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If you’ve opened up an eBay store or even visited someone else’s, you know the importance of communication and prompt shipping. Nobody likes buying something and finding out it won’t be shipped out for an entire week.
For example, a couple of months ago I ordered a rain jacket for an upcoming trip to the Oregon Coast. When it didn’t ship as soon as I expected I messaged the seller and asked when I could expect it.
“Oh, sorry. I’m on vacation and will be able to ship it when I come back into town on Monday…”
Well, that’s unhelpful. I had to cancel my order and scramble to find another jacket that would get to me in time.
But, as annoying as it is for buyers, I don’t like dealing with shipping as a seller either. It’s very stressful to have someone else’s item around my house, waiting to be mailed out. When I go on vacation, the last thing I want is to find out someone bought an item I’m not home to ship.
Thankfully, eBay has a solution to this called “Time Away”, which used to be called “vacation mode”. It’s one of my favorite features, so I’ll explain what it is and how to use it.
What is Time Away and When Do I Need It?
If you sell full-time on eBay like we do or just need time to catch up on your orders, Time Away is the perfect thing for you. If you’re casually selling items one at a time, you won’t really need it.
Vacation Mode disables your store’s items and removes them from search listings, so you won’t have to worry about bringing them on vacation with you or sending the buyer an apologetic message that you’re out of town and won’t be able to ship it for a week or two.
To set it up, all you have to do is go to “My eBay” and go to the “Time Away” setting under the “selling” tab. You can set it up for whatever time length of time you want so we usually choose a day or so before we leave until a day or two after.
One thing that is important to note, however, is that it may take a day or two for your listings to be removed from the search function, and when you return, it may take a day or two for them to reappear.
When I go out of town, I like to set it my Time Away to start a day or two before my flight. That gives me a day or so as a buffer in case of last-minute orders because I’m a last-minute packer and I’m afraid I won’t have time to mail it out before I leave.
However, if your store only has one or two items in it and you’ll have access to a printer, you might not need it, either.
I have a friend whose store has two or three handmade items in his store and when he goes out of town to visit family members who he knows have a printer and he can print shipping labels, he’ll bring along a couple of each item just in case one of them sells.
Alternative To “Time Away”
If you’re on a tight budget and count on each and every sale, there is an alternative to putting your store on vacation mode.
When we were just starting out on eBay we needed to be listing and selling every single day just to make our rent. If we headed out of town we would simply do a bulk edit on our listings and change the handling time to whatever time we needed to cover our absence.
Typically we would change all the handling time to 3-5 days and message each buyer once they purchased to make sure they were aware of the delay.
Upon returning we would edit our handling time back down to our typical 1-2 days. That was we kept selling, had happy customers, and avoided any defects due to late shipments.
How Long Will You Be Out of Town?
An important thing to consider before turning on vacation mode is the length of your trip. If your store is set to three to five days of handling time and you’re only gone for two, even if a buyer ordered something the second you left, you’d still have time to get it out.
If you’ll be gone for an extended period of time, you’ll definitely want to put it into vacation mode, although you should know that eBay will continue to charge you the monthly service fee on your regularly scheduled date. Vacation Mode has no effect on fees.
In the event that you come back early from your trip, you can also go back onto your Account and end the time-away early. Just return to the same place and click “cancel Time Away.”
Will Vacation Mode Hurt My Future Sales?
For the most part, vacation mode should have no effect on your future sales. When people search for items similar to the ones you’re selling, they’ll see yours if your store is active and won’t if it isn’t.
Once your take vacation mode off your listings will be indexed right back into eBay search the same way they were before. Some sellers have actually experienced an increase in sales and have experimented with turning Away Time on and off to see if eBay treats your listings as new items when they come back on (similar to refreshing your RSS Feed in the days of old).
The jury is still out on whether it works or not.
The one situation when you might get bit is if someone is waiting for payday to purchase your item and, when they come back, you’re on vacation mode. We have had this happen but it’s such a rare occurrence that it won’t matter to your sales overall.
Can I Still Sell Stuff with Vacation Mode On?
Turning Vacation Mode on for your eBay store puts a banner at the top of all your listings that lets potential buyers know that you’re out of town and won’t be shipping until X-date when you come back.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t want to buy your stuff. If you’re selling items that are in high demand, many people are willing to wait an extra week or two if they’re sure that they’ll get it.
This, luckily is an option you have when setting up your Time Away. You can choose whether to allow people to buy or not buy items.
However, if you choose to allow purchases you’ll be limited on the amount of time you’ll be able to be away (to 15 days).
You should also know that just because you set up Time Away doesn’t mean that eBay gives you a free pass on shipping time.
When we were new on eBay I set our store on Vacation Mode but didn’t edit our handling time. When we came back, every single one of our orders counted as a Late Shipment as we lost our Top Rated Seller status.
So don’t forget to edit your handling time if you’re going to allow sales!
Bonus Tip – Set A Custom Message Response
You can also set a custom automated response to questions, especially if you’re selling something like clothing or jewelry that comes in sizes. You can explain that you’re on vacation and will be back at a certain time and will get back to the customer then.
You can also add standard responses to common questions there as well. Say you sell t-shirts and the only question you ever get is “how many inches is it from top to bottom?” even though it’s already in the item description.
You can write something like “Hello, I’m sorry but I’ll be out of town until July 22nd, but you can still buy items and they’ll be delivered when I’m home. For the record, the shirt is 34 inches in length.”
Summary and Final Thoughts
If you’re going out of town and want to avoid any problems with your eBay store, vacation mode may be the perfect solution. You can set it to continue selling items for 15 days or you can deactivate it for up to 30.
It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll still be charged for that month while you’re away, however. If you’re only gone for a day or two, you might not even need to set it up.
Whatever you choose, just be sure to set it up a day beforehand so you can handle any bugs and your listings have time to drop out of search results. Nothing throws a wrench in your plans like needing to ship something at the last minute. Good luck!