Monthly Archives: October 2012

I got refund of postage cost from USPS customer service

By Tony Lam

I received a returned package from USPS on 10/25/12.  The return reason is “missing page 1” of the customs form. I mailed out the package with USPS Priority mail International to France on 10/16/12.  According to the tracking information, the parcel was missent to Moraga CA from Oakland USPS Sort Facility, and then returned to me on 10/25/12. I’m pretty sure that I put all three pages shipping label, customs form, dispatch note into the pouch and I kept the forth page (sender copy) for my record. I was dubious if someone took out the first page to cover up the mistake of missent. If I send the parcel again, I need to pay postage cost again. What can I do ? Finally, I decided to raise a compliant to USPS via their website by email. After three long days, I got the following email from USPS customer service.

“I understand you are writing about your item, CF102672917US, which was returned to you marked “Missing Page 1”, even though all of the pages were present when you mailed the item. You are requesting a refund.

Tony, your best option is to take the item to any convenient Post Office to request your refund.

Tony, I am confident that the information and next steps which I have provided will help and I appreciate you taking the time to email us about this issue.

Thank you for choosing the United States Postal Service for your mailing and shipping needs. We appreciate your business.”

Holding the email, I went to a big post office and the post officer, knowing that it is the decision from the USPS customer service, wrote me the money order for the postage cost of $45.79. I am really blessed to get the refund so fast. My last indemnity claim to USPS customer service with Expedited shipping to Australia caused me more than 6 months and lot of calls and mails to get my money back. I learned a lesson from my terrible experience and worked better this time. Here are my tips and recommendations for you.

1)      Don’t just call to complain, write an email to USPS customer service via USPS.com.

In the last claim, because of office hours and postal type, I need to call many times.  Each time, I have to go through all the voice machine options before getting a right real person to talk with. Whoever I talked to, I need to repeat my problem again and their official routine answers are the same – but still can’t solve my problem. In the form of email with direct request for a refund because of their mishandling , my claim can reach directly to the right person in the USPS customer service department. In this way, the claim is officially recorded in the claim system with a case number.

 

2)      Go to the main post office for the refund

Don’t go to a small post office since the officers there usually are not  familiar with the refund process. Last time, the officer in my neighborhood post office had to call the head office to learn what claim form should be used, what document required , and where to send the claim form. The worst of all is that the head office didn’t receive my sign-off claim form sent by the post officer.

 

3)      Keep a copy of all the document

I took pictures of all pages of the claim form and shipping labels required for the claim.  In my last claim, the USPS head office lost or didn’t receive my document. I found it out myself after waiting for long time without reply. Without the backup copy, I couldn’t re-send the document again.

 

4)      Show the written claim resolution to the post officer

Bring a copy of reply from the USPS head quarter to the local post office to process the refund of postage cost. I was rejected initially as the post officer said she couldn’t process online postage refund until I showed the email from USPS customer service  to her.

Save money on packaging materials

By Tony Lam

To reduce shipping charge and packaging materials cost,  packaging  materials should be durable but light in weight while not expensive. A penny saved is a penny earned. It is worth thinking about how to save money on daily packaging materials.  Here is my tips and tricks for you.

Save money on packaging materials

1)      Free shipping supplies from USPS, FedEx and UPS

Check about what free materials you can get from the major forwarders and use them as many as possible.  Just go the USPS website and search the shipping suppliers for free items. Find those suitable for your products. However, remember to follow the usage rules as set  by USPS and don’t abuse them.  As to UPS and FedEx, I found their free shipping labels  are quite useful for me. Here list my suggestions for your consideration.

