Sunday, August 24, 2008


As long as the shipping cost is made known to the buyer, is it wrong for online-auction sellers to charge customers more than it actually costs to ship the items? According to an unscientific poll on my column's blog, 65 percent of my readers think that there is nothing wrong with excessive charges, as long as the details are disclosed, while 35 percent think that such a practice is wrong.

"Shipping charges are a profit center for virtually every cataloger or retailer, online or off," writes Eric McNulty of Brookline, Mass. "As long as the costs are clearly stated, there is no issue."

"I firmly believe that `shipping' costs should reflect only that -- the cost of shipping," writes Nancy Ludt of Huntington Beach, Calif., who sells needlework items on eBay to supplement her income. "Not man-hours, not supplies, but postage rates only."

"Often people forget the `handling' part of `shipping and handling,"' writes Tom Van Huss of Tustin, Calif. "Packing items for shipping can be time-consuming and can require materials that cost money."

"I do not buy from people who charge me for shipping and handling," writes Azra Daniel Francis of Windsor, Ontario.

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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