||Selling and Shipping Internationally
A few extra tools and tips to make shipping to
customers in other countries go more smoothly
"Nothing so liberalizes a man and expands
the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact
with many kinds of people."
-Mark Twain, 1867
With some practice, your
international shipments will be nearly as easy as domestic ones. But
it takes a little experience to know how to accept payments from
customers in other countries, how to ship to other countries, and how
to avoid fraud from deadbeats in other countries. Fortunately, the
payoff is substantial: expanding your business to include bidders all
around the world, while not without its risks, will make trading on
eBay more interesting, more challenging, and more profitable.
Accepting International Payments
When you send payment instructions to customers in other countries,
there are a few considerations you'll need to make
in addition to those outlined in [Hack #66].
First, always keep the language barrier in mind. If your
bidder's native language is different from yours,
keep your sentences short and avoid slang. Bidders in other countries
expect you to write in your own language, but they will usually not
have perfect command of it. If you find that the bidder is having a
hard time understanding you, you can always try including a
translation of your instructions, as described in [Hack #30]. Just make sure
it's placed alongside your original text in the
email, so the bidder gets the complete picture.
Second, be patient. International transactions take longer, partly
because of the delays caused by time zone differences and language
barriers, and partly because sending payments internationally can be
difficult and time consuming.
Finally, be extremely clear about the types of payments you can
accept and the types you cannot. Here are some considerations when
accepting payments from other countries:
PayPal. Buyers in nearly 50 countries around the world have access to PayPal,
but only those in United States can confirm their addresses. This
means that if you accept a payment from a non-U.S. customer, it
won't be covered by PayPal's Seller
Protection policy, explained in [Hack #67].
Credit cards. The incidence of fraud among credit card payments made by non-U.S.
bidders is unfortunately much higher than payments originating from
the United States. For this reason, you may wish to impose a limit,
either on the amount you'll accept or on the minimum
feedback rating of customers from whom you'll take a
credit card. If you contact your merchant account provider,
they'll probably tell you the same thing; see [Hack #75] for details.
Payments by mail. Any payment received by postal mail is subject to the terms imposed
by your bank. Before you instruct an international bidder to mail you
a money order, for instance, make sure your bank will accept payment,
and try to determine if any additional fees will be incurred. In most
cases, an international postal money order will
be accepted without additional fees. But probably the best way is to
use BidPay, introduced in [Hack #29],
which allows a buyer in one country to send a payment in the
seller's native currency.
Although eBay does a fair job in converting currencies right on the
auction page, the conversion rates they use are not necessarily the
same as those used by the buyer's or
seller's bank. To give your customers a more
accurate estimate of how much they'll need to send
you in their own native currency, contact your bank to get the latest
exchange rates. Or use the Oanda Currency Converter at www.oanda.com/converter/classic for a quick
Shipping to Other Countries
In many ways, shipping internationally is no different from shipping
domestically. It just usually costs a lot more and takes a lot
Most couriers offer a different assortment of shipping options for
international shipments, all of which are explained on your
courier's web site. Regardless of the courier or
shipping option you choose, though, you'll need to
include the appropriate customs forms:
United States Postal Service
(USPS). Include customs form 2976 with all uninsured international packages,
or form 2976-A (inside a 2976-E envelope) if you're
insuring your package. You can get these forms at your local post
office branch. Go to ircalc.usps.gov for exclusions and
UPS. International shipments with these couriers require a commercial
invoice, a generic form where you'll describe the
individual contents of the package and specify their value and
country of origin. Then, depending on the destination country,
you'll need to include three to five copies along
with the original. Place all forms in a single clear pouch, the same
kind as is used for shipping labels. You can download a blank
commercial invoice form in Adobe Acrobat format from www.ups.com or www.fedex.com in their respective
"international documents" sections.
It's important to understand that somewhat different
forms and procedures may be required for different countries. If
you've never shipped to a particular country before,
make sure to contact the courier and ascertain any restrictions or
additional requirements that may apply your package. For example,
according to UPS, no packages shipped to Mexico may contain any
products made in China. And according to FedEx, packages to Canada
require one original and five copies of the commercial invoice,
packages to Puerto Rico require only three copies, while some other
countries require only originals (no copies). In other words,
there's no hard-and-fast formula that applies in all
If you really want to be on the safe side, you might also consider
researching so-called "denied
parties." For example, FedEx offers the Denied Party
Screening tool, which searches for your customer's
name among governmental lists of countries, individuals, companies,
and other organizations that have had economic and trade sanctions
imposed against them. You can try this out by going to https://gtm.fedex.com/cgi-bin/gtm_dps.cgi.
When shipping internationally,
take a moment to prepare your customers for any delays (expected or
otherwise) that the package might encounter before it arrives. For
example, the United States Postal Service web site (www.usps.com) estimates that a one-pound
package sent from the U.S. to the United Kingdom via airmail parcel
post will take anywhere from 4 to 10 days. In practice, however, it
may take two or three times as long, given the delays imposed by
customs and other unforeseen circumstances.
For this reason, a delivery that takes two weeks might be seen in two
different lights, depending on what you've told the
customer. If the customer expects the package in 10 days, then
she'll be disappointed, and you may be thanked with
negative feedback for shipping too slowly. But if you say it will
take a month, the recipient will be pleasantly surprised when it gets
there in half the time. See [Hack #39]
for more information.
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