Seller's Tips: How to Offer a Multiple-purchase Discount to Your eBay Buyers When Your Listings Offer Free Shipping!

Updated on April 22, 2016

This is the eBay invoice form where a seller can issue a discount before a buyer pays for their purchases.

Photo by Crafty to the Core
Photo by Crafty to the Core

Sellers can send an invoice to buyers before payment is received.

Simple answer.

There is no automatic pre-set adjustment that a seller can include in their selling preferences to discount items that offer free shipping.

Automatic settings are only available at this time for sellers that charge shipping in addition to the listing price.

The only way to offer a discount to buyers at this time who purchase multiple listings with free shipping is to deduct a discount on the invoice.

Bearing in mind this will only work if the buyer waits for an invoice. Buyers that pay immediately cannot be invoiced a discount after the payment.

However, sellers who wish to discount the purchase price after payment is received may elect to refund a portion of the payment through PayPal. This imposes additional fees to the seller that could have been avoided if eBay had an automated way to include discounts on multi-purchased listings with free shipping.

Discounting "free".

Sellers have been encouraged by eBay to offer free shipping on auction and buy-it-now listings.

This poses a problem, especially to smaller sellers, who might want to abide by eBay's advice and offer free shipping to their buyers. Most small sellers shipping from America use the postal service to ship their packages. Others ship through UPS. The same settings apply if a seller uses UPS and wants to offer a discount for multiple purchases.

The postal service sets forth rates differently than it ever used to before.

Prior to the changes the postal service made to overhaul their shipping fee structure, a person could ship a first class package by weight only.

This was ideal for sellers on eBay who shipped small items.

Then the postal service changed their entire shipping structure. Presently, first-class mail is broken down in to three categories: letters, large envelopes, and parcels.

eBay encourages sellers to add delivery confirmation to their packages for tracking purposes.

Yet some categories of first-class mail do not offer delivery confirmation. A seller is forced to ship a small item by the most expensive first-class method in order to use the delivery confirmation service.

Further complicating matters are priority mail shipments that receive discounts when shipped in special flat-rate or regional rate boxes.

The ultimate change the postal service induced to their fee structure was that anything mailed by first-class (above a basic stamp, specifically for weight over 3.5 ounces) or priority mail is now priced by weight, height, length, depth and zone!

This article will show you step-by-step how sellers can offer a discount to buyers when multiple purchases are made on items marked free shipping IF the seller chooses to discount multiple purchases!

Shipping Zones

The question becomes, how you do you discount something that is free?

Some will argue that free shipping isn't really free. The same thing offered by one seller for $1 with $5 shipping is sold by another seller for $6 with free shipping. Hence, the shipping is simply added in to the purchase price. While that's true, the final price from both sellers is $6, buyers can find items by searching from lowest to highest price (which automatically includes shipping when the list is generated on the buyer's screen).

With the implementation of eBay's persistent encouragement to seller's to offer free shipping, many sellers now offer free shipping on most if not all of their listings.

However, because of the postal service's revised fee structures discussed above, many small sellers do not offer free shipping. It's not always practical for a small seller to offer free shipping, especially on heavier items.

The table below illustrates the different prices by zone when shipping a 3 pound package from Connecticut.

Priority mail cost from Connecticut for a 3 pound box


Flat Rate and Regional Rate Priority Mail

One issue with finding less expensive shipping methods is that while the postal service offers several priority mail options including flat and regional mail boxes, not everything will fit in those boxes. Also, the prices aren't necessary any less expensive.

Domestic shipping (including Alaska and Hawaii), is $12.35 for a flat-rate box (but the box pre-printed by the post office many not be big enough).

Likewise, regional rate shipping to Hawaii varies by three different size boxes.

Box A costs $9.88 (10 x 7 x 4).

Box B costs $16.13 (12 x 10 x 5 ).

Box C costs $47.01 (14 x 11 x 11).

Zones. What do they mean?

For example, Connecticut is Zone 1. Hawaii is Zone 8.

This database finds zones by zip codes. The postal zone chart can be found at the postal service website.

Photo by Crafty to the Core
Photo by Crafty to the Core

So how do sellers offer discounts to buyer that buy multiple items?

eBay selling preferences allow a seller to set up automatic discounts for combined payments and shipping. The choices are limited which we will discuss later on in this article. None of the choices include discounted multiple purchases which include free shipping.

When creating a listing, a seller has the option to specify several shipping methods. For example, sellers can list a light-weight item and offer free first-class shipping, but also allow the buyer to choose priority mail at an additional cost to buyer. In other words, most times, buyers have a choice of electing a slower method of shipping with free shipping, or paying for a faster shipping method at their own expense.

When a buyer purchases two items from a seller with free shipping and chooses free shipping, the buyer will receive an invoice for a sum of the two items. No shipping charges will be added.

For example:

Let's say a seller has a listing for a baby doll outfit. It fits in a small poly or bubble mailer. The item is light-weight. The seller has 10 available.

Here are the different scenarios that might potentially occur:

  1. Buyer purchases one outfit for $4 with free shipping. Total price to buyer is $4.
  2. Buyer purchases two outfits for $4 each with free shipping. Total price to buyer is $8.
  3. Buyer purchases 10 outfits for $4 each with free shipping. Total price to buyer is $40.

In scenario one, the buyer will receive their outfit and pay no additional shipping cost. The total price of the one outfit is $4.

In scenario two, the buyer will receive two outfits for $4 each for a total of $8 and pay no additional shipping costs. Taking this scenario by example, suppose it costs the seller $2.92 (for an 8-ounce first-class package) to ship these two outfits. The seller gross's $5.08 after shipping, but still has to pay selling fees to PayPal and eBay.

