Postage Fees And Pitfalls When Purchasing Stamps

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I had the displeasure of purchasing some stamps this week from two separate sellers who, in my opinion, charged an unfair price for postage. One seller had a too higher set price and the other charged an extra fee per lot won. In my experience Ebay has proven a great place to buy and sell stamps but whenever I make a purchase I prefer  only paying  a small percentage postage fee compared to the actual value of the stamps I am ordering, normally 5%. This is for the obvious reason that I am a stamp collector and I want to buy stamps not a postage service. In many ways buying stamps online is inefficient because postage can really add up to probably 15-30% of your total expenditure. What's worse is that often times sellers demand registered post or first class postage and even parcel post for items that could easily fit in a standard letter (soft cover stamp albums for example). Minimising postage fees is definitely something that every buyer on Ebay should do but it can be especially important for  stamp collectors making frequent  small purchases. Hopefully this guide will put readers in the mindset to go for the lowest postage rates possible and help to avoid additional postage pitfalls.   

In general when purchasing stamps I usually like to buy a fair few lots from the same seller in the attempt to keep my postage costs down. I believe that the vast majority of people on Ebay share this view too. For example I use a 20:1 ratio- I spend at least $20 to $1 postage cost, however, this thinking tripped me up this week. The seller in question was only the second person I have encountered on Ebay that uses the 'extra charge for each additional lot bought' for stamps! In my opinion there is no difference between mailing one or two stamps in time or handling or postage cost. I was completely taken back and although I was partially at fault for not reading the conditions, in my opinion it is simply a ridiculous way to conduct business and left a sour taste in my mouth. Technically I have had a negative experience with this sale but knowing the repercussions that leaving a negative  comment brings i'll probably take the high road on this one. This can be a huge pitfall for someone making lots of small purchases from someone who sells in this manner. Postage may be quite close to what they are actually paying for the stamps themselves. 

The other major issue I had this week was being overcharged for postage fees as a set rate. Often times sellers fail to set the postage calculator correctly for oversees buyers so it can be hard to tell just how much the seller is actually charging for postage fees. In one circumstance the seller failed to advertise postage in the description and after the auction win wanted an exorbitant rate for oversees postage. I used my discretion to pull out of the sale because the fees were not accurately listed in the lot description.

I have probably had to on 15% of occasions ask for a discount on postage because I did not want to pay for first class or registered post. In my opinion a lot under $100 does not require anything other than standard post for around $1. 
I actually believe the notion of registered post to be farcical in of itself. If I am paying the post office for a standard letter service aren't they obligated to fulfill that service  to me?   Otherwise I have not got what I paid for and therefore I am due my money back and compensation for them failing me that service. Why shouldn't common consumer law apply to the post office too? I believe standard letter rate should well and truly the norm for the vast majority of purchases. For example I was once charged $5 registered post for a $10 item- which is utterly ridiculous. Often times this will come from a seller who has become disheartened by a string of bad sales and now wants signed proof that their stamp has arrived. Sellers wanting you to pay registered post is another huge pitfall to watch out for. There is one other circumstance I can think of that may lead to extra unwanted postage costs and that is 'speed' buying without carefully reading the sellers conditions.        

Most stamp lots are sold through the 'by it now' option on Ebay. This is usually a bad thing because sellers almost never have their finger on the pulse when it comes to current market value on Ebay. Which I mentioned in my previous guide is far weaker than the arguably more populous  (but harder to target) stamp market not on Ebay. Auctions only account for a small portion of all stamp lots on Ebay and are normally run by people who  either  have little knowledge of the stamp or acquired them cheaply and want to flip them fast to make a profit. These lots normally do well if the stamp is labeled correctly because it only takes two to tango so to speak. The lots I look for on Ebay are the 'buy it now' lots that are acutely undervalued by a seller who  knows  only a little about stamps (often the worst case scenario).

Normally these lots can only be found a few hours after they are listed and are quickly bought up by highly knowledgeable dealers and collectors who can value the stamps on the spot and make a snap judgement to buy. This is probably the only circumstance you can be forgiven for not reading the postage fine print. When it comes to the crunch buyers simply don't have time to. Fortunately all the circumstances this has happened to me the purchases have been in the hundreds of dollars region, which necessitates registered post by most sellers anyway, or the seller has been honorable enough to charge only a standard postage fee. I could see this being a big pitfall for someone caught in the heat of the moment and skipping the postage conditions. 

I hope this short guide is of some use to the reader, there are only really a few situations were you can get caught with large fees but in summary never pay a too higher base rate (always standard letter), buy in bulk, avoid  the pitfalls of additional postage fee on each item, avoid registered post for cheap lots and confirm falsely calculated postage. I would say 90% of people that I have asked to lower postage have complied, some requiring convincing though, but in which case I give them a short explanation of  basically  what this guide has been about and it usually convinces them. Putting in place these measures should ensure that you are actually spending your hard earned cash on the stamps you want and not on silly postage and handling fees.        

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