Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What The Hell Is Wrong With People? Fun With eBay!

A few weeks back I sat here wondering what the hell was wrong with eBay lately, but I suddenly had the epiphany that I believe everyone who sells on eBay has - it's not eBay, it's the people who buy. Allow me to explain.

We sell on eBay, as do a lot of people. Right now our sales are supplementing what little income I currently have and are also going a long way to funding the start-up of the shop. We generally sell comics, some magazines, some books, some CDs, clothing, the odd DVD and other items as we see fit. Nothing huge, although at times we do make a push and put a few hundred items up a week in order to get a cash flow in for a project or trip. Again, in this regard there's nothing unique about us, but clearly there's something unique about the people our items attract.

In recent times we've had to tolerate the loss of over $1,000 in 'refunds'. In both cases we believe that both refunds were fradulent, but as we didn't add suitable tracking details, PayPal and eBay both said, "Too bad, wave bye-bye to the cash and stock." We learnt from that and now EVERYTHING goes with a tracking number on it, no exceptions. When we started doing this some people howled and a very small few actually refused to pay citing that they are 'very trustworthy'. I'm sure the guy who lives in the suburbs of Sydney would say the same, but he took us for $400 in comic books in one hit, so those claims fall on deaf ears. Luckily PayPal have initiated a policy for tracking, so we're able to point at that.

As an aside, if you're not adding tracking numbers in the form of registered, insured or express post to EVERYTHING you sell via eBay, you're leaving yourself wide open to be ripped off. It's a very small minority, but it will happen. Within Australia it costs an extra $2.80 per parcel to add a tracking number - peanuts really for the peace of mind for both parties - and for overseas it's an extra $8.00. I've added tracking numbers to two items already today as two more people attempt to make a refund, in one case we know it's a clear cut case of fraud, as I'll explain very shortly.

Allow me now to put this next section in context. A while back eBay changed it's feedback policy and removed the right for a seller to add anything but positive feedback for any transaction. In the case of us being ripped off, we can't place a neutral or negative feedback accurately reflecting how the transaction went - we can only leave positive feedback or no feedback at all. On the flipside of this coin is that buyers can, and often do, leave malicious, negative feedback and seemingly there's nothing that can be about it as eBay are very reluctant to remove any feedback once it's left, even if it's totally abusive, as I'll show you.

Recently we sold to two buyers. One was a lot of cricket magazines, totaling around $30. At the time we also sold around 150 separate sporting items and attempted to get them all out as soon as we possibly could. We have a few policies that we sell under, one is that we post at least once a week, more if we can find the time. I have my work that keeps me from posting everyday, as does Lyndal. Fact of life. This is clearly noted in our auctions. The second is that we insist on payment via PayPal. This was we can keep track of things in the busy times. The buyer of the cricket magazines decided to pay via direct deposit. Just a deposit of cash, no details as to where to send anything, no names, nothing. In these cases we generally wait for someone to email asking where their stuff is and go from there. We didn't have to wait long.

This is what happened. As the payment was never marked as 'arrived' in the eBay system (how could we? We had no idea who sent it) and the buyer never marked their payment as being sent, a payment reminder was issued, as is normal. In response to that payment reminder we got this email (spelling and grammar intact in all emails): "Well what a bloody cheek. I was at the point of marking these as ITEMS NOT RECEIVED. You were paid into your nominated Bank Account last Monday and my Bank confirms that it was paid into the bank. If I dont receive the books very soon I will be lodging items not received complaints. I have saved you money by not paying by Pay Pal and have got this. Not Happy!"

We responded by saying that it was an oversight, apologised and asked that if the buyer would supply us with her address we'd send the stuff out promptly. We also mentioned that there was no need for abuse. That got us this reply in return: "Abuse, you call that abuse, you are either very thin skinned or trying to deflect your own incompetence, if you cant get it right dont set automatic reminders. What does 'your items will be posted this week' mean. They had better have Mondays post mark on them, I wont wait any longer." By this stage I was all set to cancel the transaction as our emails had been polite in tone and we'd tried to work things out. In response we sent this email out: "Threats now? I'll assume you are having a very bad day. Continue this tirade and I shall report it to EBay. I don't have to put up with this crap. Please provide your banking details and I shall refund your money. I no longer wish to deal with you and have no desire to complete this transaction with you. If you don't provide your details, I shall refund via PayPal to the email address you have nominated." That got us this reply: "If you follow this action I will report you and leave negative feedback."

Now threatening to leave negative feedback is supposedly a big no-no for eBay, not that they actually do anything about it. In response I attempted to cancel the transactions, however the buyer would have none of it. The reply: "I have rejected your request to cancel. I will now report you to ebay for non performance. By the way I do not have a Pay Pal account and I will not be opening one." It mattered not, we reported the buyer for abuse and feedback extortion to eBay. In return for that we got a canned reply and that was it. We issued a full refund, with extra (as is our wont) to her via PayPal, so we'd have a record of it.

But it didn't end there. Oh, God no. Over the next two weeks we got, on average, around two emails per day from this person, usually one liners telling us how crap we are. Then this: "have been advised by ebay to report you to the ploice. If my books do not arrive by next Monday 10th August I will be reporting tyou for fraud, I will also report you to the Department of Consumer Affairs in South Australia." By this stage we'd really had enough and reported the buyer for using a carrier service to menace and/or harass, to SAPol, as is requested. We also advised the buyer that we'd done this. That got this as a reply: "As I told you if my goods did not arrive by today I would be filing a complaint with the South Australian Police as per the advice given to me by ebay. Tomorrow I will be visiting my solicitor to file that complaint. I will also be complaining to the South Australian Consumer Affairs Department. Offering goods for Auction,entering into a contract to supply those goods, taking my money and then refusing to give me my property is fraud. If you thought that I was going to roll over to your bully boy tactics you have made a dreadfull mistake, I will pursue you as far as it takes."

