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What is the difference between IPN and eBay checkout versus third-party checkout?

eBay auctions and IPN

The payment option path a customer takes to make an eBay payment dictates the information PayPal sends to the seller, as well as the format of the information for Instant Payment Notification (IPN). The rest of this page explains the differences between payments made via eBay checkout and payments made via a third-party, off-eBay checkout using the PayPal shopping cart platform.

 


eBay checkout

eBay checkout is the standard way to pay for an auction. After a customer wins a bid or clicks the Buy It Now button, eBay takes them through eBay checkout to make the payment. If the seller has set up the listing to offer PayPal as a payment option, the raw IPN post will look similar to the following example. (This example is from a live eBay auction, with payment made via paycheck, for item numbers 5530259322 and 5530259505.)

Note: Key variables and their values are in red text.
   
cmd=_notify-validate
&mc_gross=0.02
&for_auction=true
&address_status=unconfirmed
&tax=0.10
&address_street=PO+box+123
&payment_date=10%3A04%3A44+Oct+25%2C+2004+PDT
&payment_status=Completed
&address_zip=68104
&first_name=Michael&mc_fee=0.02
&auction_buyer_id=po_buyer_testing
&address_name=testing_example
&notify_version=1.6&custom=
&payer_status=verified
&auction_multi_item=2
&business=seller%40sellersbiz.com
&address_country=United+States
&address_city=St.Petersburg&quantity=0
&payer_email=buyer%40buyersisp.com
&txn_id=11111111111111111
&payment_type=instant
&last_name=Smith
&address_state=FL
&receiver_email=sales%40sellersbiz.com
&payment_fee=0.02
&txn_type=web_accept
&item_name=Consolidated+Payment
&mc_currency=USD
&item_number=5530259322%2C5530259505
&payment_gross=0.02

Note the following items in the code example:
  • mc_gross is present, indicating the gross amount of the total payment.
  • for_auction is present.
  • tax is present, reflecting the total tax charge for the entire payment.
  • auction_buyer_id is present.
  • auction_multi_item signifies how many individual item numbers (two) this payment was for.
  • txn_type is "web_accept."
  • item_name is "Consolidated+Payment."
  • item_number contains the two auction item numbers separated by a URL-encoded comma (%2C).
 

PayPal shopping cart (third-party checkout)

You can create your own third-party auction checkout by creating a simple form equipped with special variables. Some eBay sellers prefer this option because they can customize the user experience through the merchant's own checkout. We suggest using the PayPal shopping cart upload feature for third-party eBay checkout. For details on the shopping cart upload feature, see Standard Guide.

The following is an example of a RAW IPN post from a live eBay auction, with payment made via a shopping cart button using special eBay variables, for item numbers 5530259322 and 5530259505. Instead of eBay checkout, this was paid via a "simulated" third-party checkout using the PayPal shopping cart and upload feature.

Note: Key variables and their values are in red text.
   
cmd=_notify-validate
&mc_gross=0.03
&for_auction=true
&item_number1=5530259322
&item_number2=5530259505
&tax=0.00
&payment_date=13%3A49%3A59+Oct+25%2C+2004+PDT
&payment_status=Completed
&mc_shipping=0.01
&mc_handling=0.00
&first_name=John
&mc_fee=0.03
&auction_buyer_id=po_buyer_testing
&notify_version=1.6
&custom=
&payer_status=verified
&auction_multi_item=2
&business=seller%40sellersbiz.com
&num_cart_items=2
&mc_handling1=0.00
&mc_handling2=0.00
&payer_email=buyer%40buyersisp.com
&mc_shipping1=0.01
&mc_shipping2=0.00
&tax1=0.00
&tax2=0.00
&txn_id=2222222222222222
&payment_type=instant
&last_name=Smith
&item_name1=testitem1
&receiver_email=sales%40sellersbiz.com
&item_name2=testitem2
&payment_fee=0.03
&quantity1=1
&quantity2=1
&txn_type=cart
&item_name=testitem2
&mc_gross_1=0.02
&mc_currency=USD
&item_number=5530259322%2C5530259505
&mc_gross_2=0.01
&payment_gross=0.03

The following items are the same as for eBay checkout:
  • mc_gross is present, indicating the gross amount of the total payment.
  • for_auction is present.
  • tax is present, reflecting the total tax charge for the entire payment.
  • auction_buyer_id is present.
  • auction_multi_item signifies how many individual item numbers (two) this payment was for.
  • item_number contains the two auction item numbers separated by a URL-encoded comma (%2C).

These items are different from eBay checkout:
  • When paid via an upload shopping cart, this version contains more information.
  • txn_type is "_cart" and not "web_accept."
  • In addition to all the IPN variables for a payment made via eBay checkout, with upload cart, the IPN sends item_numberX, mc_handlingX, item_nameX, taxX, quantityX, mc_grossX, mc_handling. These variables and values equate to the item number, shipping/handling and tax, quantity and gross payment amounts of the individual items (individual auctions) that make up the payment.
  • num_cart_items is present, indicating the number of individual items in this shopping cart payment (same as auction_multi_item).

As you can see, you get item-specific information in the upload cart payment and not in the eBay checkout payment. This is key for merchants who want to know how much of a payment went for item 1 versus item 2 versus item 3, etc.

Note: Neither of the two checkout methods uses a variable for insurance. Insurance would be lumped into shipping or handling charges. With eBay checkout, the individual payment amounts, shipping, tax, and insurance will be lumped into mc_gross.
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