USPS – Flat Rate boxes, Flat Rate padded or non-padded envelopes, triangular mailing tubes for Priority and Express Mail

UPS  Worldship labels for Laser printers or thermal printers

FedEx Laser labels (Part number  146525)

 

2)      Recycle boxes/peanuts/bubble sheets/air pillows/wrap paper/shredded papers/newspaper

I didn’t receive a single complaint from my buyers about  re-cycled shipping boxes. I believe as long as your re-cycled boxes are clean and tough enough to protect the items. It should be fine.  When I received parcels  from suppliers, I always flatten the shipping boxes and keep all the packaging materials for re-use in my shipments.  If I don’t have the right size of box, I will trim the boxes with a knife to suitable size. I find it more easy and safe to control a serrated knife to trim a box than using a cutter. For some suitable gift boxes, I will unfold it inside out and  ship it again like Kari@ She Thrifts. Or you may ask your friends to keep some bubble sheets, air pillows and wrap paper for you. As suggested by plugcottage, it is no harm to ask for a Dollar store nearby  for the peanuts and bubble wraps since they always unpack newly arrived goods .

3)      Compare price for the bulk purchase from eBay, Amazon, Walmart, Uline.

To save money on packaging materials, you can buy them in bulk with optimized shipping charge. The optimized unit price is the total price (shipping plus material) divided by the total quantity. For example, when I buy #1 bubble mailer, the unit price is much cheaper when I bought 200 pcs or 250 pcs when comparing with 500 pcs or 1000 pcs. My research shows that overall, eBay offer the most competitive price for most of my mailing bags. You may try my method of finding the cheapest price from a reliable supplier at eBay.

Packaging Material Cost $/pc Package Total Price $ (with shipping) Vendor
24″x24″ poly mailer 2.8 mil

0.3038

250

75.95

Amazon
24”x24” poly mailer #7

0.28795

200

57.59

eBay
6 x 10 bubble mailer #0

0.21276

250

53.19

Costco
6.5 x 10 bubble mailer

0.11075

200

22.15

eBay

Below is my favorite vendors for packaging materials.

eBay – Bubble mailers, poly mailers, bubble sheets, Fragile labels.

Walmat – peanuts

Uline – Circular mailing tubes, corrugated boxes

 

4)      Looking  for special sales or promotion offers to save money

Some retailers such as Quill, Office Max , or Office depot, they will mail you discount coupons in a regular basis if you register at their website or stores.  You can use the coupons to buy boxing tapes,  tape guns, stationary or packaging labels.  Also, near the end of the year, Uline has a super carton sale for almost all sizes of corrugated boxes at 39%  off  for a minimum order quantity of 100 pcs. This year, the carton sale offer just started and will end on 1/13/13. You can purchase the items using this special promotion code is #SP322.

 

More suggestions from other bloggers…

Save money on your office supplies

Packaging and shipping tips

Quick Tip: Flip That Box Inside Out

Product ideas learned from eBay China

By Tony Lam

I came across eBay China site lately when I tried to see if I can sell my stuffs via eBay.cn.  I found that eBay China site provides a lot of information to help Chinese sellers to sell to other countries.  According to Q&A of university.ebay.cn, eBay beginning in 2007, is committed to help Chinese enterprises and individuals to open up new channels for overseas sales on 39 eBay platforms in the world. In the ad. of Terapeak  at the front page, there are two big sections : Today Hot Items and Today Rare Items. When open up the items, you can find a lot of statistics on different product categories for Chinese sellers. As US sellers, we can also learn some product ideas and target markets to explore.

 

 

For example, in the product category of LED bulbs in Today Hot Item area, Chinese sellers take about 100% of all the active listings. You may try to avoid selling this category if you don’t have a competitive advantage on the product source and price.

On the other hand, if you open Auto Fragrance in Today Rare Item area, you will find all items are not currently selling by Chinese sellers. The main market is eBay UK.  While It is a good news for Chinese sellers to explore, it also provides useful product ideas and information of international market for US sellers to work on.

To view the eBay China webpage, open the eBay.com. At the front page bottom right corner, change the US flag to China flag.  If you want to view the page in English, you need to open the eBay China site with Google Chrome browser and use Google translate.  Check out if you can grab some product ideas to sell and target sites to explore your products.

