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“Read the description!” – don’t just ‘assume’, ‘know’ what you’re buying!

In this golden age of ecommerce, where platforms such as eBay and Amazon have made things ‘really easy’ for buyers to make purchases, it is indeed still quite remarkable how many buyers have been left disappointed with their purchase, because it has been made through ‘assumption’, rather than checking the finer details.

I expected 6 for that price!

I expected it to arrive the next day!

It seems more often than not that buyers are making a decision to purchase based entirely on the picture that is shown, and failing to read the product title, details/specifics or description in order to have a full understanding of what it is exactly that they are buying.

And not just with the product itself, there are many assumptions also being made with regards to dispatch and delivery time.

What is frustrating for us sellers is that while we have a great deal of control over the content on our own website, when it comes to selling on other platforms/marketplaces there are other minefields to negotiate!

eBay and its ‘product landing pages’

eBay sellers create listings, which include a title, image(s), specifics and description. This is fine, as it gives us some control over what is shown in search results that appear when browsing and searching on eBay.

The chances are though that if you’re searching for something on Google, Bing or some other search engine, what will come up for eBay is what is called a ‘product landing page’.

eBay is attempting to build up it’s own catalogue in what it bills its “product based shopping experience” in an attempt to become ‘more Amazon-like’. However it is doing this by collecting information from different sellers who list the same product using the same identifiers, MPN, brand, EAN/UPC etc.

Lets have a look at where this ‘experience’ can go badly wrong! Below is a listing from eBay.

This seller is offering for sale a single suet cake at £5.24 each. No problem with that at all.

However, if you’re searching for this product on Google, this is what you’ll likely see:

You can probably work out what happens next already! If you click through to eBay, this is where you end up, on eBay’s ‘product page’ rather than the specific listing:

At this point, many people will just go ahead and click the ‘Buy It Now’ button, but will ultimately end up disappointed when only one cake is delivered!

To see the seller’s actual description, you need to click/tap on the ‘Read full description’ link, and to view that actual listing in full (as pictured earlier) you have to click the ‘See details and exclusions’ link.

How has this happened? As it is, we sell the same product on eBay, but we offer as a full box/outer of 12. When creating it’s product page, eBay has decided to use information from our listing title to name the product. This then causes trouble for other sellers who decide to sell the same product but as individual pieces.

(Ironically this is what usually happens with ourselves, this example is the other way around for a change!)

There’s an old saying that applies here too: “if it looks too good to be true, then it probably isn’t”. eBay will say that the onus is on the buyer to ‘read full description’ and ‘see details and exclusions’ before buying, but in my opinion there shouldn’t be a ‘buy it now’ button at this stage, because while eBay may well offer its “money back guarantee” to buyers, it is always the seller that ends up losing out in these examples.

Lesson to learn: do always read the full description and see details and exclusions to avoid nasty surprises!

“Estimated delivery dates” and handling times

This is one that is a particular bugbear of ours and has become increasingly more problematic over the last few months. I don’t know whether it is simply down to increased levels of buyer ‘expectation’, or people just choosing to ignore any estimated delivery dates shown and making their own assumptions.

For all our channels that we sell on, we provide handling times – that is, the number of days between an order being received and it being dispatched – and then generally the marketplace shows estimated delivery dates to buyers depending on the delivery service we offer.

Not everything that we sell is available for us to dispatch immediately. Some of our products are dispatched direct from our suppliers, most of whom will dispatch orders same-day if they are received before a certain time. Most of our products are ordered in from our suppliers ‘on-demand’ so we allow ourselves a couple of days for stock deliveries to arrive at our warehouse or fulfilment centre before they can be dispatched. We do also of course offer products for sale that are available to backorder – for example Hella, Nissens and NRF products that are not normally stocked in the UK – which can take between 1 and 3 weeks to be ready to dispatch.

The estimated delivery dates that are shown for our listings on eBay, Amazon, Manomano and Onbuy, we feel they are realistic and achievable and thus should avoid buyer disappointment.

