If you ever had a package go missing after ordering something on eBay, this might be the post for you! This morning I had the pleasure of learning how this happens first hand, not as a frequent shopper—but as a seller.
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Are we sometimes too trusting of technology?
For a little background, one of the side hustles I do is selling TCG (trading card game) cards to the secondary market for Magic the Gathering on eBay. My boyfriend attends FNM (Friday Night Magic) at his local card shop and he wins a decent amount of packs and promotional cards. Whatever she does not use for his decks, gets sold online to fund his hobby.
Similar to other markets, people hold specific cards and sets as long-term investments. It sort of reminds me of cryptocurrency in the sense that the usefulness of each card in the game's meta determines the value. Prices can also fluctuate over short periods of time!
Errors on Ebay's Back End
This morning, I was checking our store and noticed a notification that I had missed my shipping date on a recent order (I offer a one-day turn around after purchase to ship). Imagine my face in shock when I saw that the card I mailed out yesterday with tracking had yet to be sent.
eBay has a "built-in function" that not only connects to PayPal to handle transactions, but allows automated label printing. How it works is that someone purchases an item, payment gets confirmed, then you can purchase a tracking label directly through Ebay's website. eBay sends you a notification that says that payment was received and if you click the notification, you are then brought to a page where you can adjust the weight and dimensions of your parcel and confirm payment to buy tracking. What makes this convenient is that you don't have to navigate to the order at all, eBay does it for you.
What I discovered when troubleshooting this issue was that sometimes the form that comes up for the tracking purchase is not updated with the correct information. If you ship with tracking frequently, the screen will sometimes show the address of the last label printed and not the one for the current order, but will display the current item. This is serious, as some customers will receive an extra package, while others won't receive what they paid for.
I checked the last order before this one, and there I found two USPS tracking codes where there should have been one.
Honesty in Online Buying/ Selling
The first time this happened to me about a month ago, I thought it was a personal mistake. I had shipped a $70 card with tracking to a buyer, and a week later he messaged me through Ebay messaging to inform me that he received a second package ($50 order). While he did open it since it was addressed to him, he immediately realized that this shipment was intended for someone else.
He lamented that he "would have loved the playset of cards he just received" but luckily, he decided to do the right thing and send them to the correct person. I worked together with this customer and sent him the additional shipping it would take to get the package to the right person.
Not everyone is going to be honest online, but I'm grateful to those who are!
When this shipping mistake happened today, I retraced my steps to the culprit. The "Ship Now" notification. In the future, I will navigate to the order screen to buy my tracking manually instead of clicking on the auto-filled form.
You Can Intercept USPS Packages if You're the Sender
Since the card just shipped yesterday, and our mail (Hawaii) is shipped by plane to the continental US, chances are that my package was still close by. I went to the USPS website (you must have an account to process this type of request) and navigated to their "Package Intercept" feature. I was surprised that they actually had such a thing. Once there, you type in the tracking number of the package. It will be listed on eBay under whichever order it's for, and also on Paypal in the form of a receipt with the number attached.
If the package is eligible to be intercepted, you will be brought to a form to provide the original destination of the package. Apparently in the US, mail is still property of the sender until delivered. What a relief. I had to fill in the name and address to match what was printed on the label. When the information matches what they have on their database, you can proceed. The options I was presented with were to either pick the package up from whatever facility it's at or to have it sent back to the sender instead.
I selected to return it to myself.
There is a fee to use this service and it all depends on what the final shipping charges come out to. Intercepting this package was still cheaper than offering a refund on this promotional card (the same one shown above). I sent a message to the buyer, explaining that there had been a shipping issue and offering some bonus cards for free as his package will now be late.
My boyfriend and I intend to participate in this weekend's Magic Pre-release event "Theros Beyond Death". This set comes out the public the following weekend, so hopefully, if everything goes to plan—My customer will receive cards that aren't even out yet.
Dragon's Lair Comics
Now that this situation is resolved, I thought that maybe this post could provide some information on online marketplaces, and how to be a secret agent if you really need something back that you already mailed. While this online giant has made it possible for anyone to buy and sell to a broader audience, some features are better left to manual effort. For me, I'm just happy that I get to keep my 100% positive feedback rating and my own peace of mind for now.