You may have seen the availability of brand-new yet low-priced items available on eBay from sellers in certain countries. These are predominantly China and Hong Kong, and you may be wondering if it is safe to buy from these sellers.
The short answer is this is as safe as most other eBay transactions – but, as with any eBay seller in any country, you need to carefully look at their feedback rating and at other measures of their integrity. With any eBay transaction there is always the risk that it won’t work out. However, you do have the Buyer Protection Plan with every purchase. As a US buyer with personal experience buying from sellers in China, I found a lot of tips to make the experience a straightforward and positive one for you, with the best chance of total satisfaction.
I’d like to share these tips with you, so that hopefully you won’t be as confused as I was when I was first buying from these sellers.
1. e-packet delivery explained
If you live in the US and are shopping on eBay, you may have noticed “e-packet delivery” denoted as the shipping method for items from certain countries.
What is e-packet? Basically, it is a shipping method for getting small packages from China, Hong Kong and many other countries, to the US. E-packet delivery is a joint service between those countries and USPS, the United States Postal Service. Therefore you will receive your e-packet just as you would normally receive any package through the postal system. Typically an e-packet will fit within a standard size US home mailbox.
The reason for the popularity of e-packet is that it is low-cost, so the overseas seller can pass on some of these shipping savings to you, the customer.
Does e-packet delivery include tracking?
The seller usually has a choice of whether they want a tracking number for the e-packet they are sending, also at low cost. You, the buyer, may not have a say in this. So, if this is important to you, look carefully into whether the listed item will be shipped with a tracking number or without one. If in doubt, you can ask the seller.
A few of the overseas eBay sellers state that they will add a tracking number for extra cost, but you may want to be wary about this – it’s usually better to stick with a seller who puts tracking on all packages, that way you won’t have to worry about them remembering to treat your one differently.
2. How to know how long will it take for your eBay item in China to be delivered in the US
The delivery estimate given in the item description is usually accurate, but not always. Delays can happen, especially when the item goes through US customs. Therefore, if you’re ordering an item from overseas, be aware it could take a little longer than the estimated shipping time. Keep an eye on where your package is via its tracking number. If something doesn’t seem right, investigate. Contact your seller and see what they have to say.
When should I be concerned about my overseas package?
It’s worthwhile checking in with the seller if the estimate delivery timeframe has passed and
- there is no tracking number
- there is a tracking number, but it doesn’t look like the item will get there soon
NOTE: It’s better to contact the seller sooner rather than later if an item seems to take longer than expected.
Don’t wait too long or you will have passed the time period in which you can make a claim in the eBay Buyer Protection Plan. Some unscrupulous overseas sellers will try to play on ignorance of this timeframe period on the part of buyers, and will try to string you along until the period has passed in which you could get an automatic eBay refund.
Buying from China or Hong Kong from eBay can be safe, so long as you use the same safeguards you would use for any eBay seller. Pay particular attention to feedback rating – often this may mean being willing to pay a dollar or two more for the item if it means you can get it from a seller with a higher feedback rating.
Pay attention to the timeframes of the eBay Buyer Protection Plan and be sure to take some action if your item has not arrived before that timeframe is up.
Because it can sometimes be more of a hassle to deal with international sellers in the rare case that something does go wrong, I have a rule of thumb that I don’t purchase anything high-priced from an overseas seller. If the deal goes sour, I don’t want to be spending more than I can afford to lose. I’ve never actually had anything really bad happen. Out of about 20 overseas transactions, I had one that never arrived and I got refunded on that via eBay Buyer Protection Plan.
Overall, if you take sensible precautions like those I have outlined above, you should be able to be part of some great deals from eBay sellers from China and Hong Kong. I’ve bought items from there that would have cost ten times the amount if I’d bought them from US sellers.