More Insider Secrets
Put a shipping-cost calculator in your auction
One of the advantages of understanding HTML is the ability to add functionality to your auction descriptions without having to rely on extracost services or--gasp--the intelligence of your bidders. A shipping-cost calculator, placed right in your auction description, will allow you to avoid setting a single, fixed shipping cost (which can scare away frugal bidders) and still avoid the burden of having to quote shipping costs to everyone who asks.
Probably the easiest way to provide self-service shipping-cost information is to include your zip code and the weight of your item right in your auction description. Your bidders can then punch that information and their own zip code into a courier Web site, such as ups.com or fedex.com, and get an accurate cost to ship, as well as any available shipping options (insurance, overnight, and so on). The problem is that it's easy for the bidder to make a mistake or choose the wrong shipping options, which can cause all sorts of problems.
Fortunately, there are many more streamlined solutions, ranging from services provided by eBay to custom HTML-based calculators.
- eBay's calculated shipping.
eBay offers sellers its own shipping calculator, a feature introduced in the middle of 2003. When listing your item, just choose the Calculated Shipping option. Specify your zip code, the weight and dimensions of your item, and a single shipping method, and eBay will allow your bidders to determine shipping costs on their own.
The calculated shipping feature, however, is rather limited. First, it uses software provided by Connect Ship, a UPS company, so only UPS and U.S. Postal Service rates are supported. Second, it works only for buyers and sellers in the continental United States. Finally, sellers can choose only a single shipping method when listing the item, so bidders will have no choice when using the tool (which can be good or bad, depending on your perspective).
The biggest advantage to Calculated Shipping is probably also its biggest drawback. For the bidder's and seller's convenience, the calculated shipping cost is automatically inserted into the bidder's invoice, which means that it will be used when the bidder completes the checkout procedure. This means that the bidder can send payment without any postauction input from the seller, even if the shipping quote is incorrect.
Calculated Shipping can also combine shipping costs for multiple auctions won by the same bidder, although the accuracy of the calculation should never be taken for granted. As the seller, you'll want to have an active role in helping your bidders complete transactions by sending accurate totals and payment instructions promptly. Otherwise, you'll be deluged with complaints from impatient bidders who have sent incorrect payments and who blame you for their mistakes.
Whether eBay's Calculated Shipping option is sufficient or not is entirely up to you. But anyone outside the continental United States, anyone shipping internationally, or anyone wishing to ship with another courier may want to pursue a different solution (see the rest of Hack 45 in eBay Hacks for more-advanced options).
|Submitted by: |
David A. Karp
|David A. Karp is the author of eBay Hacks and a longtime eBay user. He is also the author of O'Reilly Media's best-selling Windows Annoyances books and the founder of Annoyances.org. He is the author of the upcoming book, eBay: The Missing Manual. |
This material has been adapted from eBay Hacks by David A. Karp, published by O'Reilly Media. Copyright O'Reilly Media, 2003. All rights reserved. O'Reilly makes no representation as to the accuracy of the materials provided by them. To purchase this or other O'Reilly publications, click here.