Archive | January, 2010

Spring 2010 Fee Update – EBay Thinks We Won’t Notice

27 Jan

America, Home of the Brave

“Americans” aren’t a particularly smart bunch.  Our offspring are among the stupidest worldwide.  It’s pretty easy to trick us.  We’re too busy to read the fine print.  We would rather pay less now, no matter how much it will cost later.  Credit card debt, Columbia House, and the Ab Rocker are a testament to that fact.  EBay has figured this out and takes advantage of our collective inability to reason and process calculations in our brains every chance it gets.  EBay isn’t alone.  All publicly traded companies are out to extract as much revenue as possible.   Today’s “Lowest Fees Ever” announcement is just another example of eBay cleverly masking fee increases and complicated changes with propaganda and slick headlines.

The Five Free Insertion Fee Scam

Several months ago, eBay came out with their most successful “fee decrease that’s actually an increase” yet.  The way you can tell if an eBay “sale” is a good one is by how much time they give you to prepare for it and how long it lasts.  This is true of most stores.  “Black Friday” ads, for example, come out on Thanksgiving Day and the best deals usually only last a few hours on Friday.  Prices found on page nine of the weekly Best Buy Ad in August are rarely as good.  When eBay announces a one day sale, often times less than 24 hours before it starts, there’s a good chance there might actually be some savings.  I still don’t recommend listing during eBay promotions, because they’re usually run during the slowest times of the year and eBay is usually flooded with crap, but at least there’s a decent opportunity to list some items with potential savings.  The way we know the “Five Free Insertion Fee” promotion is a sour deal for sellers is because it’s lasted for almost a year.  EBay is not in the business of losing money and there is an ulterior motive behind every listing promotion and policy change.

Although the “up front” cost of these “free listings” is zero, the final value fee of 8.75% almost always makes these listings more expensive than had the seller simply paid the regular insertion and final value fees.  Ask yourself this question.  Would I rather pay 3.5% in taxes or 8.75% in taxes?  Unless you really love supporting public education, the answer is 3.5%.  On eBay’s “five free listings” you’re paying the 8.75% rate on those listings when you could be paying 3.5% instead.  Read all about the particulars if you’re interested at EBay’s Five Free Listings Promotion Costs Sellers More Money.  Oddly enough, probably 97% of people listing on eBay think that the “free insertion fee promotion” is one of the best deals on the internet.

Changes to Auction Pricing

EBay is touting its new fee structure for auctions as “easy” because final value fees are 9% no matter the closing price.  This is different than the current structure, where final value fees decrease as auction price increases.  For example, if your item sold for $50, the final value fee on the amount from $0-$25 is 8.75%, or $2.19 and the final value fee on the amount from $25.01 to $50 is 3.5%, or 88 cents.  Confusing, I know.  Although the current variable rate structure is certainly more complicated than a flat rate, it is also much cheaper than a flat rate, as 3.5% is obviously much less than 8.75%.  I would rather be confused and pay less than be enlightened and pay more.  There’s also plenty of fee calculators out there that will tell you exactly how much your PayPal and eBay fees will be in any possible scenario.  Here’s a chart I stole from eBay User exclusively_red_tag showing the new final value fees compared with the current fees.

eBay Fee Structure Spring 2010

As we can see, the new final value fees are as much as 141% higher than the old fees.  If you sold say, 100 items a month for an average of $50, your new final value fees would add up to $450, or 9% of your $5000 revenue.  If you sold the same amount of items under current conditions, your final value fees would add up to $306, or 6.12%.  There is no way to make up this $144 difference in insertion fee savings.  Multiply that $144 a month by 12 months in a year and you have a fee increase of $1728 annually.  No vacation in 2010.

I guess I should mention that sellers without an “eBay Store” will have the insertion fee waived on up to 100 listings that start at 99 cents or less.  Listings that start at 99 cents or less cost a whopping 10 to 15 cents each at current prices. The total potential savings on insertion fees for a seller that lists all 100 “free” items at 99 cents or less is $15.  Based on the chart above, it’s not particularly difficult to rack up an extra $15 in final value fees on just a single item.  This would negate any potential savings instantaneously.

