Goodwill is blowing it (2 of 2)

Note: Here’s the conclusion to this two-part blog post.  The first installment covered “Visibility and ease of access” and “Design” as reasons why Goodwill has failed to gain traction in a field of eBay competitors; you can view it here. —Scott

3)  Pesky shipping costs

One of the most annoying things about eBay (ridiculous rewards policy aside) is the risk of buying from someone who tries to game the system with outrageous shipping costs.  Instead of charging a reasonable cost to ship the item, these sellers quote a ridiculous shipping price.  If you fail to notice and bid anyway, you’re stuck with the bill.  If you stay away from the auction, the bid price stays low and continues to lure in other potential bidders.  These shady peddlers know that postage charges are exempt from eBay seller fees, leaving them with a bigger slice of the pie.

You’d think that Goodwill and other eBay competitors would take advantage of this weakness. wouldn’t charge ridiculous shipping charges, right, since individual Goodwill stores are responsible for packaging and shipping their auction items?  Wrong.

Let’s imagine that I wake up one day and decide that Vibram FiveFingers shoes are the only footwear for me.  I surf over to and find this delightful pair for sale…and the auction price is currently only $9.

eBay competitor

A auction item. Seems inexpensive to ship, right?

Before placing a bid on the item, I do my due diligence to verify the cost to ship these shoes to my home in Spring Hill, TN.  To my horror, I find that it will cost nearly $18 to get these strange kicks to my door (and that’s in addition to the auction price, of course).

eBay competitor

How does it cost nearly $18 to ship a pair of lightweight Vibram shoes across the country?

Granted…they are being shipped via UPS.  But why can’t Goodwill provide a less expensive option?  Is there any other successful online retailer right now that would charge $17.74 to ship a pair of minimalist shoes?  And what’s with the $2 handling fee?  Believe it or not, every item I’ve considered buying on has been torpedoed by crazy shipping costs.

My hunch is that things are complicated by the fact that each Goodwill store is setting its own shipping policy.  But the end result is that Goodwill as an organization appears to be gouging potential shoppers with inflated shipping costs.  Goodwill, if you’re listening, come up with a one-size-fits-most nationwide shipping policy, and apply it across all of your auctions (with exceptions for exceptionally heavy, fragile, or cumbersome items).  You’ll probably lose a few bucks here and there on actual vs. collected shipping costs, but you’ll more than make up for that with increased bid volume (i.e.—higher sales prices).

4)  Creating a risk-free shopping experience.

I’ve only had to ask eBay to intervene once after a bad transaction.  And they totally took care of the problem, refunding my purchase price, the original shipping cost, and the fee to ship the item back to the naughty seller.  They’ve made it safe for me to shop confidently.  Here’s their policy:

“If the item isn’t exactly what you ordered, eBay will make it right by covering your purchase price plus original shipping on virtually all items. Learn more about how eBay is here for you.”eBay’s money back guarantee

By contrast, here’s a typical return policy on

“Merchandise is sold As Is. Returns will only be accepted with prior authorization and under the terms stated in this Return Policy. If you have questions regarding the quality or authenticity of this item please contact [the individual Goodwill store location] prior to placing your bid. Items may be returned within seven (7) days of receipt if the merchandise was damaged during shipping or if there was a major distortion in the description. Returns will not be accepted without prior authorization. PLEASE NOTE THAT WE DO NOT REFUND SHIPPING AND HANDLING CHARGES. Items selected for pick up from the seller, must be picked up within thirty (30) days from close of auction. Items not picked up from seller within thirty (30) days from close of auction will be resold with no further notice.” return policy

The translation:  “You can return it. But only within a small window of time, and on our terms, and don’t EVEN expect us to refund your shipping costs.  No…it’s not worth your hassle.”


So there you have it…four reasons why Goodwill never shows up in analysts’ lists of eBay competitors, despite having the resources, the products, and the brand recognition to make a strong run at the market leader.  Regardless, it’s worth noting that Goodwill’s online auction sales in 2013 totaled nearly $47 million.  That’s a pretty impressive number…until you consider that eBay’s revenue that same year was a bit over $16 billion (subtracting PayPal-related revenue brings this number down to a still-incredible $9.4 billion).

Goodwill, I love you.  But I think you can do better.

4 Comments Goodwill is blowing it (2 of 2)

  1. Alexander Nevermind

    I won an auction for a hairbrush with a winning bid of $9.99. After shipping and handling fees for said hairbrush, the total cost was $27. Not only is this ridiculous and unreasonable, its damaging to the overall brand equity. I like goodwill, but they are drowning in a cup of water; an unlikely paradox that is (like this article states) but shouldn’t be, because they have the resources to compete which would result in credible competition with ebay – instead they are complacent while I pay $27 for a brush.

  2. Skeptical Shopper

    Nothing has changed. I literally found them by accident and almost didn’t check the shipping charges prior to bidding. A few used XBox 360 games (4) would have cost me more than $22 to ship – that doesn’t include the handling charges (what’s up with that?) and the cost once the bidding had concluded. Two bad, since I was all psyched to give them the money I’d normally fork over to ebay. smh. I thought I was the only one until I googled this issue and many people have this complaint. It would be one thing if this were connected to express shipping, but it’s not. I just couldn’t see paying more for preplayed games than I would for new games on ebay or amazon. The other thing I noted that people should be wary of – their bidding start can be higher than the cost at retail. That’s a shame. Is this is a problem of people simply not knowing what the heck they are doing? It sure seems like it. It would be very easy for them to purchase a digital scale that would give them precise weight as well as the shipping cost. Problem solved! (We have one in my office. It’s not expensive and connects online to the Post Office.)


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