The run up to going on vacation is always a bit stressful, or it is for me at least, but this time around I faced the new challenge of what to do with my eBay shop while I was away? I actually really stressed about the whole thing, envisioning returning to a bunch of messages from buyers waving pitchforks and torches in my face, but, spoiler alert, I was definitely over thinking it (what a shock).
What were the options?
We were going away to Florida for two weeks, and at first I definitely toyed with the idea of leaving my shop open and just simply extending the handling times (significantly), and messaging customers when they made a purchase to make sure they understood the situation. The pro’s for this would have been:
- I wouldn’t have to have downtime where I couldn’t earn money and then additional semi-downtime as eBay re-added my listings and they took time to show up again in search.
I know that some sellers do this, even when they go away for weeks, but for me, the cons on this one just outweighed any benefits:
- As someone who sells digital items on Etsy and has it stated as such in the images, the title, the description and the checkout process… I can confidently say that people buying things online don’t always read things, so people would definitely still check-out not realising they’d be waiting weeks for their items. This would, of course, lead to a lot of negative customer reactions and a lot of messes to clear up – potentially it could have been solved by manually messaging everyone that bought something but…
- I didn’t really have reliable wi-fi. The hotel we stayed in had really patchy wi-fi access, and so I mostly relied on checking in on-line from Dennys or Starbucks, this is fine to send a few funny pictures to my family, but not really a great way to run a business, especially because I didn’t want the vacation to be dictated by me HAVING to go somewhere with wifi so I could sit on my phone and work – it wasn’t that kind of trip for us.
- I probably couldn’t answer questions for potential customers. I don’t know about you, but while I always think I produce a pretty thorough listing for my clothing items, I always seem to get questions about the angle of pockets, or the specific shade of thread used around the cuffs or something else that would be difficult to answer while 4,000 miles away from my stock! Again, I could just have messaged customers to explain this, but that would take time out my holiday too, and also be a frustrating experience for them too, potentially.
So, in the end, I decided to put my shop into vacation mode, and put an out of office message on.
I’m based in the UK, and just used the eBay UK page for the instructions on how to actually go about doing this – here’s the page.
I also made the decision to put my shop into vacation/holiday mode a few days before we actually left. This was to leave time for people to pay (I had been running auctions), and also just to stop any really weird eBay thing happening the night before we flew and me getting in a total panic about it.
The process is pretty straight-forward … unless, like me, you then spend hours trying to write your out of office message!
In case you are not familiar, an out of office response is an email that is automatically sent to someone when they send you a message through eBay. It essentially lets them know that you’re not able to reply to them until X date, because you’re away from work.
For some reason, I got so stressed about writing this message – I guess I kept thinking that if I was a buyer and had a problem with an order and sent a message, only to be told I’d have to wait 3 weeks for a response… I wouldn’t be best pleased.
So, here’s what I wrote that helped me feel better about it all:
Thanks so much for contacting Timorous Eclectic!
I m currently away and I ll be back on Monday June 24th – I will not be able to accept any new orders or respond to any emails until then. All outstanding orders have been dispatched on Monday June 3rd and, where applicable, tracking has been uploaded.
If you are an existing customer and have an issue with your order, I apologise for the inconvenience caused by my being away, but if you send me a message, rest assured I will be in touch on the 24th of June and we can discuss things then. If you are looking to return an item and the return window will end while I m away on holiday, rest assured that you will still be able to return the item when I m back.
Thank you so much for your continued support of Timorous Eclectic and for your understanding of me taking a holiday.
Reading this now, I realise I’ve used the phrase “rest assured” twice in one sentence, but hey, I had edited this so many times that it’s no wonder something like this slipped through the net!
I decided that, for me, it was important to include:
- Specific dates as to when customers could expect to hear from me
- What exactly me being “out of office” meant – in my case, no orders, and no emails
- An apology for any inconvenience caused
- Reassurance that any return windows etc. that would expire, would still be honored
- A thanks for understanding and for supporting my small business
I’ve seen people write entire essays, and I’ve seen people write a few words, but this is what felt right for me – because it’s the information I’d want to recieve if I was in the buyer’s shoes.
What happened while I was away?
While I put my out of office response on, and turned my app notifications off during the trip, I would still recieve a copy of any messages to my email and I could check them and reply if I had the chance/if it was urgent.
As it turns out, I got one message from a customer on the morning we were packing to leave for Florida, which I went in and replied to, and then after that… nothing. No messages, no negative feedback and no return requests in the three weeks I shut the shop down!
Don’t get me wrong, I get very few return requests, so I suppose statistically this wasn’t actually unexpected, but I worried about it so much the sigh of relief I let out when I checked my messages for the first time was HUGE.
What happened when I got back?
We got home on Sunday the 23rd of June at around 2pm after more than 24 hours of travel and literally zero hours of sleep. Knowing this would be the case, I had stated in my eBay message that I would resume work on the 24th, but actually, I ended up lifting vacation mode off pretty much as soon as we got home as I just wanted to get started and get on top of any issues that had arisen.
Because nothing actually had come up that required action I left things alone for the rest of the afternoon, and then right before bed, I sent out “offers to buyers” on every item that I could – 19 in total. I woke up the next morning to one sale. Cash wise, it wasn’t great but I was keen to get the ball rolling again and hopefully just get myself looking nice and active for eBay’s algorithim.
The next day I listed a couple of new items (that I’d drafted before I went away) – again, just trying to get my account back to “normal” in eBay’s eyes. I then decided to start a week long 20% off sale to see if that would also help – having sold nothing for weeks, I was definitely of the mindset I’d rather get some lesser value sales moving in than just continue having nothing happening on my account.
I’m now writing this on the morning of the 27th, and I’ve consistently had one sale a day since I came home. Most of them have been low-value items that I’d already priced low and then became further discounted by the sale, but really, it’s good to move those items out anyway – even if higher value sales would be nicer after weeks of no income!
If, like me, you’re a newer eBay seller and maybe have never had to leave your shop, I hope this post was maybe helpful. Of course, experiences are going to differ quite a bit, but I thought I’d share my own experience – I’d have loved to have found a post like this a few weeks ago!
If you’ve shut your shop before, how did it go? What do you include in an eBay out of office message? Have you ever gone away and just extended handling times?