HOW To LOSE International Customers with eBay’s Global Shipping Program!

January 16, 2017 by Andrew Minalto - 137 Comments
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One thing I always advice to my Easy Auction Business and 60 Day Blueprint customers, after they’re up and running in the UK and making good sales, is to expand internationally!

Most people seem to be unaware of this fact, but after America, the UK is in general one of the cheapest and best places for shopping and this provides a big opportunity for us sellers to offer products abroad and make good money. The margins are often even better than when selling locally due to higher prices and less competition and this makes international orders very lucrative.

I’ve had a few clients who have started selling internationally just to bolster their sales and make some extra money, and eventually their exports eclipsed their sales to the UK! A customer of mine actually discovered such an amazing market for used/retro video games in Australia that he stopped selling in the UK entirely and instead solely sells his products in Australia, using a fulfilment company to process orders.

So don’t underestimate the potential opportunity of international sales, as they can actually contribute a large percentage of your overall sales.

Now I have always said that the best way to sell internationally on eBay is to list directly on the regional eBay site of the country you want to sell to.

That means if you want to sell to Spain, list on eBay.es, if you want to sell to Australia, list directly on eBay.com.au, etc.

This, combined with shipping yourself using the best/cheapest method possible, is the best way to do things in terms of search ranking, views, and therefore SALES.

And that’s why I’m so confused by the growing popularity of eBay’s Global Shipping Programme!

For those of you who don’t know, eBay’s Global Shipping Programme is basically a service run by eBay that allows us sellers to offer our products for sale internationally BUT they take care of all the work!

They show your listings to international customers, then if an order comes in, you simply post your item to a UK address and eBay takes care of everything from there – including international postage, export/import charges, customs, tax etc.!

I know what you’re now thinking – “that sounds perfect! No wonder it’s becoming so popular…”

Well not quite. While it does sound great on paper, there are some significant flaws with the system:

Slow Delivery Timeframes

As rather than posting the item directly to your buyer, you instead have to post it to eBay’s UK Shipping Centre, where it is processed and posted internationally, the overall delivery time is extended by a few days.

According to eBay, “items generally arrive within 3-5 days in the EU and 7-10 days for non-EU destinations”, which is not too bad – but there’s still an unnecessary delay when using this process.

Import Tax for All Orders

This depends on whether or not you’re shipping within the EU, for which there are no import taxes (for now at least!) or if you’re shipping to somewhere else, like Asia, Australia or the US.

Now I know I shouldn’t really be saying this, as technically import tax should be paid on all applicable orders – however we all know that for small, one-off items, the majority of the time they’ll slip through and your customers won’t have to pay anything extra.

However this is never the case when you using the Global Shipping Programme, as eBay pre-charge these beforehand, adding additional cost to your buyers.

And lastly, and most importantly:

Excessive Postage Charges

This is really the main reason for me disliking the Global Shipping Programme and always suggesting against using it – the postage charges can be ridiculously high! In particular for small and lightweight items (which are best suited to selling internationally in the first place) which can be posted very cheaply using Royal Mail.

Now before you tell me that this really doesn’t matter, as you’re not the one paying the postage charges, your buyer is… that’s of course still a huge negative! It puts the cost of your product up significantly which will result in less sales and less profit for you. Even if buyers are willing to pay, I would still much rather charge more for the product (more money for me) and pay less on postage.

That’s just plain common sense really.

But how bad are the postage charges? Are we talking 10-15% more expensive, which while not ideal, is maybe worthwhile when taking into account the benefits and ease of using the Global Shipping Programme…

Well let’s find out for sure!

That’s right, it’s time for one of our trademark pricing “experiments”!

I will search on eBay for certain items and check the shipping cost using the Global Shipping Programme and then compare that to Royal Mail to see how big of a difference there is.

In total I’m going to test 4 different items and 3 different countries for each one (just to make it as fair as possible).

Those countries will be: Italy, Finland and Australia.

I’ll do my search on eBay UK, searching for buy it now listings only, and setting shipping to the different country:

Alright, let’s get to it!

Item No.1 – Protective Silicone Sleeve Case for Smok Tech Alien Kit

GSP Postage Costs:

To Italy: £9.64

To Finland: £13.18

To Australia: £10.68

Royal Mail Postage Costs:

To Italy: £2.45

To Finland: £2.45

To Australia: £3.30

WINNER – ROYAL MAIL

So a huge win for posting yourself, with shipping prices being 4-5 times LESS than when using eBay’s Global Shipping Programme.

Let’s move on to the next item:

Item No.2 – iPhone 7 Tempered Glass Screen Protector

GSP Postage Costs:

To Italy: £9.66

To Finland: £13.20

To Australia: £10.70

Royal Mail Postage Costs:

To Italy: £1.52

To Finland: £1.52

To Australia: £2.25

WINNER – ROYAL MAIL

Round 2 was even more one-sided! For some strange reason, eBay’s shipping fees were exactly 2p more than for our first item, even though this can easily be posted as a letter! You could post this item to Finland directly with Royal Mail 9 times for the cost of posting it once using the Global Shipping Programme. That’s just crazy!

