How to handle when buyer does not receive order
I have been selling on Hipstamps for about 9 months now and have had several issues with the delivery of stamps (mostly by USPS). On very small orders, I have offered a refund a few times (after they did not receive anything for 2 months) but this is happening more and more and I can't do that anymore. What is the correct protocol for responding to buyers when their order does not arrive. FYI - I am very cognizant of proper postage and always double check addresses. Any guidance on this would be appreciated from you long time sellers. Thanks in advance.
I'm not criticizing your mailing choice. Not mailing the order at a parcel rate to get a tracking number would be considered self-insuring your shipment. Most of us do it on the smaller orders. It's a risk we take. If it's the same buyer claiming non-receipt, I'd be suspicious, and tell the buyer that the refund sent is the last one, and that buyer should not buy from me again.
If you're having difficulty with many of your mailings to different buyers, then I would review how you are sending the orders. Are you over stuffing the envelopes, and not paying the non-machinable surcharge? The envelope can get stuck in the sorting machinery. Do you put a packing slip in the envelope in case something happens to the outside of the envelope to where the sending and return addresses are unreadable? A packing slip will contain those addresses. Are you shipping internationally, and do not use a customs form and sending via international parcel rates? The receiving country may be disposing of your envelope. Think about how you would like to receive stamps that you buy, and pack them accordingly for your customers.
I hand my envelopes to a postal clerk at the counter to have them hand canceled. It tends to keep the shipments from getting lost or damaged in the collection boxes.
There are private tracking companies. I don't use them. Others do. Maybe they will chime in with their experiences.
To reduce postage costs, try to find discount postage. You can save 25% to 50% or more off of face value for older postage stamps. Many reputable dealers sell older postage stamps are discounts, because they have so much of the stuff.
DO NOT buy the newer US stamps that are being offered for next to nothing on places like Facebook Marketplace. They are counterfeits. The USPS, effective April 1, is throwing in the trash any mailings that have counterfeit stamps on them. They will not return the mailing to the sender for proper postage. Those selling such stamps claim that they got a good bulk bargain from the post office. Remember that it is illegal for the post office to sell stamps at less than face value. So, those people cannot buy at face, and sell at 90% off of face value and make a profit.
Been selling for years and have never lost anything.
I don't use trackletters.com but another similar service. The biggest advantage to this approach is that you can use it on first class letters.
These services are indeed repackaging an USPS service called Informed Visibility(IV). IV is a barcode that is read by the mail processing machinery. I purchased 1000 instances for $180 from my service. So for my 18 cents I have a way to insert an address, save it in an address book and then print out a label with the IV barcode which is read by the USPS machinery. The service then provides an ability to see where the mailed piece is in the US system(via email or on your account on the website). This flow tells you when the mailed piece is processed at your regional distribution center, other processing centers along the way, destination post office and finally, delivery.
This is tracking light in the sense that if your package is lost there is no way to make a claim. But if you have customers who claim that they are not receiving material and it has been delivered according to IV, then you know that you have either a bad customer, mailman or neighbor.
The question is what is your risk tolerance level? For higher dollar orders I will wait in line at the PO and pay the package freight to get a real tracking number. Low dollar orders I just send them regular way. IV is a good option for tweeners IMHO.
No one has answered your principal question of how to respond to buyers who claim they did not receive an order sent without delivery confirmation. The short and only answer is: always provide a full refund and don’t wait two months to do so. I ask buyers to be patient in these situations as shipments can take 3 to 4 weeks to arrive, but I always provide a refund when the buyer feels they have waited long enough. Make sure to ask them to repay via PayPal or return the shipment to you when it finally arrives and offer to pay return postage. Most shipments will arrive before a refund is requested.
85% of my orders ship at the 1 or 2 ounce rate and 75% of my orders (including my P&H charge) are less than $10.00 I’ve mailed over 4,000 unique HipStamp/StampWants orders (I closed my store during the Stanley Gibbons debacle) and have only had to refund 4 as lost in the mail. One was returned to me after a refund was made because the buyer made a replacement purchase from another seller. I find this one in one thousand loss rate an acceptable cost of doing business.
Use your risk aversion judgement to decide when to add delivery confirmation to an order. I would not, for example, ship a $100 order to a new-to-me low feedback buyer without delivery confirmation. This does not require a trip to the Post Office unless you choose to use discount postage because you can add tracking to a PayPal label. It makes better business sense to add tracking on occasion rather than increasing your P&H fee to cover the cost on all orders.
The customer is always right – but you do not have to accept every HipStamp member as a customer. 99.9% of stamp collectors are honest folks and do not want to burn a relationship with a seller. Nevertheless, If you feel you are being played, you can ask a buyer not to buy from you again. Use the HipStamp message center to tell him/her you will cancel any future purchases and refund the new payment less the PayPal fee. The PayPal fees are no longer refundable and should be borne by buyers who ignore your “blocked bidder” request. HipStamp will honor your request and refund your seller fee for any future transactions from the buyer.
We follow similar processes, however I can also make 2 observations.
1) We have bought untold hundreds if not thousands of lots, had them shipped to various countries (We've operated in US, Singapore and Japan), and had a total of 0 never show up. Not once in over 30 years did we not get something.
2) We've sold a similar number of lots likewise to various countries around the world. With and without "tracking". The number of times we have "I never got my order" especially from orders of $10 or less is hitting a point of being almost 50/50. We have noticed in the last 12 - 18 months, a fair number of 'returns' by the USPS as being "Undeliverable", yet when we check with the buyer, the addresses are correct. We then either refund or reship based on what the buyer wants. Funny, with maybe 1 or 2 exceptions, the buyers don't report these as "unreceived" before we're contacting them telling them we got them back.
3) 100% of "I didn't get my item" complaints are never returned to us. (Yeah, they never 'show up eventually'). And 100% of "refunded items" never get "paid" later either.
There is a compounding problem with the USPS for certain over delivery and quality, that seems to have gotten far worse after Covid Recovery and after increases to postage.
We also note that items shipped as registered for tracking are only "updated" as delivered about 20% of the time (No kidding, only around 20%). This actually lends itself to abuse (and most of our "unreceived item" complaints are from tracked items that just "stop being tracked" somewhere in the US. 100% show reaching the US. 80% are not updated past either first post office, or 2nd distribution center. Of that remaining that are "updated" about 20% of those are noted as "Returned".
It's a farce. But there is nothing that we as sellers can DO about how horrible a postal delivery system is. We've changed our shipping policies a few times as a result, and essentially we've had to adopt a policy that items over $200 are shipped via Express method of some time. And with that, we're absorbing 1/2 of it. It costs about $40 to ship by express courier, we are charging $20 for that and eating the rest as a means to try to keep from tanking our sales entirely.
We also note that 95% of "item not received" are really (sorry) "bottom feeders". The same people who will win a $10 for 50cents in a no-reserve auction and then whine that the minimum shipping charge is $2...
This is why we have bumped our minimum item fee from $5 to $15 in recent months as well.
I've had very few issues like yours over the years and they are mostly just long domestic delivery times. Have one customer right now who asked where his order is. Mailed 3/27 from Houston to New York state. Communication is key and I asked for a couple more days patience. Small order so shipped USPS First Class. Customer asked if there was tracking which I offer at essentially cost but he didn't pay for tracking. Out of my control at this point but if he claims it didn't show up, then I take him at his word and refund. Just part of doing business. Every business has to account for losses whether it be shoplifting, inventory "shrinkage", fraud, etc. Sometimes we just have to bite the loss.
Yes it is.