Minimum order value for international sales to proceed

It's been mentioned on various threads... setting a minimum value for international sales to proceed through checkout would be nice. With postage costs getting completely out of control, and HipStamp Fees on S/H charges perpetuating the high postage rates (for those who follow the law, at least), then such a feature will allow for more reasonable shipping rates to be set.
For those who sell stamps << $1.00 each and wish to sell internationally, there is no other way to prevent taking a bath.
Example: recent sale of one 19 cent stamp to the Netherlands. $7.00 S/H paid (net $7.19)
Minus $6.73 postage (new rates via Shipping Easy) minus 52 cents Paypal minus 58 cents Hipstamp fee = negative 64 cents, not counting packaging, cost basis, and other incidentals. If I set a minimum order value of $10.00 for example, I would be willing/able to absorb some of these. Frankly, I'm shocked as to how many of these types of orders I get. Enough to make me consider pulling the plug on international sales, or cheating like everybody else does and is getting away with it.
Hipstamp, please be part of the coping with creative solutions, not part of the problem.

Comments

  • 8 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Doug, this lack of flexibility in setting shipping charges was one reason I stopped selling outside the US a couple of years ago.

    I also get a surprising number of low value, single-stamp orders. Since I no longer sell outside the US, the negative effect of the PayPal fee and HipStamp shipping fee is less painful, but still significant enough that I recently raised my S/H fee from $1.80 to $2.10 to offset some of the losses. I started with StampWants in 2007 and the general market situation for buyers and smaller sellers alike has deteriorated since those days.
  • Yes. It's hard to be the little guy trying to sell inexpensive stamps to hobbyists/enthusiasts as an extension of our own hobbies. Penny-pinching matters to a large number of us. But there are some things that can be done to make it a little less painful. If there is a willingness...
  • I'm thinking about what I was thinking when I was a kid collecting stamps, and how much enjoyment I got from filling a particular empty space or two on an album page. It is always going to be easier for me to list full sets or groups of stamps, but I think listing them individually is more helpful to more collectors. Individual listings are more work and inevitably result in more lower-value listings, but that gives prospective buyers more flexibility. Many stamps with minimum catalog values aren't worth listing, but I make exceptions, especially where I think the individual stamps may be somewhat difficult to find.

    Unfortunately, as fees and other costs have risen in recent years, it has become more and more difficult to justify my listing of individual lower-value stamps. In the beginning, I was hoping to recover a reasonable proportion of what I had invested in my collection/accumulation and to do so in a way that might contribute to the hobby. Things have changed and it's becoming more and more difficult to do that. I may be too far removed from the hobby now to understand what's going on with the later generations of collectors, but I get the sense we're building barriers that make the marketing of lower-value stamps untenable and thereby adding one more reason for the hobby's apparent decline.

  • When the postage rates were raised and mail containing merchandise (stamps sold on HipStamp) required a customs form and to be shipped by First Class Package International Service ($10.00 minimum charge), I had only been listing on HipStamp for a couple of months. In that time, my limited sales were about 50/50 domestic/international. Since my offerings were limited and the value of my offerings were generally minimal, I expected my international sales to dry up. But rather than drop them entirely, I opted to give the international buyer the choice of whether to purchase from my store or to go elsewhere where shipping rates were lower (either USA sellers that didn't follow the new shipping rules or sellers in other countries). I checked out the Shipping Easy option, but decided not to partake because I didn't want to jump through their hoops. So I instead set my international shipping rates at $10.00 for Canada, $12.00 for Mexico and $14.00 for everyone else. I would be taking a hit on expenses, but viewing my large stock of mint USA postage as scrape postage (50-75% of face value), I thought I would be coming out about even with the fees and packaging expenses taken into account. I expected my international sales to dry up, but did still want to give international buyers the option to purchase from me. The sales I expected to make were for higher priced items or for larger orders that had a high total sales value.

    My sales did for the most part disappear for international buyers. But I still do get a sale or two a month on average. What is surprising is that sometimes these sales will be for only one stamp listed at around $1. At first I sent the buyers an email to check to make sure they were aware of the shipping fee. I always got a response back saying that they were, so I stopped worrying about it. After all, our buyers are adults that can freely make up their minds how they wish to spend their money. I consider myself a libertarian, and as such, I don't believe that individuals need to be protected from themselves over something as minor as purchasing a collectible postage stamp online. And one individual to the next is going to have totally different ideas as to what is important to them; me trying to apply my way of thinking to what their decision making will be will never work.

