It seems that almost every time I write my column, there's something new and exciting to talk about. This time, the changes are far more pedestrian, but they'll affect everyone who does business on eBay. Both good and bad changes from the U.S. Postal Service go into effect on May 14, while eBay is adding some new options you'll want to take advantage of.
International Mailing Changes
USPS is revamping its international services and raising prices. I'll give you the good news first. Many online sellers rue the day they get an international order. The different levels of mailing are confusing, and customs forms vary depending on your packages. That's all about to change.
The categories for international mail will become the same as those used for domestic mail. USPS will offer the following: Global Express Guaranteed (the most expensive option), Express Mail International (formerly Global Express), Priority Mail International (eight to 10 day service) and First-Class Mail International. Customs forms and address labels will be combined for most mailings when postage is printed electronically.
You can also now get discounts on international mailings when you print your own postage. Watch for discounts on the USPS website, PayPal postage printing and electronic postage sites like Endicia.com. Here are examples of the savings:
- 10 percent on Global Express Guaranteed
- 8 percent on Express Mail International
- 5 percent on Priority Mail International
An international flat rate will also be an option. For Express Mail International you can use the same free packaging and flat-rate options you use for domestic Express Mail. The flat-rate envelope postage is $22 for Canada and Mexico and $25 for other countries. For Priority Mail International, you can also use the same packaging you use for domestic mailings. The Priority flat-rate envelope (with a 4-pound weight limit) will be $9 for Canada and Mexico and $11 for all other countries. There's also a flat-rate box with a 20-pound weight limit that will cost $23 for Canada and Mexico and $37 for all other countries. Tracking will also finally be available on the Priority Mail International flat-rate boxes.
If you're shipping documents or lightweight merchandise up to 4 pounds, you can use the new First-Class Mail International rates at a great discount. The prices are based on weight, and you can basically send a 2-pound package anywhere in the world for $8.26 to $16.80.
Domestic Mailing Changes
Sadly, for those of us who use Priority Mail, the rates will go up. The flat-rate envelope goes from $4.05 to $4.60, and the Priority Mail flat-rate boxes will go up to $9.15. A 5-pound package in a non-flat-rate box will cost between $6.30 and $15.85 based on distance.
First-class mail is also getting a rate increase, with letters going up to 41 cents. It's still a bargain for eBay sellers to send items up to 13 ounces via first-class mail. USPS will now offer two levels of first-class mail. Letter-size envelopes begin at 41 cents an ounce, and large envelopes start at 80 cents. The rate for packages will be $1.13 for the first ounce. For each additional ounce on letters, flats and boxes, expect to pay 17 cents per ounce. Letters weighing more than 3.5 ounces will be charged the same rate as flats.
The good news is that boxes from USPS and carrier pickup will remain free. For more information on all the USPS changes, go to www.usps.com/ratecase.
Upcoming eBay Changes
eBay has rarely made changes in its feedback system--the backbone of customer confidence on the site. I like to call the enhanced system Feedback 2.0. The new system can be seen on many of the international eBay sites. Go to www.ebay.co.uk, search for an item and then click on the feedback link next to the seller's name to see how it works.
The new system divides feedback into "feedback from a buyer," "feedback from a seller" and "feedback left for others." You'll also see the addition of detailed seller ratings defined by one to five stars. Buyers can now rate sellers on various aspects, including item description, communication, shipping time, and shipping and handling charges.
eBay is also now letting users link to video within auction descriptions. (You can't embed the video; just link.) Write a line similar to: "See how great this item is in action. Watch a short demonstration by clicking this link." When you upload your short video on YouTube, you receive a link that allows you to share your video. You can also link to other video sites available from Google, MySpace, Microsoft or AOL.
This is an effective way to include your own infomercial on the item. Keep in mind, though, that this type of promotion is best for your stock or very special items. Also, many buyers won't have time to view your video, so don't neglect your item description and regular photos.
Marsha Collier, a successful eBay PowerSeller, is Entrepreneur.com's "eBay" columnist as well as the author of the bestselling eBay references,eBay for Dummies andStarting an eBay Business for Dummies.