I laughed. WE used bully-boy tactics? We stopped replying, but the illiterate emails kept on coming. "The report will go in today and you WILL be investigated. You have not refunded me. Paying money to a non existant account is not a refund. You will pay the price for your illegality and will rue the day that you threw your toys out of the cot." And so on. We left it there. I guess at least we graduated from the cot.

It didn't stop the buyer from leaving negative feedback though, and honestly I fully expected it. Each week she'd wait until positive feedback had been recorded for us and then fired off her negative. She had five shots, so it was hellish. Still, other than a message we got from her late last week, her emails have dropped off.

That was one. We sold a dress, for all of $10.00. Ten days after the auction ended, and two days after we got payment, we were asked if we'd sent it out. We replied that no, we'd been caught up, but it was about to be sent (it was packaged) via express post, at no extra cost, and again, our apologies. In return we got this email: "That's really unacceptable. The item was paid for on the 14th. It took ten days and me sending an email for you to tell me it was sent today. I needed that skirt to wear this week. Now i dont have it. I will be leaving the appropriate feedback" The buyer also opened a refund request via PayPal. We replied that we had sent the dress, was that any good? Nope.
24th: "And also. I've just looked at your feedback. You've used the flu excuse quite a bit in the last few months. IF i ever get my item. I am going to report you to eBay. You rip honest people off. And truth be told, I buy things here because I can't afford brand new things. You take advantage of people who are struggling just to meet the every days. The worst part is, if you'd simply posted the item when I paid I'd have avoided this whole mess. If I haven't received the item by the end of the week, I'm going to report you to eBay. I understand you already are under police investigation so I might give them a call too. I dont know how you sleep at night. But one day I'm sure it will catch up with you"
25th: "wow you are a world class liar. first you say you posted it yesterday. then u give paypal express post details. if it was express i would have got it today.
it's too late now, i've made my police report."
26th: "Oh my god. You are such a liar. You said you posted the item on the 24th. You then said on the 25th you posted it express. I still have both emails full of your lies Ebay hasnt received a report about me. You are trying to threaten me when you yourself have made the mistake. I dont care, I am just going to leave it to the police."

At this point we replied that if she kept sending emails we'd report her, as well, to SAPol, same thing as the other buyer. Polite email. That got this back on the 27th: "dont threaten me DO IT! id like them to be able to find you and prosecute you" Here's the kicker - according to Australia Post she got the dress at 10am on the morning of the 26th - the same day that she sent the email saying we'd not sent it (her email was sent in the afternoon) and the day after she sent the email saying she was reporting us. The same day, the 26th, she opened her refund request with PayPal, we've added the proof of delivery and will wait to see how that plays out - but she has her dress.

There's a few more. Like the guy who bought a comic, wasn't happy and asked us to refund all but the postage. When we asked for the comic back before we'd issue the refund and were told no, the comic wouldn't be sent back, we have to refund it in full and if we don't then negative feedback will be left. There was a guy who said that he knew killers and villains and that something very 'dark and bad' would happen to Lyndal if she didn't send him a pile of comics for free. In that case we pointed out to said 'buyer' as to where Lyndal really works. The guy who bought some art and complained when we replied that we'd accidentally sold the same art twice. We sent out two pages in return and refunded the full amount, plus postage with extra and STILL we got a negative feedback. The same guy said he'd be telling everyone what we did - I replied, "So, will you be telling them that I sent you two pages of original art, and $5, and you sent over nothing? Go right ahead." And there's several dozen more. Sad to say, eBay's 'new, fairer' feedback system is anything but fair. It allows buyers to bully the seller and extort money and goods with the safe knowledge that, as long as they buy, they'll always have a 100% feedback rating. EBay state that the new feedback policy is designed so that 'fair and accurate' feedback can be recorded, however we're not able to leave feedback which is either fair or accurate - all we can do is leave a positive recording. However a buyer, in this case our dress buyer, can leave feedback on the same day that the item arrives calling us "Scum" and liars and eBay refuse to remove it unless we provide a court order.

In these cases you can forget about asking eBay for assistance. To them a seller is a cash cow only and although they have links to report bad buyers, the reality is that they rarely, if ever, lift a finger to assist or intervene and the best you can hope for is a pre-programmed response. Police aren't of much use either. If I ran into a store and stole $400 worth of stock then they'd come after me. If I walked up to a shopkeeper and began to abuse them then I'd be in trouble. On-line it's a different kettle of fish. You can lodge a report but that's as far as it goes - it's merely a report. Police also rarely act upon eBay fraud.

Which brings me to two questions:
1] How do other people deal with such situations? In each case we've remained polite but firm in our dealings. In each case we've tolerated outright abuse and breaches of eBay policy (which eBay refuse to act upon). If someone walks into my shop in two months time and starts to act like that then I'll throw them out and call the cops. But on-line?
2] I'd be very, very interested to see if anyone has done a graph showing if eBay sales have been up or down since eBay introduced the policy removing the right of negative/neutral feedback by a seller. Very interested...

In the meantime we'll keep on selling, keep on being abused, but hopefully not being ripped off anymore. Please, share your stories, perhaps in the long run we can embarrass eBay into action, because we all know that they hate bad publicity, especially publicity that showcases the worst behavior of their 'safe community'.


Stanley Lieber said...

Perhaps you can relieve some stress through a piece of short eBay fiction: http://stanleylieber.livejournal.com/460789.html

I've been breaking my mind against eBay/PayPal for years, and it just keeps getting worse.

alxjhnsn said...