Post Office Puzzler
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Poll: Who should pay the additional charge as outlined above?

Buyer Pays Additional Shipping Charge 44%       44%  [ 7 ]
Seller Pays Additional Shipping Charge 25%       25%  [ 4 ]
Buyer and Seller Split Additional Shipping Charge 31%       31%  [ 5 ]
Total votes : 16

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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:44 pm 
 

Here's a puzzler:  

I got a package from an eBay win a couple years back that was sent media mail by the seller, but the post office opened it en route, determined it was not media (TSR's Awful Green Things from Outer Space) and then sent it the rest of the way to my home demanding I pay for first class since it was a game, not a book.  I paid the few bucks, otherwise it would have been shipped back to the seller.  I contacted the seller to see what he would say, and I got a, "Oh, that's terrible, sorry about that," but no offer of reimbursement.  
Should the seller have offered to pay for all or some of the additional cost?

  


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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:59 pm 
 

Howdy,


That is why I don't use media mail anymore. It is a pain. Occasionally, I get a guy who has never seen me before at the PO and they actually ask me to open a package. Sorry but I don't have all day to stand at the PO opening and closing packages, especially when I have 50-60 of them.

Priority mail is altogether more convenient and has free shipping envelopes and boxes.

I had a fellow from my last auction demand Media Mail. He explained that it would save me PayPal costs. The difference? $1. Big whoop.


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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:59 pm 
 

If the auction posted that the item would be sent by media mail, the buyer should have known not to have the seller send it by media mail. In this case, the extra should be paid by the buyer, as it is what he should have paid in the first place, anyway.

If the seller did not post that he would be shipping via media mail, and then ships via media mail without the buyer's knowledge, the seller should pay back the buyer the extra costs; he tried to pull one over on the buyer and the USPS, and got caught. If he doesn't pay the buyer for the additional costs, he should get a negative with the reason why.


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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:11 pm 
 

jamesmishler wrote:If the auction posted that the item would be sent by media mail, the buyer should have known not to have the seller send it by media mail. In this case, the extra should be paid by the buyer, as it is what he should have paid in the first place, anyway.

If the seller did not post that he would be shipping via media mail, and then ships via media mail without the buyer's knowledge, the seller should pay back the buyer the extra costs; he tried to pull one over on the buyer and the USPS, and got caught. If he doesn't pay the buyer for the additional costs, he should get a negative with the reason why.


Ah, you should be our resident Ethicist like Randy Cohen in the New York Times Sunday magazine.  

Let me add this additional information:
I paid $7.45 for shipping, but the package only cost a little over $4 via media mail (as indicated on the box when the seller originally sent it).  I did not know how the seller was going to send the package, just that I would pay $7.45, which I did.  The box was a used box and it was packed with old, crumpled newspapers so not extra handling fee there.

  

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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:14 pm 
 

This has come up once with me before . . . I shipped a Battletech boxed set by media mail and received a "nice" letter from post office that a package I sent had been deemed "ineligible" for media mail and they were forwarding it on to the recipient postage due.

Of course, being the nice guy I am :D , I immediately contacted the buyer, informed him of this and let him know that I could send a check/paypal for the difference.

For their part, they were nice, it was only a few dollars more and they covered it on their own.

In the post office's defense, I never should have sent it - it obviously "rattled' around in the package (damn plastic minis . . . ). I have since decided not to send box sets by media mail (Parcel or Priority only - unless it is one box amongst a large group of other books . . .)


To answer your question though . . . I think you judge these on a case by case basis. When it is newbie ebay user just trying to sell some stuff and make a little pocket change, I would cover it myself. When it is a reseller or other store (or any ebay user with extensive feedback who should "know" better) then I would expect them to pay the shipping.

Or, in your case, if the seller does a lousy packaging job, overcharges you quite a bit on handling and sticks you with an even higher cost, then I would expect them to cover it.


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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:17 pm 
 

How about an outsiders opinion

If the item was being sent media mail and the Post office caught it and charged extra, I think the Buyer should pay the extra, not the seller.  The buyer is the one recieving the item, the media mail seems like a crapshoot at best.  If it goes media then stand up and cheer, otherwise pay up.

This leads to another question:  If the post office feels media mail is effective and works, why have another rate at all?  

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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:36 pm 
 

But media is not really a crapshoot . . . I have probably sent out over 1,000 media mail packages and only had the one problem (which was obviously my fault).

Of course, the "key" is to not let things "bump" around suspiciously.  If it "sounds" like it might not be books, they are more likely to open it.


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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:46 pm 
 

When buying, I always ask how something is to be shipped before I even bid. That way there are no mistakes. I refuse to bid on items that will be shipped Parcel Post if the ship charges are absurd, as is the case with the Dragon Mag CD's up for sale. $10 for 5 USPS Ground CD's is a joke.