    I do get periodic requests from potential international buyers as to why my international shipping fees are so high when compared to others from the USA that are around $2.50 to ship anywhere in the world. I go through a standard explanation about the UPU and how they forced this upon the USPS, that other USA sellers either chose to ignore these shipping requirements or use a third party to lower their shipping fees. I then invite them to buy from sellers from their own country or to buy from sellers who ignore the USPS shipping requirements. I tell them that I will not lower my shipping fees at their request and ignore these rules (I have been asked to do so) because all of the liability falls on me, not them. I like to go to bed a night and not have to worry that the FBI is going to make a gestapo raid on my townhouse and arrest me for not following the USPS rules (outlandish maybe, but that is what fuels nightmares).

    I did have one buyer from Canada that I worked with on this and we came up with a solution of him requesting to be allowed to purchase numerous times and to combine the orders through the pre-approved for payment option. That would keep his shipping charge reasonable and he could accumulate a sufficient number of stamps and not have to worry about others purchasing items he had in his shopping cart. HipStamp blew this solution up by deleting the repeating shipping charges from the invoice but not deleting their 8% fee charged on each shipping charge. I managed to keep this individual as a customer by instead going to a periodic addition of items to my store (once every two months) instead of dribbling newly listed items in nearly every day.

    I used to collect, but now I am only selling. I look at this selling still as a hobby. I am now retired and need something to take up my free time and this is it. I try to sell my items in a manner that I wished other sellers did when I was still collecting. So all of my stamps for sale are listed individually, whether they have a catalog value of $1000 or 25 Cents. Pictures are provided of each stamp, both front and back. I start all my sales at 30% of the most recent Scott catalog value that I have available (presently 2018-2019 catalogs). I then discount that selling price 50% for each listed defect, with defects consisting of a long string of potential things such as perforation issues, creases, tears, toning, pencil marks on back, etc. For Scott catalog listings of 25 Cents (minimal value), I have a selling price of 5 Cents. If that stamp has any defects or is a mint-hinged stamp where the pricing is for mint-never-hinged, it gets listed at 3 Cents. I am not trying to make a ton of money selling my stamps and I never expected to when I was accumulating my present hoard. Instead, I am just trying to disperse them to others who are willing to help at least partially fund this hobby of mine. And believe me, just about everything sells when priced low enough.

    I am enjoying myself doing this and have managed to keep as much stress as possible away from this undertaking. By following all known regulations and having all of my listings and selling fees following a set of predetermined conditions, there is really no decision making involved in the day-to-day scanning, cataloging, listing and selling of my stamps. If I ever get to the point where the stress starts getting to me, I always have the option of calling Mystic and telling them to come on over, I have a hoard to stamps to unload. But I certainly hope it never comes to that.
  • Amen. Thank you for your words and thoughts. I am curious... about how long does it take for your international customers to get your packages? I have been using ShippingEasy, which isn't really that bad. It does save some money. But their claim that it doesn't add much in terms of delivery time is hogwash. It routinely takes 22 to 40 days for delivery. And on a recent order, something weird happened where I got a draft on my credit card because what I sent as a one ounce "package" was measured at 1.54 pounds, and they sent me a charge to match! I have to figure out this one. I don't think it's a unit of measure issue because 1.54 ounces is much more than I know this package (envelope) was mailed at. Methinks they applied my label to somebody else's package at the mail processing center. I'm hoping to reach out to my customer this weekend to put him on notice and have him be on the lookout for what actually shows up!
  • edited February 1 3 LikesVote Down
    That's the risk you take when you rely on third party mailing firms.

    My experiences have been similar to what Richard stated above. For the one or two international sales I now receive and ship myself, most buyers seem to receive their parcel within a week, week and-a-half.
  • One week seems about normal for international delivery. A recent shipment to Canada took longer due to about a five day hold-up in Canadian customs and then delayed delivery due to the cold.

    I have found that using USPS can be fast and easy for international shipping. I have a postal scale at home so can get an accurate weight. I then use the USPS website to get the postage cost (which I apply as postage stamps), then fill out the customs form online. I print the customs form off, cut each of the three copies down to size and place in the small customs form self-adhesive clear plastic envelope and apply that to the package before taking it to the Post Office. So when I get to the Post Office, all they do is scan in the bar code on the customs form and hand me the receipt with the tracking number. I got the small customs form self-adhesive clear plastic envelopes from one of the clerks at the Post Office; she gave me a stack of a couple dozen for use so that she wouldn't have to go through the trouble herself of inserting the customs forms and attaching it to the package. The smaller one gives me plenty of space to apply the plethora of postage stamps that I use for international mailing.
  • An Option for a Minimum Order Requirement for Fix Price Stores on Hipstamp would be a GREAT Tool.
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