But There Is Another Fee Structure Too

If the new fee structure is “easy” then that means the old fee structure, used for the last decade plus, was uneasy.  Luckily, eBay will let us continue to use the more complicated, uneasy fee structure.  For a price.  EBay store subscribers have a separate final value fee structure for auctions that looks conspicuously similar to the old structure.  Of course, these fees have also gone up, but not nearly as much.  Does it seem like this is starting to get a little complicated to anyone else?  Multiple fee structures?  “Free” listings for some, but not for others?  Paying money for a store subscription merely for the chance at saving money in fees?  Things are starting to get a bit more interesting.

This is what auction final value fees will look like for store subscribers come April:

eBay Store Fee Structure

Let’s compare that with the current chart.

eBay Current Fee Structure

EBay is being even trickier than usual with this little picture.  If you look closely, eBay has expanded the 8.75% final value fee level from $25 all the way up to $50.  This means that instead of paying the current 3.5% on the price from $25.01-$50, you’ll be paying the full 8.75% fee.  Remember our $50 item example from earlier, where the first $25 cost $2.19 in fees, but the second $25 only cost 88 cents?  In April, each $25 increment will cost $2.19, for a total fee of $4.38, instead of the current $3.06.  The final value fee is also going up one half percent to 4% over $50 and 2% over $1000.

Let’s look at the stolen chart to see how this affects listings beginning in April.
EBay Store Fee

At least there aren’t any numbers in the triple digits.  Unfortunately, the percentage increase is the highest on auctions ending between $25 and $50.  Many of the items I sell fall into this range, as I have found it’s a sweet spot for many buyers who aren’t willing to spend any more on a site full of fraud and counterfeits.  EBay is a bit like gambling; never buy something for more than you’re willing to throw away.

When Opening An EBay Store Make Sense

It seems that subscribing to an eBay store is going to make a lot of sense here pretty soon.  I will go over the benefits of the store subscription along with the potential fee savings and costs in the next couple of days.


I think this is the greatest fee hike I’ve ever seen.  What’s annoying is that somehow eBay plays it off like their fees are getting lower – and people believe them.  When is the last time Starbucks raised prices 141% and somehow managed to convince people the prices were their lowest ever?  I’m not a big whiner, but I don’t like being treated as though I’m as stupid as my aptitude tests say I am.

We know eBay’s “fee decrease” is really an increase.  We know nothing eBay ever does is in our best interest.  But you’ve got to give them credit.  The “royal we” seems to be getting smaller and smaller.

Until next time, sell some stuff before it’s really gonna cost you.

EBay Beats Estimates – Revenue, Earnings, and Guidance Improve

20 Jan

EBay announced fourth quarter results today.  In regular trading, eBay stock dropped $1.03, or 4.43% to $22.23 amid a massive market wide sell-off.  The stock is currently trading above $23 after hours.  Analysts expected earnings of 40 cents a share on revenue of 2.29 billion dollars.  EBay performed better, with actual earnings of 44 cents per share on revenue of 2.37 billion dollars.  Revenue from the eBay marketplace grew 15% for the quarter to 1.5 billion and revenue from PayPal was up 28% to 795 million dollars.  EBay reported earnings of 1.36 billion dollars for the fourth quarter, up from 367 million dollars one year ago.  That’s an increase of about 370%.   EBay’s guidance in 2010 is in line with estimates.  The conference call is about to start, so we should know more momentarily.

EBay Is A Stronger Company Than Amazon – And I Can Sort Of Prove It

20 Jan

It’s earnings season for Amazon, eBay, and the rest of corporate America.  If you’re unfamiliar, it means that publically traded companies are about to announce how much money they made in the fourth quarter of 2009, among other things.  Every quarter, eBay’s arch-nemesis Auctionbytes throws up Nielsen’s traffic and visitor statistics to show how eBay is in decline while Amazon is flourishing.  In addition, eBay “bloggers” around the world go on about how eBay’s stock is in the toilet and the company is doomed.  Since really isn’t a normal website and I am by no definition a normal human being, I will spend the next few paragraphs playing the role of the devil.  I will prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that eBay is actually the stronger of the two companies.

First of all, eBay is more profitable than Amazon.  EBay has always been more profitable than Amazon.  Every single quarter of every single year, eBay’s profit is higher than Amazon’s.   Last quarter, Amazon had a profit of 199 million dollars.  EBay turned a profit of 350 million dollars last quarter, or 151 million dollars more than Amazon.  If profit is how we measure success then I could just stop now.  But, as you wish, I will continue.

