This article covers two methods of protection for sellers on online marketplaces such as eBay.
The first method is with tracking numbers. The second method is delivery with signature confirmation. We’ll cover the differences in protection and what to do when you’re faced with a claim.
With tracked delivery, the postal service provides a tracking number that shows the progress of the item.
Usually, the postal service will have a website area that allows you to enter the tracking details and view the status of the item.
This could be at Sorting Office A, in transit to Depot B, or what you want to see most: “Delivered”.
Tracking doesn’t mean the buyer received the item
It’s important to realize that “Delivered” isn’t a guarantee that the item has been placed into the grateful hands of the buyer.
Many people report issues with delivery by some postal services. Sometimes the item is chucked onto the porch. Or it may have been handed to a helpful neighbor.
In either case, the postal worker dutifully records the item as delivered.
The well-meaning buyer may well fall victim to items disappearing from their porch.
Alternatively, the helpful neighbor could take off on vacation that day. They’ve forgotten all about that package they put into their closet.
In other words, “Tracked Delivery” may not mean “Signed For By the Buyer.” However, this may not matter to you.
What you want to know is will you be protected from having to refund the buyer (or resend the item).
Will PayPal cover the issues?
As of this time of writing, if the item was paid for with PayPal and meets certain other requirements then you have “seller protection” if the item was sent with “Tracked Delivery”.
In the event of the buyer claiming they did not receive the item, you should not be required to refund the money. One of those requirements is the value of the goods.
This threshold changes, so be sure to check what cover you have by going online to eBay or PayPal’s help center.
PayPal Signature Confirmation
If you’re using PayPal, you can avail of one more level of protection: Signature Confirmation.
This is necessary for seller protection if the value of your goods is over a certain amount. You should check the latest thresholds on the PayPal website.
It’s important to know that for high-value goods, then solely using tracking numbers won’t be enough for protection.
Signature confirmation gives both tracking details and an additional level of proof of a signature that the goods have been received.
Disadvantages of signature confirmation
The downside to the seller is that this will usually be the most expensive method of posting.
It is also the most onerous and annoying method for the Buyer. They are either hanging around waiting for the goods, or they have to schlep to some postal depot at the far side of town.
Many sellers avoid “losing” buyers by avoiding this layer of protection. This is your judgment call on the risk of loss due to an Item Not Received claim by the buyer.
So is “Signed for Delivery” the absolute and final guarantee that a Buyer won’t’ try to claim a refund due to Item Not Received? Unfortunately not.
Problems with signature confirmation
Think of the last time you “signed” for a delivery using the scanner handed out by the delivery person.
You tucked the item under your arm while balancing the hand-held scanning device against the side of the delivery van. You scratched awkwardly with a stylus pen a few scrawls that bear some semblance of your name.
Some sellers are experiencing buyers who simply claim that they didn’t provide a signature and they don’t recognize the version the postal service has recorded.
Here is one case recounted by a frustrated seller on a forum:
“The item was duly posted off the next working day via [company name removed] with tracking to the buyer’s business premises. The buyer later informs me he has not received although the tracking details give an exact time of delivery.
However, the buyer claims he does not recognize the signature provided. [Postal company] are adamant the item was correctly delivered and thus refuse to accept a ‘lost or damaged’ claim.”
What Happens If You’re Not Using PayPal
If PayPal was not used as the payment method, then it is up to the eBay representatives to adjudicate on a Buyer claim for a refund due to Item Not Received.
If eBay side with the Buyer, then the Seller has to resort to getting compensation for a refund from the delivery company.
If the delivery company digs in its heels, as in the example above, unfortunately, the Seller may need to resort to litigation.
Be Sure To Report All Issues With Signature Confirmation
Delivery companies do not look for additional identification from the person receiving the item. I’ve offered a driving license to a delivery person, only for it to be waved away.
This makes it possible for unscrupulous buyers to sign a different name, and then claim Item Not Received.
However, this is upping the stakes from a casual scam to a new level of fraud. It is likely in this event that the person is a serial scammer. They may already be “of interest” to the delivery service, or local policing authorities.
That makes it all the more important for the Seller to report this kind of issue to the delivery company. With enough reports, the company should start serious investigations.
Don’t lose sleep over this scenario
You shouldn’t worry too much about the scenario I’ve described.
I’ve trawled through the online forums where many instances of Items Not Received issues are reported by sellers. Note that there are only a few reports of scenarios where buyers have disputed delivery signatures.
Tips For Dealing With Claims
In most scenarios, when a buyer opens a case, you will simply upload the tracking details and let eBay sort it out.
It’s actually preferable to cut this situation off before it gets as far as a formal dispute. This is because the cases go onto your selling record. So, what can you do?
When a buyer contacts you saying they didn’t receive the item, send them the tracking details. That is often enough for the buyer to report that the item “turned up” the following day. Surprise!
Casual scammers are likely to be sending the email in the hope that the busy Seller will simply click the Refund button and move on. Getting the tracking details quashes their attempt straight away.
Many experienced sellers have a routine of posting the item and then emailing the tracking details on the same day to the Buyer.
These experienced sellers also have a standard template with advice to check with neighbors to see if they took the parcel as a favor. The advice goes on to suggest checking to see if friends or family members took the item off the porch for safekeeping.
If the buyer opens a formal case, then upload the tracking details immediately. Let eBay’s process kick into place.
What if you decide not to bother with tracking or signature? Check out our article on dealing with problems of false eBay Item Not Received claims when using standard post.
When you’re selling on an online marketplace like eBay, these articles will help you from running into big problems: