Block an EBay Bidder in a Specific Country Using Site Preferences

30 Sep

How It Used To Be (Sonny)

It’s rare that eBay adds a feature to its website that is purely beneficial for the seller without any monetary advantage to eBay itself.  One of those recently added features is the ability to block bidders in specific countries.  Previously, it was only possible to block bidders by entire continent.  This forced many sellers to select “Europe” as a location they ship to and then within the listing write that shipping is not available to say Russia or Italy.  Of course, many buyers, especially those that don’t understand English well, would disregard that warning and bid or purchase an item even when it explicitly states in the listing that shipping is not available.  This puts the seller in a difficult situation because technically they have to ship the item to the buyer no matter what it says in the listing or they risk negative feedback and the dreaded “Seller Non-Performance Violation.”  Ship the item and the seller risks a PayPal dispute which could result in the seller losing the item and the payment or some other form of extortion or unauthorized payment reversal.  For a while I stated in my listing that I didn’t ship to “Eastern Europe.”  Unfortunately, as I came to understand, there is no set definition for what countries comprise Eastern Europe. Because of the stigma attached to Eastern Europeans many people who live in what you and I consider “Eastern Europe” actually believe they live some place called “Middle Europe” or “South Europe.”  I was to the point where I had to list every undesirable country by name in every one of my listings. Even then, Italians still loved to buy from me. Hopefully, much of this miscommunication and misunderstanding will cease with this new ability to block certain bidders by country.

Why Block Bidders in Specific Countries?

There are a number of reasons that a seller might want to block bidders by specific country.  First of all, international shipping is much more complicated and expensive than domestic shipping. There is also much less recourse if you get ripped off by someone in Bosnia compared with someone Chicago. At the very least it’s more believable to pretend you’re in the Russian mob and threaten that you’re going to show up at their house when you’re emailing someone in Tuscaloosa instead of talking to someone who is actually in the Russian mob in Moldova.  I explain many of these international shipping problems in my article, The Perils of International Shipping With eBay and Paypal – A Guide to Successful Shipping Practices as well as how to correctly fill out customs forms at USPS, How to Print USPS International Shipping Label With Required Customs Forms .  In short, if a seller does not have online verifiable proof that an item has been delivered to the buyer then they will always lose a PayPal dispute for “Item Not Received.”  If a seller chooses to ship an item via USPS First Class, USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate, or any other method that does not show delivery then they have to trust that the buyer will be honest about receiving the item and know that the buyer could file a false dispute at any time within the 45 day filing deadline.

In the year 2009 I can’t really come out and say that all Italians or all Russians can’t be trusted and risk getting 1,000 gay porn stars sent to my house by 4chan so I won’t do that.  What I will say is that the majority of people living in Italy are absolutely nuts.  On top of that, the Italian postal system is terrible and Italian customs is one of the worst (or best depending on which side you’re on I suppose)in the world, making Italy by far the most commonly blocked country by name. The Italian postal system is so bad that at one point it was the only country in Europe that USPS Priority Mail International was not available. USPS would brave civil war, the downfall of communism, and roads made out of spikes, but wanted nothing to do with Italy.

What Countries Should I Block?

The countries you ultimately choose to ship to and the methods of shipment you offer are personal decisions based on the level of risk you’re willing to assume.  Many eBayers have never had a bad experience shipping internationally and swear by USPS First Class anywhere in the world.  All I can tell them is the fact that they’re taking on an incredible level of risk depending on what they’re shipping and to whom they’re transacting with.  If you’re on Etsy selling $5 earrings then it may not be a wise business decision to charge $25 for Express Shipping because no one would ever buy anything.  In order to conduct business, a seller like this assumes more risk, but the ultimate loss from an “Item Not Received” PayPal dispute would be much smaller than a seller on eBay who is shipping collector’s items worth hundreds of dollars in a similar fashion.  My point here is that you have to assess the risk of “fraud” in your business.  If you’re selling Christmas cards or used baby clothes then your level of risk is much lower than a seller shipping expensive high fashion items or electronics.  More sales and higher prices from offering international shipping are quickly erased by forced PayPal refunds and “lost packages.”  Never ship without tracking what you aren’t willing to lose.

The countries you choose to block should also depend on what method you use to ship. If the only service you offer is Express Mail then you have little to worry about pretty much no matter what country you ship to. Bidders intent on committing “PayPal fraud” will ignore your listings because it isn’t worth the risk of losing a dispute when there are so many other sellers offering completely untrackable methods such as USPS First Class. On the other hand, offering USPS First Class to Russia simply isn’t worth it because of the risk that the bidder will file an Item Not Received dispute with PayPal and you will not be able to fight it.

