April 2, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 0 Comments

Your eBay & eCommerce Questions Answered #23

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questions-answers-23Welcome back!

Another week has gone by and I have compiled the most interesting questions that were sent to me, in order to share them with other blog readers:

  • When and how do I pay VAT on imported goods from China?
  • What’s the best way to transfer money to eToro?
  • Dropshipping and selling allowances on eBay!
  • Where to get EAN codes to sell products on Amazon Marketplace?
  • What’s the best way to sell to regional eBay sites?
  • How to differentiate branded items from unbranded items when importing from China?
  • Where to buy silver plated jewellery in small quantities?
  • What to do when you lose your job and need to make money asap?

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Hi Andrew,

I am a first time importer and I want to order from a company called Wisewell Holdings on Alibaba.

I can work out my import duty, which should be 0% on bunk beds, but my question is regards VAT.

How does this work; when and how do I pay it? Will I be contacted by HMRC?


Hi Nick,

As they’re quite heavy and bulky items (bunk beds), you’ll most likely ship them via sea freight, right? I can’t imagine how expensive it would be to ship them via a courier company! 🙂

So when the goods arrive at the UK port, you’ll be contacted by the freight company who are taking care of the customs clearance procedure for you and they’ll let you know what taxes are due. Then you simply transfer that money so your goods can be released from customs.

To avoid excessive charges at the UK port, I highly recommend doing the whole shipping & customs clearance procedure via one company – a freight forwarder, who can give you a FIXED door to door quote. The company I recommend is Woodland Global. They will give you a quote for such a shipment and that will be the fee you pay, plus of course the actual taxes.

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for promptly replying to my previous query about eToro, much appreciated! I have another question I hope you’ll be able to answer.

I’m a UK national living in China and I would like to add funds to my eToro account using a UK debit card. What’s the best way to avoid getting hit by a non sterling transaction fee (it’s eating into profits!)? Would it be better to open an account with a US bank so that the payment is in Dollars?

Also, if I plan to add more funds to the account in the future, would it be best for me to open an HSBC account here (we have 2 branches in this city) and then open an account with HSBC in the UK so that I can transfer funds more easily?

Over here, there aren’t many foreign banks and I’m trying to find a way of transferring funds between China and UK as efficiently and cheaply as possible.

I hope that with your considerable experience, you’ll be able to give a few suggestions. By the way, your blog is top notch and I’ve got some good advice from it already!

Thanks in advance.


Hi Adrian,

If your bank is giving you a bad exchange rate, the best and most efficient way to transfer money to your eToro account would be by:

  • Sending money to eToro via wire transfer (minimum is 500$ in this case);
  • Using Transferiwse.com to do the transfer to get the absolute BEST & ACTUAL market exchange rate. It can all be done online, so it’s easy, fast and cheap.

Yes, of course, if you need to send money regularly to the UK, you should open a HSBC account in China to make these transfers as they’ll be faster and cheaper compared to alternative methods.

Hi Andrew,

Just wondering, in your experience, how high eBay might raise my selling allowances and if you have any recommendations about how to approach contacting them? Here’s the situation:

I called up eBay at the beginning of last year to ask them to raise my selling allowances and I mentioned that the business is drop-shipping based which they weren’t happy about at all and placed a ban on my account. At this time the business was in its concept stage only so I managed to convince them that I was only talking hypothetically and that the business wasn’t running yet. They unbanned my account but now I am reluctant to call up again in case the same thing happens!

I drop-ship out of the same building I work from and I can quite literally talk across the desk to find out what is going on with orders.

My current limits are 290 items per month up to £14K. To list 1 of each of all the items I sell I need about 3000 listings up to the value of £500K. I have a website that is nearly complete and I have a system that will automatically control stock on eBay.

Do you think I’m just being paranoid about this or do I have something to worry about when calling up?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Kind Regards,

Hi Gideon,

It’s a well known fact that eBay don’t like dropshipping and in some regional eBay sites it’s even classified as being against their rules. So it’s not a surprise to hear that they banned your account. Luckily you managed to convince them to reverse the decision as that isn’t something that happens often!