A lot is said about Amazon’s stock price compared to eBay’s.  Amazon’s current stock price is $127.61, down 12.5% from its 52-week high of $145.91.  EBay’s current stock price is $23.26, down 9.8% from a 52-week high of $25.80.  Had you purchased $10,000 worth of eBay stock exactly one year ago, it would be worth $23,471 today.  That’s a profit of $13,471.  Had you purchased $10,000 worth of Amazon stock exactly one year ago, it would be worth $26,741 today.  That’s a profit of $16,741, or about $3,300 more profit than eBay.  Amazon is the better performer here, but not by nearly as much as the haters might suspect.  Let’s also not forget Amazon stock was worth a measly $34.68 just 14 months ago, down from a previous high of $101.  Had you purchased the stock for $101 and sold for $34, you would have lost almost $67 a share.  Not exactly the definition of a perennial power house.

Of the 22 independent stock ratings I have access to, Amazon is rated a “strong buy” from five, a “buy” from eight, and a “hold” from nine.  Standard & Poor’s rates Amazon three stars, or a hold, with a 12-month price target of $110.  Of the 21 independent stock ratings I have access to for eBay, five rate a “strong buy,” seven rate a “buy,” and nine rate a “hold.”  Standard & Poor’s rates eBay stock four stars, or a buy, with a 12-month price target of $26.  The ratings of the two stocks are almost exactly the same, although the fact that S&P projects Amazon stock to be about $20 lower in 12 months is a sign that many expect  that Amazon may not meet its lofty revenue and income goals.  Amazon’s rise in the last 14 months, from $34 to almost $146 is amazing, but it’s based mostly on guidance and expectations.  If Amazon is unable to meet those expectations, the stock will fall just as fast as it rose.  EBay is a victim of the exact opposite phenomenon.  We know what to expect from eBay, so their stock no longer rises and falls based on fairy tales and pipedreams.  Stock price is rarely any indication of how well a company is actually fairing, so it’s somewhat naïve to base any conclusions on current pricing trends.

Amazon’s traffic may be higher than eBay’s, but Amazon and eBay have two completely different business models and comparing their traffic is silly.  Amazon has earned the reputation of being one of the best e-tailers on the internet – and they deserve that reputation.  Their customer service is generally excellent and their prices and selection are some of the best found anywhere, both online and off.  When you “Google” a product, Amazon is usually at the top of the search results.  Many people check Amazon for pricing information and user reviews.  Forums like Slickdeals and Fatwallet link to Amazon in almost every thread for exactly the same purpose.  People are interested in what others think about products and Amazon’s product pages are usually the easiest way to find them.  On top of that, Amazon sells MP3 files similar to the iTunes store and Kindle books for its proprietary book reader.  They have also added fresh groceries, top of the line televisions, and a wide range of other products over the past few years.  All of this translates to increased traffic and unique visitors for Amazon.

On the other hand, eBay doesn’t sell anything.  They don’t manufacture the Kindle.  Selling fresh lettuce on eBay would likely get you suspended.  This is all fine and well as far as eBay is concerned.  Certainly they would like to increase unique visitors and overall traffic, but 50 million unique visitors a month is hardly slouching.  According to Alexa (owned by Amazon), is the eighth most visited website in the United States. is the seventh.  EBay trails by only one slot and they barely even do anything!  Imagine if they let us sell cabbage!  We also have no idea about the accuracy of these ratings.  Counting unique visitors isn’t an exact science.  Sometimes I load up some proxies on my Mom’s computer and tell her to refresh it a couple of times and then get excited when it says I received seven visitors instead of my usual three and a half.  For all we know Amazon outsourced jobs to India where poor little children just plug and unplug in their modems while refreshing all day.  You just never know.

