Last year a good buyer who visited my eBay store regularly (and shall remain nameless here!) contacted me with a problem. It seems that he decided to try his hand at selling off some of his unwanted electronics on eBay. So he put up his seldom-used $1200 theater projector up that was just taking up space. He got $770.10 for it, which he decided wasn’t such a bad return and it was his own fault for buying something he didn’t use. The buyer paid immediately, and it turned out that they bought this type of electronics quite a bit – and resold them.
In hindsight, that was RED FLAG #1 for this poor newbie seller. The projector was delivered quickly to the New York-based buyer, and all should have been well. Except the emails began. “This item is scratched – it doesn’t look new.” Which seemed odd considering that the projector was new, working, and complete in its box.
That was RED FLAG #2. As anyone who’s ever been defrauded could predict, the buyer then filed a PayPal complaint claiming the item was Significantly Not As Described (SNAD). The poor seller explained what he had, linked the pictures showing a clean, new projector, and mentioned that the buyer was also a seller of these items, and had purchased more than one of them for resale. A reasonable person might conclude that this buyer was full of something other than honesty, and was making a play for his money and a new unit to sell to someone else.
But we all know that sometimes the world isn’t reasonable. In the end, PayPal gave the buyer back his money, and the seller never received his projector back, either. Yes, that’s right, he lost both the $770.10 AND the $1200 projector.
So why bring up this story a year later?
I read with alarm a blog post that was pointed out by eBay’s own blogger and voice on twitter, Richard Brewer-Hay. Now I like what and how Richard writes. I really do. I think normally he provides a fairly well-balanced perspective on all things eBay, which is a very difficult thing to do when you are part of the corporation you are blogging about – but he does it with style. So this has nothing to do with his opinion on his blog or twitter account.
But he linked us to another blog, which gushed about how eBay gave the author his money back on a transaction wherein he felt that the CD set he bought was SNAD. He didn’t have to give the goods back. He didn’t have to provide proof. He just had to express his disappointment with the transaction, and eBay pulled the rug out from under the seller.
This frightens me more than any other potential eBay selling pitfall. Now I’m not saying that the buyer’s story was right or wrong; he may very well have been wronged by his eBay seller. But to give him his money, and the product, based on him filing a complaint form is ludicrous. Who ended up with the dirty end of the stick on that transaction? You can be rest assured that it wasn’t eBay.
So what does this have to do with my poor buyer who was screwed out of $770.10? Everything. Anyone selling on eBay today better realize just what can happen. If they sell higher ticket items, they better have some sort of insurance for this situation. Because it’s going to happen again. Scammers like the one who bilked my poor buyer out of his projector are going to strike again, and policies like the one that rewarded the CD Set and the money will only encourage them. Look for the red flags – and be cautious!
Incidentally, if any eBay or PayPal employee reads this blog entry and wants to do the right thing by returning the $770.10 to my buyer, email me and I’ll give you the transaction details. He won’t ever buy on eBay again, never mind sell. And you know that he’s spread this information out far and wide among all his peers and contacts. What a great story it would be if eBay made him whole again, even after all this time had passed.
Make it so, Captain Donahoe.
For another view of the process: Confirmed: New eBay Resolution Process Tilts Hard Towards Buyers