Is Shipping a Nightmare?

Insuring items may give you—and your buyers—peace of mind.

by staff writer
- Sep 03, 2009

Dawn Austin of McMahon Prints and More insures all the glass and fragile items she sells, but that wasn't always the case. She once shipped a large painting with a glass front, and it arrived on her buyers' doorstep in pieces.

"I learned a very good $500 lesson," the PowerSeller recalls.

The buyers told her the package looked "like someone kneeled on it," Austin recalls. They agreed the damage wasn't Austin's fault, but she footed the bill anyway.

"Even though they didn't insure it, I gave them their money back because that's just good business," she notes. "But I still had to pay the owner, who I sold it for."

Austin is not the first seller to find herself in a tough shipping situation. As merchants know, items do occasionally get damaged and even lost en route, and buyer fraud can rear its ugly head, too. However, shipping insurance can be a valuable defense against costly exchanges, chargebacks and returns. And it fosters trust among trading partners.

Janice Gallagher can attest to that. One of her buyers purchased a unique set of glass bookends as a gift for his ailing mother. When the package arrived, the box only contained one bookend, not two, as she had originally shipped it. Luckily, the package was insured with Auctiva Shipping Insurance.

"The buyer was skeptical and unhappy [because] I had not used USPS insurance," she recalls. "I told him to file a PayPal dispute to protect himself while we filed an insurance claim. The claim process was handled quickly and the buyer received a refund, plus cost of shipping, and closed the PayPal dispute and an unhappy customer became a friend. We ended up having several friendly e-mail conversations along the way as he told me about caring for his ailing mother, who was probably enjoying her final Christmas."

We want sellers to know that when they purchase a policy, they're covered

The value of protection

Including shipping insurance in listings lets buyers know they're dealing with a serious seller who won't short-change them, notes Kevin Kinell, Auctiva's vice president. Auctiva's goal is to ensure sellers can offer this insurance for a low cost and minimal amount of additional effort in the eBay listing process.

"We've created our shipping insurance to be as automated as possible. All of the information needed to create a policy is automatically sent to the insurance carrier," Kinell says. "We want sellers to know that when they purchase a policy, they're covered. They shouldn't dread the possibility of filing a claim."

Auctiva developers have worked to make the process as easy as possible. Sellers can purchase insurance and file claims right from their computers without having to stand in long lines at the post office or filling out long forms. All they have to do is set their Auctiva Shipping Insurance settings by logging into their Auctiva accounts. And the company is introducing enhancements in early September to make buying and managing insurance even easier.

Auctiva Shipping Insurance is available to all Auctiva users, whether they're on one of Auctiva's flat-rate listing plans or using the free eBay tools. Policies may be purchased to cover domestic and international shipments, with typical savings of up to 30 percent over USPS, since Auctiva buys policies in bulk and passes on the savings to customers. And insurance can be purchased up to three days after a listing has ended.

PowerSeller and Auctiva EDU contributor Lynn Dralle reports she's a big fan of Auctiva Shipping Insurance. She uses it for all of her items valued at more than $20, after having lost hundreds of dollars when a shipment got lost on its way to a buyer in Thailand. Dralle says she hadn't even considered insuring the item, since she was dealing with a repeat buyer and didn't think anything would go wrong. But she won't let that happen again, so she uses Auctiva Shipping Insurance.

"It's definitely a time saver," she says. "I know it works. It's so easy and it's cheap."

Filing a claim is also simple. Sellers just have to find the appropriate item in their Sales Transactions page, click the "View Insurance" link to the right of the item and follow the instructions. It's that easy.

Gallagher reports she was happy with the way her claim was processed. Compared to a separate incident, which involved USPS insurance, "[dealing with] Auctiva insurance was the better experience," she says.

When it comes right down to it, shipping insurance just saves sellers money

Insurance worth the cost

When it comes right down to it, shipping insurance just saves sellers money, adds Tony Fontecchio of HomeToDreamHome. He lost more than $1,600 when the high-end shower system he shipped was stolen from his buyer's doorstep.

"We had not applied insurance to this package and had to immediately resend the customer a replacement shower system at our expense," he recalls. "This was an expensive lesson."

As a result, Fontecchio now automatically includes shipping insurance for every item he ships.

"This protocol has saved us money quite a few times when items were damaged or lost," he says. "The small amount of money to pay for insurance is far less than what you pay without it."

And while eBay's recent policy change to prohibit the offer of optional shipping insurance may deter some sellers from insuring their items, it might benefit those who do include insurance because buyers want to make sure they get what they pay for, says product analyst Rebecca Miller.

"Accurate descriptions and a guarantee that your items will arrive safely will get you far with your buyers," notes Miller. "I use Auctiva Insurance on my listings all the time. It's affordable, flexible and convenient!"

If you have an Auctiva account, you may log in and update your shipping insurance settings here.

To learn more about Auctiva Shipping Insurance, read this tutorial, or watch this video.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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