Sunday, November 09, 2008

eBay.ca

I use the ol' eBay from time to time. It's a great place to find things you can't find anywhere else...the velvet Elvis that has a place of honor on the wall in my bathroom comes to mind. You can also buy, I've heard, haunted paintings (ghost included) and doritos shaped like Jesus.

But where I really like eBay is how you can use it to unload your old junk. No matter what you have, somebody, somewhere wants to buy it. It's like putting your item in a yard sale the whole world can see.

Therein lies a slight problem. But before I go on, please allow me to offer this disclaimer:

I have no problem with Canada or Canadians. I like Canada. I've visited several times. It's a beautiful place. The people are nice. Without Canada there would be no Rush. Or Marie-Pier Houle from Météomedia.

Ok, we go on. Canadians are at a disadvantage when it comes to eBay. Yes, there is an eBay.ca, but a country with almost 1/10th the population of the United States just can't produce the sheer volume of shrunken head windchimes or Yoda toilet paper rolls that we do. So, naturally, they browse the American site to find what they're looking for.

But shipping to Canada involves customs and higher shipping costs. Couple this with the fact that I'm perfectly happy with the size of the American market being able to produce a satisfactory auction price, and you'll see why I don't offer shipping to Canada. It's a hassle I feel I don't need to be bothered with.

During my first couple of auctions as a seller, I got several questions from Canadians asking me if I would ship to Canada and if so how much would it be, to which I politely declined. Having learned my lesson from this, I began putting "US bidders only, please" (or some permutation thereof) in the footnotes of all of my item descriptions.

This cut down on the number of questions I would get, but didn't eliminate them entirely. I considered putting the "only" in block caps / bold / italics or adding "please don't ask", but, in the interest of being an inviting seller, wanted to avoid any semblance of being rude in my listings.

So my approach has been to respond to inquiries from Canadian buyers as they come, as politely and firmly as possible. Here's a recent exchange I had with one such customer:

"Will you ship to Canada if buyer pays shipping? Transaction would be completed in US dollars via PayPal. Thanks. - [name withheld]"

This was the third e-mail inquiry I had received from a Canadian buyer about this item. I try to make my item descriptions as detailed as possible, so they can get a little verbose. So these people either don't see the "US bidders only, please" or think they can talk me out of it. I sent a reply to him similar to the one I had sent the others:

"I'm sorry but I can't ship to Canada...it wouldn't be fair to other bidders since I mention this in the item listing."

And that was that. But what happened next was unusual. He wrote again a few minutes later:

"So much for an open market on ebay - I'll buy from someone who does. Good luck, you probably lost $$ on your auction. - [name withheld]"

The 15 year old in me wanted to fire back a sarcastic rebuttal. But I bit my tongue.

Oh well. Here's the reply I wrote, if only in my head:

"So much for expecting people to be able to read plain English - now go find someone who is willing to sell a person with zero feedback and zero reading comprehension skills a $1700 item. I'll do just fine without your bid, thank you. And good luck, eh?"

Ok, that last part was excessive. Sorry.

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