So far it’s not even close, so I want to try testing a larger item that will have to be sent as a parcel, rather than a large letter or letter.

Item No. 3 – Lego Simpsons House

Now this is going to be a tough one for Royal Mail, as we all know how bad their postage options get with heavier and larger items. And this particular Lego set is 58 x 48 x 12cm and weighs over 3.5kg boxed! Plus as it costs nearly £200, I’m only going to used tracked shipping methods… so let’s see the results:

GSP Postage Costs:

To Italy: £27.23

To Finland: £30.82

To Australia: £30.09

Royal Mail Postage Costs:

To Italy: £54

To Finland: £62.10

To Australia: £88.30

WINNER – EBAY’S GLOBAL SHIPPING PROGRAMME

As I expected, a complete reversal here, with the Global Shipping Programme being a much better option for such a heavy item. In fact Royal Mail don’t even send it via their Airmail service, and you’d have to use Parcelforce instead.

Last but not least, let’s test an item that falls in the middle – something that can be sent as a small parcel.

Item No.4 – Nintendo 3DS XL Console

But once again I’m only going to be looking at tracked options, as it’s an expensive item.

GSP Postage Costs:

To Italy: £12.49

To Finland: £15.74

To Australia: £34.67

Royal Mail Postage Costs:

To Italy: £12.50

To Finland: £12.50

To Australia: £18.15

WINNER – ROYAL MAIL

And there you go. While the 4th and final round was closer, it was still a win for Royal Mail and overall the results sum up the point I was making perfectly.

As convenient as it is for sellers, eBay’s Global Shipping Programme has a fatal flaw – it’s just far too expensive, in particular for small and lightweight options, which are the ones best suited to selling internationally in the first place.

So my conclusion and final advice is this – if you’re just starting out and want to keep things as simple as possible, then by all means use the Global Shipping Programme, so that you’re at least getting some international orders in, without having any extra hassle.

BUT don’t be lazy – as soon as you’re able to, start listing directly on regional eBay sites such as eBay.de, eBay.fr, eBay.com.au, etc. and start posting internationally yourself.

You’ll sell a lot more this way, which after all, is the whole point!

As always, if you have any questions or comments then I’d love to hear from you.

Otherwise, happy Monday everyone and have a great week. I’ll be back on Wednesday with our next blog post.

All the best,
Andrew


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137 Comments
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  1. Four times I have had small items go missing from ebays Global shipping programme now when I send via that service I use first class signed after that it no longer is my responsibility lets hope ebay investigate all of the missing items and who is responsible.

  2. Looks like the MAIN business of eBay is logistics now. The online marketplace is optional.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Probably not the MAIN business, but I’m sure it contributes a lot to the bottom line.

  3. I often contact US sellers asking them to avoid Global Shipping. Last week I was billed $19 but the seller took it to the post office and paid $4. He refunded me the difference. Obviously eBay is making lots of money off global shipping. In my experience it usually is much slower using Global Shipping – up to 1-2 weeks difference. I, like many Canadians, will continue to avoid American sellers using Global Shipping.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks for sharing this with us John!

  4. Paul Kelly

    Thank you so much for putting this out there.
    In my experience eBay tries to manipulate sellers into this rip-off system and shuts out what should be the buyers choice of postage method.
    I have 2 incidents recently where both buyer and seller were done a dis service by trying to force this postage method on the buyer.
    Contacted eBay help which was like talking to a statue.
    An unmitigated ripoff by eBay’s liaison with Pitney Bowes.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yeah, totally agree with you, Paul.

      I’m super happy that I don’t have to deal with all that eBay drama anymore.

      Andrew

  5. Louise.truss66@gmail.com

    Thank you, that info you’ve share is extremely helpful and as I suspected, which is why I googled ‘EBay international postage charges’

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Louise, glad I can help! 🙂

  6. Hi, Your post missed a big point out: Clients are charmed Double for the postage. e. g
    An item from ebay costs 100 + 13 gbp for shipping, but then the GSP shipped bills te end client via ebay an extra 13 gbp for the shipping. I had this with six items from the UK to Belgium, and instead of paying the advertised postage of 13 Gbp, I paid 26 gbp! This was via PitneyBowes.

    Ebay Customer service told me I accepted their T&Cs for their GSP programme when I bought. I was livid since I paid extra unseen charges from Ebay-PitneyBowes on my credit card totaling 78 pounds over a two month period.
    I closed my ebay account down, after having used them since 2004.

    Regards, Sophie

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks Sophie for sharing this, yeah – it’s a TOTAL mess!!!

  7. Hi Andrew,
    I know this thread is knocking on a bit, but do you know if you can off GSP and also international shipping from yourself.
    I expect probably not but worth asking as gives buyers an option.

