eBay, USPS and the Death of the International Singles Market

Time to stand on my soapbox once again and bemoan the injustices inherent in being an overseas (i.e. non-US based) card collector!

Since starting this blog I’ve written at length about the problems in collecting outside the US. From obscene (and often random) import duties and admin charges to actually finding sellers who are prepared to ship internationally, the odds have always been pretty much stacked against us! Such is our lot in our collecting lives!

When USPS increased their shipping rates at the end of January 2013 the writing was already on the wall for anyone based in the US wanting to send parcels abroad. And while domestic US prices saw a small increase it was the cost of international shipping that was a real shocker!!

You can click on this link to read all about my thoughts on the USPS increases.

Late in 2012 eBay introduced their Global Postage Program, designed to help streamline the purchasing and shipping process for both sellers and international buyers. While I championed the program as far as getting hold of boxes of wax, I did envisage some potential issues with the purchasing of singles.

Click here to read my thoughts on the GPP.

Anyway, the reason for my current musings have come about while scanning some eBay listings today, on the hunt for some potential bargains in Cardinals jersey and bat relics. I started to notice a familiar pattern with regard to lower cost items and inflated shipping prices due to seller’s listing international shipping through the GPP.

Check these out, and pay close attention to the cost of the card against the cost of the postage –

freese1 freese2 cabrera1 cabrera2

As you can see, if I wanted to ‘Buy It Now’ on the David Freese relic I’ll end up paying over $18 extra in postage due to the sellers use of the Global Postage Program. If the seller sent this without using the GPP it would likely cost between $5 and $8, depending on the type of packaging used. Postage on the Miggy, as you can see, is even more!!

Yet have a look at this Adam Jones as an example of a listing without the GPP –

jones1 jones2

Here the postage for the single card is $6.50 – a much more realistic proposition! To be honest there will plenty of overseas collectors out there who would baulk at the idea of paying $6.50, but it’s important to remember that this amount is down to the machinations of USPS and NOT the seller!

*

So where does that leave us now?

To be honest, the purchasing of single cards off eBay for international collectors is a costly proposition! Through the USPS increases and eBay’s implementation of the GPP things have gotten worse almost overnight, and the singles market for international collectors is all but dead.

If USPS sounded the death knell then eBay pretty much put the nail in the coffin! I know that there are alternative ways of getting your singles (COMC, Collector Revolution) but it doesn’t take an idiot to understand that eBay has far and away a greater variety of cards on offer.

So all I can do at this stage is send a message out to US sellers on behalf of all overseas collectors! I know there are a lot of you who won’t ship overseas for a variety of reasons, and I appreciate that. But to those of you who do ship internationally I implore you to not use eBay’s Global Postage Program when listing singles!

As I’ve demonstrated above the price that buyers have to pay in total for a single card is extortionately high once the GPP admin fees are figured into the final shipping cost. I’ve spoken with several sellers recently who weren’t even aware of the impact the GPP has, simply because they don’t see any extra fees being added as part of their listing process.

But the fact of the matter remains in that when the postage amount far exceeds the initial value of the card itself then no-one will ever want to buy it, which affects both the buyer and the seller. There are several cards today that I would have happily picked up had the postage amount not been inflated by the presence of the GPP in the eBay listing!

This might not matter to most sellers as international custom will only make up a miniscule percentage of their business, but without the option to purchase singles from US-based sellers our collecting options become severely limited and there’s a real danger that this could turn a lot of international collectors away from the Hobby!

And I don’t know about you guys, but I think that will be a crying shame!

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7 thoughts on “eBay, USPS and the Death of the International Singles Market

  1. You even skipped an example where ebay upfront import chrges is another 15+ dollars. I have seen cards that go for 25 usd that in the end would have cost me almost 60 throu its global shipping program…horrible…and most sellers are now starting to use is sadly enough :-((

    • You’re right!

      I purposely missed out those cards that would accrue extra import charges as I wanted to point out the difference between the standard international shipping rate and the rate for the same card under the GPP.

      But go over the threshold by even a few pennies and WHOOSH!!!… Up go the charges even further!

      It’s a nightmare I have to agree!!

      It’s like I pointed out in my original posts, boxes and high value singles are fine under the GPP, but lower value items are not worth bothering unless you contact the seller and they’re willing to remove the GPP aspect from their listing.

      Shame it’s come to this but it makes life so much more difficult for all of us!

  2. COMC.com could help mitigate this problem for international buyers. You can set up your eBay account to ship to COMC, they will scan everything they recieve once a month and then u will be able to have them ship all the singles you purchased on eBay at a later date. I am currently living in Brazil and wouldn’t want them sent to me here anyways. Having them scanned and stored at COMC just makes sense, but could help relieve the cost of having singles shipped internationally as well if you don’t mind waiting a bit longer.

  3. One area where I’ve found success is by using Stamps.com to do my oversees shipping. 1 oz. packages in a rigid cardboard envelope (not bubble mailer) will be classified as oversized international mail and can be shipped for just $2.05….last I checked.

    The problem with USPS is that there is a broad spectrum of interpretations on just how single card packages should be classified. I’ve had domestically shipped bubble mailers be classified as envelopes (garnering an 82 cent cost) and have had them classified as packages (approx. $1.60 ea.)

    The problem with eBay is that they corral their sellers into their USPS shipping program, which forces sellers to utilize the higher cost to ship an international item. They do this by only offering seller protection on items shipped by this format. As you succinctly detailed, this kills the sales of the low-end, single card purchases and inhibits collectors like you from purchasing single cards for their PC’s.

    Thank you for the mention of Collector Revolution in your article as an alternative for collectors. We’re nearing our one-year anniversary since we launched in late September 2012. Here’s an article I wrote last year concerning exactly what you’ve shared.

    http://collectorrevolutionblog.com/slaying-the-shipping-dragon-a-cr-public-service-announcement/

    • Thanks for getting in touch, and thanks for the detailed comments – it’s really appreciated!!

      It’s always interesting hearing things from a seller’s perspective as feedback often ranges from a simple lack of understanding of what shipping internationally means to both parties involved, all the way through to someone like yourself who’s done their homework and knows exactly what the USPS changes entail and what eBay are up to behind the scenes!!

      I finally think we’re getting to a place where overseas buyers are now aware, at least to a greater extent, that seller’s aren’t responsible for the issues with international shipping and that the problems come from other sources!

      Ultimately it won’t stop us collecting but it does force us to be more selective in what we do collect!

      And congratulations on the impending anniversary! In the current climate it’s no mean feat to get something like Collector Revolution off the ground so nicely done and I’m happy for you that the hard work has paid off!

      Cheers, Andy

  4. I experienced this same frustration, living in Italy, and I am looking for sellers who can “downgrade” their shipping method to simple first class shipment, with the added bonus that in most cases I won’t exceed the minimum for customs fees, in this way saving some more euros, but finding reasonable people is getting more and more difficult. At the end, as you say, this global shipment or whatever they called it has actually killed the market of low and medium-end singles for us living in Europe.
    p.s. as a side note, please check this photo, I think you know what it means…;):

    • Couldn’t agree more Fabio!! And I’m loving that trophy!!!!

      Congrats on the win! I’ve learnt some pretty painful lessons this season about drafting…

      a) injury prone players
      b) players coming off huge contracts
      c) both of the above!!

      The odd thing is in the UK based league that I’ve been part of for the last 13 years I won for the 9th time!

      A good draft makes a hell of a difference!!!

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