How to make sure your ebay item gets shipped properly

I purchased vintage this vintage wallpaper earlier this year - it was not packed well and arrived broken up like this. The seller was very accommodating, apologized and gave me a refund immediately.

I purchased this vintage wallpaper earlier this year off ebay – in my view, it was not packed well and arrived broken up like this. The seller was very accommodating, apologized and gave me a refund immediately. Even so, it was sad because I liked the paper, and the price.

A reader recently reported that a lovely glass item bought off of ebay arrived broken. This situation has happened also to me, at least twice, in the past year. A gorgeous — and in some respects *priceless* find — was packaged with inadequate cushioning. And of course it breaks.

This makes me think I’ll do a post about: How to do your best to ensure that your ebay seller pays attention and ships your precious item so it arrives safely.  It’s not just about the money involved — it’s also the heartache at seeing something you’ve been searching for and finally found — needlessly destroyed. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject as well.

So, what can you do to ensure your items gets shipped properly?

  1. Check the feedback of the seller. If there are negatives about shipping, beware.
  2. Before you even bid, send the seller an email, and ask them to post an answer to the question, “What steps will you take to ensure that this fragile item is packaged properly and won’t break in shipping? Please be specific on your packaging procedures.”
  3. Pay with PayPal. I *believe* this provides you with extra protection in case the deal goes sour. Read up on their policies and make choices, if possible, that give you the opportunity to resolve disputes.
  4. Pay for insurance.
  5. Even with insurance, write in the Notes when you pay the seller,  something to the effect, “As this is a fragile item, please be sure to comply with all shipping company policies when it comes to packaging it appropriately. As you know, shipping companies and the USPS will not pay the insurance claim if you do not wrap the item and all of its parts properly and in compliance with their guidelines.” I learned this when I had a broken item. A gorgeous pull down light with all-glass globes. Basically thrown in a box with some newspaper and shipped. It was ensured. But when I took it into the USPS place they took one look at it and said that they would not pay the insurance as it was not packed properly. USPS and UPS have written guidelines on how items must be packaged in order to be covered by insurance – did you know that? Yes, they do!  Again…what you can see I’m saying is to put pressure on the seller to pay attention. Another thing that I learned: I had to do the schlepping when it came to insurance claims.
  6. A variation on this theme: Mint-in-box items. I bought a wonderful MIB item once and the seller just slapped packing tape and labels over the ORIGINAL box and threw it in the mail. Not only did the item get smashed as the original box did not provide enough cushioning, but the box was ruined – and that’s part of MIB’s value. Again: Ask the question up front about packaging procedures before you buy… get it posted on the listing… reinforce it with a note… get insurance.
  7. Before you buy, read all of ebay’s and paypal’s policies about resolving disputes — and if you get in that situation, promptly pursue them.

These are just my personal thoughts… . Readers, what do you think? Have you had experiences like this, too? What else can we do to ensure that sellers take care with our precious purchases?


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  1. bepsf says

    I’ve made numerous transactions via eBay – and while the vast majority have been good, I’ve also had my share of failures…
    …such as the pair of gorgeous Blanc de Chine Foo Dogs that arrived in a hundred pieces. Despite being bubble-wrapped, they were put in a box that was too small and had no packing peanuts – and on the diagonal so that the dogs could only smash into one another.

    Being a bit miffed, I sent the seller an e-mail w/ pix clearly showing the damage stating that their poor packing led to this result – they actually insisted that there was nothing wrong with their packing! Yet to my amazement, UPS sent me a refund for the item and shipping – IMO, the seller should have had to pay for their negligence.

  2. bepsf says

    Tho come to think of it – it’s not just eBay sellers who do dumb things for shipping…

    A number of years ago, I inherited a set of LuRay pastel dinnerware from my Grandmother that I remembered enjoying whenever I visited her home. My sister dutifully sent it all to me: each piece wrapped in a single sheet of newspaper and stacked into a single large moving box, then shipped from Virginia to California via US Mail…

    Needless to say, each and every single piece was demolished – I still remember the tears in my eyes as I tossed the entire box into the garbage.

  3. bobdeckerbob says

    I would advise everyone who wants to avoid breakage heartbreaks to deal only with sellers who have a relatively high feedback score and then go read the feedback that has been left to confirm that the seller is experienced in shipping fragile items. As a collector of 78 rpm records I’ve learned this the hard way!

  4. Elaine says

    You can also find third party insurers like U-Pic that offer insurance for overseas shipping as well, and are reasonable. I recommend adding the cost of insurance to your opening bid or fixed price because e-Bay encourages buyers to rate sellers by the buyers’ perception of shipping costs. Many are clueless about how much shipping, packaging and insurance add to the cost of their item. If you add the insurance cost to shipping, the buyers may rate you lower and this can cause a lot of problems, from changing your position in Search, to suspension.

