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Selling Internationally on eBay (cont'd)

Things to know about auctions open to international buyers


Before you start selling to international buyers, accepting payments from them, and shipping goods to them, there are a number of things you should be aware of as a seller. By keeping these issues in mind, you can reduce considerably any hassles that might otherwise arise during the exchange.

  • You're not actually listing on international eBay sites. There's a difference between selling to international buyers that are shopping on your home country's eBay site and actually posting a listing on an eBay site in another country. If you live in the United States but your intent is to reach the widest possible swath of buyers in Hong Kong, for example, you might want to actually list your item on eBay's Hong Kong website, rather than merely opening bidding to Hong Kong-based shoppers on the United States eBay site. Be prepared, however, to list in another language if you're this serious about international selling.

  • Select areas carefully. When you say you’ll ship “worldwide” (as opposed to only selecting certain areas of the globe), you’re agreeing to do business with literally anyone on the planet, including areas that can present a higher-than-average amount of trouble to sellers (some parts of eastern Europe, for example, as the result of alarmingly high levels of credit card fraud). If you’re new to international trade, start slowly; if you’re an American seller, for example, begin with the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia you’re more familiar with the process and more able to spot and manage problem buyers and items.

  • PayPal is easier by far. Accepting international payments can be a hassle. In worst case scenarios, it can actually lose you money or get you involved with unsavory characters. Apart from currency conversions there are problems with credit card fraud, bank fees, delays in sending and receiving checks by mail, and so on. PayPal remains by far the easiest way to send and receive international payments, since it’s fast and converts currency at reasonable exchange rates for you and your buyer automatically.

  • Be an informed shipper. International shipping can be a nightmare, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the process or with the services offered by the shipper you select. Select a shipper that will have some measure of control over the process (or at least minimal trackability) all the way to a package’s destination in the country at issue. Make clear to buyers that you won’t lie on customs forms about shipment content or value, since this may lead to seizure or additional taxes and tariffs at customs checkpoints. If you are a seller that habitually uses “flat rate” or “free” shipping, keep in mind, too, that international shipping can cost anywhere from 2-5 times more than domestic shipping, depending on destination and package size.

  • Communicate clearly. Because differences in native languages can increase the potential for misunderstanding, it is extremely important that you communicate clearly when selling internationally. Use simple, strong language in your listing and email communication and include as many high-quality photos in your listing as possible. If there is any doubt in your mind that your trading partner understands an important aspect of the transaction, follow up with them and ask them to confirm that they understand you.

  • Beware of customs costs. Both you and your buyer need to be aware of any extra costs that may be incurred as the item in question goes through customs in the destination country so that you can make arrangements with one another about who will pay such fees and how they are to be paid.

  • Be mindful of the laws in the destination country. Some types of goods are prohibited in some countries and/or prevented from crossing its borders. Before you make a sale and ship an item, be sure that both you and your trading partner know the item’s legal status in its destination country.
By keeping these points in mind you can increase the likelihood of a happy, successful, and trouble-free transaction for both you and your international trading partner(s). More information about international eBay trading, including about local rules and laws for each eBay site, can be found on eBay's international trading help page.

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