You and I need to talk.

No, I don’t care where you sell, if its Amazon, Bonanzle, eCrater, eBay, whatever, this discussion affects us all. Anyone who sells anything online, no matter what the platform, is a part of this if they ship internationally.

Yeah, well, you’d think that, wouldn’t you? It seems like its none of my business how you do things but really, it is. Because your actions set the precedent by which my buyers judge me.

I’m not going to mark my items as gift. I’m not going to lie on the customs form (especially since the USPS ties the value you list on the customs form to the value you get loss coverage for). Not only it is a federal offense and could get me in big trouble or cost me loss protection, it’s not right. Call me a goody-two-shoes if you like but I’m not big on breaking the law. It’s how I roll. I also ship internationally for well over half my sales. It’s too big a risk to have to play law-dodger for all those items.

And I understand why you do lie on your customs forms or mark as gift. Your international buyers don’t want to pay the customs fees and even though the customs fees aren’t your fault, you don’t want them to be mad at you and leave bad feedback. Maybe you figure since you only ship internationally once in a while, it’s not a big deal.

But here’s why I needed to pull you aside for this little chat. Because, after they buy with you, your buyers come to me and start asking me to mark that item they bought for $300 as under $5 or as a gift. And I’m not going to do it because I want the loss coverage and the whole not breaking the law thing and what do they say to me? They start to talk to me about you and your buddies. “Lots of sellers lie on the customs forms,” they tell me, “it’s not a big deal.” Then I have to turn around and explain to them why it is a big deal and they are always shocked, SHOCKED!

“Lots of sellers do it, I thought it was allowed!”
“I ask for this all the time and no on ever told me it wasn’t allowed!”
“I ask for them to lie all the time, I feel so bad that I was asking them to do something wrong and had no idea!”

You have created this situation. If sellers like you weren’t happily lying on forms and marking as gift, buyers wouldn’t expect us to break the law for their convenience. Stop and think of how weird this situation is. So many people are lying on customs forms and marking as gift that it has become the precedent. Many online buyers have an expectation that sellers will do this. They are expecting you to do the dishonest wrong thing instead of the legal, right thing because, inexplicably, some people (like you) are doing it.

But I understand where it comes from. I started on selling online back in the late 90s and had no clue what I was doing just like you. And when that first buyer yelled at me for a customs fee and said, “Why didn’t you mark it as a gift?” I thought, Golly! OK, next one I will mark as a gift. Because I didn’t know any better and there was little info about it online  so I genuinely had no idea what I was doing other than honoring the request of a buyer.

But there is no excuse for behavior like that anymore. There is ample verbiage about the practice online. There is even a whole eBay policy to protect sellers against bad feedback resulting from putting the real value on the customs form and I wouldn’t be surprised if other platforms followed suit. There is really no excuse anymore.

So the next time you fudge your customs form and think that you are sticking it to “the man” or harming no one, think about the next seller that buyer purchases from. You’re setting up a dangerous expectation that the next seller is going to be just a willing to help them dodge customs fees and, if that seller is me, I sure as shootin’ am not.

My business is too important to me to risk just so I can fulfill expectations that you and your business set.