Overcoming the fear of Ebay International Shipping

We just completed our first “real” international sale on Ebay.  
Happy to report:  It was a success!
For a time, we have been using the Global Shipping program through Ebay, and the results have been excellent so far.
Here are some of the items we have sold recently.

These vintage police lights went to a buyer in Belgium.  We loved these!  They reminded us of Dukes of Hazzard!

Vintage police lights. Sold on Ebay August 2015

Vintage police lights. Sold on Ebay August 2015

This vintage Toshiba laptop computer in excellent working condition took a trip to Sweden.

Vintage Toshiba laptop IT recycling ebay location independence

Vintage laptop. Sold on eBay August 2015

Ebay Global Shipping is a great tool for sellers.  All we have to do is ship the item to a warehouse in Kentucky, and Ebay takes care of the international shipping.  They also fill out all the customs forms, and provide tracking for the package all the way to its destination.

Then, one day, we were very happy to sell some unusual medical laboratory equipment that had been listed for a long time.  To our surprise, we noticed that it was going to Denmark.  This was not an item covered under the Global Shipping program, so we listed it for shipping only to the United States.

Biomek medical laboratory equipment. Sold on Ebay October 2015

Biomek medical laboratory equipment. Sold on Ebay October 2015

Our first reaction was, “Why did this fool buy an item marked only for US shipping?!”

Then, we decided to throw a fit with Ebay and cancel the transaction. (Bad idea. We didn’t actually do that.)

Further research informed us that, unless we manually blocked every country in the world on each listing, anybody could buy one of our products and we would be obligated to ship it.

Alrighty then!!

We packed everything up nicely.  Filled out the customs forms through the post office website.  Not nearly as painful as we expected.  Tracking was fantastic until the package arrived in Miami, cleared US customs.  Next notification came from Frankfurt, then from Copenhagen.  Wonderful!

Next thing we know, the package is back in Frankfurt.  We frantically searched Google for all possible variations of “returned international ebay packages” with no success.  Worst case scenario we would have to give the buyer a full refund.  Our fear was that we would be out a few hundred dollars for international shipping costs.

And then, 2 frantic days later, the tracking was back in Copenhagen.  It did take another 4 or 5 days to clear Danish customs, but at least we could breathe easier knowing it was in the correct country!

Lessons learned?  For one thing, we changed all of our listings that are not covered by Ebay’s Global Shipping Programs to accept international shipping.  It was not nearly as bad as expected.

The customs form requests a complete breakdown of the weight and value of each item.  We realized this after thoroughly taping the box, so removing the items wasn’t an option at this point.  All we could go was guesstimate the weight of the individual items.  Also, next time we’ll add a line for “box & packing materials” at zero value since these always add a few pounds to the total weight.

Another thing we would do different next time would be to affix a large label with the buyer’s address and phone number to the box itself, separately from the pouch that contains the customs forms.  This wonderful idea came from the true experts at this, Scavenger Life.

Do you sell on Ebay?  Has it helped you move toward a location independent lifestyle?  Please let us know in the comments!


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