Learn How to Shop on eBay U.S. from Outside the States

Make sure sellers will ship to you

Smiling businesswoman working at laptop in office
••• Getty Images/Paul Bradbury

Many international buyers spend time shopping on eBay’s United States site because of the breadth and depth of the products offered and because prices on eBay U.S. can be much lower for certain types of goods like electronics or photo equipment.

At the same time, many such buyers have had the frustrating experience of winning eBay U.S. auctions only to be told by the sellers that they will not ship internationally and intend to re-list the item. That doesn't always have to be the case, though. If you are one of these international buyers, there are things you can do to increase your chances of successfully completing purchases.

Contact the Seller Before You Bid or Buy

Unless a listing specifically states that a seller ships internationally or to your country, be sure to contact the seller by clicking on the “Ask a question” link in the “Seller info” box on the item listing. Technically, bidding from outside the U.S. on a listing that doesn’t offer international shipping is against eBay rules.

Many sellers simply appreciate being asked, however, and will be more than willing to ship to your country if you inquire before bidding. When you do make contact, offer to be as accommodating as possible should you win the bidding.

Get a PayPal Account

If PayPal operates in your country and/or currency, get a PayPal account. If it doesn’t, find someone who will accept cash from you in exchange for letting you use their PayPal account to send funds. Very few sellers will work with international buyers using anything but PayPal.

Offer More Money

If sellers haven't listed shipping prices for international buyers, they may be wary of having to spend additional funds to get products to you. Offer to pay additional money for shipping, perhaps even more than the actual costs involved if you really want the item badly. Think of it as a way to offset a seller’s additional shipping costs and as a kind of tip for his extra trouble as well.

Relieve the Seller of Liability

Many sellers are worried about the reliability of international shipping and the problems that can arise. If you trust the seller in question, tell him you won't hold him liable if anything goes wrong during shipment. Promise to leave positive feedback before receiving the item as a show of good faith.

Provide Information About Reliable Shippers

For many sellers, not knowing how to get the item to you is also an obstacle. If there is a preferred international shipper for your country with offices in the United States, direct sellers to this and mention that they are respected, reliable, and routinely and safely used for shipping to your country.

Use something like Google Maps to search for an office belonging to the shipper in question in or near a seller’s city (given by “Item location” in the “Seller info” area of the listing) and supply this information.

Use a Friend or Relative

If sellers balk at arrangements you've suggested, ask a friend, relative, or close professional contact in the U.S. to receive the shipment for you. They then can ship it to you.

Use a Reshipper or Services Company

Some companies do reshipment professionally as a service to international buyers. Shop Airlines, Ltd., for example, offers such a service for Japanese buyers. Check your local area for eBay services companies of all kinds and contact them to ask whether they offer such a service.

If the preferred shipper for your country is a small national company, ask if they offer such services out of their U.S. offices; many such small shippers also offer eBay purchasing and re-shipping from within the U.S. as a service.

Don’t Force the Issue

If you don’t have a contact inside the U.S., you can’t find a buyer/reshipper service, or you’ve contacted a seller who refuses to ship to international customers as a matter of policy, don’t bother bidding or buying. You’ll only aggravate the seller and yourself, without actually getting the item you’re seeking.

Spend your time finding the deals that are available to you and give your business to those sellers who are willing to provide the international service you need.