Amazon also sells many of its products at a loss.  Remember that Amazon only made 100 million dollars profit on over five billion dollars in sales?  Exxon Mobil made a profit of about 110 times that during a quarter they characterized as “rough.”  Imagine if they had more than one product!  The pricing war with Wal-Mart has been well publicized this year, as the two dueled it out over books and video games.  It got to the point where Amazon was selling books for less than it cost independent bookstores to buy them from the publisher, so Amazon had to limit orders to one per title because bookstore owners were buying from Amazon for less.  Pricing wars may be good for the customer, and increase traffic, but as we can see it certainly doesn’t help their bottom line.  Amazon sells items in other categories for great losses as well.   For example, I bought the Seinfeld Monopoly board game for five dollars with free two-day shipping last month.  There’s no way Amazon made any money on that sale.  I don’t even like Monopoly or Seinfeld for that matter; I just bought it because it was a Slickdeal.  On the other hand, eBay never loses money on a sale.  In fact, they make money even when products don’t sell.  What a business!

Amazon is written about like it’s some kind of Mecca.  It’s almost as if Jesus returned to earth solely to create a third-party marketplace where we can all sell used video games and phone chargers in peace.  In reality, Amazon is far from ideal.  I could talk about how Amazon holds payments for up to 180 days and only lets sellers withdraw funds on a specified schedule.  There are few categories available to third party sellers.  I could point out that Amazon’s listing restrictions are much stricter than eBay’s and their tolerance for buyer dissatisfaction is nonexistent.  I could say that most people have no idea that the third-party marketplace on Amazon even exists and that it only confuses customers who are only interested in buying from Amazon.  I could go on and on, and I will in the future, don’t worry.  Just remember, Amazon can always sell a product for less than we can – and in most cases they do.

EBay reports their fourth quarter earnings January 20th and Amazon follows suit January 28th.  It will be interesting to see how the two faired.  I expect Amazon to post a sizable profit, mostly from music, Kindle, and third-party sales revenue.  With free shipping, they simply don’t sell products for enough money to profit on them.  EBay revenue will probably be flat at best as they continue to try to figure things out.  PayPal, as always, will be strong.

Take care, and I will holler in your general direction soon.

EBay Expands 21 Day Payment Hold Policy To All Sellers?

18 Jan

Introduction and Previous Correspondence (We Have Been Through This Already)

My second favorite PayPal policy is the 21 Day Payment Hold (referred to as 21DPH when I’m feeling lazy).  It might seem odd that I have a list of my favorite PayPal policies taped over the pictures of my three least favorite grandchildren (just kidding Isabella, Madison, and Olivia although I do really wish you were boys), but when I say I live, breathe, and die PayPal I’m not kidding.  If you’re unfamiliar with the 21 Day Hold, I have covered the topic in unnecessary length at PayPal 21 Day Payment Hold – What It Is And How To Deal With It.  In short, when the 21DPH is activated, PayPal holds most or all of a seller’s payments for up to 21 days.  While the payment is “on hold” the seller is unable to withdraw the funds or use them to send payments, pay for shipping, etc.  As we can all imagine, this is quite upsetting to just about everyone who is hit with the hold.

Why, Why, Oh Why???????????????

PayPal processes well over 60 billion dollars a year from almost 200 million different accounts.  Although the great majority of PayPal users are legitimate humans with legitimate addresses, bank accounts, and credit cards, there are also many accounts created by users wanting nothing more than to defraud and steal from as many people as possible.  The defrauding of others often costs PayPal a great deal of money.  By my last count, there are 3,913 different ways of defrauding eBay buyers using PayPal.  When a seller has withdrawn all of their funds to their bank account and closed the bank account, PayPal has no immediate way of accessing the seller’s funds.  PayPal may choose to refund buyers who are defrauded, even when PayPal can’t recover the funds from the seller.  I have on good authority that this process is called the “Pot Of Gold Refund Ceremony.”  Although I do have camera phone footage of this ceremony taking place, I am unfortunately sworn to secrecy and cannot provide the footage at this time.  By holding a seller’s payments until PayPal can verify the buyer has either received the item or is happy with it, PayPal is in much less danger of having to refund buyers from their own pocket because the money is available in the seller’s account.

