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eBay is a Dangerous Place for Sellers

SonyPRS505.jpg

Sony PRS 505Bias warning: I am the “suffering party” in this story, so am obviously biased.  But I let the facts speak for themselves, and you draw your own conclusions…

The day the new Kindle was announced I sold my trusted old Sony e-Reader on eBay.  To my surprise it got bought within an hour of listing it, with the Buy Now option. I figured this was urgent for the buyer, so I did what good sellers do: rushed to ship it the same day.  What a mistake… I should have lazily sat on it…Sad smile

Apparently it wasn’t that urgent for the buyer.   After repeated delivery attempts by UPS, he asked them to hold for pickup, then for a later delivery date.  11 days later, as shown by UPS tracking they shipped it back to me.   Buyer emailed me, asking to ship it back to him.  I did better: attempted to intercept the shipment, turn it back to him while it was still in NJ, close to him. I also asked buyer to pay for the extra UPS charge, which he refused.  He holds UPS responsible, claiming them negligent. ( An interesting term to use, if I may add… doesn’t negligence start by not asking the seller to delay shipment when you just bought a $159 item and don’t plan to be at home for weeks?). Then buyer did not respond for 3 days, by which time it was too late to turn the shipment around, it was well on its way back to California.  I called UPS, of course they claimed to have played by the book, and any additional shipment would have to be paid for again.

The package back here felt like a hot potato: it was no longer mine, I wanted to send it back to the buyer, but at his cost, which was the original term of the sale.   I’ve never been in a situation like this, me wanting to close the loop, the buyer apparently not caring too much – he would take days to respond to my emails.  We reached a stalemate:

  • He maintained it was all UPS’s fault and would not pay any more for shipping
  • I maintained I had not been part of communication between UPS and him, if he thinks UPS was wrong, he should not try to hold me accountable

sutton assholeIn hindsight, it was a stupid situation, I should have paid, not because he was right, but just to get him out of my life – this hassle was already costing me more than $20.  (Those who read Bob Sutton’s No Asshole Rule know what I mean.)

I wanted to break out of the loop of redundant emails.  I wanted to bring the case to eBay’s Resolution Center – but was surprised to find that it was only available to Buyers, not Sellers.   Then I sought contact to eBay – no way, Jose!  It’s close to impossible to find either a phone number or chat link to eBay support. eBay Twitter team got back to me though, and in the meantime I found an outside link, which I share now, since it can come handy to anyone.   eBay Customer Support reaffirmed that I was right:

me: do you have access to UPS tracking info or should i paste here?
eBay: You can paste it here. Has he file any case yet?
me: no, he has not filed. frankly, i am sick of being threatened and i wanted to open a case but discovered sellers can not.
eBay: That is correct in this case seller’s cannot file a case but in this situation you as a seller already did your part we just need the tracking.
me: so should i just wait till ha pays the new shipment? i mean it is his item now but sits here in a box
eBay:  Yes…Ok I have noted the tracking number & if he files a case just respond with the tracking number so our Resolutions team can see it. Like I said you did your part as a seller.

(Obviously this is a shortened version of the full transcript which I have on file)

Finally the buyer opened a Resolution Center case. What followed was a repeat of the previous week’s email exchange: we said all the relevant facts in the first email exchange, but he kept on topping it with new emails,  repeating the same few (irrelevant lines).  Buyer actually had one final proposal: I should ship by US Mail, instead of UPS and he would pay on receipt.  But given all that happened and how he misrepresented the case, the last thing I wanted to do was set myself up for another loss, by picking a less trackable carrier and opening up the chance for another “not received” claim, so I refused.  After several more email rounds reality  hit me:  his strategy was to bury the facts in all the rubbish email so deep that the eBay reviewer won’t dig down multiple layers.  So I sopped responding, finally asking him to stop the email-bombs and just escalate to eBay finally.  It was obvious that we were not adding any value, and any further rounds would only further cloud the facts.  Finally I found an obscure link that allowed me, the seller to escalate the case, and that’s what I did.   End the email flood, let eBay decide.

rubber stampThe result shocked me.  eBay fully refunded the buyer, closed the case, without any explanation whatsoever.   Now, of course I am shocked, since I am involved… but as a reminder, eBay has previously acknowledged that:

  • - I did everything I was supposed to, as Seller
  • -  Buyer did not, and had no case

Talk about case, the very title of the case is fraudulant: “Item not received”  – or I guess technically it is correct, since it does not say “not sent” .. just “not received”, whether it was in buyer’s intention or notSad smile

I am deeply disappointed.  Perhaps naively, but I expected a reasonably unbiased review of the case.  eBay is a market, and as such it needs both buyers and sellers.  But now I am led to believe their Resolution Center process is nothing more than a rubberstamp for buyers.

Now I am at a financial loss in a number of ways:

  • lost the original purchase price
  • market conditions changed (new readers appeared on the market, mine is less sellable
  • I had to pay for the original and return shipment

To top it all, buyer is now out defaming me with a bogus eBay feedback:

tried to cheat me out of my money ebay stoppeTo d him the worst seller. bad ebayer

Ouch.

Conclusions:

  • Buyers: A deal is not a deal. If you have buyers’ remorse, just don’t accept delivery, then file an “Item not received” claim, eBay will side with you
  • Sellers: You’re at risk.  Check out Craigslist.
  • Myself: Wise up.  Read Bob Sutton’s book again.

Update: Buyer’s account is no longer active with eBay.  Why am I not surprised?  But I am stuck with the defaming feedback, and simply don’t have the time to start with eBay beaurocracy again:-(