There are shysters in every country around the world and possibly more in the United States itself than any other country.  What I don’t recommend doing is letting one “rotten apple” cause you to block bidders in a particular country forever.  If you’re shipping USPS Express Mail then it should be safe to ship just about anywhere in the world other than maybe Africa or the bowels of Asia.   The other thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want bidders purchasing your items and instead of paying try to send you phishing emails with the intent of stealing your password and financial information or try to sell you counterfeit products.  These kinds of things are common in the electronics categories more than any other.  If you have ever tried to sell a Laptop on eBay then you know what I’m talking about. Blocking bidders in Africa and South America will decrease the number of bidders who buy your items and instead of paying try to hassle you.

Most of my items sell for between $30-$100 and I offer USPS Priority Mail International and USPS Express Mail International.  If you’re going to ship USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate then I suggest listing only “USPS Priority Mail International” in your listing rather than “USPS Priority Mail International Flat Rate” because this won’t tip off bidders looking to scam you that you’re going to leave yourself vulnerable to a PayPal dispute because Flat Rate International isn’t at all trackable.  If you get any bidders asking if you ship Priority Flat Rate or wanting “The cheapest shipping to Czechoslovakia” then I would either ignore it or block the bidder specifically if you really want to be careful.

I don’t ship to the following locations:

All of Africa

All of Asia except Japan

All of Middle East

All of Southeast Asia

All of Central America and Caribbean except Puerto Rico

Under North America: Bermuda, Mexico, St Pierre and Miquelon

All of South America

It’s easier to state which countries I DO ship to in Europe because there’s so many listed.  These are the countries I DO ship to in Europe:  Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom

In Oceania, I only ship to: Australia, New Zealand

Blocked Bidder Exemption List

Within your listing you can also state you do make exceptions for certain bidders.   Even if you block bidders in Lithuania for example, if you want a particular bidder in Lithuania to be able bid on your items then you can add an exemption at EBay Block Bidder Exemption List.  Simply click “Add an eBay user to my Blocked Bidder/Buyer List” and copy/paste the eBay UserID.  Adding exemptions is a good way to screen bidders so you aren’t stuck sending a $500 item to a bidder in Slovenia that just registered yesterday and has purchased 37 items in one day.  When screening, remember that buyers cannot receive negative feedback so feedback alone may not be a good indicator of a buyer’s temperament.   You can read eBay’s take on buyer requirements at EBay Buyer Requirements. You can also exempt bidders who are registered in countries to which you don’t ship, but want the item shipped to a United States address. Just make sure they choose this address as the shipping address in PayPal. Only ship to the address listed in the PayPal payment. Another common scam is buyers who live abroad and choose their address abroad, but try to get the seller to ship to an alternate address. If you do not have online verifiable delivery confirmation to the address listed in the PayPal dispute then you will always lose a PayPal “Item Not Received” dispute. Be careful.

OK, OK HOW TO DO IT ALREADY

Sorry, I’m long winded, but since I don’t have any friends to talk to this is all I have. Also, eBay is incredibly complicated and covering all of our bases takes a great deal of care. If you do read the entire guide then you should pick up on things you were previously unaware of.  The process to set this up is relatively easy with the following instructions.

First, go to My eBay.  Mouse over (but don’t click) the account tab as shown and click on “Site Preferences.”

EBay Site Preferences

This brings us to this next screen.  Look for “Shipping Preferences” and click “Show” to expand the options.  Click “Edit” next to “Exclude Shipping Locations From Your Listings.” Sorry, I had to chop this image to fit properly on the site. You should see the “Edit” and “Show” buttons on the far right.

Now we can choose which countries we don’t want to ship to.  Clicking the box next to the continent will select all of the countries on that continent.  It may be easier to click on the continent to select all of the countries and then uncheck all the countries you do want to ship to.  If that’s confusing then go ahead and click each country you don’t want to ship to individually.  You can check the box to “Apply to all current listings” which should apply your preferences to all of your listings that do not have a bid or a prior purchase.  Note that if your auction does have a bid or a purchase then you can’t change those listings.  Also notice the disclaimer at the bottom of the page referring to setting your “global requirements.”  Simply filling out this form doesn’t do anything unless we go to buyer requirements and choose not to allow bidders in countries that we don’t ship to bid or purchase items.  We’ll do that next.  After you have selected all the countries you don’t ship to, click “Apply.”

EBay Block Specific Countries

Now we go back to step 1 by mousing over “Account” in My eBay and selecting “Site Preferences.”  This time scroll down to “Buyer Requirements” and click edit next to “Block bidders who:”

Hopefully you have been to this screen before.  If you haven’t, take a look at all of the different ways you can block undesirable bidders.  Unfortunately there is currently no way to block “crazy” bidders or bidders with 0 feedback.  For our purposes here we want to check the box next to “Block buyers who are registered in countries to which I don’t ship.”  Check the “Apply” box at the bottom and then check “Submit.”

EBay Buyer Restrictions

Congratulations, you should never have to deal with another Italian again.

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