In scenario three, the buyer will receive 10 outfits for $4 each for a total of $40 and pay no additional shipping cost.

Let's examine the actual cost of free shipping to sellers.

Supposing the outfits weight 4 ounces each, the first item would cost $2.24 to ship. Two items (as shown in scenario two) would weight 8 ounces and cost $2.92.

Of course these are estimates because the actual weight might be less considering the packing material, box or bag needed to ship an extra outfit. But nonetheless, when we hypothetically discuss shipping 10 outfits, we will assume the combined weight of all outfits is 40 ounces (or 2 pounds, 8 ounces).

The package with 10 outfits weighs 3 pounds total because the postal service rounds up weights. Let's look at the three zones as shown in the table above and review what the cost would be by state for this particular sale:

The cost to ship a 3-pound box to Pennsylvania from Connecticut would be $7.60. The buyer paid $40. The seller gross's 32.40 from the sale of 10 outfits, not including the deduction of the seller's fees.

The cost to ship a 3-pound box to Texas from Connecticut would be $12.90 or if applicable, could possibly be shipped in a flat-rate box for $12.35. Let's say the actual cost is $12.90. The seller gross's $27.10 from the sale of 10 outfits, not including the deduction of the seller's fees.

The cost to ship a 3-pound box to Hawaii from Connecticut would be $15.25. The seller gross's $24.75 from the sale of 10 outfits.

It's important for sellers to understand the discrepancy in shipping by zone which the postal service takes into consideration for packages shipped by priority mail.

This situation is what makes the argument against free shipping for certain items.

If you want to discount multiple purchases with free shipping.

Still considering the examples above with the baby doll outfit, let's say all other sellers have the same outfits listed for $1.00 plus $3.00 shipping. The buyer pays a total of $4.

Seller A lists their outfits for $4 each (free shipping).

Seller B lists their outfits for $1 each ($3.00 shipping per item).

Buyer buys 10 outfits from Seller A. Total comes to $40 with free shipping.

Buyer buys 10 outfits from Seller B. Seller B has a shipping discount specified on their listings for $1.00 off each additional item.

10 outfits x $1.00 = $10.00

10 outfits x $3.00 = $30.00 shipping

Less $1.00 x 10 = ($10.00) (per discount)

Buyer pays Seller $30.00

This example illustrates why listing all items with free shipping is not necessarily cheaper for the buyer if they are buying more than 1 of your items.

The whole point of selling on eBay is to make money, obviously. However, when buyers search for baby doll outfit from lowest price standpoint, your item may be at the top of the search. Ultimately though, you might be losing business if the buyer wants two or more of the item and sees another seller with identical items with a bigger discount for buying more than one!

How to set up selling preferences to offer multiple item shipping discounts.

  1. In seller's My eBay page, go to the Account menu under All Selling. (photo 1)
  2. Go to site preferences by clicking on Account, then site preferences (hyperlink under Account or by clicking site preferences under My eBay views to the left of the Account pull-down menu). (photos 2-3)
  3. Clicking on site preferences will bring you to a variety of options. Find Selling Preferences. (photo 4)
  4. Click on Edit to the right of Shipping Preferences under Selling Preferences. (photo 5)
  5. Under Shipping Preferences, you are given a choice of setting 5 different preferences. See photos 6-9 for setting different preferences to combine payments and shipping discounts.

Tips for Sellers! How to set up your preferences for discounting multiple purchases from buyers (for listings that don't offer free shipping).

Photo 1
Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 2
Photo 3
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Photo 4
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Photo 5
Photo 5
Photo 6
Photo 6
Photo 7
Photo 7
Photo 8
Photo 8
Photo 9
Photo 9


eBay is encouraging sellers to use free shipping on their listings.

I have no opinion either way about using free shipping or charging shipping. In fact, as an eBay buyer, I look at total price and decide whether or not I want to buy an item.

However, to stay competitive and to increase your sell-through rates, it might be a good idea to evaluation how to offer discounts on multi-item purchases when you offer free shipping. This is for sellers who sell like-items or a variety of items.

Suppose a buyer wants to purchase a baby doll outfit and a doll. The doll weighs just over 1 pound. The postage you buy will be based on 2 pounds. The 4 ounces that the doll outfit weighs will not necessarily increase the weight of the package which would mean the postage might be the same to ship one item as it would to ship two.

Because there is no automatic way to address this issue without discounting the buyer's invoice, offering free shipping is an individual decision!

Sellers considering discounts on multiple purchased listings that offer free shipping might want to include a note in their listing that states, "please wait for an invoice before paying so I can add your discount of _____".


Sellers are under no obligation to offer any discounts. The examples above are hypothetical issues. eBay automatically includes discounts offered to buyers in the seller's listing. Buyers purchasing multiple items from one seller should read the seller's terms of sale to find out what discounts, if any, the seller offers. Some sellers offer $1.00 off per additional item. While other sellers offer free shipping only after a certain buying threshold is met. If no discount is stated in a seller's listing, buyers should expect to pay the total of all costs listed in the combined listings (purchase price + shipping (if applicable) + tax (if applicable). Many sellers offer free shipping by just adding the cost of shipping to their already-discounted listing price and would lose money by discounting their items any further.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers


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      • ebay-parcel profile image

        Simon Wright 

        5 years ago from Nottingham

        Is multiple purchase discount available to non eBay Powersellers? I've ran eBay stores in the UK, and Australia and it never gave me the option for multiple purchase discount. Thanks, Simon


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