The general consensus is that PayPal holds payments in order to collect interest.  It is true that PayPal has access to more than three billion dollars at any given time and payment holds will only increase that amount.  However, I believe the real reason that PayPal is expanding the 21DPH (21 Day Payment Hold) is because eBay has recently moved dispute resolution from PayPal to eBay.  Previously, with PayPal disputes, PayPal would usually hold the buyer’s payment once a dispute was initiated.  This guaranteed that PayPal would have access to the seller’s funds and was not in any danger of performing the “Pot Of Gold Refund Ceremony.”  With eBay Dispute Resolution, PayPal does not hold the funds of a specific transaction that is being disputed by the buyer.  This gives the seller time to withdraw all of their money from PayPal.  EBay will still refund the buyer if they win the dispute, even if eBay is not able to recover the funds from the seller’s PayPal account.  Thus, PayPal is holding on to more sellers’ payments in order to lessen the chances that a seller will drain their account and not reimburse eBay and PayPal for the cost of the dispute.

Not Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!??11!

Yes, you.  The rumor is that all sellers will be subjected to the hold policy soon.  Many sellers, some of whom have 100% positive feedback numbering in the thousands, have been complaining that their accounts have been hit with payment holds over the last few days.  Before December 2009, most sellers that had 21DPH were either new or low volume sellers or had low Detailed Seller Ratings.

According to Paypal, they hold payments for sellers who meet any of the following conditions:

  • You have been an eBay member for less than 6 months, and you sell an item for more than $100, or
  • You have an eBay feedback score of less than 100, and you sell an item for more than $100, or
  • You have a Buyer dissatisfaction percentage** 5% or greater than 5%, or
  • You have an average Detailed Seller Rating (DSR) of less than 4.5, or
  • You have received fewer than 20 Detailed Seller Ratings in the last 12 months, or
  • You are listing your item in a high-risk category such as gift certificates, video games, cell phones, computers or consumer electronics.

Paypal will stop holding payments if you meet these criteria:

  • You have been an eBay member for 6-months or more, and
  • Your total Feedback score is 100 or greater, and
  • Your Buyer dissatisfaction percentage** is less than 5%.


  • Your average DSR is 4.5 or greater and
  • Your have received 20 or more DSRs in the last 12-months
  • Your buyer dissatisfaction percentage is less than 5%

PayPal doesn’t know you (unless you’re, they don’t know your business, they don’t know how you operate, and they don’t know whether or not you’re plotting to screw(definition 22, thanks Henrietta) them.  Unfortunately, past behavior is not necessarily indicative of future behavior.  Many “good” sellers have gone “bad” over the years and PayPal and eBay have no idea who’s on first, let alone which sellers will snap at some point.  You’re not going to be able to convince them that you’re a nice Christian woman either.

On top of that, it really doesn’t take much to owe PayPal money and one does not necessarily have to set out to defraud others to be put in a position where “screwing” PayPal seems like the most logical solution.  Neither eBay nor PayPal Dispute Resolution is “fair.”  In fact, I think it would be fair to characterize them as decidedly “unfair” because buyers “win” just about every single dispute, no matter what the merits of the dispute may be.  There may be 3,913 ways to scam buyers, but there are more than 15,412 ways to scam sellers.  It is not uncommon for eBay to force a seller to refund a buyer’s payment in full even though the buyer has received the item or has not yet returned the item.  If eBay refunded $250 to the buyer for an item they did not return, would you then willingly reimburse PayPal $250, even though you were completely screwed out of both the item and the payment?  The answer is sometimes “No.”  PayPal does not want to put itself in a position where the seller has any choice in the matter, which is why they are expanding 21 Day Holds, possibly to every single eBay seller.


The most common argument against the hold is that once my item sells and my payment is received it becomes “my money.”  Technically, this is both true and not true whether the payment is held by PayPal or not.  The payment is not really yours until the buyer decides they aren’t going to open an item not received or item not as described dispute or otherwise wants to return the item.  At any time, for any reason, a buyer can open a dispute on any eBay purchase.  It doesn’t matter what the return policy is on the listing, or how accurate the listing is, or anything else.  All (unless you’re eBay sellers are at the mercy of the buyer.  This is true whether or not a seller’s account has payment holds activated.  Just because you are able to withdraw the money into the “safety” of your bank account does not mean Paypal will not remove the funds from your bank account if they deem it appropriate.  You agree to let them do this when you add your bank account to your PayPal account.  For this reason, all PayPal payment s are “on hold” until the buyer allows the seller to keep the payment issued.  Dealing with the 21DPH may be an unsettling hassle at first glance, but as I will explain later, it is relatively easy to get 95%+ of your payments released within 7 days of receiving them.


