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Ebay Problem: USPS Delivery Confirmation Error December 18, 2008

Posted by James in : all, ebay help , trackback

I recently was told by someone that USPS delivered an item… but I never actually got it!

If you sell on Ebay, you have to get delivery confirmation, or you have to be willing to instantly refund someone’s payment whenever they ask you to. Delivery confirmation proves to PayPal that the item was sent, and there are no officially endorsed payment methods on Ebay other than PayPal. Money orders and checks might be permissible forms of payment, but you can never actually tell a buyer this fact in an item description.

What happened: Someone sent me an item using USPS with delivery confirmation. That person plugged in the delivery confirmation number at USPS.com and it said that the item was delivered. Unfortunately it wasn’t delivered. I went to the post office the next day and asked for the item and got it. I spoke to a superviser at the post office about this fact and he said that he couldn’t “explain what happed in writing.” He did, however, offer to speak over the phone to the person who sent the item to explain what happened. He also printed out two pieces of paper that have the following information:

You can view the documents below:

In other words, the postman accidentally hit a button that the item was delivered, and then left a note stating that it was not delivered.

You might think “OK, this was a simple mistake and it was easily corrected.” However, I have also had experiences with the USPS when they didn’t leave a note and so have customers of mine. I have waited a month to get an item only to find out that it was waiting for me at the post office the whole time after I got a notice that said, “This is your final notice. We have already attempted to deliver the package on four other occasions.” If I never found out that the item was waiting for me, then it would eventually be thrown out or returned to the seller.

It is possible for delivery confirmation to state that an item was delivered when this is not the case, and it is possible that your item will be thrown out.

If this problem can occur, then it should also be possible for the opposite to occur. Delivery confirmation might say that you never got an item, even if you did.

This is not a surprise to me, but some people seem to think that delivery confirmation is infallible. Sellers are lead to think, “If my customer doesn’t get the item, but delivery confirmation says that they did, then they must be lying!”

I do not want to say that the USPS is a terrible company or that any alternative is necessarily better. I suspect that all delivery services will have mistakes like this happen on rare occasions.



1. Jonathan smith - August 17, 2009

Being an ebay powerseller, I will not use the USPS for anything valued over $15. Their delivery confirmation service is a joke - many times the Postal delivery person forgets to scan the item that it was delivered. In that case, the seller has no way to prove they sent the item. In fact, any buyer on ebay can check the delivery confirmation number on the postal service website and if the postal carrier forgot to scan it was delivered, the buyer can file a paypal claim and the seller will have no proof the item was sent and have to refund the money (even though the buyer received the item.)

2. James - August 17, 2009

I don’t know how much more reliable UPS or Fed Ex is. It would be great if there was some study on the reliability. We would also want a cost/benefit analysis because USPS is pretty cheap to ship smaller items.