Regular readers know that eBay 3rd Party Provider Auctiva and I have a somewhat sordid history. I was a big fan of their service and used it frequently when they were free and, while I had no problem with them charging for their services (they were really offering almost too much for free) I had a huge problem with the way they handled their big virus scare, taking too long to get info out and blaming users for not knowing what was going on when the info was on the website. You know, the website that was blocked for having a virus. So they did lose some trust from me on that count.

But while many sellers marched off after this, I stayed because no matter what else, there was still something Auctiva had that was very useful to me. Their discounted insurance.

I’ve sang the praises of their insurance here in the past. They offer insurance both for domestic and international packages, no matter what the carrier. They also give you the option to automatically insure everything you send out which can be very helpful. Their prices are a big savings over USPS rates as well and they are a la carte, meaning I can use them today and then ignore them for 6 months if that fits my needs with no monthly costs or other issues. They have been my go to insurance carrier even more so now that eBay has changed their insurance policy so that the cost of insurance always comes out of my pocket. You can see their rate table here if you want to compare against your current carrier. I buy Auctiva insurance anytime I am shipping something expensive or fragile via USPS and for the occasional times that FedEx or UPS’s protection doesn’t cover the cost.

Another thing I like about it is that you don’t have to buy insurance at the time of shipment so if its 24 hours later and you realize you forgot to insure something, you still can.

I was pleased with the price but I had never gone through the claims process. You hate to hope something would happen but I started to get worried after a few years with no incident that I didn’t know how their claims process was. After all, if they wouldn’t give me my money back, what good are the savings in cost?

I’ve since had three different issues with packages that I insured with Auctiva since the end of last year. Obviously, it is the carrier’s, not Auctiva’s fault. But I still don’t know what their insurance claims process is like. Why? Well unlike USPS, UPS and FedEx which all allow the sender start the insurance claim with the participation of the recipient necessary only some of the time, the Auctiva claims process starts out requiring something of the buyer. I’ve never made it past the first step all three times.

To quote their website:

Claim Instructions

Please note: All claims must be filed within 90 days of the ship date. Also, if the claim is for lost shipments you must wait before filing:

  1. 21 days for domestic shipments
  2. 60 days for shipments to Italy
  3. 45 days for shipments to all other international locations (including shipments from the US to Canada)

Claim Instructions:

  1. Verify your contact information.
  2. Download, print, and sign the Fraud Prevention Statement.
  3. Fill out the claim form completely.
  4. Print out and include the Auctiva Shipping Insurance Confirmation above.
  5. Obtain from the buyer a signed copy of the Fraud Prevention Statement as well as a letter confirming the loss or damage of the item(s). 
  6. Mail completed claim form and supporting documents to:
    5703 Corsa Avenue, 2nd Floor
    Westlake Village, CA 91362
    Or Fax to: 818-971-3325

If you have any questions, please call our office at 800-955-4623, option 4 for claims.

(I’m not sure if all of the links above will work if you aren’t logged into your Auctiva account so you may want to log in first to be safe).

To recap, you, the seller/sender, need to get the buyer to sign a copy of the Fraud Prevention Statement and write a sentence about the damage/issue on the claim form. The claim form actually expresses this is much simpler terms and is much less confusing than the words above are. But the buyer has to do these two (albeit simple) things before you, the seller, can even begin the claims process.

I don’t see these as unreasonable requests on Auctiva’s part. They even have a nice little email form that is a one click process that requests this info from the buyer for you. It makes sense to me to have the recipient describe the issue. They were the one who it happened to, after all, I’m the one who put it safely in the mail. This is a pretty reasonable request and, let’s be honest, will take less than a minute to fill out and return to the seller.

But you’re reading The Whine Seller so you know that there has to be a “but” coming up.

All three times I ran into problems on Auctiva insured items, this is what happened:

  • Buyer emailed to say there was an issue.
  • I emailed back and said Sorry, etc, let’s file the claim. I explained in detail what I needed them to do, stressing it would take less than a minute, and sent them the forms and Auctiva pre-made email.
  • All three times, buyer responded with something to the effect of, “It’s OK, I don’t really care about damage/package etc. Nevermind.”

I can only think of two reasons this keeps going down this way:

  • What I think is least likely: Buyer was trying to scam me and was unwilling to sign a fraud prevention report because they realized they could be found out.
  • What I think is most likey: Buyer is too lazy to fill out the form. It doesn’t matter that it only actually requires a sentence from them and their name, they think it’s going to be a lot of work and don’t want to do it.

Now all of my buyers ignored my follow up pleas to fill out the paperwork which would take no time at all and didn’t leave feedback. But what if they were jerks? After all, it’s my responsibility to insure the package so what if they demand a refund. I’d have to give it to them and then be out of luck because I couldn’t get my money back from Auctiva without their active participation in the claim process. Or what if they leave me bad feedback because they didn’t get their money back, even though that was their own fault for not filling out the form. I don’t like the idea of either one bit.

While on paper I don’t think anything is out of line with Auctiva’s claim process and it makes sense to me, in an eBay world, I have to point out that it puts the seller at a very strange disadvantage that they don’t even have a way to start the claim without the buyer’s participation. Why couldn’t the process work like it does everywhere else where the sender starts the claim and then the carrier (in this case Auctiva) follows up with the buyer instead of putting the nag responsibility on the seller? I understand that Auctiva does it this way to save on man power and get everything up front but there is a definite flaw in the system as is.

But in the end, its the buyer’s own damn fault of they don’t want to take two seconds to fill out a form that will give them their money back. Though any eBay seller will happily tell you that no buyer will see it that way.

While there hasn’t been an adverse effect on my business so far, I can see how it could become a problem in the future. Is the risk of angering buyers by asking them to fill out a form in the event of an issue enough to warrant not using Auctiva insurance at all? So far, I’ve decided not, I’m still using Auctiva insurance. But it is something to think about.

What do you think? If anyone has used the Auctiva insurance claims process and wants to add their experience below, please do!