International Shipping Trends

We have been seeing some disturbing trends for overseas shipments and we thought we would let you know to keep you on the lookout. We will use shipments sent to Germany as an example. We are not picking on Germany, but we have seen an increased amount of lost shipments sent there. After analyzing the losses and speaking with some of our insured’s, the conclusion is that German customs is holding packages for an increasing long time. It is not uncommon for packages sent via the USPS First Class or Priority Mail services to take 7-9 weeks to be delivered!

We are not going to guess the reasoning for this (politics, post office, service levels) but we want you to be aware. If your recipients are claiming non receipt (loss) after a few weeks they need to be patient.

How Can I Explain That to My Customers?
Education, education, education! If you sell online, make sure to detail this on your website or listings. Explain that shipments to Germany may take 7-9 weeks. Perhaps verify that your buyer understands this with email communication. If you have a bricks and mortar location, explain the same details. The more details you give PRE SHIPMENT the more protection you have POST SHIPMENT. Protect yourself from recipients “jumping the gun” and filing loss claims or claims against you with a credit card company or PayPal.

We have singled out Germany, but shipments sent overseas to any destination can get caught up in customs. Make sure to contact the carrier and request tracers if your packages sent to International recipients are taking longer than 6 weeks to arrive. We suggest educating your International customers about timeframes and requesting their patience. Tell them that 6 weeks can be an expected timeframe; especially with First Class shipments. They can afford some patience. After all, their shipments are insured*!

*We hope you are insuring with Shipsurance!

30 Comments+ Add Comment

  • I have encountered this problem. Unfortunately, no matter how well I explain to customers and ask for patience, they still receive e-mails from PayPal stating that their right to file a claim is lost after 45 days.

    45 days happens to be how long I must wait to file a Shipsurance claim. This already creates problems because customers think I am trying to get them to wait past the deadline and refuse to do so. Asking them to wait even longer is futile.

    Customers know I will be forced to refund them if they file a PayPal claim in less than 45 days. After they have been refunded some are no longer interested in signing and returning a claim form. They’ve got their money back and that’s all they care about.

    • Shane, I disagree. This post makes sense.
      If you CLEARLY explain the timeframes in your auction, you have done your part as you can refer PayPal to these terms. Furthermore, email your buyer, congratulating them on the purchase. Reiterate the 9 week windows and request a response to the email confirmaing understanding or you WILL NOT SHIP. If the respond, ship it. If not, sell to someone else!

      • PayPal doesn’t care what terms I post in my auction. If I use their service I must abide by their terms, and that is 45 days.

        Not ship to a customer who has paid? That’s not an option if you want to remain in business on eBay. The negative feedbacks would be overwhelming.

        • If a customer paid but does not agree to your terms, you can and should cancel the transaction.It is no different than someone buying from you and they live in Nigeria, but your auction states “WILL NOT SELL TO OR SHIP TO NIGERIA”.

          • In order to cancel a transaction on eBay the buyer must agree to do so. I can’t just cancel it. And even if it is canceled buyer’s can still leave feedback… of the negative variety.

      • Steven here does not understand ebay or paypal, and how they are completely tilted to buyers. I suggest he contacts ebay himself to verify the truth in this matter.

        You can put whatever terms you want in an auction. Once the buyer pays for it, ebay and paypal give him all the rights. Even if you immediately cancel and refund his money, the buyer can neg you on feedback.

        And no buyer will wait past 45 days, and we are powersellers with a great deal of experience. They would have to be fools to do so, since they lose all their rights past the 45 day point.

        • This is BS. Your terms are the binding terms. If you specify in your terms and your buyer disagrees, they voided your contract.

          • In the real word that is true, but at eBay, politics rule!

          • our terms mean nothing, as soon as a buyer clicks “buy” they have all the rights, they can lie, cheat, steal, leave badfeedback, they have all the power and the seller just has to lie down and take it. once in a great while you will get an ebay customer service rep that “feels your pain” and does whatever than can do to make if right for the seller. this is very rare.

  • My experience: Last week, a buyer from Germany filed a dispute with eBay for nonreceipt. Six weeks had passed, and there was no update on tracking on the USPS website (mailed via Priority International). I checked with other eBayers, this same buyer had done the same thing to them!! Unfortunately, eBay will do nothing to protect sellers against these kind of scammers (shame on you, eBay) and, of course, sellers can’t leave negative feedback to warn others.