This 96420 is in stock at Nissens UK and can be dispatched immediately
This one is available on backorder and thus has an extended delivery estimate

The reasons for such extended handling times are of course detailed in our item descriptions on eBay. But for whatever reason, buyers don’t seem to pay any attention, and are just assuming that everything they buy will be dispatched immediately and delivered the next day.

Explained in our own item description, but many buyers do not see this

The above screenshots are from our listings and show estimated delivery dates if ordered at the time of writing – which is Saturday 6th May 2023.

We’ve genuinely had people who’ve ordered items with extended delivery estimates, and then contacted us a few days after purchase to query why their order hasn’t been dispatched yet, because their car has been booked in for repair on a date well in advance of the earliest delivery date shown!

Based on the above, it’s a bit unrealistic to book your Renault Clio for repair on Friday 12th May!

In most cases, the problem seems to be that buyers go by the ‘delivery service’ offered, and then just ignore the delivery dates shown. You do have to look a little harder for the handling time, but it is there:

In this example, yes it is true that this item will be posted with a ’48hr courier’, but it will still take up to 3 working days to dispatch, because as explained earlier this product has to be ordered in from our supplier. Likewise, there is the option to pay extra for a faster delivery service, but this doesn’t mean that the item will be dispatched any quicker!

At the time of writing, there is a UK bank holiday on Monday 8th May 2023, so there are no dispatches or deliveries anyway, but you’d also be surprised that some people see ‘Fedex Next Day’ and then question why their order placed today wasn’t delivered on Sunday or Monday!

Finally, “estimated” is not the same as “guaranteed” – unfortunately circumstances can arise which means that orders are not dispatched on time, or even if they are then there is always the possibility of a transit delay while in the hands of a delivery company.

Lesson to learn: always look at the estimated delivery date(s) shown and don’t just assume your order will arrive any sooner!

“But your listing said you had 4 in stock?”

Not quite, look at the specific wording…

Is this “people seeing what they want to see”?

It doesn’t say “in stock”, it says “available”! Which is a different meaning! As explained earlier in this post, we offer items for sale that are either dispatched direct from suppliers on our behalf, or are ordered in from our suppliers ‘on demand’. For some suppliers, such as Hella, Nissens and NRF for example, this also includes products that are not normally stocked in the UK, but are ‘available’ for us to offer ‘on backorder’, in order to make a full range of products available that are otherwise not offered to UK buyers.

Despite what some buyers may think, there is nothing ‘dishonest’ or ‘misleading’ in what we do, other sellers do exactly the same, and we are fully compliant with eBay’s own policies.

Lesson to learn: don’t just ‘assume’, read the full seller item description, and pay attention to the estimated delivery date(s) and handling times shown.

It’s not just eBay…

Genuinely we had a case a few days ago where some buyer on opened a return request because their item “arrived too late”, despite the order being shipped on time and with tracking, and was delivered ONE WEEK before the earliest estimated delivery date that was shown.

Honest mistakes

We offer hundreds of thousands of products for sale across our stores, and we rely on product details and imagery that are provided by our suppliers. Sometimes such details and imagery can be incorrect or become outdated, as manufacturers change their products, packaging designs and specifications etc.

In most cases, if packaging design has changed, then yes you may receive an item that ‘looks different’ to that which is advertised, but is otherwise exactly the same spec-wise. There may also be circumstances where a product size has changed from 25kg to 20kg, pack of 12 to pack of 8, or 5 litre to 4 litre, for example, but the price being charged is correct as per the cost price from our supplier for that product.

We’ll always put our hands up and admit where there is a discrepancy between the product being advertised and that which is actually received, and we’ll always attempt to put that right.

But many ‘bad purchasing decisions’ can often be avoided by simply reading the product listing title, specifcs and description prior to purchase. And in the case of any doubt, it always pays to contact the seller beforehand in order to confirm any details that aren’t quite clear.