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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 8:58 pm 
 

VermilionFire wrote:Let me add this additional information:
I paid $7.45 for shipping, but the package only cost a little over $4 via media mail (as indicated on the box when the seller originally sent it). I did not know how the seller was going to send the package, just that I would pay $7.45, which I did. The box was a used box and it was packed with old, crumpled newspapers so not extra handling fee there.


Then you were screwed, pretty much, and the guy tried to profit by shipping improperly. The guy deserves at best a neutral, if the product was in good shape, assuming he was just a fool; if he was a jerk about it (I duinno how the exchange went), he deserved a negative.


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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:06 pm 
 

I didn't check the boardgame (TSR's Awful Green Things from Outer Space) right away because the auction said it was complete and the seller's feedback was excellent.  A few months later I checked and found it was missing 14 counters.  I bought it for about $40 and ended up selling it on eBay with an accurate description for around $4.    :?

  


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Post Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:28 pm 
 

Further to another thread... this is exactly happened to me recently when sending a package. I received a payment for sending a lot via media mail, the post office refused to let me send it as such, thus I had to send it another way which was more expensive. The rest is history, so to speak :oops:, but it certainly taught me a lesson. I tend to think at the very least the two parties should split the cost when this happens.

Something to point out about media mail. In my experience, media mail has been exceedingly slow to arrive, and on more than one occassion packages have been treated very, very poorly in route. I don't trust media mail for normal or reasonable sized packages, it simply isn't worth the savings of a few dollars to have to wait 2-3 or sometimes 6 weeks for it to arrive looking like it was run over by a truck. For well packed 25lb+ packages, that's a different story. Here though, I'm running into the whole "board games aren't media mail" debate with certain clerks.

Anyway, ymmv.

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Post Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:42 am 
 

According to the USPS website, media mail includes "books, sound recordings, recorded video tapes, printed music, and recorded computer-readable media (such as CDs, DVDs, and diskettes). Media Mail can not contain advertising except for incidental announcements of books."

RPG rulebooks count, as do modules. Board games, however, do not qualify as media mail; this includes games with paper chits or counters, as well as games with plastic pieces. Strictly speaking, if you mail a book along with a letter, it cannot count as media mail; the same goes for a boxed RPG with dice and/or cardboard stand-up figures (like various Battletech editions or the early D&D boxed sets). A boxed set like the Wilderlands of High Fantasy boxed set might depend on the local carrier; the maps may very well disqualify it, as they are separate, and not a part of the book. The module B10: Night's Dark Terror does not count as media mail if complete, even if the counters are unpunched.

Basically, as far as the kinds of products RPG collectors are concerned with, if it isn't just a book, with no extraneous items, it doesn't count as media mail. The USPS has really cracked down since eBay increased shipping dramatically...


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Post Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:29 am 
 

A quick sidebar: as RPG collectors, we have it easy when compared to the comic book crowd.

Technically speaking, comics should not be sent via media mail (with some exceptions from independent publishers, they all contain advertising). However, many folks in the comics crowd argue — and I happen to agree — that the vast majority of comics shipments contain advertising that is no longer relevant: the prices are no longer valid, the movies are no longer in theaters, the toys are no longer manufactured, etc.

Add to this the fact that most comics buyers (at least in my experience) are desperate to lower their shipping costs, especially for big eBay lots, and you've got the recipe for an interesting debate. As mentioned a couple of times in this thread, it often comes down to whatever USPS clerk or mail-carrier you happen to be talking with at the time. I'm lucky: most of my USPS guys have gotten to know me and will let me ship virtually anything at whatever rate I choose, provided my packaging is secure. YMMV, as the kids say ...

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Post Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:32 am 
 

BTW, some interesting RPG / comic book shipping thoughts can also be found on this older thread (it really picks up toward the end):

viewtopic.php?t=1419&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=40

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Post Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:12 pm 
 

The Collector's Trove wrote:Howdy,


That is why I don't use media mail anymore. It is a pain. Occasionally, I get a guy who has never seen me before at the PO and they actually ask me to open a package. Sorry but I don't have all day to stand at the PO opening and closing packages, especially when I have 50-60 of them.