    And you’ll love this .. When a German buyer files a dispute with a US seller, the dispute is hosted by the German eBay site – in GERMAN! (A language I don’t happen to speak). Even when you use Google translation to try to understand what your freaking response options are, there is great risk of mis-translation. I contacted an eBay customer service rep for assistance (who also does not speak German). Probably because the translation was so spotty, she inadvertantly closed the case, in favor of the buyer!!!!! My guess is German buyers have figured out how convoluted and lopsided this process is, and they are also taking advantate of the German PO incompetence.

    It is unconscionable that eBay would require US sellers to respond to disputes from German buyers IN GERMAN. eBay claims they are working on “fixing” this glitch – however, in the interim, increased risk and annoyance for US sellers .. and eBay still gets their “take”, of course ..including a percentage shipping costs as well, my friends!!

    • I am a German, living in the US. I have been selling on Ebay (primarely to Germans) for the past 3 years and have had more claims within the last 4 months than during my entire time of selling on ebay.

      I get up to 5 “Where is my item” emails each day. Ranging from friendly inquiry, to demanding immediate refund to threats of negative feedback and even lawyers.

      If the buyer opens a Paypal case you are out of luck. But I had two Ebay cases opened by germans that were decided in my favor, because I was able to proof shipment. ( I scan all customs forms and enter the customs number into Ebay.) When the case went to customer service I emailed the customs form and postal receipt.

      I’ll be glad to walk you and anybody else interested thru a german claim. If you need help, please send me an email to

      • Brit,
        Thank you for the offer of help. I hope people take you up on it!

        • Even with tracking, if the item does not arrive (it doesn’t matter if you can prove that it was shipped), it’s on the selller (if unisured) or the insurance company (if insured). PayPal will reimburse the buyer if tracking shows the package has not arrived within the 45 days. If there is no tracking, the buyer is reimbursed after 45 days if the buyer contacts PayPal stating the item has not arrived. I think ShipSaver needs to work with eBay and PayPal regarding the 45 day policy.

          While it is important to make buyers understand this, I think it would also help if eBay and PayPal policies were extended for this. Or, worked with USPS to provide tracking with first class and USPS Priority Mail small flat international packages as it already does with the US.

    • Exactly true as we had the exact same experience! Neither eBay nor PayPal will protect you even if you can show them communication from the buyer saying they will agree to wait beyond the 45 days. People in Bosnia, for instance, cannot receive a refund directly from you via Pay Pal as they don’t send money there but can receive a refund on a transaction as long as they file within the 45 days so obviously they do. Spent 2 1/2 hours in Live Chat trying to get a Pink to help me with a translation for a dispute with eBay Germany and her final response was to use Google Translator and she then ended the session. Needless to say, we lost that one also. Have only prevailed once with “lost items” or not as advertised and that was solely due to the customer not putting the item in the mail and giving PayPal a tracking number. PayPal and eBay will side with the buyer 99% of the time and always remember the phrase most real estate people use among themselves: Buyers are liars.

    • TRANSLATES. You type in what you want to say, cut and paste it in your message. The other guy can do the same, if he will.

    • Yes Denise, I suggested a “translate page” option for the different sites. Not only make it easier to resolve disputes but would increase overall sales internationally, you think!
      Having to fight to get the selling/PayPal fees back after they reimbursed a buyer with OUR money should be automatic. eBay LOVES it’s buyers!

  • somehow I am asking myself why I’m still doing eBay/PayPal?? you too??. In my opinion we sellers are ZERO protected and I call myself a hostage of my buyers (but some are very nice at least:o)). I am experiencing the same problem since some time now and I know that German customs have opened a branch in Leipzig (former East Germany). This is what I heard from one of my nice customers.. no kidding he was waiting 3 months for his priority. Now picture, your package arrives first at some major German customs office and they don’t process it. instead they re-direct it to Leipzig, and gosh I don’t know what happens there. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize what these delays in recent month are all about.
    Correct me if you know better. My 2 negatives are from impatient customers, who in the end, received their packages, matter of fact in one of those cases, the package returned back to me from Poland and I had to send it a second time, but still have my negative. This is how eBay stands up for it’s sellers who pay eBay/PP to the bone. As to Shipsurance’s demand:
    educate, educate, educate, guess what: I do…. I write each and every customers a very informative shipment mail, explaining about customs delays, 45 day rule for loss etc.
    What do I see after a short time: either an eBay mail “where is my item” (I hate when I see that subject! Can they not find a softer way to let you know the customer has no patience??)
    or worse an eBay or PayPal claim. So I am coming to the conclusion, either my customer can’t read or yes…. is impationed. I also absolutely agree what has been stated in this blog that among the buyers are some scammers, But they can do their dirty job, because WE PAY in the end, sure enough eBay is pro buyer. For this reason I decided to insure the packages (free for customer, because I pay the fee) And now I see, that Shipsurance has recognized the problem. I would like for Shipsurance to extend the 45 days rule so I am backed up when I ask the customer to have “more patience”, I would like also that eBay reacts to this problem, and I would like for eBay to finally start caring about the sellers and not only the buyers.
    one more thought before I am finished, what happens when I follow Shipsurance’s recommendation and write in my auction it can take up to 9 weeks but on the other hand, my competion eBay fellows are still advertising 2-3 weeks to Germany.
    Question: Who will the customer chose to buy from??? I appreciate some input, I am desparate to learn more about this situation. Thank you for reading :o)
    PS: I just filed a claim and only 3 days later have another one… you guessed right: shipped to GERMANY

