I don’t know about you guys but this happens to us all the time.

  • Customer asks for combined shipping on eBay and is particularly concerned about getting the lowest possible shipping cost.
  • We say no problem and tell them commit to buy the items on eBay and then we’ll send them a combined invoice manually to make sure it has the cheapest price as the automatically generated eBay invoice often isn’t the cheapest option. (We usually even give them a key phrase to look for in the combined invoice so they can be sure that it’s the manual one from us.)
  • They commit to buy the items and send us a total request.
  • Then they just pay for all the items individually bypassing both eBay’s default combined shipping AND mine.

In other words, say they are buying 5 items where, bought individually, the shipping cost is $5 each. eBay defaults to our combined shipping settings which lets them pay for all five items together for, say, $7 shipping. I send them a manual invoice where they can pay for all 5 items together for $6 shipping. Yet they instead make 5 separate payments with that $5 shipping on each adding up to $25 shipping for those same items.

They behavior flummoxes me and it happens so often that I assume there has to be something stupid on eBay’s part that the buyer sees that confuses them into doing this. WHY it happens is a discussion for another time but I’m left with what to do when it happens. Especially because, 99% of the time, the buyer doesn’t notice what they did and ends up thanking me for the combined shipping anyway. What do I do?

  1. I could ship all the items separately or upgrade the shipping so there’s no shipping over-payment but dang does that seem dumb for me to pay more shipping than I need to on my end because the buyer messed up.
  2. I could refund all the individual sales and resend the combined invoice and ask them to pay for everything at once through there. I used to do this when I was a teenager because it seemed like the right thing to do but all it did was anger customers who thought I was running some kind of scam and making them pay me twice. Not to mention that, with the new PayPal fees, I don’t get back that $.30 a transaction if I refund. So I’d annoy the customer and be out some cash for my trouble.
  3. I could refund part of what they paid to equal the discounted shipping they should have gotten. Except I’ve now paid 5 PayPal fees instead of one because they didn’t pay for the listings all together so I’m not inclined to give them the same shipping discount I originally offered. And sometimes the difference between what I’d owe them back in shipping and what they paid means I’m refunding one entire item which confuses the heck out of everyone involved.
  4. I could point out their mistake and ask what they want me to do. I also do this all the time and it puts me in the same situation as 2 and 3 above.
  5. Nothing. Like I said, they rarely notice. Of the MANY times this has happened, only one buyer ever actually noticed on their own. If I’m going to be thanked for combined shipping I never give, my shoulder devil asks, why go through the trouble of refunding and just keep the extra?

Here’s the thing you likely guessed: I always tell the buyer when they made an error like this and fix it with money back even if I lose money in the end. From a seller standpoint, it feels really stupid to because, even though I’m doing it to be nice, it almost always backfires in my face. I lose the sale, I get hosed in PayPal fees, the buyer gets mad at me, etc. I know I should just keep my mouth shut and let them over pay.

But I can’t. It just feels morally wrong, you know? But, if the buyer didn’t care enough to double check what they were doing, why should I worry about it?

What would you do?