Seller Beware: The Response from eBay

A victory of sorts, but the issue remains.

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It has now been more than a month since I was scammed out of my iPhone 6, as described in my earlier post on the subject.  I’ve had several calls and email exchanges with eBay “customer service” agents and supervisors who have done absolutely nothing but say that nothing can or would be done.  Well, just this morning, as I was spreading the last of my blackberry jam on my English muffin top at a local restaurant, I received a call from an 801 exchange – UTAH!  A real, live eBay exec by the name of Danny Faust was on the other end of the line.  He said that as a result of my blog post and the subsequent article on the eCommerceBytes blog, executives at eBay had taken a look at my case, and that as a result, they determined the following:

  1. The address provided by my “buyer” was actually a freight forwarder, which should  have prima facia voided the eBay “Money Back Guarantee.”
  2. The “buyer” should have provided the picture of the device and shipping box that I requested after the “buyer” submitted their claim.
  3. The fact that the return item (the piece of crap credit-card scanner, remember?)  was drop-shipped from Texas rather than from the address my phone was shipped to should have raised flags.

The result of the above, per Mr. Faust, was that eBay was refunding the $328.00 payment that they froze and subsequently removed from my PayPal account. 

That’s nice, but I wouldn’t have spent a total of more than 16 hours these past few weeks pursuing this matter just to receive $328.00. My hourly rate is much higher than that.  I explained to Mr. Faust that the real issue is that I no longer have confidence that I can place an item for sale on eBay without being scammed, especially if the item is a popular piece of electronics.  Mr. Faust said he completely understood, and that eBay was taking steps to address the fraud being perpetrated by unscrupulous buyers as a result of their Money Back Guarantee policy. He said that eBay execs now realize that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of buyers, and that a correction is warranted.  We’ll see.  If that is indeed what happens now, my time and grief over this past month, and the time and grief of many others who have been complaining about this issue for some time (and who graciously offered help and suggestions in response to my post), will have been well worth it. 

I agreed with Mr. Faust that there are unscrupulous sellers as well as unscrupulous buyers.  I also understand that, with millions of eBay transactions taking place every day, it is impossible for eBay to know the facts of every disputed transaction and make a competent judgement, especially since their “customer service” agents don’t seem competent to do anything other than execute clearly stated, simple policies.  However, the facts of my case could have been easily determined from the transaction record by a competent “customer service” agent or supervisor, and that is a training issue that can and must be addressed by eBay.  Also, eBay’s policy is not even-handed – they are making a de facto judgement in favor of the buyer when they take control of the seller’s PayPal account. 

eBay has the potential to be a great marketplace, because of its wide geographical reach and enormous audience, but if the company allows scammers to damage the integrity of the system, the business model won’t be sustainable.  Innovation is needed to provide realistic assurance to both buyers and sellers, rather than a blind assumption that either one side or the other is always right.  The latter approach may make things easier for eBay in the short term, but it is just not fair.   I and many others in the eBay community are willing to offer solutions to the problem, if eBay would only ask.

I look forward to seeing how eBay will address this issue, if they do so at all.  I plan to keep pursuing the issue with the relevant authorities, and I hope that the many people who responded to my post will do so also.  I especially want to recognize and thank Ina Steiner of eCommerceBytes, because I am convinced that her article galvanized the support for my case and forced the response from eBay.  Mr. Faust said as much during our discussion.  I’m going to be following eCommerceBytes for news of any policy changes that eBay might implement.

Here’s my bottom line: until I see policy changes from eBay that convincingly address this buyer fraud issue, I won’t be offering anything of value for sale on eBay. 