Sales data based on 30 days

Item LED light bulbs Auto Fragrance CAR AIR FRESHNER
Data from Target Site eBay US eBay UK
Research  Price Range $19.20 to $28.80 $10.4 to $15.60
Total  # of Listings 517 13
Chinese Sellers % 644 (98.9%) 0 (0%)
Total pcs sold 651 766
Total sales $15,599 $ 9,506

 

 

Is it worth the effort to make money on eBay selling ?

By Tony Lam

Some sellers are doubt about whether it is worth the effort to make money on eBay selling. More specific,  they are asking if it is justify to spend long time to take nice pictures, write detailed product descriptions, or create demo videos just to earn a few bucks for each transaction. It totally makes sense to ask this question if sellers consider eBay selling is a business, not a hobby. If the time spent is not in proportion to the profit earned , sellers will shift from eBay towards other business or marketplace.

My quick answer to them is YES and NO.  The outcome all depends on the direction or business strategy the sellers employ to make money on eBay selling. To explain the idea clearly, I quantify the profit earned per eBay listing against the time required to create the listing with a new term “Hourly Profit”.

Answer : YES, it is justify if you are selling replenishable items.

It is justify to spend hours on making and tweaking a eBay listing if you can use the eBay listing o sell many many items. For example, if you spent two hours’ work on an eBay listing and sell 500 pcs. Assuming you just earn one buck (on average) for each item and total hourly profit will be $250/hr. To achieve this result, the product listed should be replenishable, an evergreen product or a hot product in niche market.  In this case,  you can re-use the same BIN or auction listing to sell again and again.

Answer : NO, it is NOT justify if your items are unique.

On the other hand, for the item that is unique and needs custom made listing, two hours’ work  to make a eBay listing is not justified the effort unless you have a very high profit. If you can able to make $10 bucks for each item on average, you will have an hourly profit of $5.  It is less than the minimum rate. In the long run, sellers will get frustrated ultimately and will shift the attention towards other more profitable marketplace or business.

Use eBay mobile to make money on eBay selling.

In my past experience, I am actively selling around 150 items every day  to get 7000 feedbacks. I tested and figured out some niche and evergreen products  and learned (by mistakes) how to create and tweak the eBay listing to make them competitive, stand out or even outperform others so that one eBay list can sell for long time even though the profit margin is thin.

As to the unique items such as vintage, used, blemish, and collectable items that take huge portion of eBay revenue, I do not have a clue to sell them until lately when my business was hardly hit by the competition of low cost shipping option ePacket. As I mentioned it in my previous post, facing the challenge, I chose not to give up but trying a new business strategy of selling vintage or used items. Thanks to God, after testing for a month with around 30 listings, I am able to create eBay listing that sell for unique item within 10 minutes with eBay mobile app (iphone app version 2.6.2).  Please review my demo of selling with eBay mobile below.

 

If I set my target of hourly profit is $10, every hour I can make 6 listings and the average profit per item will be $2.  This profit margin seems not difficult for the vintage or used items that can be bought at flea market, garage sales, or thrifty stores at cheap price.  eBay allow 12 pictures free hosting and the pictures are better more than thousand words. I take lot of pictures with iphone to replace lengthy descriptions.  It may not be attractive to all buyers but good enough for those who are interested to buy. My test result is very promising, and I sold 90% of the blemish items and used items using eBay mobile in the past month. I look forward to your any comment and the new ideas you want to share.

USPS ePacket – love it or hate it ?

By Tony Lam

 

ePacket Service is a trilateral agreement between US Postal Service, eBay China and Hong Kong Post office to offer China and Hong Kong eBay sellers a fast but low cost shipping option. This service offers local pick-up service, label printing, online tracking and pre-customs declaration for a 7 to 10-day guaranteed delivery period at a 30 to 50% discounted price compared with many equivalent.

Using this service, China sellers can now ship small packages weighing up to 2 KG with co-branded shipping labels marked with China/HK post and USPS. Upon arrival in United States, these packages received USPS First Class Mail service with delivery confirmation service. To let you have a clear picture of this special post office shipping rates, I searched for a long time and finally find the latest price information in a Hong Kong Post Office Webpage. To view the English version, you can open the webpage with Google Chrome and translate it to English. Below is the comparison of ePacket rate with domestic post office shipping rates.

 

In the table, you can see that ePacket provides better shipping rates for light weight packages from 1oz to 4 oz and 1 lb when comparing with USPS domestic shipping rate. With ePacket, China sellers can offer incredible low selling price at eBay;  for example, an iphone case is selling at US$1.99 with free shipping, a guitar strings set of 6 at $1.51 with free shipping. Regarding to this low cost shipping option, buyers and sellers on eBay have different reactions and raised a lot of discussions.

 

US Buyers and China/ Hong Kong Sellers

US buyers and China sellers  are the direct beneficion of ePacket shipping service. Because of ePacket, US Buyers buy more items at very low prices.  China and Hong Kong sellers really love ePacket since they can sell light weight items directly from manufacturing sites in China with tracking information and delivery confirmation notifications. According to a EcommerceBuytes article, in 2011, nearly 40% of China eBay sellers are using the ePacket Service to U.S. with over 80% of items delivered in 5 to 10 days.

If you want to learn more about ePacket service provided by eBay China, please check the link ePacket guide and fee.

US Sellers

In almost all discussion forums, you can find a lot of frustrations among US sellers about ePacket. Many US sellers are angry at USPS/eBay and question why they are not offered the same shipping option as the China sellers. Many complain about eBay’s giving China sellers a competitive advantage. As a US seller, I share the feeling of unfairness .  I wrote a letter to President Obama and requested him to initiate a talk with US Post office to about offering  ePacket service to US sellers too.  Seeing my sales continue to drop, I am obliged to rethink  my selling strategies. In the process, I learn to accept the reality. In the competitive global ecommerce world, only the species that adapt to changes survive. The ones who embrace difficulties and ride on them will become stronger and stronger. To react the keen competition from items shipping from China/Hong Kong with ePacket, I come up with some directions that I’m going to focus. How about you ?  I am looking forward to your comment and ideas.

–          Use private labels to differentiate your products with high quality and fancy design

–          Offer excellent customer service with and fast and helpful reply

–          Focus on marketing the eBay listings for domestic fast delivery time within 3 days

–          Explore the market of vintage products or used items

If you are a US seller, I encourage you to adapt to the changes rather than walk away. Think of new objectives and test them out with baby steps and either keep them or dump them and move to the next one. In the long run, you will not only survive but also become stronger and stronger. That’s the idea behind Charles Darwin’s theory  of “survival of the fittest”.

Where there’s a will, there is a way. Here is a good news to US Sellers. ePacket is available at certain International Service Centers in US for internet retailers shipping to 14 countries via Postal Qualified Wholesaler (PQW).  Details please check the following post.

First USPS Postal Qualified Wholesaler to Offer ePacket for Internet Retailers Shipping Lightweight Low-Value Parcels

 

More Reading from other sources.

U. S. Postal Service Initiates ePacket Service with Hong Kong Post

The U.S. Postal Service has initiated a new service with Hong Kong Post that is structured to foster growth in e-commerce. The new ePacket service expands the array of options offered…. and more

USPS Deal with eBay Helps Expedite Chinese Imports

The U.S. Postal Service entered into a deal with eBay and China Post last year to help Chinese sellers send small packages to the U.S. in a much shorter period of time than regular international delivery services… and more

USPS Smooths Way for eBay China Imports

An EcommerceBytes reader who ordered an item on eBay.com sent me a photo of the package he received today. The package comes from a Chinese seller taking advantage of a service called “ePacket,” the result of a 2010 trilateral agreement between the USPS, China Post and eBay Greater China…. and more

USPS Gives eBay China Sellers Competitive Advantage

I am a long time reader of AB blog, and a veteran eBay seller. Recently, there were few blogs on AB blog talked about Chinese sellers on eBay. As a 2nd generation Chinese American, I want to share some of the facts and my personal opinion with you about Chinese sellers on eBay…. and more



Shipping Large Items