But right now, I don’t see what there is for you to worry about – just don’t raise any red flags and don’t call eBay saying you’re going to list 3000 drop-shipped items. That would most likely lead to another banning of your account. 290 items and £14k is not bad to get you going – just start listing the most popular items, up to 300 and make some sales! When you reach your £14k max sales target, then eBay will probably raise the limit automatically anyway, as you’ll have lots of feedback in by then. If not, then you can call them and ask for an increase, but don’t mention drop-shipping.

Yes, this approach may take a bit longer but what’s better – to do it steady and stay safe or rush things and get your account banned?

Hi Andrew,

I recently purchased 200 iPhone 6 phone cases from AliExpress to sell on Amazon and I received all 200 cases quickly without any problems. The issues arose when I tried listing on Amazon as the supplier did not include any UPC or EAN codes and Amazon would not allow me to list my products without it.

These phone cases are simple, cheap cases I purchased for $0.88/each and was hoping to sell for ~$5. I had always been interested in eCommerce and went through this process to learn more about the importing and reselling process. I was wondering if you would be able to give me some advice as to where I could go next with this. Your blog is very helpful and I enjoy reading it.

Hoping to hear from you soon.


Hi Tom,

Don’t give up, nothing is lost yet! 🙂 You can simply purchase such barcodes online – just do a search for Amazon barcodes and plenty of websites will show up. Here’s one very cheap option that I can personally recommend:


You’ll need a unique code for each unique case you have and this includes colour variations too.

You don’t have to attach these barcodes to the products themselves, just use them to list these phone cases on Amazon’s marketplace.

Hope this helps Tom & Good Luck! 🙂

Hi Andrew,

I had some questions about listing on regional eBay sites that I was hoping to get your help with.

I am based in Belgium and my local eBay is ebay.be and I know that for international viability I have to use the international shipping option, which I do. However, I have the impression that my listings on ebay.be, though they’re using worldwide shipping and include the fees for worldwide shipping, are not showing on the different international eBay sites.

So one day I decided to list directly on ebay.com, ebay.co.uk, ebay.de, ebay.fr, ebay.es and then I saw that my listings did appear on these sites as well.

Now the question is: do I have to keep listing on these sites directly or do I just list on my home-based eBay site (ebay.be) to get more sales? I use Terapeak and list on whichever regional eBay site is shown as the best selling.

But as I ship for free in Belgium, when I list on ebay.com (for example) I cannot use the free shipping option as the cost is just too high.

So based on your experience, how do you think I should proceed?


Hi Jose,

Basically you’re doing it the right way – to get the most exposure on regional eBay sites, it’s best to list on them directly. There’s also the International Visibility paid feature that eBay offers too:


But this only applies to the US, UK & Canada eBay sites plus there are some restrictions that apply, including what items you can list, with this international visibility.

As for shipping fees when you list on eBay.com – you don’t have to offer FREE shipping if you don’t want to. You can specify the shipping fees for each region, and even each country, so you’re in completely control of how much you charge for shipping.

Hi Andrew,

Thank you very much for your extremely valuable blog and the amount of effort and help you provide to people starting their own business.

I have read about 95% of all your posts and have come up with a couple of questions regarding importing goods from China.

In Alibaba, AliExpress and other sites – how can I easily differentiate the branded goods from unbranded ones?

There are also thousands of local Chinese brands which are well known in the local Chinese market but not known in the EU/UK.

Can these products/brands still be imported into the EU/UK to sell on eBay?

How can I quickly check which brands (including Chinese ones) are better not to import?

Thanks in advance.


Hi Alexander,

1. Usually when you source a product from China, you’ll know a thing or two about it. So most likely you’ll be aware of what brands dominate that market. For example, if you want to source GPS car devices, you’ll know that TomTom and Garmin are the two most popular brands in this niche. So when looking for suppliers in China, on Alibaba for example, you would stay away from items that are branded with TomTom or Garmin logos.

Or if you look at it from the other angle – in most cases, unbranded items are just that – unbranded! They won’t have any kind of brand name on them at all; they’ll be “blank”. In some cases they will have some generic names, but not real brands.

