Thursday, January 20, 2011

International Shipping Pros, Cons & Tips

When selling on eBay, you have the choice of shipping your items within the US only, worldwide, or you can select the areas outside of the US to which you want to offer your items for sale. Most of my packages are shipping with the US Postal Service (USPS) so that is the shipping service I will be talking about today.

Currently I ship almost all of my items worldwide, but I did not always offer this service. When I started with eBay, shipping outside of the US seemed very scary and risky.  As I became more experienced, I would occasionally offer to sell a highly collectible or unique item outside of the states. What I found was that on those items I was able to obtain a higher price at auctions, or sell my item much faster when I was willing to ship it internationally.

I also learned the importance of knowing the right and wrong way to ship internationally. Packages shipped internationally take longer then domestic shipments. Buyers that are unfamiliar with this can become impatient and want to track the package. 

Just like packages shipped within the US, Paypal requires proof of delivery for packages going outside the US. However on domestic packages you can ship via the United States Postal Service (USPS) First Class Mail and still purchase delivery conformation so you will have proof of delivery.  On international shipments, USPS First Class International (FCI) does not offer tracking or proof of delivery. You can get delivery conformation with USPS Priority Mail International (PMI) or USPS Global Express Mail only.  Both the latter options are much more costly then First Class International, so often times buyer will request "the cheapest shipping" or FCI by name.

Some seller will only offer Priority Mail International when shipping outside the US.  While this does follow Paypal's Seller Protection Program, it can deter buyers who are not willing to pay the higher shipping cost, especially for lower valued items.  If you don't ship via PMI then you are at risk of having all money returned to the buyer and losing the item that you shipped if the buyer opens an "item not received" claim with Paypal.

So what do you do? You have to decide for yourself if you are willing to risk shipping your items via FCI. 

I do a combination of PMI and FCI.  For me, I've had many successful shipments via FCI.  With that in mind, I decided that I would ship anything that sold for $25 or less via FCI. If it doesn't arrive, it's not a huge loss, plus there is a great chance that it will arrive and all will be well.

If it's an item over $25 then I ship it PMI. It gives me proof of delivery and some insurance protection. If it's over $100 I will only ship it via Global Express.  Why? Global Express is guaranteed.  Priority Mail will provide conformation that the item was delivered, provided it gets delivered.  If it doesn't then you're still on the losing end of a Paypal claim.  So if I'm shipping something of value, I insist on Global Express; if it doesn't arrive then the post office should reimburse you.

Some other things to keep in mind if you are shipping First Class International:

  • You can send packages up to 4 pounds, unlike domestic first class which has a 13 ounce limit
  • You can purchase insurance on the package; it still won't give you tracking but may allow you to obtain a refund for a lost package
  • First Class International packages cannot be more then 36" total when adding together the length, width and height of the package
  • You will need the small green customs form for all FCI shipments (PS Form 2976)
Here is the guide to measuring your package:

An interesting note about Priority Mail International Flat Rate options; the small flat rate box and the flat rate envelope do not offer delivery conformation. These options are cheaper then the regular PMI, but don't be fooled into thinking that you will have the delivery information needed to win a Paypal Claim.  Your item will probably arrive faster then FCI, but it will cost more to ship and still won't provide you with delivery conformation. These packages require the smaller customs form PS Form 2976.

All Priority Mail International packages (except the small flat rate and flat rate envelope as mentioned above) require the multi-page larger customs form PS Form 2976-A. One of the downsides to shipping via First Class International is that you can't print your shipping label at home if you use Paypal to print your labels.  You can only print Priority, Express or Global International labels from Paypal.  Personally, I avoid going to the Post Office at all costs, so this was a big deterrent for me until I discovered Endicia.  This is a service in which I pay a monthly fee and can print all my packages, including First Class International. I also use it to print my Amazon shipping labels even though Amazon has added the option to print labels from their site.

Endicia offers free Delivery Conformation on domestic Priority Mail packages, reduced cost insurance and, most importantly, the ability to print you First Class International labels so you can then just use Carrier Pick- Up and save a trip to the Post Office! For me, Endicia's low monthly cost is worth every penny.

The reason I'm writing this post is to hopefully save someone from making a big mistake like I did several years ago.  I auctioned off an antique doll and it sold to someone in the UK for $150.  The buyer ask that I ship it the "cheapest way", which was First Class International.  I did so without the knowledge that the package couldn't be confirmed as delivered.  A week after I shipped the doll, the buyer opened a Paypal "item not received" claim. Of course I lost and the $150 plus shipping was returned to the buyer, and I was out the money and the valuable doll, however I did learn an important lesson; never ship anything via First Class International that you aren't willing to risk losing both the item and the money!

Here's the Nora Wellington doll that the buyer said that they never received:

If you like dolls, I'll be blogging about vintage dolls soon. Recently I've had some fantastic doll clothing sales that may help you earn more!

One final note on international shipping, buyers will pay to get an item if they really want it! This morning I woke up to this sale for vintage car track.  It was purchased for $39.99 and the buyer paid $68.85 for shipping to Japan!

Here's the track:

Happy Selling,


  1. Thank you for the diagrams showing how to measure international packages. I am going to bookmark this so I can find it whenever I need it.

  2. Here’s a workaround I use, if you are fed up of being shut out of auctions because the eBay seller does not ship to your country. The same goes for online retailers who refuse to ship to your destination.

    When you sign up with BPM, you get local shipping addresses in 6 countries.
    Drop points include: USA, UK, Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. You then use these for buying from whom you want, regardless of where the seller ships or not.

    You then have all your purchases combined into one, even from the different countries, and use the parcel mail forwarding service to have everything sent home in only one shipment, wherever you are in the world!

    Membership for renting these addresses and using the service is only 5€ per month.
    You can check it out on

  3. Ship Art International is a professional art crating, courier, storage, and installation company. On the two occassions that I used their services (for one international shipment and one local delivery), I was impressed by their punctuality, professionalism, and care in handling even "not quite dry" paintings.

  4. This was so informative. I had shipped an item out to the Ukrainian and the Buyers said he did not get it. The tracking # showed that it arrived at customs there. But eBay still pulled $150. out of my Paypal acct and gave it to the Buyer, cost of item and shipping. I did insure it and sent it using PMI, thank goodness. Now I am just waiting on delivery conf. to show eBay it was there waiting for the Buyer to pick up. Ebay said, with that they would reimburse me the cost of item, but not shipping. They told me I have to ask the Buyer for it back, but the buyer didn't take it out of my acct. Ebay did, so i guess we will see who pays me back if I am forced to go to the Attorney General on this matter. When the Buyer escalated this on ebay, I put in a appeal to give me time for the post office to get back to me while the money was frozen. An hour and half later from when the Buyer escalated it the money was out of my acct. Ebay didn't even give me one day or time for the post office to respond.

  5. If I was shipping something internationally, I'd want to have proof of delivery. I guess that means that I'd have to make sure that I shipped something the right way. It makes sense that PayPal would require the proof.

  6. Thanks for this useful information. International Shipping From Germany provides international shipping and freight services from Germany to all over the world at affordable price.