Paul


    Paul, that is always so mindboggling when someone says a postal employee tells them that!!!  8O Maybe it's only at the smaller post offices.  How on earth do they have time to have you open packages?  Do you not have lines at those post offices?
    I live in the Dallas Fort Worth area, and everytime you go to the PO there is a line about 10-20 people long with a 15-30 min wait. It is simply inconcievable that any of them would dare to take the time to open up either one package or god forbid multiple packages to ascertain contents.  In all honestly, I believe they would be fired or reassigned very quickly if they tried that...the whole idea in the D/FW post offices seems to be MOVE THESE FUCKERS ALONG AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.  Occasionally I get the cursory "This is all printed or recorded matter, correct?" or "No personal correspondance, correct?" from a newbie employee, but I've never had a packaged opened in 14 years of mailing (at least to the US, to another country is another matter) and never seen anyone have to open one while in line at my local PO's during that time. Let's put it this way, their time is more valuable than mine.  I can afford to sit there for an hour for them to peel open 25 packages and then tape them up again, there is no way they can afford to take an employee off assignment that long to open all my packages and then just find out they are all legit....
    If I had your overly curious post office employee in my area Paul, I do believe I would save up a weeks worth of media mail, bring them all there and let them open and then repackage them all at their leisure. I'd bring a book, newspaper, my cell phone, an ipod, etc and spend the time getting my reading and such done.  Then I'd giggle at the unholy mess because I'd be extra sure to pack those suckers full of styrofoam peanuts (those things fly EVERYWHERE).  Then during the entire endeavor I'd bitch, bitch, bitch , ask for the supervisor, ask how I can write a report against them (I think it's a number you call now instead of report you file).  Then, just to be a jerk, I'd do it AGAIN the next week.  I think your problem would be solved pretty quick.  They'd avoid you like postal anthrax.

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Post Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:55 pm 
 

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and it happens all the time, lines or no lines. They ask about it a lot, and frequently suggest or hint they need to look inside first, or can if they so choose.

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Post Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:43 pm 
 

Again . . . just say it is "books" and don't look guilty. 8)

Here are my impressions on media mail (and from talking with all the post office employees at my local station who are so nice to me! In fact, today, Angela just showed me a dozen new pictures of her kids and asked me how my daughter was doing . . . sometimes, I glance back at the line forming behind me with a kind of "guilty" look for the other customers' having to wait, but she just says: "oh, don't worry about them . . ." :D )

Anyway . . . where was I? Okay, the post office is only going to "waste" time on suspicious packages. Anyone who has ever purchased books/modules from me knows that I package everything securely between two pieces of cardboard - I also tape the hell out of it and bag all the items. I also (especially on media mail) usually put quite a bit of packaging tape over the whole envelope.

So, who is ever going to question this being sent Media mail? It appears to be a book, feels like a book and to check it, they would have to literally "rip" the envelope apart . . . only then to be faced with the cardboard. They would then have to take all this apart . . . only to be faced with an apparent "book" in a collector sleeve (so even if it had cardboard counters, they'd have to take it out of the sleeve to find out!)

Then they'd have to repackage it . . . provide their own envelope, probably re-address it as they may very well tear the whole thing open to get at it . . . plus I am usiing pre-printed ebay labels - so they would have to try and get the same tracking slip on the new envelope . . .

It's just not going to happen . . . . :D The employees that check don't really care, they certainly aren't looking to spend 20 minutes on this project. They want to check boxes that "shake" and rattle. A quick slit across the top, glance in, see if it is a book or not and then move on.

I am sure this helps me with international packages as well . . . as I've said before, the customs employees aren't looking to make their job any harder by slowly disassembling a carefully packaged item. "books are books" - move on to the next easily identified "suspicious" package.


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Post Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 3:01 pm 
 

jpipes wrote:I tend to think at the very least the two parties should split the cost when this happens.


The problem with this is, that you listed the lower shipping in the auction. Bidders take this into account when bidding. If you had listed the accurate shipping of $40, the buyer may have bid $30 less. Sometimes sellers put in low shipping charges or free shipping to attract more or higher bids. How is a buyer to know? So you would possibly still be out the same amount of money if you listed the shipping accurately. Really, I feel it is the seller's responsibility to know the shipping *before* starting an auction. If you are going to jack up the shipping after the auction ends, you should discount the buyer's bid by the exact same amount of money.

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Post Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 3:51 pm 
 

It's impossible to know the exact shipping costs though, considering they vary depending on the location of the buyer. What costs $17 to send to LA might cost $37 to send to Maine. How does one factor that into it? The way I see it, is to use the ebay postage listing of "buyer pays actual shipping" versus trying to estimate the charges. It's a tough nut either way and gets a lot harder as lots get larger and heavier. For normal items, it has never been an issue...

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Post Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 4:01 pm 
 

Shipping is the same rate for media mail regardless of location. Rates are determined by how many pounds.

Priority mail is a factor of weight and zip code. Of course, you can use a flat rate envelope for $4.05 (same rate everywhere) or a flat rate box for $8.10 (same everywhere). By the way, you can easily fit any box set in a flat rate box or about 15-25 modules, or 4 hardcover books, etc.

If the lot is too big for a flat rate box, then use the ebay postage calculator which will create an accurate postage cost based on the buyers zip code and the sellers zip. (you need to input the weight - if you need to, estimate a few pounds on the high side - you can always send a refund for overpayment).  When you sell your item, choose the shipping option for "calculated" postage.

Postage tables can be found at these links:

http://www.usps.com/consumers/domestic.htm

or just www.usps.com

or for the international rates:

http://ircalc.usps.gov/


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