Monday, May 28, 2012

EBAY in Germany - name is the same, but boy, is it different!

One of reasons I traveled to Germany was to help my mother empty out the attic. Barbie dolls, smurf figurines, matchbox cars - all was supposed to be sold. I figured without garage sales, EBAY was the next best option. Especially with the rainy weather making flea markets and standing outside, trying to sell toys out of the back of the car rather unattractive, using the internet to reach a large number of people and selling items fairly anonymous seemed the way to go.
So off we were, getting fast internet was not an issue. We had a choice between cable through Kabel Deutschland and DSL through Telecom, we opted for DSL. I picked a catchy name and was ready to start selling. I had previously used EBAY in the USA and consider myself an experienced EBAY seller.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - starting page for

When I logged on to, everything looked familiar and I happily generated my first item for auction since we were given a number of free, no fee auction items, as long as we did not exceed the 1 Euro minimum starting amount.
As I was ready to publish the item, I was prompted for payment information. I had been hesitant to use Paypal since I did not want my mother to have to deal with online payments and electronic transfers. I had therefore advised her to open up a separate bank account to maintain an air gap as much as possible between EBAY and the rest of her financial information. We also limited transactions as much as possible to Germany to simplify shipping costs and potential legal issues. I am not an expert on German law, but looking over other EBAY ads scared me. Commercial sellers usually include legalese covering at least a page about retracting bids, not following through on payments, buyers rights etc. Based on that alone, we opted for private selling, included some basic protective language and (by now) cautiously approached the adventure. I set up payment through the new checking account, advised my mother again to never mix this account with other accounts and we completed our first item for auction.
At the same time, we sold some old stamps locally and were informed about changes to regarding payment options. It seems that the lack of credit cards being used in Germany, have now made decide that all payments somehow must go through directly. This means that the buyer will pay and once the seller has notified that the item has been shipped, will then disburse funds to the seller. Why all payments have to go through this intermediary step of, I am not certain, but to me this seems like an over-regulation that is not necessary.  I remember from using EBAY in the USA getting checks for sale price and postage that I was able to deposit in the bank, then shipped the item. Any delay in shipping or issues with the items were addressed through the rating system, which is also available in Germany at Anyway, fine with us to have this delay going through since our choice is really selling for any amount or paying someone to empty the attic.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - one of the items we offered and IT SOLD!                                                               
One lesson from, certain items are universally liked. Anything Barbie will sell as do toys involving cowboys and indians. The figures above fetched a good price to my surprise, I later on learned that the company that used to produce them went out of business years ago and the figures seemingly remained popular with collectors. I am happy that after 20 years in the attic, the figures will make someone happy. I used to play with them decades ago and figured that any price would be nice, having little hope of them fetching more than 1 Euro, they grossed almost 20 Euro!
Now came the experience of shipping items. The most headache I had placing the item up for auction was the tightly regulated amounts that you can charge for shipping. In the USA, I had picked whatever shipping method was most convenient and cheapest. Books were sent media rate through USPS, the rest regular package rate through USPS since I do not have a Fed-Ex or UPS location close by, but a post office within 10 minutes of my house. I usually added $1 or $2 for packaging to allow some money for tape and boxes as needed. I had planned to proceed in a similar manner for No dice! will provide you a list of about 20 options for shipping items and include maximum amounts for each shipping mode - leaving at times less than 1 Euro space for shipping costs. Not sure why they call this an assist with transparency. As long as you include a shipping cost with your item any buyer knows what to expect. I never had arguments about the stated shipping costs in the USA since, as in Germany, the shipping cost was listed as an itemized cost with the minimum bid amount when the item was offered.
In Germany, people seem to routinely argue about shipping cost, not sure why. To some degree, I blame the over-regulation of that seems to entice people to seek more freedom by doing out of band discussions via email and outside of the control. I know we have lost some bids because of the shipping costs we have charged and our unwillingness to alter the costs later on. But if you bid on an item that had shipping costs clearly stated, do not argue with the seller after you win the auction. It's like ordering something at and calling up Amazon to get cheaper shipping rates. Guess what, it will not work with Amazon and, at least for the items we sell, it will not work on

If anyone in Germany is reading this blog and using, I would be curious to hear your experiences with shipping charges as well as in general.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - a nice length discussion on why shipping costs are so tightly regulated on

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