BEFORE YOU BEGIN
146 Contact the Buyer
Accepting payment sounds like the easiest part of the selling practice, but in fact there's a good deal you need to keep in mind. First, you should follow basic seller's etiquette when accepting payments, so you're more likely to get good feedback and word spreads through eBay that you're a good sellerand also so you don't get burned as a seller.
Money is a touchy issue with many people, and you want to be sure you get payment for your item. However, you also want to ensure that the buyer is satisfied with the process of paying you because you'll get bad feedback on eBay otherwise . Do the following, and you'll ensure that you get paid and that the buyer is happy with the transaction:
Be sure you get paid in advance, including for shipping charges As you learned in 136 Set Payment and Shipping Options , you should have made clear on your auction that the buyer will pay for shipping. When you sent your email invoice to the buyer, you should also have explained that you require payment before you'll ship the item purchased. Wait until you get paid before shipping the goodsand you should get full payment, including shipping charges.
Ask that a description of the item accompany payment When someone pays you, you should get a description of the item along with the payment, including the auction number. Without this information, it is difficult to keep track of what the payment is for, especially if you sell items on several auctions. Make sure that the buyer also sends his mailing address.
Ideally, the buyer should forward or print the email invoice you sent to him because that invoice includes all the information you need to match a payment with a particular auction.
When the buyer contacts you to tell you payment is on the way, respond quickly Buyers are justifiably worried about who they're buying items from and will judge you according to how responsive you are to them. As soon as you get an email telling you that payment is on the way, send back a note thanking the buyer for the message and explaining that you'll be prompt in sending the item after the payment arrives (or, in the case of a personal check, as soon as the check has cleared the bank).
When the payment arrives, send a note to the buyer As we all know, things get lost in the mail, and the buyer will want to ensure that his check or money order arrived in good order. When you receive payment, promptly send a note to the buyer stating that. Also tell him when you'll be shipping the item so he'll know when to expect it. If the payment is by PayPal, send the note as soon as you receive payment.
If you're going into business selling at auctions, you can set up a merchant account allowing you to directly accept credit card payments. That way, people who do not use PayPal can pay you using a credit card. Keep in mind that setting up a merchant account is not cheap and can eat into your profits. Some sites charge hundreds of dollars for a setup fee in addition to normal ongoing fees and per-transaction fees. So, it's only worthwhile if you're a heavy eBay seller.
You can set up a merchant account to accept credit card payments directly from any of these websites .
For sellers, the ideal way of accepting payments is with PayPal. Payment is immediate and goes straight into your PayPal account. For details on how to sign up, go to www.paypal.com.
But if your buyer doesn't pay using PayPal, perhaps the second easiest way to accept payment is with money orders and cashier's checks. For sellers, these options are the gold standard because they're as good as cash and don't have any of the drawbacks of sending cash through the mail.
Keep in mind that cashier's checks can be forged; you shouldn't ship the goods until the check clears your bank and is deposited in your account. So, ship goods only after you actually see the money deposited in your account.
When you get a money order, it has an identification number. The buyer has a receipt that includes the identification number as well, so the check can be traced if there's a problem with it (and the seller can get a replacement for the money order if it's lost in the mail).
A money order is, in essence, cash. The seller has paid cash for it, and you can cash it at your bank or other financial institution. You don't have to wait for it to clear, as you do with a personal check. Instead, the money is yours immediately. Because of this, you should encourage buyers to pay using a money order. A good incentive is to promise to ship the goods within 24 hours of receiving the money order.
Cashier's checks are similar to money ordersthey can be issued only when the person obtaining the cashier's check has enough money in the bank to cover the check. As a result, they're as good as cashor almost. To ensure that the checks are not counterfeit, wait until you've deposited them and the money is actually credited to your account before shipping anything.
Accepting money from international buyers is easy. If the buyer is in a different country, she can pay with an international money order. The buyer pays for the money order in her own currency. But when you get it, you can take it to your bank and have it converted into American dollars.
Most buyers on auction sites prefer paying by personal check. They're the least trouble for most people because they don't have to go to a bank or post office to get a money order or cashier's check.
Because of the convenience factor for your buyers, you might have to accept personal checks instead of money orders or cashier's checks at your auction. If you say on your auction listing that you won't accept personal checks, you're conceivably cutting down on your potential audience, so you might decide to accept personal checks.
In general, the only issue you have accepting personal checks is that they can bounce. Because checks can bounce, never ship an item until a check clears. When you talk to the buyer about payment, make it clear that you won't ship an item until the check clears.
A bank might report to you that a check has cleared even though the money is not yet in your account. So, before shipping an item, make sure that the money is actually in your account in two ways: Check your account online (if you have online access) and call the bank directly.
Another payment method preferred by some buyers is collect on delivery (COD). If you have a buyer who insists on COD, you should insist that he pay the extra COD. charge. When a buyer pays using COD, you ship the item as COD via the U.S. mail; when the buyer gets the item, he pays the postal service the price of your item plus the extra COD charges. The postal service in turn sends you the money (or a check) for the price of the item. Again, if a buyer insists on this form of payment, the buyer should pay the extra charges.