First ebay experience - did I get ripped off?

No, not a huge rip-off. Just $3.18.

I bid for/bought a computer part* from an on-line reseller who sells through ebay. He charged me $5.99 for shipping. He sent it via USPS and the postage was $2.81. The packaging was simply a legal sized amber envelope and the part was wrapped in plastic, probably cost him about 50 cents if he buys the stuff in bulk.

So, did the guy make a few extra bucks on the shipping charge? Is this typical on ebay?

Thanks for any info,

  • The part is a 24 pin to 20 pin converter cable for an ATX power supply. The weight is pretty neglible and certainly is not a fragile item.

He charged you $5.99 for shipping and handling. The extra cash is to pay for his time shipping the product to you. It’s typical.

If the listing explicitly mentioned the postage/packing charge, then you haven’t been ripped off, well, not exactly - AFAIK, the ebay rules allow sellers to either:

  • Post an explicit shipping amount, in which case they are allowed to include reasonable ‘handling’ elements such as their time, the fuel for the trip to the post office, etc.


  • Post their item without an explicit shipping amount (but still say 'buyer pays postage), in which case the shipping charge should comprise only the cost of materials and postage.

BUT, it’s also common for sellers to ‘pad up’ shipping on cheaper items hoping the buyer won’t notice and they’ll end up making a few dollars.

The onus is on the buyer to make sure they are aware of the total shipping * handling charge(s) before placing a bid.

A few times I was all set to bid on something only to find out they wanted something like 40% above the auction price to send it to me.

Especially as the carriage element of the transaction does not attract eBay fees; I’ve seen small electronic items for sale that were ‘buy it now’ price of one dollar, with a thirty-dollar shipping charge (admittedly, these were shipping from Hong Kong, but I happen to know that a)the items were worth more than a dollar and b)there’s no way it would cost a quarter of that amount to ship them, even by priority airmail. I’m not sure if eBay has stamped this out now though.

I’ll always charge a pound or two for the time it takes to pack the item, get to the post office, etc. It’s standard procedure. Buy any regular mail-order item and the P&P is more than the actual cost of postage.

This isn’t unique to eBay - pretty much anything you order online will cost around $5, if not more. The exception being Amazon and some other big stores, who will give you free shipping for orders over a certain amount.

As long as the total + shipping is less than you could find locally (and don’t forget the cost of gas to drive around looking) it all works out in my opinion. Plus, I don’t mind spending a couple of bucks for the convenience of having the item just show up at my door. It’s like a mini-Christmas!

If the shipping cost was clearly marked and you were happy with the total cost, you didn’t get ripped off.


40%?! That’s nothing. I found a nice used PDA (a cheaper one that costs about $100 new) for a starting bid of $15 and no one had bid on it a couple of hours before the auction ended. I put in my zipcode to calculate the shipping: $44. I figured that I must have mis-typed it, there was no way it could cost that much to ship something less than 1/2 across the country, right? After I carefully re-entered my zip code I figured out why no one had bid on it. The seller that PDA I did end up buying charged $6 to send the exact same contents and it cost him $3.95 to ship it (not counting packing material, gas etc).

I really hate auctions like that. If you don’t want to make less than $60 on something put the auction to $50 to start, don’t intend to charge 4X the price of the item for shipping. It looks so dishonest to try to make the money through shipping, and you don’t want to appear dishonest with this sort of transaction.

Of course, one could just be smart and obfuscate … calculate out a few likely scenarios priority mail wise, assign a number that would cover all zip codes, and use PayPal - it will let you ship it out without putting the dollar amount of the postage on there.

Packing materials and handling are (should be) disseminated as a separate line item in the auction itself (Ebay has a spot for those).