Lessons Learned from Selling on eBay — How to Overcome a Holiday Shipping Crisis

Selling on eBay and international shipping during holiday season

By Viktor Levitin, CEO and Founder of CrazyLister.com.

Viktor Levitin and his team have been selling on eBay since 2008. This story is about how they salvaged their business when faced with an international shipping holiday crisis.

It was the most wonderful (and stressful) time of the year for online retailers selling on eBay — winter was approaching and Christmas was well on its way. Everything was smooth sailing for our small band of sellers and affiliate drop shippers in China.

By optimizing our product listings using CrazyLister (an eBay listing software we developed), we received a staggering influx of orders, mainly in electronics and car GPS systems. We actually increased our sales by 220 percent — a Pyrrhic victory in sheer sales madness! Suffice it to say, we bit off a little more than we could chew.

Then the unthinkable happened. China Post – the postal service used by our product suppliers – crashed due to the torrential flood of holiday shipments.

At best, parcels were indefinitely delayed and at worst, items were completely lost. With thousands of dollars’ worth of our precious cargo flying around the world, this was an absolute detriment for our small team of online retailers.

Within days, we received an onslaught of complaints from our customers, concerned about the encroaching Christmas deadline. When would they be receiving a tracking number? When would they be receiving their items? We were up to our ears in PayPal disputes and heaps of negative feedback on eBay.

Our shipping courier, China Post, notified us that all items were to be redistributed back to the shipping depot. Consequently, we had to act fast; we had to give our customers definitive answers. Time was ticking.

That’s when an idea struck us. We raced to contact every client individually, appealed to our customers as real people — small business owners, not anonymous eBay sellers — and told them the truth about our shipment delay.

We took an even bigger risk by giving our customers the choice to either:

  1. Receive a full refund (in addition to assuming the full cost for shipping and waiving all restocking fees)
  2. Have their items rerouted back to the shipping depot, resulting in a post-holiday delivery

Above all, we focused all our energy on ensuring complete customer satisfaction. We would have surely gone bankrupt if we had refunded all our customers, but that was the risk we were willing to take. We stuck to our guns and our principles, hoping our decision hadn’t destroyed our fledgling business.

So, how did our customers respond?

Luckily, our story ends happily. Our customers appreciated our forthcoming behavior, so much so that over 80 percent of them requested that we resend the items to them, despite the delay. With a little elbow grease and a lot of honesty as well as acute responsiveness to customer care, we managed to save our business from an international shipping disaster during the holiday season.

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