Have you ever gotten an error while trying to print an eBay label? I’ve had a few issues before, but this one takes the cake.
I normally only use the Global Shipping Program, but I’ll provide other options at the buyer’s request as long as there’s tracking to their country. GSP is great because I can still use my Dymo printer and non-licensed labels since it’s a domestic shipment to the Kentucky eBay warehouse.
The international labels are printed on regular paper. Recently, in my case the package was going to Canada, so no big deal to add 1st Class International since they do tracking on packages like this and can handle up to 4 lbs. When I tried to print out the label, the dreaded 9998 Error appeared, and I handled it poorly.
If you ever get this error, you can learn a few tips to avoid the mistakes that I made.
Here’s what you should do if you get an error like this:
- Be Patient. I wasn’t patient. I tried to print more labels. Nothing worked. I went over to the Printed Labels section to confirm that none had been created, and they really weren’t there. So I tried to print some more labels.
- Do a search on the error. I waited until I’d tried a few times before I actually went ahead and looked up the error code. I found this discussion on the eBay forums that talked about possible causes. Most of the time, the cause of error 9998 is the size of one of the lines of text (e.g., the apartment number is on the 1st line of the address making the text too long for the field on the customs form). If this is the case, you can just change the address and move the Apt. # to the 2nd line. This wasn’t the case for me though – I tried to update the address with no luck!
- Don’t panic. Let’s be realistic. What’s the worst that happens? You don’t hit your shipping time on an item. You lose TRS status. You can’t make your mortgage payment on time. OK, maybe a little dramatic? This is how I felt in the moment though! 99% of the time the buyer won’t even notice. If it’s that 1% where the buyer wanted to receive it before day X, then just do your best and be honest with your buyer if you can’t hit your promised date.
- Try PayPal’s shipping as an alternative. PayPal lets you ship at the discounted online rates. You just have to copy paste your buyer’s information in. This is how I do my shipping for Amazon merchant fulfilled items. It’s nice because it’s still tied to your PayPal account!
- Go take a half hour break. This is the key step that I messed up on. I kept at it. I tried to print out a few more labels. Still nothing. Finally, I gave up and went to a 2nd alternative: USPS.com. You can print labels directly from their site. It’s still discounted compared to paying full price inside a post office, but not as good as eBay (especially if you have the TRS discount on shipping). I ended up paying an extra $2.
- Re-check your printed labels each time after an attempt. I hadn’t after the first few attempts, and by the time I went to copy in the new tracking information from USPS.com, I noticed that there were now THREE new shipping labels already associated with this item…. For anyone doing the math, that’s now 3x $17.55 (eBay) + $19.71 (USPS) = $72.36 for an item where the buyer paid $65.38 after PayPal’s fees. So I’m in the hole and that’s not even talking about eBay fees!
I voided the 3 extra labels. It’ll take a few weeks, but USPS will refund me for the three unused labels. I was able to add the 4th label (the one from USPS) that I had already printed out and taped up onto the box (I just ate the $2+ in extra costs for USPS).
Long story short, it was late, the baby was crying, the wife was annoyed since she had to keep dealing with the baby and needed to use the computer yet, and I was trying to ship out this stupid box and it wouldn’t let me. I was emotionally and mentally spent, I was tired, and I just wanted this to be done.
I generally ship only in the morning, but when I have some weird items (these were some big boots), I’ll try to pack it the night before. I’m glad I did this because if I hadn’t, I’d have been super stressed in the morning!
I could have waited till the next day and tried to re-print the label and would have been fine since the box was already packed. Instead, now I’m out the $52.65 until I get it refunded.
If this had happened to a new seller with a tight budget, it could have been disastrous. Luckily, I also sold a $250 item at the same time so I wasn’t straining.