2. Chinese brands are okay as long as you buy them from the official manufacturer on Alibaba. For example, if you’re sourcing Kangertech electronic cigarettes, you would go to Kangertech’s own Alibaba profile which ensures you deal with the factory itself. It’s usually very easy to find the genuine Alibaba profile of a factory simply by searching Google for “brand + alibaba”.

3. Yes, you can import Chinese brands and sell them in the EU/UK as long as they don’t breach any registered patents or registered designs.

4. If it’s a Western brand on Alibaba, it’s a fake product you can’t import and sell. If it’s a Chinese brand, you can import and sell it. If it’s an unbranded product or a product you put your own brand on, you don’t have to even think about this – you can import and sell such products (as long as no IP rights are breached).

Hi Andrew,

I found your blog extremely helpful for new people just starting out selling online. I actually started selling on eBay myself a couple of months ago, just to test it out and see how it works, and my results have been very good!! I am mostly selling silver plated jewellery which I buy in small quantities from DHGate and I make a small profit after all the eBay fees.

My goal is to sell on eBay full time but my main issue is finding a supplier. Would you be able to give me some advice on where to find a good jewellery supplier who doesn’t require an order of 5,000+ items at the same time? 🙂

Kind regards,

Hi Inga,

If you need small quantities, you have to stick with DH Gate, Ali Express and similar sites. They are not real wholesale sites though, hence the pricing is higher than if you’re buying in bulk. But then again, with real wholesalers, you will have to face MUCH higher MOQs. If that’s not a possibility for now, I would suggest you try using the main Alibaba site (Alibaba.com) and try to find trading companies who deal with the products you sell. Trading companies are like middle-men so their prices are higher than true wholesalers but lower than DH Gate or Ali Express. And they usually have very low MOQs as well.

Another approach you can try is finding a wholesaler in the USA for such silver plated jewellery. Use Google and WholesaleCentral.com to find some companies and compare what kind of prices you can get there. Often it’s actually easier to work with a US based wholesaler who has a large product range, great customer support and reasonable prices, rather than importing directly from China. And as these are very small and lightweight items, the shipping costs will be very reasonable too, via USPS.

Hello Andrew,

I am in desperate need of help.

I recently got fired from my job. I have a wife and 2 kids to support.

I was working for someone in the eBay business, listing and photoshopping for him. He dealt in women’s apparel.

Now I am jobless with just a few hundred quid to spare and I am thinking about how to make ends meet as I look for a new job somewhere else as I’ve got rent to pay and a family to look after.

I bought a couple of used laptops and sold them on eBay and made a profit, because I know a little about computers.

But I don’t have sources where I could reliably get used laptops for cheap.

Please help point me in the right direction, as regards to sourcing for similar products, i.e. laptops, games consoles, or mobile phones.

I think I read somewhere that you said products like laptops are a tricky market, but I only chose laptops because I know a little about that field. I am open to any advice you have for me as well.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Best regards,

Hi Syed,

In your situation, I would just concentrate on getting a new job as soon as possible and leave the eBay business idea aside for now. There’s no way you could make a full-time income from eBay right now, with just a few hundred pounds to invest in stock. It just won’t happen.

When you have a job and a regular source of income, then you can go back to eBay and start looking into various options. For people with very small budgets, I usually recommend starting with the used goods concept, which is covered in this post:


If you have experience with laptops & computers in general, it could be the product category to start with. Don’t stick with eBay alone for product sourcing though – look for offline sources too, they actually provide much better margins. Gumtree is the obvious choice of course but local ads work even better as then you narrow down the competition and there are more opportunities to negotiate on price.

But for now, as I said, I would recommend you concentrate on getting a new job asap so you can secure yourself financially and support your family and only then look into starting an eBay business.

Okay, that’s it for today!

I really hope some of the questions and answers we’ve covered are helpful for other blog readers. If you have a question of your own, feel free to get in touch with me via the contact form here and I’ll get back to you within 24h, Monday-Friday.

Have a great weekend everyone!


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