The biggest problem surrounding the 21DPH is that many sellers simply don’t understand it and certainly aren’t expecting it.  PayPal has never been particularly good at explaining policies and it is in their best interest to keep policies such as this “hush hush” so people aren’t aware they exist.  Imagine if there was a gigantic warning screen on the eBay home page that said, “PayPal will deny access to any funds collected on every single item sold on eBay for up to 21 days.  Any shipping costs will come out of your own pocket.  You may not withdraw funds or use them for any purpose until PayPal decides to release them.”  This is the Hold in a nutshell, but PayPal doesn’t want anyone to know that’s how it works.  Unfortunately, like any other secret, it only makes finding out about it that much worse down the line.

PayPal has changed the wording of the email sellers receive when a payment is on hold several times.  For one reason or another, each version gets more and more cryptic and the details become more and more unclear.  The email reads as follows:

You received a payment from eGovernator, Meg Whitman

This money is being temporarily held in your pending balance. It will be held for up to 21 days. While it’s being held, it won’t be available for withdrawal.

We’ll move the money to your available balance after 21 days as long as your buyer hasn’t reported a problem. It may be available sooner if we can confirm that the item was delivered or, if this is an eBay item, your buyer leaves positive feedback.

To get access to this money more quickly, please process this order right away and communicate with your customers early and often.

As you can see, PayPal does not explain the reasoning behind the hold or what specifically the seller can do to get their funds released sooner.  On top of that, there is also a nice dose of misinformation added for good measure.  Communicating with the buyer “early and often” will do nothing to get “access to the money more quickly,” unless the buyer leaves positive feedback.  Processing the order quickly may speed up the process, but as I explain in the next section, unless the seller prints their label directly with PayPal the funds may not be accessible until day 22 either.  PayPal has no idea when buyers “report a problem” to the seller directly.  PayPal will only continue to hold the funds if the buyer files a dispute with PayPal, which they would do regardless of whether or not the funds were originally on hold.

How To Turn the 21 Day Hold Into The 7 Day Hold By Just Doing It Right

The easiest way to get a payment hold released is by proving that the item has been delivered to the buyer.  Simply print shipping labels with PayPal and PayPal will automatically release 95% of payment holds two days after the Delivery Confirmation or tracking number shows that the item was delivered.  PayPal does not automatically release holds if the tracking or delivery information is manually added to PayPal or eBay.  This means that if you go to the Post Office to pay and ship packages and then come home to enter the tracking information, PayPal will not  release the hold because their system cannot track these packages automatically.  You can call PayPal and request them to release the hold on those payments, but I always recommend printing and paying for labels online with PayPal because it’s cheaper than the Post Office and easier to keep track of all the shipping information in one place.  Since shipping Priority Mail usually takes four days or less, you should be able to get most payments released within seven days of receiving payment if you diligently ship packages as payments are received.

PayPal will also release payments if the buyer leaves positive feedback.  First of all, do not require buyers to leave premature positive feedback before shipping an item or wait 21 days to ship the item so the payment will be released prior to shipping.  Many uneducated sellers try to do this and it will only lead to negative feedback and probably a quick eBay suspension or limited PayPal account.  I do not recommend hounding buyers to leave positive feedback either.  Although it is the quickest way to get a payment hold released, many buyers find emails from sellers requesting feedback annoying and few people who were not going to leave feedback will leave it after receiving a message begging them to.  Your feedback may also suffer, as an email might remind a buyer how much they hated the item and decide to leave negative feedback instead.  As I explain in my previous guide, the best way to ask a buyer to leave feedback is by sending them an email asking if they are satisfied with the item (without mentioning feedback).  This reminds buyers about the transaction and they are likely to leave positive feedback.  Plus, it shows that you care about the buyer so your Detailed Seller Ratings should improve as well.  Still, don’t expect a lot of responses because buyers who leave feedback generally do so quickly anyway, and those who do not leave feedback will not leave it, even if you threaten the lives of their children (been there – done that – do not recommend).