    • Brigit, the 45 day time period is a minimum time to wait before filing a claim. 65 days would be best for some of these countries, but not all. From what we are told, many German buyer know there are “customs problems” in the country. However, they are taking advantage of the chargeback window offered by PayPal.

      2-3 weeks to Germany is possible… via FedEx, UPS, DHL, or Express Mail (cutting it close). International shipping takes times for delivery.

      We understand that it is important to be competitive, however, unreasonable expectations can lead to problems and remorse. If you know a shipments will take a long time, and the buyer knows, and it is accepted by all parties, then the entire transaction should be smoother. This is not always the case but going the extra mile always helps.

      • eBay and PayPal should recognize that a parcel is insured and extend the time to close a case. I can’t see where I would refund a buyer that opens a case to prevent a mark on my DSR when I let the case close and file a claim. It is difficult to get a buyer to sign and scan a claim form AFTER it is closed in their favor. I greatly appreciate the flexibility Shipsurance has shown in completing my last clam. Too bad eBay/PayPal couldn’t learn a little about how to treat their golden geese.

  • I quit shipping to Germany back in December of 2010. Problems shipping there have been going on longer than most know. From what I understand, the problem is not with customs but with their mail delivery systems. The parcels just dont get delivered.

    I had several shipments that went to Germany in November or 2010 and came back to me 2-3 months later marked as undeliverable. After researching the shipments and making overseas phone calls, the pacakges cleared customs within a week or so. Once picked up by the postal delivery service, the packages were in their hands for over a month, then sent back to customs for Return to Sender.

    Germany does not have a good mail delivery system like USPS, UPS, or Fedex and I think they just cant handle the volume of mail.

  • I too ship to Germany and have seen many issue. However, We have all the control, after all were are the sellers, My site is on Etsy,com and have encounted many issues. But I have never had to refund a seller or had negative feedback. I had one person who disputed on paypal but when I emailed her to inform her of the German issue, she dropped the claim on paypal and emailed me 3 weeks later and told me she got her package. And it took exactly 7 weeks. I ship at least 7-10 shipments to Germany per week and none of them have filed negative feedback or insurance claims. Am I lucky….No, my luck is just like yours.

    You can do 2 things to turn this around,.

    1. Stop selling to Germany – -There are other countries and people to sell to, Germany is not the only Country with buyers, Do your really want to deal with a headache of negative feedback and headaches from Paypal. I spoke to Paypal yestereday and told them they are the instigatator or the german Issue. They are actually escalating the Fraud. Consider the fact that every time you make a claim to shipsurance, you run the risk of higher insurance fees on your future shipments,. You also run the risk of losing your paypal account with all the claims made against you for refund. Paypal will always side with the customer

    2. Change your shipping profile to ship only Express Mail to Germany, Yes, it cost, 28.95 to ship overseas, but they will get the pkg in 2-3 weeks and there is tracking. If you are an ebay auction, state in on the auction for shipping due to german shipment taking 7-9 weeks for delivery. So this removes the issue of them not getting it and consumer fraud and customs processes the order quicker. IF they are not willing to pay for the shipping charge, then they don’t order. Sell it to someone else.

  • I thank everyone above for voicing their very familiar concerns. Good to know I am not alone. When I have a problem with a buyer from a particular country I block the whole country so from now on I will block Germany. Yes, I know that narrows potential buyers but there isn’t much else that makes sense to me. All the steps necessary to protect oneself when a problem arises take more time and money than I can afford and I’m not that adept facing a computer screen. I don’t sell enough items to pay extra for insurance protection via this service but I am glad it exists for others. Ebay is sadly inadequate to the task and the word “fair” is not in their vocabulary regarding seller protections.

    I just had a conversation with an Australian buyer who asked to pay for registered mail, cost is $11.50 worldwide, requires a signature, a service I had already included in my mail charge anyway so it was covered. I charge a standard fee for all shipments to include coverage of one kind or another and while it discourages some good buyers, it also discourages scammers who know they will not win a claim.

