Winter Storms Put Chill on eBay Transactions

Power outages across U.S. leave buyers and sellers in the dark.

by staff writer
- Dec 22, 2008

Severe winter storms stretching across the northern half of the U.S. have left thousands of eBay users in the dark—in more ways than one.

With no power, phone or Internet service, buyers may be temporarily unable to pay for items purchased on the site, or—having no way to contact the seller—wondering whether those last-minute holiday gifts will arrive on time. And many sellers may worry that their inability to communicate with buyers will negatively impact feedback scores—or worse: Detailed Seller Ratings, the measurement eBay uses to dole out PowerSeller discounts.

Those who do have Internet access may wonder why their trading partner is unresponsive.

It's an uncomfortable situation, no matter which side of the transaction you're on. But with a little effort and patience, you can restore peace of mind.

"This time of year, you have to consider the weather before you start harassing people with e-mails or filing Unpaid Item claims," says PowerSeller and Auctiva product analyst Rebecca Miller.

Miller, who goes by bertthedog on eBay, recently had a buyer who didn't respond to any of her post-sale communications. Though frustrated, Miller had a hunch the weather was to blame.

"After about a week, I finally went online and searched for local news reports based on their zip code, and sure enough, the whole area was blacked out due to a storm," she explains.

If you don't have an end-of-listing message from eBay that discloses your trading partner's address, you can still find a way to get in touch—or at least determine if their area is impacted by weather. In My eBay, under the Sold heading, click on the appropriate listing. When the listing page opens, the buyer's postal code will be displayed below the listing title.

It's also helpful to know that eBay will e-mail you contact information for another member—as long as you're currently or recently involved in a bid or sale with that person—when you submit their User ID and the item number on the Find Contact Information form.

Even if communications aren't hampered by the storms, delivery could be. Bad weather has grounded aircraft from coast to coast, impacting delivery schedules for all the major parcel carriers, including the U.S. Postal Service.

"We're hoping people mailed early in anticipation of the winter weather—which is always an issue, at least in some parts of the country," says Augustine Ruiz Jr., a USPS spokesman. "But we have a long history of delivering packages in time for the holidays, no matter what the weather is."

Ruiz adds that customers can check for weather-related service issues on the USPS site.

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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