How do overseas Ebay sellers make a profit on small items?

I’m asking about the endless supply of A/V cables, soldering irons, and other small electronics for sale on Ebay that are shipped from Hong Kong and have a final price of less than $3. Is the shipping and ebay fees paid for with stolen credit cards? If I buy an HDMI cable for $1.50, even if it cost the seller nothing, they still have to pay commision to Ebay and Paypal, and then ship it to the other side of the world. I have commercial shipping rates and I can’t ship a package for less than $1.90.

One the item itself is really cheap in wholesale.
Two, they get charged less to ship package from China than you would to ship it inside the US. The USPS actually loses money on their part of the deal.

As I noted before, this is becoming an annual tradition.

You paid $1.50 for a cable? You wuz robbed.

Can’t figure it out. I just bought from Amazon two batteries and wall charger (charges the battery outside of the phone) for my Samsung Note 2 for $10.62 and no shipping. I just don’t understand how they can make money on this. And I’ve orders batteries from them before, they work great.

The developed world has had hundreds of years of inflation. China had that economic genius, Chairman Mao, who set the Chinese economy back to the stone age.

What this means in the 21st century is that costs in China are, by developed world standards, pretty close to zero. People in China can work for US$1 a day not because they’re exploited slaves but because you can live pretty well on US$1 a day in China. Rent is pennies, food is pennies, bills are pennies. And so on. Production costs of your item is pennies. Postage is pennies. A pile of pennies in China is a tidy profit.

This is also why working class jobs are outsourced to China whenever possible: because costs and wages are pennies, and it’s far more profitable to get stuff made in China even with the cost of shipping to the developed world.

In many ways, the UPU is a really good thing, since members are obliged to make a best effort to move a parcel that arrives in their country toward its final destination. That’s come in helpful, for example, when I sent a high-value parcel to Germany and for some reason the USPS dispatched it to Japan instead.

On the other hand, like anything these days, someone will find a way to take advantage of it*. Many of the treaties date back to the era where most international mail was correspondence between parties in different countries and there was a reasonable expectation that country A -> B mail was approximately equal to country B -> A mail.

  • A similar thing happened with telephone call termination fees - the far-end phone company received compensation from the originating company under the theory that the originating company billed their customer for making the call, while the terminating company had no relation with the caller other than being told “Here, deliver this” by the originating company.

A few companies discovered that they could exploit this by offering free rack space and terminating phone lines to customers who got a lot of incoming-only traffic, like AOL in the days of dialup. Those companies raked in huge amounts of call termination settlement fees.

The answer to the OP is of course bulk. International shipping costs for an item weighing tens of grams is negligible if you’re sending a box of a thousand of them, and eBay and other sites charge less commission the more transactions a seller makes.
Essentially as a consumer you can get the wholesale price, since the cost of maintaining an eBay “shop” is virtually nothing.

Well first I suggest you limit your statements to parts of China.
I live in Shanghai, where rents are comparable to London, and they are higher still in Hong Kong.

Even with that modification, and allowing for the fact you were trying to use hyperbole for comic effect, your statements are still very misleading.
Many Chinese companies are moving factories to countries such as Vietnam because Chinese rents and salaries have been increasing steadily year on year and are now not so competitive with other developing Asian economies.
However China remains very competitive overall compared to countries with much lower salaries because of better infrastructure and economies of scale.

Relatively cheap labour is part of why chinese manufactured goods are so cheap. But no, it’s not because we’re in the stone age living on pennies.

I did not say or imply in any way that the Chinese were living in the stone age.

I said Mao set the Chinese economy back to zero, ie the stone age, back when he was alive, ie prior to 1976. And that’s why things are much cheaper in China. I was dumbing it down as far as I could. Too far for you, I guess, but basically correct.

Costs are a lot lower in China. That’s why they can sell stuff so cheaply and still make a worthwhile profit. Point made.

Economy of scale. I buy potatoes for 29c a pound that have been shipped from Michigan or Colorado or Idaho in rail cars. But it would cost me 50c postage to send a postcard back to the grower to comment on the potatoes. Besides the shipper, it is easy to think of a dozen other people along the way who have snipped a worth-while gain out of my 29c, from Monsanto to my bag boy. As tiny as those increments are, they are worth doing in sufficiently large multiples.

Nevertheless, my price of potatoes seems “miraculous” in view of all the costs.

I mostly agree. The intent was and is good. Some of the applications get problematic as things have shifted. ISTR that China was also charging postal rates around or a little lower than their side of the cost too. It’s been a while since I saw that though.

A different piece, having dealt with a number of the online storefronts that aggregate a lot of these type of items, is that they generally keep very limited stock on hand. They aren’t strictly drop shippers but for most items they roll up orders and take delivery after you’ve ordered. If everything is working right the order ships a couple days after it’s submitted. When it doesn’t you can see longer delays or a part of that order not fulfilled for a long time or canceled. That lets them keep stock and facility overhead costs to a minimum.

Didn’t someone once say “We lose money on every sale, but we make it up in volume”? That’s been Amazon’s business model for quite some time. Obviously either someone is losing money, most likely the shipping company, or someone has a warehouse full of this stuff and just wants to get rid of it. Don’t forget that stuff that comes from China, as well as other South Asian countries, is incredibly cheap to make. It may appear that selling something for $1.50 and shipping it 6,000 miles means they are losing money, but I wouldn’t count on it.