PayPal holds are also based on each eBay account, rather than the PayPal account as a whole.  For example, you are allowed to open as many eBay accounts as you want.  If you have been selling on one account and have 1,000 feedback and perfect DSR ratings and open a second eBay account to sell with, it is likely that the payments received on that second eBay account will be held as though you are a new seller.  This does not mean that you will receive holds on all of your eBay accounts; it simply means that PayPal doesn’t realize that the payments are coming from a trusted account.


The Twenty One Day Payment Hold looks like it’s a policy that will only expand to more sellers in 2010.  The policy is most upsetting because PayPal does not explain why the policy is in place or specifically how sellers can get their funds released as quickly as possible.  The bottom line is that PayPal does not want sellers to get their funds released any sooner than the full 21 days.  Sometimes I don’t think PayPal fully appreciates the implications of its policies.  Sure, PayPal might gain 1% interest on a few more dollars, but that pales in comparison to the hardship caused by holding excess funds from families that have to pay 35% interest on a credit card bill because PayPal arbitrarily decided to start holding payments for three weeks.  Their indifference is as absurd as it is appalling.

Print USPS Small and Large Flat Rate Box Labels With PayPal On EBay

6 Jan

The Promise

For something like two years now, eBay has been promising to add functionality that would allow sellers to pay for and print shipping labels directly from the eBay website.  It is now finally possible, although it is not the default method and there is little information available about how to set it up or make it work.  Luckily for eBay, there are thousands of Mom and Pop auction blogs written by disgruntled auctioneers that really have nothing better to do than explain things for them.   PayPal has been promising to add Small and Large Flat Rate Box options to its own website for years as well.   While they still haven’t done that (lol), it is now possible to pay for Small and Large Flat Rate Box shipping labels from eBay.  Beggars can’t be choosers I guess.  There are several advantages and disadvantages to using eBay to print shipping labels when compared with PayPal or USPS’s own Click’N’Ship service.  Here we go.


  • It’s possible to pay for and print labels for Small and Large Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes as well as USPS Express Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes.  It is still impossible to select these services when using PayPal.  All other shipping options that are available on PayPal are also available on eBay, including Media Mail and First Class which are not available at
  • There are fewer boxes to fill out and fewer screens to click through, especially for international shipments when customs forms are required.  This makes it the fastest way to print a single label.
  • It’s a much cleaner interface.  PayPal has boxes, words, pop-up screens, and options splattered all over the screen.  Not so with eBay.  It’s easy to turn off and on receipts and choose whether or not to display postage costs for each individual label.


  • Printing multiple labels is not as fast or efficient as with PayPal Multi-Order Shipping.
  • The options and differences may take getting used to.  Some users do not find it easier or faster than PayPal, especially when printing more than one or two labels.
  • It may be difficult to keep track of where tracking information is stored and which website is used to void or reprint labels, especially when eBay, PayPal, and are used.

Bottom Line

Using eBay to print labels for Small and Large Flat Rate Boxes may be a life saver for many.  I have heard countless stories of people trudging to the Post Office in order to ship a Small Flat Rate Box because they can’t use PayPal and are unaware it’s possible to print and pay for a label at  Unfortunately, since eBay label printing is turned off by default, many of these same people will still be trudging to the Post Office to stand in line unless they scroll through to page 42 of Google results to find this tutorial.  It’s not our fault they’re not AuctionCopers though, right?


  1. EBay account
  2. PayPal account with valid credit/debit card attached
  3. A Sale
  4. Either disable pop-up blocker or add to your allow list if necessary

How To Turn On EBay Label Printing

By default, clicking “Print Shipping Label” next to a transaction in “My eBay” will take you to PayPal to print the shipping label.  Printing labels within eBay must be manually enabled.  Luckily, it’s a cinch once you know what to do.  Go to My eBay and mouse over, but don’t click, the account tab and then click on “Site Preferences.”

eBay Site Preferences

The fourth option down on the next screen is “Shipping Preferences.”  Click “show” on the far right to see the following options.

EBay Shipping Preferences

EBay Shipping Preferences

You will see a variety of goodies here, many of which I have covered previously.  You will want to check the box “Yes” after “Pay for shipping and print U.S. Postal Service labels on eBay” and click “Apply.”  That’s it!  Enabled!

Shipping Label Walkthrough

Now go back to an item sold and click the “Print Shipping Label” Button next to an item that needs to be shipped.

Print EBay Shipping Label

You should now be redirected to a page similar to the following, rather than PayPal.

