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

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••• Getty Images/Paul Bradbury

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

At the same time, most international buyers have had the frustrating experience winning eBay U.S. auctions only to be told by the sellers in question that they will not ship to you and intend to re-list the item.

Make Your Purchase Possible

If the description above sounds like you, and you’d like to increase your success rate when shopping on the U.S. eBay site, there are some things that you can do to enhance your ability to shop on eBay U.S. from outside the United States.

Contact the Seller Before You Bid or Buy

Unless the listing specifically states that the 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, consider including some or all of the other items below in your message.

Get a PayPal Account if You Don’t Have One

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 the seller hasn’t listed a shipping price for international buyers specifically, they may be wary of having to spend additional money to get the item to you.

Offer to PayPal the seller 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 the seller’s additional shipping costs and as a kind of tip for the seller’s 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, so if you trust the seller in question, tell them that you won't hold them liable if anything goes wrong during shipment. Tell them that you'll leave positive feedback for them before receiving the item and that you don't expect them to ship until you're able to leave such feedback, 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, tell the seller what it is 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 the seller’s city (given by “Item location” in the “Seller info” area of the listing) and supply this information to the seller.

Use a Friend or Relative

If the seller balks at arrangements like these, but you have a friend, relative or close professional contact in the U.S., ask the seller if they’ll ship the item to your contact after you buy, who can then ship it to you, or consider simply having your contact bid and win for you from the start, then ship the item to you once they receive it from the seller.

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 (in and out of your country only), ask the shipper whether 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 the seller and they refuse 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 after.

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