  • I love the fact that I am able to insure my packages with Ship Insurance, and I do have a very lengthy paragraph on all of my listings regarding international shipping although I am not sure many actually read it. For the most part, I have not had too many problems with Germany. A couple of buyers did become insulted when I explained that their postal system sometimes does take longer.

    The past few weeks have been worst than ever with other parts of the world for me. I received a neutral fb from one customer as she thought that 10 days for a package to arrive in Sweden from the US (weekend included) was far too long. A second customer filed a PayPal claim after 5 days-YES you read that right- FIVE days as she had not received her package in Canada. I contacted eBay only to be told that she had tried to file it through them, but they wouldn’t allow it, so she went through PayPal. I called PayPal and was told that “yes, perhaps the customer was a “little” irrational. A LITTLE? It is my opinion that this is out of control and that eBay and PayPal should step up to the plate for the sellers. Even with proof of shipment, a seller has nothing to stand on. I have all of my packages scanned at the post office, but the bottom line is that when I walk out of the post office, I no longer have control of the package. I have been in touch with the Canadian postal office as well as the US postal office and the only answer that I receive is that anything shipped that is not sent Priority with tracking or Express is not traceable. When I asked what happens to all this missing mail, no one had an answer. I have now stopped shipping to many countries as the risk of loss is too high, and the customers have absolutely no patience in many cases. In this last issue with the Canadian buyer, I have informed PayPal that they are to honor my listing terms of 30 days as the listing terms are clearly stated on every listing and invoice and that if they do not, I will take further civil action. I will also take action against the buyer as you can call the Canadian post and they will tell you if your package has arrived into Canada . PayPal and eBay should have one set standard, not allowing a customer to file a claim on eBay, so the buyer goes to PayPal is not acceptable. As I ship many small inexpensive items, it would not be worth it to require a buyer to purchase registered delivery.In my case, I have over 7000 fb and now 1 neutral from an inexperienced international buyer and soon to be 1 negative from an inpatient Canadian buyer. For all of the work that I do for my store and for all of the fees that I pay, somehow this just doesn’t seem right. I really wish eBay would listen to their sellers and enforce rules for the buyers.

  • It is a great pity that at the moment there is no real competition to eBay and PayPal. If there was, they would smarten up really quickly. The general opinion in this blog is that eBay and PayPal do not take care of the sellers at all. They need to remember that if there were no sellers, there would be on eBay or PayPal.

    • Peter, I get Skip McGraph’s monthly online sellers newsletter and Amazon has more buyers and many eBayers have migrated there. It is sad that there can’t be SOME validity from a seller that pays hundreds of dollars a month in fees vs the occasional buyer. I understand the buyers are a driving force, but without sellers…. We should at least be able to leave negative feedback on a bad buyer to alert other sellers. That is discrimination taken to a whole other level.

      Those of us who do ebay as a primary job have enjoyed the German sales as they HAVE been without problems until lately. With $20-30 items, First Class Int is the most competitive way to ship.

  • Solution:
    Just do not ship to Germany or Australia and you are done! You will still make sales.

    This is great information.

  • Thanks for this post. All the comments are very enlightening. We ship a lot to Australia. Some shipments sail right through, some seem to take an eternity. They would go faster if buyers were willing to pay for priority or express shipping, but mostly they are not.

  • Yep….I just had a package sent “priority” mail arrive after 2+ months. Also, I have sent 2 packages to Italy, theat NEVER arrived, I call costume jewelry, “used fashion accessories” in the hope of not sounding valuable, or attractive, to foreign postal workers, but it hasn’t helped, in the case of Italy! Personally, I ship quite often to Australia, and have never had a problem. I shipped a large, 10 pound box, priority mail,and that took over a month to be delivered. It was finally delivered, undamaged.

  • the fact that 45 day paypal/ebay terms differ from shipsurance is a big problem for me. PayPal has a 45 days window to file a claim… and guess what?? shipsurance claims must wait at least 45 days to file a claim!! Coincidince!! I dont think so.. shipsurance has found a loophole and knows that they will have many unfilled claims as buyers file claims before 45 days and then wont sign off on the claim.

    • Wes – Thank you for your comment. One thing to notate is our 45 days International waiting period (21 day Domestic) for lost packages has been around longer than PayPal’s terms. The reason for the time period is that International shipping takes time. Especially since most eBay transactions overseas are shipping via First Class mail (FCI). It often takes a shipment weeks to clear customs and final delivery.

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