It’s true that, in general, the best customer service practices demand that you ship as quickly as possible, but you also don’t want to ship your sold item until you’re pretty certain you've avoided the typical scams against sellers, including fraudulent payments.
eBay Seller Protection Program
It’s nice to qualify for eBay’s seller protection program for your eligible sales since this will give you an advantage in winning any customer dispute battles if they become an issue.
To qualify, you should not ship until PayPal says it’s OK for you to ship your item, meaning that eBay and PayPal don’t foresee any trouble spots having to do with payment or the buyer’s purchase.
Knowing When It’s OK to Ship
Find out when it’s OK to ship your eBay item while avoiding payment hassles and remaining in eBay’s good seller protection graces by checking the Transaction Details area on the Details page for your sold item. You'll likely see one of several phrases prominently highlighted. Here’s what they mean:
- OK to Ship: If the status says "OK to Ship," this means the buyer’s payment has cleared, the funds have been transferred to your PayPal account, and seller protection—if the item in question is eligible for it—is active for the sale. To avoid any possibility of negative feedback, you should ship the item to your buyer as soon as you see this status.
- Don’t Ship Yet: If you see "Don't Ship Yet," it means that eBay and/or PayPal have either seen something that they don’t like about the buyer or the transaction, or that the buyer's payment has not yet cleared. Since some forms of electronic payment can take several days to clear, this isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm (though it can be cause for frustration for sellers hoping for quick access to funds). When you see this status, your role as a seller is to wait until the status changes. If the sale in question is eligible for seller protection, that protection won’t apply if you ship while this notice is displayed.
- Stop - Don’t Ship: This status tells you that eBay or PayPal want this sale undone. Either the payment didn’t clear (in which case you won’t receive funds in your account) or the buyer has been determined to be ineligible to make this purchase on eBay, often due to a suspension of some kind that took effect during your transaction. Either way, you won't receive any payment for this transaction, and eBay will ultimately cancel it so that you're free to relist the merchandise for other buyers.
While you might feel frustrated if you're told to wait before shipping out your item, it pays to apply a little patience. This is particularly important in cases in which a possibly fraudulent buyer is actively pressing you to provide a tracking number. You stand the chance of losing your merchandise and any money you thought you'd receive for it if you choose to ship before PayPal gives you the all-clear as a seller.
If buyers are demanding immediate shipment or an explanation for why it hasn’t occurred, the best policy is to simply tell them the truth, explaining that eBay does not allow you to ship until payment has cleared.
If you're a new seller, PayPal might hold your funds in a type of escrow for three days after your package carrier's tracking verifies the customer has received your item. If you see this happening in your account, follow eBay's guidance and continue to ship items only when they tell you to, and understand that the funds have in fact been received and paid into your account and it's just a matter of time until PayPal releases them to you.
Keep in mind, too, that if a buyer gives you a poor performance rating, low detailed seller ratings in seller protection-eligible transactions won’t count against you if they are isolated cases, which is almost always true for PayPal-delayed shipments.
You gain many advantages by following PayPal’s advice and timing regarding shipping. Solidify your eBay selling success by waiting when PayPal says to wait, and shipping when PayPal says to ship. After all, you probably don't really want to ship an item only to find out that PayPal was unable to clear the transaction and no funds ended up coming your way.