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What to Do When an eBay Item Arrives Broken

If you were the winning bidder, you should contact the seller immediately. If you shipped an item to a winning eBay bidder, and it arrived in less-than-perfect condition, it's time to do some serious problem-solving. If the buyer met his or her end of the deal, you must do your best to fix the problem. Your communication skills are your number-one asset in this situation, so get to work.

Pick up the pieces

No matter how carefully you pack an item, sometimes it arrives on the buyer's doorstep mangled, broken, or squashed. News of this unfortunate event travels back to you fast. Shortly after opening the package, the buyer will let you know — hopefully in a message, versus filing a complaint — how unhappy he or she is. (Sometimes such missives aren't very polite, but stay calm.)

When you send an item of value to a customer, it's best to insure the package. eBay holds you responsible for seeing that the item arrives as described when it reaches the customer, so it's best to insure irreplaceable or high-value items.

If a package is lost, you'll know it because the tracking number never shows delivery, and the buyer tells you the package is a no-show. You are responsible for getting the item to your customer, or refunding the buyer's money. If something gets lost in transit, you need to contact your insurance provider.

If your item isn't located in 30 days, it's declared lost, and there's a round of paperwork and processing to do before you get your money.

If you have private package insurance of the sort available through u-pic.com, the process is much simpler than dealing with the USPS or UPS. You don't have to contact the shipper; you merely have to contact the insurance company and place a claim.

Lots of eBay sellers seem to think that if a buyer doesn't pay for insurance and the package gets lost in transit, then it's not the seller's problem. They couldn't be more wrong. The Federal Trade Commission has a strict rule covering mail-order merchandise delivery.

The short version is that if your item doesn't get to the buyer within 30 days, you must refund the payment. The long version can be found at the FTC website.

Boxed out of a claim

Neither UPS nor the U.S. Postal Service will pay on an insurance claim if they feel you did a lousy job of packing. Always use good packing products, wrap carefully, and get ready to plead your case.

Every shipping company has its own procedure for complaints. But here's the one thing they do have in common: No procedure is hassle-free. If you have insured through your shipper, contact those folks just as soon as a problem arises — and have your value documentation at the ready.

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