The Museum of HP Calculators

HP Forum Archive 13

[ Return to Index | Top of Index ]

Why so many "Will ship to USA only" sellers on eBay ?
Message #1 Posted by Emmanuel Verbeeck on 20 Aug 2003, 5:07 a.m.

I still don't understand why so many HP calculators are put as auctions on eBay with "Will ship to the United States only", considering that

1) a PayPal or BidPay payement is the same electronic transfert from anywhere in the globe (isn't that what the internet is all about : removing the distances?);

2) I will happily pay the shipping cost, in advance (which is normal) as defined by the seller;

3) I don't live in a weird, third-world country (it's in Brussels, capital of Belgium, Europe) and my little website confirms my name, address, etc...;

4)I have a positive eBay feedback history.

Just puzzled. Your opinion is welcome!

Re: Why so many "Will ship to USA only" sellers on eBay ?
Message #2 Posted by Valentin Albillo on 20 Aug 2003, 5:51 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Emmanuel Verbeeck

Hi Emmanuel,

Being a Spanish resident, I've experienced the same kind of problems and frustration over "US only" as yourself, so I can understand you perfectly. These are some of the rational reasons for it, IMHO:

1) The US is such a large and powerful country and thus such a large market, that any seller can confidently expect to get many more local bids than foreign ones. The foreign 'share' is so small next to the local one that just plainly ignoring it isn't likely to affect business noticeably.

2) That being so, most sellers, specially those that do not run a business, don't feel comfortable dealing with foreign bidders, which probably aren't native English speakers and so there's the possibility of misunderstanding ("mint", "NIB", "no COD", etc), and which perhaps could result in excessive delays or charges to get the payment and/or send the items. There's always the possibility of a scam lurking out there.

3) Finally, sending a package to an US address is very easy and there's a choice of ways to do it, many of them requiring very, very little effort on the seller. On the other hand, sending a package abroad requires a cumbersome, delicate packaging, with plenty of protective material if the calculator inside is going to stand the rough treatment of a 6,000-mile trip, and that costs money and, specially, a lot of seller's time. Also, the seller is forced to fill and sign a number of forms for the Customs, declaring the value of the item, and a number of other formalities, which many sellers consider a real, big nuisance and yet more time spent.

There's also the fact that many foreign postal services are not as optimal as they should be, and tremendous delays and even lost packages are extremely common, resulting in a lot of inconvenience for the seller. Not to mention when the item arrives broken and it was in perfect working order when it left the seller's hands.

Taking all of these into account, it's easier to understand why many sellers will opt instead to restrict their sales to the big, familiar, comfy local US market. They might occasionally get a slightly smaller final bid for their items, but they'll save a lot of troubles, headaches, effort and time on the long run. Just put yourself in their place.

Best regards from V.

Re: Why so many "Will ship to USA only" sellers on eBay ?
Message #3 Posted by Raymond Del Tondo on 20 Aug 2003, 6:12 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Emmanuel Verbeeck

There are various possible reasons for this behaviour.

One of them could be that sending a packet to a foreign location means somewhat more writing into address forms, and the need to declare the contents.

Another one: It can be far more complicated and unsafe to cancel or correct a deal if the 'partner' is located outside your own country.

And another one: I once sold a huge load of HP Series 80 stuff (to Belgium, BTW;-) , and I restricted the shipping range to Europe back then. The reason was: Shipping overseas would have been that expensive so selling chances would have fallen dramatically.

If you buy an item for e.g. 100 EUR, and have shipping cost of about 30 EUR, you may think twice if you'd better try to get the item somewhere else cheaper...

Maybe I simply was lucky enough, but I made very good experiences with sellers and buyers all over the world, on eBay and through other contacts.

I also made the experience that sending stuff from the U.S. to another country seems to be much cheaper than sending thing *to* the U.S.

So far on fair competition :-/


Just ask them
Message #4 Posted by Juergen (CH) on 20 Aug 2003, 7:20 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Emmanuel Verbeeck

My experience is that many sellers are willing to ship overseas if you ask them. Especially for international transactions, I recommend to get in touch with the seller before bidding. This may provide a certain confidence for both, seller and buyer.

But be aware that shipping may be expensive because many do not use the US postal service (USPS, fair shipping rates). Futhermore, custom taxes may apply.

Regards, Juergen

Re: Just ask them
Message #5 Posted by on 20 Aug 2003, 10:58 a.m.,
in response to message #4 by Juergen (CH)

I thought I was the only Brussels HP amateur, but it seems one of my neighbours is also one of these !

