available in some countries

An important note to be made about the GSP service is that it's only available to buyers in 18 countries.

While some of those listed are popular sell-to locations—such as Canada, Australia and the U.K.—other popular locations are omitted.

"It contains a lot of countries that aren't going to figure too prominently in most sellers' international sales, such as Estonia, and omits countries that probably make up a fair number of international sales for many sellers, such as Germany and the Netherlands," notes seller marnotom!.

What's more, some sellers are discovering some locations serviced through the GSP demand seemingly unreasonable costs, while others have significantly lower shipping costs.

eBay seller kariandlarrysales experimented with the program and shared the following results with the forum:


International Shipping Cost Options

USPS Priority Mail
GSP
U.K.
$273.65
$279.13
Canada
$254.99
$251.79
Australia
$278.25
$245.58

Many agree their experiences of shipping to Australia through the GSP have been favorable, while their Canadian buyers have been very disappointed. Canadian buyer fatchuk put it succinctly.

"I will not be buying from any seller that uses Global Shipping," he says. "It is a blatant rip-off."

It's an issue that perhaps needs a little more wrestling with to unravel the optimal use for the service. One of the main selling points is the claim that import tax and duty is covered ahead of time, but many buyers know not every purchase they make would otherwise be selected for these additional fees.

Many sellers appreciate that they don't have to deal with customs forms, and the tracking service prevents fraudulent claims of undelivered items

When The Online Seller reported on the arrival of eBay's Global Shipping Program, Canadian Terry Matz noted that, when a seller ships through UPS, he is always charged brokerage fees, plus taxes and duties, but is rarely charged these fees when purchases are shipped through the U.S. Postal Service.

In other words, if the seller plays their cards carefully, buyers will be more likely to purchase from them if GSP is avoided.

Still, other sellers say their international sales have increased significantly since opting in to the program, and believe it is an option best suited to those who could not previously offer international shipping. Many appreciate that they don't have to deal with customs forms, and the tracking service prevents fraudulent claims of undelivered items.

Are you opted in?

In general, sellers who've discussed the issue with each other seem to agree the USPS First Class International shipping option is best reserved for lightweight, low value, low fraud items that don't often attract taxes and duties. For sellers with larger, heavy items, the GSP might be a better option as long as buyers understand how the costs compare to their other options.

Offering GSP is only a bad idea if it increases the total cost to the buyer, reports kariandlarrysales.

"GSP will save the buyer money in some cases where the item weighs over 4 pounds, but the seller has to be able to explain it to the potential buyer," the eBay seller says. "The drawback is buyers don't like to prepay duty/tax, so it's hard to capture their attention long enough to explain the various costs and potential savings."

To see if you are opted in to the GSP, sign in to eBay and go to your My eBay page. Under the Account tab, click on the "Site Preferences" link, find the Shipping preferences section and select "Show." The first line should read "Offer the Global Shipping Program," followed by either Yes or No. To change your preference, click on the "Edit" link.


About the Author

Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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