eBay is a Dangerous Place for Sellers

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



  • 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:-(


  1. eBay has gone steadily downhill. First they favored the seller way too much and pissed off buyers. Now they favor the buyer way too much and you have to be really careful as a seller. They're basically clueless how to create a great user experience there, and their business results show it.

    Sorry for your unpleasant experience,


    • Wonder why they don't think of the strange concept of not favoring either side, just considering the facts 🙂

    • Btw, independent of this experience I find myself using eBay less and less.

      As a buyer, I used to find great deals, but increasingly Amazon is becoming my default shopping destination. As a seller (which is rather rare for me), Craigslist is really good.

  2. Considering the facts requires time to understand them and the judgement to weigh them.

    This is the problem many large orgs have when they view Customer Service as a cost center to be minimized. Hire cheaper Customer Service agents and set up their compensation plan so they make more money the faster they get you off the phone.

    It's a mistake, but it doesn't mean that a lot of companies aren't doing it.



  3. wow…sorry to hear that, another bad story about eBay. I am the constant eBay seller and I have had the similar cases like yours quite a few times. It's the unfortunate truth that if there is a claim it hardly will be favored to the seller. If more buyers know this it would be the nightmare to the sellers who want to do some business on eBay.

    I know how it feels but take it easy, it's the way how it plays on eBay. If you actually stand on the buyer's shoe, you may understand a little bit more how eBay is doing more favor for buyers over sellers. After all, the buyer doesn't know you. s/he bought stuff off eBay not because s/he trusted you but the whole process. If the buyers lost the confident on the process no one could rely on it doing business.

    Anyway, have you sold your sony eReader yet? If not, how much are you willing to sell now? and what is the model you are selling?


  4. Ebay is like a bubble , wait it will burst

    at least in india its downfall is started

  5. As an Ebay seller, I set the following buyer blocks in my preferences; don't know if it would have helped you:

    Don't have a PayPal account
    Have received 2 Unpaid Item strike(s) within 1 Month(s)
    Have a primary shipping address in a location I don't ship to
    Have 4 Policy Violation report(s) within 1 Month(s)
    Have a feedback score of -1 or lower

  6. Sorry to hear about your misfortunes, I had a similar thing happen to me where an international buyer bought an item, and opened a case against me 2 days after the auction ended, and because he was an international buyer item was sent first class and there was no way to proof i had sent the item since I had no tracking. Lost the case and buyer was refunded. Can you imagine, the case was opened 2 days after the auction. Unreal paypal and ebay's resolution cases are a complete joke to a seller.

  7. I recently had a bad experience as a seller. Readers Digest version, my buyer complained that I sent an item not as described. The claim was a flat out lie. I had several great pictures and stated clearly that I offered no refunds. I did all that ebay encourages you to do as a seller, and cooperated fully with my buyer through email. When my buyer didn't like my repeated answer of no refunds, he filed a complaint with the resolution center. I mistakenly took the advice of an ebay representative and proceeded to the resolution center citing buyers remorse. Big surprise, Ebay sided with the buyer. Ebay's response when I inquired about the case–"We find it easier to side with the buyer, and just have the buyer relist the item." I recently recieved my returned item, and imagine this…it's still in perfect condition.

    Moral of the story. Ebay is a joke. If you whine enough as a buyer, Ebay will side with you. Buyers are learning that Ebay reps are spineless, incompetant idiots. Honest sellers should close their accounts because you will get ripped off by buyers and Ebay.

  8. It’s a very frustrating process. For the powersellers, I suppose stuff like this isn’t much of a big deal, but for we the little guy, it hurts. I have sold a few hundred items on Ebay, but only 78 people felt the need to leave feedback. I currently have a 100% feedback score, but it’s been really hard to keep it that way. You do realize at some point that Ebay is a market for buyers and also for scammers and hope you never run into the latter. I have, but I threatened to do it right back to them. Most buyers are sellers, too. So if they give you a negative score you can do it right back to them. If you’re in that situation, buy their cheapest item then do the same thing to them. Then file a SNAD complaint and get your money back. Then ship the item back to them so you don’t feel guilty.

    Apparently Ebay used to allow people to leave negative buyer reviews but found their profits went down when sellers refused to sell to bad buyers. Gee, I wonder why.

  9. rishikesh gaikwad says


    I have been cheated by the seller and eBay is not ready to take any action.
    They are sending me diplomatic emails.
    Feedback SR# 1-5085508399
    I got faulty material and i launched this thing in feedback and complaint section.
    Within a second I got a request call from seller stating that the the issue will be resolved once you remove this complaint.
    I did so.

    Now , no one is responding .
    Neither seller nor eBay.
    I want eBay to take stringent action against that fellow.

  10. Same exact thing happened to me. eBay actually found in my favor after I called to report the irresponsible buyer. Then the buyer filed a chargeback on the credit card and eBay’s Paypal held the money and charged me a fee to fight the chargeback. In the end I lost the shipping fee and the Paypal chargeback legal fee which was even more. eBay is real quick to refund any buyer and punish any seller because the money from the sale is not theirs! I’m so unfortunate to have chosen to run a business on ebay many years ago. Workers at normal companies get raises each year, but ebay sellers get further subjugated.

  11. This is an old post, but the problem still remains. Sellers are highly discriminated against on ebay. I sold an item to an international buyer (Canada) and the buyer didn’t include the correct amount for shipping. I held the item until the additional funds were received, then shipped. Of course, the buyer opened a “item not received” case. I was able to show the item shipped with tracking showing delivered to the ebay global processing center, but the buyer still hasn’t closed the resolution center case and I have no avenue of contact with ebay. Funds still frozen in paypal. With over 12 years of history on ebay and 500+ positive feedback (never had a negative), I think I’m done with ebay.

  12. Been the victim of a fraud today where the buyer falsely claimed an item was damaged. I offered a full refund (including all postal costs incurred in returning the item), he instead held out for a partial refund of 25% of the item value. EBay gave him his partial refund. Appeal is impossible without phoning and sitting in a queue for half an hour, there is no appeals process online.

    I’ve closed my account with EBay, it simply isn’t a safe place to sell, a seller is completely at the mercy of the buyer. Anyone considering selling anything of value on EBay should seriously reconsider, there is no recourse if you are defrauded.


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