My experience is that some people find it extremely difficult to fill in customs forms, and that they just don't want it. Yes, you're all right, there are a lot of safe ways - for the buyer - to get paid.

I just don't agree on Raymond's comment about buying items in Eruope rather than in the US : the problem is that there are almost no HP calcs for sale down here, maybe excepted on

As a seller, I often sold items such as 32SII, 42S and 11C that reached very average prices, even if shipping was included, just becauseUS people are somehow scared of customs... though it is true that Europe-US package shippings have dramatically been dela&yed these last months...

Re: Why so many "Will ship to USA only" sellers on eBay ?
Message #6 Posted by Gary on 20 Aug 2003, 11:32 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Emmanuel Verbeeck

I've tried selling outside the US and the biggest problems are shipping related. Initially, I tried figuring the shipping cost myself via a scale and on-line rate schedules but I always underestimated and would have to pay extra out of my pocket to cover the difference. I never got complaints but I was out some of my own money. I then tried packing the item(s) up and going to the post office to get shipping cost. Then report the cost to the buyer, then go back to the post office again to mail it. If I did ebay for a living, I suppost this wouldn't be so bad but I've only sold a hand full of items and only once every few months. Taking time off from work to go to the post office twice was a serious inconvenience (I normally work till 5pm and the post office closes at 5pm). I could go on two seperate Saturdays to the PO but that would incurr a minimum of a one week delay in shipping to the buyer at wich point they become understandably impatient. I tried padding the shipping cost but got complaints from the buyers that I charged them too much (e.g. I figured $20 but asked for $25 and it came out to be $23.45). Even if things went smoothly, the time it takes to actually ship the item(s) could take weeks before the buyer receives the merchandise. And unless you use something like UPS, there's practically no way to track the shipment. That delay causes frustration in the buyers and results in more complaints. I also tried to stipulate that foriegn bidders contact me before bidding but they rarely read that and bid anyway, then complain about one thing or another. I'm sure the language barrier doesn't help. Again, if I did this for a living then it may be worth the headaches and I would be able to develope systems and processes to deal with foriegn shipments better but for the occasional hobbyist, it's just not worh the hassle; it takes the enjoyment of collecting and trading out of it.

Re: Why so many "Will ship to USA only" sellers on eBay ?
Message #7 Posted by Juergen (CH) on 20 Aug 2003, 11:54 a.m.,
in response to message #6 by Gary

Good reasons not to do it. Just wanted to add, that I always had very smooth transactions, and shipping time from US to Switzerland was between 7 to 10 days. Yes, shipping rates can be high, but you know this. I cannot understand that your customers complained they paid $2 too much (stingy persons).

Regards, Juergen

Re: Why so many "Will ship to USA only" sellers on eBay ?
Message #8 Posted by W. Bruce Maguire II on 20 Aug 2003, 5:30 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Emmanuel Verbeeck


After reading all the responses, it's clear that there are several credible reasons to limit sales to the U.S.

Unfortunately, let me be the first American to admit that not all Americans are rational! IMO, we've got a lot of employees in the ignorance department! ;-)

As was suggested by a foreign colleague, I think your best bet is an e-mail. A reasonably well-written e-mail asking for an exception to the rule---and mentioning that you will pay all extra shipping costs---might erode some seller's ignorance and misconceptions.

Remember: you never get anything without asking.

Good luck!


p.s. A small consolation: maybe the inflexible (unfriendly?) sellers who still won't ship overseas after you ask, are just the sellers that you are best-off not dealing-with!

2 squared things
Message #9 Posted by db(martinez,california) on 20 Aug 2003, 11:03 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Emmanuel Verbeeck

1) The little form is a drag to fill out. Ditto for the insurance one. People who will lie about thousands of dollars on their taxes will agonise over pennies in the "value" column on a customs form. I do.

2) Nobody wants to be the bad guy in an inocent misunderstanding. We only speak english here (and wish youall would too) so it's hard for some of us to deal with your imperfect English. If you don't believe that we speak perfect English then just ask us! Don't ask the Brits. They lie.

I have bought, sold and traded with people in France, Germany, Poland, Japan, and Russia, along with Canada, Ausland, and "Jolly Old". So far everything has worked out ok. Knock on wood. Toque madera. NOTE TO SELLERS: I have sold things to people in four of those countries because they BID HIGHER on those items. Isn't that a good reason to do business with them?

Two things i have found are:

1) Nobody in HongKong can understand a thing i say, no matter how slow i type it.

