Disadvantages of eBay's Global Shipping Program

Man packaging up skateboards fro shipping
•••   Darryl Leniuk / Getty Images

eBay serves a worldwide audience. The Internet has created a global economy, and savvy eBay sellers are eager to connect with buyers in countries outside of the USA. The world is really your oyster when you sell on eBay. Not shipping internationally means giving up sales to your competitors. Consider the following statistics (provided by DMR):

  • eBay has 165 million active users
  • 1 billion listings are active on eBay at any one given moment
  • 56 percent of eBay revenue comes from outside of the USA
  • The eBay app has been downloaded 337 million times
  • 250 million searches occur daily on eBay
  • 11 million searches occur each hour on eBay
  • A pair of shoes sells every 2 seconds on eBay

Benefits of International Shipping

The more buyers you are willing to serve, the more money you will make. Sellers who do not offer international shipping are leaving money on the table. Here are some benefits of shipping internationally:

  1. Common American consumer goods are not available in many other countries. Consumers worldwide come to eBay to find the products they want.
  2. International customers have an affinity for American products. This includes Americans living abroad that want to order things from home.
  3. eBay and Paypal handle all the language translations and currency conversions for you. When selling to an international customer, the checkout and shipping procedure is virtually the same as selling to an American customer.
  4. When doing auctions, adding international customers to the bidding pool exponentially increases the number of bidders, the number of bids, and the final selling price. The presence of international customers will help drive the final selling price higher, even if they don't win the item on auction.
  1. International customers purchase used items. They recognize quality and understand that high-quality items are durable and hold their value. Supply of consumer goods may be a problem in their home country; therefore, they look to eBay.
  2. International customers often purchase more than one item at a time from the same seller to take advantage of shipping discounts.
  3. The Internet connects people from different countries with the click of a mouse.

The Advent of eBay's Global Shipping Program

In 2013, eBay introduced the Global Shipping Program. The program was an attempt to streamline the international shipping process for sellers who were either unfamiliar with how to ship internationally or were afraid of the risks. In a nutshell, GSP works like this:

The Global Shipping Program simplifies selling an item to an international buyer. All eligible listings for sellers who qualify are automatically included in the Global Shipping Program. Here's how it works:

  • List your item as usual.
  • Your item sells to an international buyer in an eligible country.
  • You ship the item to a US shipping center. 
  • International shipping experts manage the international shipping and customs process and send the item to the buyer.

Sounds simple enough, right? For the newer seller, it is. However, the GSP has several fatal flaws.

Drawbacks of eBay's Global Shipping Program

Everything shipped within the GSP is sent USPS Priority International mail. The lowest price for an international package is about $35. Shipping everything the same class streamlines the process for eBay, but it isn't the best price for the international customer.

Consider a 10-ounce sweater shipped to Canada by First Class International costs about $15 before the eBay shipping discount. The same sweater shipped Priority International through GSP costs $35.

eBay is probably using Priority International because it comes with insurance. No package can be tracked outside of the USA through USPS. However, if a package is lost or misdirected, an insurance claim can be filed and the seller reimbursed so that they can provide a refund to the buyer. 

Another disadvantage of eBay's Global Shipping Program is the customs fees. Each country has its own rules for charging customs fees for items coming into the country. Rather than research every item that is shipping out of the USA and into another country, eBay charges a flat customs fee on all items. Many times, the customs fees are not required.

In eBay's attempt to streamline the process, eBay charges customs fees on all items shipped. International customers have commented (on blogs, message boards, and Facebook groups) that eBay's GSP makes items about 3 times more expensive than a seller shipping direct. International customers often seek out sellers who do not use GSP because shipping is so much cheaper.

Finally, your package may be opened at the shipping center and inspected. Sometimes the representatives at the GSP center may not repack the item as well as you did. Or, if there are multiple parts or pieces inside a box, they may be lost or misplaced, and the customer won't receive the order as you shipped it. In other words, there may be other hands in your business that aren't as careful as you are.

The Alternative to GSP — Shipping Direct

To attract more international customers, charge lower shipping fees, and eliminate customs fees, many sellers choose to ship direct. This process is not complicated or difficult. In a nutshell:

  • Check the USPS restriction list and understand what can and cannot be shipped to different countries. Peru and Brazil cannot accept used clothing, Australia cannot accept used bedding, and Italy has many restrictions including leather, jewelry, anything made from animal hair, and wooden toys. 
  • Items weighing less than 4 lbs can be shipped First Class International. This is a huge money saver and GSP does not offer this class of mail to save the buyer money.
  • When offering First Class International (FCI), you can purchase insurance from a third-party service, such as WorldPost or ShipSurance. This is not tracking, but insurance. If shipping direct with FCI and using one of these third-party insurance companies, make sure you only offer to ship to the countries that the insurance covers.

    You can put both GSP and direct international shipping on your eBay listings. Let the customer choose! GSP can be justified with more expensive items or large items that would go Priority anyway. Just keep your customer in mind when setting up shipping options.