USPS EBay Package Details

Here, it’s possible to select the service and package type, including the coveted Small and Large Flat Rate Boxes.  If you select “package” it will ask the weight, but not the dimensions of the package.  If you select “large package” then you will need to fill in the dimensions.  Once a package size and service is selected you will need to click the “calculate” button before you can proceed to the next screen.  The button is hidden underneath the drop down menu pictured above, but will be plainly visible once your selections are made.  You can then select whether or not you want a receipt to print or the postage price hidden by clicking the “Change” button next to “Additional Options.”  I can’t think of a purpose for the receipts since all of the information is stored online in various places.  Since I offer free shipping, I usually choose to display the cost, although it’s unlikely anyone notices.  If you charge $20 to ship a one ounce package then I would recommend hiding the cost.

The cost of shipping will then be visible at the bottom of the page and look something like the following picture.  It is also possible to check a box here that will automatically bill PayPal for all of your labels in the future.  Selecting this box means you will not have to log in to PayPal every time you print a label on eBay.  I would suggest checking it.  When you’re ready, take a deep breath and click “Pay and Print.”

EBay Calculate Shipping Cost

Since this is (probably) your first time printing a label on eBay you will have to log in to PayPal.  If you checked the box on the previous screen, you will also have to agree to PayPal’s billing agreement to debit your account each time you print and pay for a shipping label.  The agreement looks like this, which you will see after logging in to PayPal on the usual screen.

PayPal EBay Billing Agreement

Click “Agree and Continue” and you should be redirected back to eBay and your label should be available for printing in a window similar to PayPal’s.  If no window appeared then it’s likely that your pop-up blocker blocked it.  After printing, a screen that is also similar to PayPal’s will present itself.

EBay Shipping Label Completed

From here you can do pretty much anything you could do after printing a label in PayPal.  You can click the “Print Packing Slip” button to see the item you’re supposed to ship.  You can just close the packing slip box once you make a note of the item.  I do this a lot because I’m always forgetting what people bought due to my limited brain power.  I’m not sure why PayPal and eBay stopped displaying the item purchased on the label confirmation page.  They used to display it and then decided to stop one day.  You can also reprint or void the label if necessary.

That’s it.  You should have a brand new shipping label to show off to all of your friends, or if you’re like me, Mom and Dad.

After The Fact

If you need to void the label you will need to do it in eBay rather than PayPal.  Go back to the transaction in My eBay, where you clicked “Print Shipping Label” and click the drop down arrow to select “View Order Details.”

EBay View Order Details

From this page you can view the shipping information as well as reprint the label within 24 hours of creating it or void it within 48 hours.

Unfortunately, PayPal does not provide much information about shipping labels purchased on eBay, meaning you may have to keep track of shipping in two different places.  This is what the PayPal details shows for the label from the example above.

PayPal Transaction EBay Shipping

As you can see, PayPal doesn’t provide the address of the recipient, or really any information other than the amount paid for postage and the time the label was printed.  There is also no place to void or reprint the label.  On top of that, PayPal does not display the relevant Delivery or Signature Confirmation number on the transaction.  Only “In Progress” is listed as shown in the following screen capture, even though the item has already shipped.

There is no easy to click link to check the status of the package like there is on a label printed from PayPal.  If you want to check the status then you’ll have to click into the details of the transaction and then copy and paste the number into  It’s a medium sized hassle that should, but probably won’t, be fixed in a future update.

Snarky Conclusion

I have no idea why it isn’t possible to print and pay for Small and Large Flat Rate Boxes on PayPal.  PayPal and eBay representatives have been saying for years that their programmer(s) are working on it, but it appears that eBay fired whoever actually knows how to program websites some time ago.  I know improving eBay and PayPal isn’t on the top of anyone’s to-do list in 2010, but honestly folks, if I can make a banner as awesome as the one found on this website then I think I could figure out how to create a Large Flat Rate Box button for PayPal.  Just saying.

I’ll still be doing most of my label printing with PayPal, because Multi-Order shipping is just so simple and efficient.  I’m also easily confused, so trying to keep track of various labels printed in different places would be too much for my small brain to handle.  I will be using eBay for Small and Large Flat Rate Boxes instead of USPS, but just barely.