2) Anything and everything, including greasy 1960's Volvo parts, used books, bootlegged tapes, and candy bars that are mailed to Ecuador from a first world country (insured or not - just try to collect from them) will be stolen. Let me rephrase that: WILL BE STOLEN!!! Lest someone say that i am anti South American; insurance is a waste of money if you are shipping to Chile or north Bolivia. What you send will get there if it gets out of your own country.

I think that fear of the language barrier is the big deal. If you want to bid, and your shipping info isn't Bin Ladin/in a cave/somewhere, then just ask - in good english. I bet most American sellers will say "for you, o.k."

Re: Why so many "Will ship to USA only" sellers on eBay ?
Message #10 Posted by Jennifer Seelye on 21 Aug 2003, 1:38 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Emmanuel Verbeeck

I have been selling on ebay for 5 years, I have always shipped overseas. Most of these transactions have worked out well but they also take more time.

I figure by keeping my auctions open to everyone I allow the bid price to go up. Most of the time the overseas person is outbid so all they do is drive up the price.

On the flip-side, my only negative feedback was from a Frenchman. He paid for 2 knives, asked for them to be packed together & shipped uninsured. I shipped 24 hours after he paid. He went on vacation & more than a month later he emailed saying that one did not arrive. I personally packaged them & delivered them to the post office beyond that I don't know what happened. 7 months later he filed fraud charges. Luckily I save every receipt, I sent copies & the charges were dropped. I still have the negative feedback but at least no fraud charges.

Payments are also hard. Money Orders often times have a $5 or more fee from your bank for cashing them plus it takes a while to clear (like a personal check). Paypal says overseas transactions are "unconfirmed" so there is no seller protection. I now only accept overseas payments via

One other pain in the neck situation was someone from Austrailia won a Gibson Guitar auction. I spent a lot of time packaging the Gibson & checking into shipping costs. The only shipping company that would ship it said shipping would be $280. We did not complete that transaction.

English is not a major problem for most overseas bidders, I do get a few laughs though.

To sum it all up, there is a give & take. I find these rules work for me:

1- only accept payments, no exceptions.

2- package the item, measure & weigh it, get rates from add a little extra to what the online calculator says, when you get there it will always be slightly higher.

And a final note, never do "off ebay" transactions from overseas bidders, especially when they want "arrange shipping" & to send you a bank draft (or something like that) for $11,000, then you wire them the difference. You will get that certified check in a day or two but by the time you discover that the check bounced they made off with $10,000 of your money.

Edited: 21 Aug 2003, 9:56 a.m. after one or more responses were posted

Re: Why so many "Will ship to USA only" sellers on eBay ?
Message #11 Posted by Stephan (CH) on 21 Aug 2003, 2:42 a.m.,
in response to message #10 by Jennifer Seelye

Good morning Jennifer. To get around the shipping cost problem I usually offer the seller to send his items via DHL or UPS with my customer account number. This way all charges will be pay by the receiver. I know, not every body has an account - but if one asks around mostly a friend or a relative does have one. I am glad that overseas foreigners give you sometimes a laugh in trying to write proper English. Unfortunately we can't laugh over here because nobody in the USA even tries to communicate in a other language but English ;-)

Re: Why so many "Will ship to USA only" sellers on eBay ?
Message #12 Posted by christof (NoVA US) on 21 Aug 2003, 7:16 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Emmanuel Verbeeck

It really seems to be based on arrogance and ignorance.

The administrative ignorance- people don't realize:

*Global Priority for something the size of a calculator- even a NIB 41CX, isn't outrageously expensive (most auctions where I send stuff overseas it is old computer parts under 1 kilo. I average 13.23 per mailing over the past 3 weeks)

*Customs forms are trivial. No harder than addressing the package and stating the item and value.

*Insurance is no harder than any other insurance.

*The people at the post office will even fill out the forms for you, or at the very least help you.

The ignorance of money:

*Many Americans seem to feel that no one outside of the US has money to bid usefully (this has been explained to me by a few ebay sellers on in chats)


We are Americans. Everything outside of America is shoddy, untrustworthy, subject to bribes, and generally so unrealiable as to be not worth pursuing. Besides, aren't Belgian almost Germans? And thus peacenick weenies who don't support our President? <humor, humor. humor>

Or something.

(personally, I've purchased several items from France, Canada, and the UK. While french mail has occasionally had a few oddities [!], generally it's all quite as simple as doing business in the US. So obviously, the last reason isn't my personal view.)

[ Return to Index | Top of Index ]

Go back to the main exhibit hall