    One other thing on the main article.
    With the price comparisons, I assume that the Royal Mail prices are standard airmail and not tracked. The PB – GSP prices would – should be tracked.
    To me that is a very important difference, especially with proof of delivery and protection. Royal Mail prices as International Tracked and Signed and Tracked would be much closer, if not more.

  8. Lewis Neilson

    You are comparing a standard service to a tracked and fully insured service. The prices are competitive if you compare it to Tracked and Signed.

    GSP doesn’t handle small items very well, nor do said items require a tracked service.

    I’ve only had one issue with an item being waylaid with GSP I lost £300 on lost or delayed items last month alone with RM standard.

    There is a major issue with GSP you cannot combine orders so the customer often has to pay multiple times.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Lewis,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, that’s the whole point! You don’t really need a Signed service for small/cheap items, yet via GSP you don’t have an option – it is Tracked and expensive. Super expensive for small items compared to Royal Mail standard Airmail service.

      That’s the whole point of this post – from a customer perspective, GSP is overpriced for almost anything below the 2kg mark and as you can see from the comments – many, many people are not buying anymore from sellers who use GSP.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  9. Lynn Bennett

    Andrew
    You talk as if you have a choice not to use the global shipping program?
    I thought that was the only option if you sell internationally on eBay?
    I do agree though about the GPS being exstushionate.
    I almost feel embarrassed when people are paying more on postage than what the actual item of clothing I’m selling is worth.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      It is optional.

      You can opt-in or opt-out from the program in your account settings.

      Andrew

  10. adrian moles

    Everyone is aware of how expensive GSP is and would for obvious reasons love to opt out but how do you list on multiple eBay sites with the same speed and ease? Almost 40% of my business comes from being listed on GSP but I don’t speak any other languages ie to list on a Spanish eBay site for example and the time it would take to list on individual sites would kill me and then I would have the same item on various sites which could cause complications, is there a way around all of this?

    Adrian

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Adrian,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I don’t sell on eBay anymore so don’t know exactly what the latest rules are there, BUT there are online software/tools that allow you to list on regional eBay accounts from “English” interface. I think Auctiva also offers this:

      https://www.auctiva.com

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  11. Another big problem is that the Global shipping program does not combine items for shipping so that the cost difference goes up many times. Two maps I mailed from the US were going to cost more than US$300 via the global shipping program. Via a friend US$60.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, that’s another disadvantage…

  12. Ashley New

    There is one crucial item you left out regarding how great global shipping is. Once the global shipping firm in the UK has your item your responsibility for it ends. Therefore if the item gets damaged or lost you the seller and no longer responsible so no chasing courier companies providing photographs and details for insurance cover and the long delays and stress this causes sorting it out. As it’s out of your hands this is a huge Plus for items of a delicate nature and a definite win for the global shipping program which is why I wouldn’t use anything else

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Ashley,

      Yes, of course – that is a good advantage to have for sellers, no doubt about that. And IF you sell mostly such “delicate” items, it is a good protection/insurance.

      Andrew

  13. Ashley New

    I would also add that yes low value small items that can be sent via Royal Mail in Jiffy bags are a waste of time using global shipping.

    However large items that I send are usually 5 to 15 kilos electronics hi-fi audio visual equipment I would estimate my sales to be around 60 to 70% overseas sales. so at the end of the day it depends on what your business is

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, that is correct. It depends on the business – what kind of items (size/weight) you’re selling.

  14. Ashley New

    With regard to previous comments there are ways around combining postage for multiple items. But you need to be able to to communicate with your buyer. I speak one language English yet I’m able to speak multiple languages simply by using Google translation. However if the buyer simply clicks and buys on two or three items there’s nothing that can be done, he or she needs to communicate with you first to enquire about combining postage. You the seller simply then has to to modify the listing to offer international shipping to the destination of that particular customer and offer free postage for any and all extra applicable items that can be combined

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks for sharing that!

  15. The only issue I can see with my below comment is that if your a seller that ships thousands and thousands of items a week you may end up having hundreds of items you need to modify taking up your time so again it depends on your personal situation how many combined shipping requests you you may receive. If it’s a few a week not a problem if it’s hundreds a week you could be rather time-consuming.

  16. Hi if you list in local eBay sites. Do you have to create an account for each site I.e new e-mail, account etc..

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi There,

      No, you need just one account and it will work on all regional eBay sites.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  17. Danny Heaver

    Who on earth thinks that the Global Shipping Program is becoming “more popular”??
    It is hated by everyone…. Very few people I know in Australia buy from usa anymore, as it is just ridiculously expensive!
    Just a rip-off disguised as the Pitney Bowes packaging Co.
    There must ensure a “kick back” going on acknowledge to EBay, no other explanation!!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Danny,

      As I explain in the post, un-educated sellers are ones that are happy with this program. But they don’t even realise how many customers are NOT buying from them because they use this program…

      Andrew

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