  5. lizk says

    As a seller I do my best – I once had someone tell me items arrived broken BECAUSE I used packing peanuts. I wasn’t sure what else I could have used that would have made them happy!

  6. Mick says

    I have bought the same Andrew Sisters Record “Cutano La Gusta” freaturing Carmen Mirand on a 78, FIVE TIMES!!!!! and each time it shows up at my door broken 🙁 The First seller Simply put the Record in an evelope and dropped it in her Mail box…. And the rest have followed Suit, Each seller has been more that understanding and refunded my money, But I WANT THAT RECORD! So my own personal Rule now is not to but the old 78’s off Ebay, ONLY 45’s and Long Plays they seem to handle the mail better.

  7. says

    Such a wealth of information in this thread! The ideal is to package something as if you know in advance that at every stop along the way, it will be tossed up in the air, drop kicked and wedged beneath heavier boxes – because chances are, it will be. I mailed something out once and had it marked “Fragile” and right after I paid the postal clerk, he tossed it over his shoulder and into another bin of boxes like he was at a basketball stunt show. I also can relate to Mick above and that record quest. My husband once bought a record online and it was clearly marked all over “Record” and “Do Not Place Near Heat”. We came home to find that it had been attached to our metal mailbox out on the street with rubber bands in the Summer sun when it probably would have taken less time for the carrier to have just left it in the shade of the porch.

    Thanks for all of the information and tips, everyone!

  8. MrsErinD says

    I missed this before but have to tell my experience too.

    I had this problem twice in a row, I bought a vintage pink Gilner wall planter, you know those pottery ones with the cool perforated metal holder thingys on bottom? Well it arrived in a THIN box with just a tiny bit of that foam sheeting around it, as I was opening it up I could hear it was broke, I was so upset as I was so excited to find one, hadn’t seen one before like this, so I opened it and it was broke down the front middle in half and the back top corner in little pieces, I cried. Then I was mad, lol! So I immediately took several pictures of it, thankfully I had purchased insurance ( this was several months ago) so I emailed the seller the pics right away and told her what I found, and thankfully she immediately returned my money. And I didn’t even bitch about the packaging much, but I should have, it was ridiculous, how could someone package something like that and expect it won’t get broke!!!
    But you won’t believe what happened next…
    A few days later I found 2 small similar pink gilner with metal bottom table planters, so I bought them, and I told the seller about my previous experience and asked her to please please wrap them extra well padding etc. because they must be fragile. So gee whiz guess what, when I got them the one was broken! Sigh. But it was not as bad as the other one, this one just had the corner broke off, though it was a big chunk, and figured I could glue it back on, and the other one was fine. But the packaging with these planters were not that great either, not as bad as the other but still crappy packaging to let them bounce around against each other, and after I specifically asked her to be careful. So I emailed and told her about it, but that I was going to keep them since it was fixable, but figured I wouldn’t be able to use it as a planter, didn’t know if it would hold water okay, but I just wanted to let her know, and she just blamed it on the post office, argh. Now I know they are hard on packages, but still, what do you expect when they hardly wrap anything?
    Now the good news is, I glued the piece back on and it was okay, and the wall planter, I was able to fix too, since the front was broken in half, but it was a clean break I got it back together, and the bigger little pieces in the back top corner I glued back on, but you don’t see the hole where there was pieces too small to glue since it is in the back, and even better, I was upset cause I figured I couldn’t use them as planters, but my smart Hubby said I can fix that, he got a clear uh, what’s the word, like a liquid nails thing, and put that on the inside of all the cracks on the planters so it would be waterproof, so now I can use them! And you can’t see they were broken unless you look up close.

    Now in good news, I had some good packaging too, one seller, I had bought two chalkware wall ballet dancers, a male and female, in pink, lol, from the 50s which I was elated to find, had been looking for them for a long time, and he packaged them to go through a nuclear bomb, lol! Each were wrapped separately in tons of bubble wrap, then each in it’s own box, then the two boxes in a bigger box with newspaper. This was right after the other two mishaps, so you can bet for sure I thanked him a ton for taking such good care packaging!!! I paid a good bit for shipping, but don’t mind that at all when it comes in one piece!!

    Hehe, long enough response for ya?? ;O))

  9. says

    Back to Pam’s original post:

    If you do points 1-4, then 5 is unnecessary, and indeed insulting to the seller. If the seller has experience shipping items (as evidenced by the feedback you just looked at), then the seller knows how to ship.

    I had a lady who bought something from me at least once a month for like 6 months in a row, and each and every stinkin’ time she won something I got this form email on how she expected me to use extra care on her item. Like I should pack hers carefully but not everybody else’s?

    Also it’s a terrible idea to mark something FRAGILE on the outside. In fact my insurer (ShipSurance, same sort of deal as U-Pic only I like how they handle claims better) advises against it. All it does is ask for trouble. Seriously. Pack it so you don’t NEED to mark it fragile; if it’s packed well enough, it isn’t.

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