13 thoughts on “Seller Beware: The Response from eBay

  1. Melanie

    Hello, I just saw your website about EBay and I’m just as disgusted as you are. I just sold something to a guy in PA. Before he even paid, he sent me a nasty email. Then he paid, I shipped and something told me to purchase insurance out of my own pocket, so I did. This guy gets his item, emails me that it arrived damaged (which I know it probably didn’t) and I asked him to send me pictures. He did and it looked like he damaged the item himself. The item was packed very well. I told the buyer to take his tracking number and label to the post office to get his money refunded through insurance. That’s why I purchased insurance out of my own pocket because I had a feeling. Plus EBay only sides with the buyer these days. He said he wanted me to pay for his gas and time to go to the post office. He’s just lazy and wants something for nothing……….and he got it. My auctions state all sales final and he knew this. I messaged him twice in the last 3 weeks to ship this item back. The first time he said he was shipping it back. Then the second time, he said he wasn’t paying to ship it back, he wanted me to pay.
    I’ve been selling on EBay for 17 years. I can’t believe how much they are siding with the buyers. It’s sickening. I’m looking into other outlets to sell on now. I started selling for extra money. Then it became a necessity to pay for my dogs medical bills who passed away 11 months ago. I have a new puppy who is also sick. Two sick dogs in a row is unheard of but I still have to pay his medical bills. I’m done with EBay. My question to you is have you gotten anywhere since you put your site up about EBay? I noticed there’s a class action law suit going on but EBay needs to pay for what their doing. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. I just can’t believe EBay sides 100% for the buyers. Without us sellers, there wouldn’t be buyers. I’m just at a loss with them.
    On a side note……..I did a background ch ck on this guy and turns out he’s a convicted felon who is in his 30’s and lives at home with his Mom. He’s sent me numerous “threatening” and nasty messages. It concerns me he has my address and is crazy. At this point, I’m done with EBay. I’m looking into some way to bring this into the national spotlight. Something has to be done already and EBay has to be stopped.

    Sincerely

    Reply
  2. Em

    Sadly, this issue continues. I recently had a buyer damage my item and return it to me. The buyer’s feedback shows that he/she has done this before.

    EBay told me there’s no protection for sellers. If I don’t send the buyer a full refund, they will take it from my PayPal account and give me a defect. I’m in the Returns Resolution Pilot program, but it makes no difference.

    Reply
  3. Elly

    I just want to thank you for continuing to fight the good fight. eBay has a history of greasing squeaky wheels while maintaining practices and policies that allow the same issue to happen to other sellers. There has to be a point at which being a seller proven to be trustworthy and committed to customer service actually means something. There has to be a point at which trusted sellers receive the same customer service from eBay reps that we are expected to extend to our buyers. eBay has numerous tools with which to grade us and monitor our success at meeting and exceeding their expectations. Those who come out on top are valuable to eBay and should be treated as such.

    Reply
  4. Barbara

    The ebay beta thing is a joke, you will lose your money if you take advantage of it.
    My buyer said the item was “not used enough” then only sent back 4 of 5 that they ordered, ebay said no way for me to prove it so I was out my original funds plus the shipping I paid to get all the items back.
    They told me had I not taken advantage of the program, I could have gotten back my original shipping and restock fee.
    What a rip off!
    Do Not believe them.

    Reply
    1. Marie

      You got a bad / ill trained CSR. They were not correct in what they stated to you. If your buyer files a SNAD, you can’t charge a restocking fee at all. They were however correct about in Ebayland, you can’t prove the problem you experienced to their satisfaction.

      With that said, you can contact your buyer and try to find out what happened. Don’t be rude or pointing fingers at what might be theft or might be an honest error. Stay professional. You may be able to get them to admit what they did if you approach them in a way that is respectful. If they admit what they did, even if it was an honest error, you can appeal to Ebay. If they admit to keeping the item on purpose, then you can inform the buyer that using the US postal service to commit a fraud is a Federal Crime. And you can report this fraud to your local Postmaster for further investigation.

      Reply
  5. Patty L.

    Mr. Tarver- I am a very small seller on Etsy and Ebay and have been following your case with great enjoyment and appreciation. I commend you not only on your business and legal smarts but also for your patience and diligence in following through with your case. In today’s world, it is very rare indeed to find someone who has the capacity to do the work that you are doing- work that benefits all of us in the online community. I think you are a hero to anyone who reads your story.

    Thank you for all that you’re doing and I wish you Godspeed.

    Reply
  6. Linda

    Fantastic job, Mr. Tarver!

    I started selling on eBay in 1997 and during my time there (over 15 years) made almost 2 million dollars. I was even able to purchase my home ? which was great for me being a single Mother. I was always so thankful that eBay existed and made it possible for me to stay home, make a living and raise my daughter.
    It was devastating to watch eBay destroy my business and treat me like a suspect telling customers that sellers were not to be trusted by placing buyer guarantees all over the site. They started to advertise my competitors products on my listing page! It became an extremely hostile place to make a living. eBay forget who their real customers are. It’s the sellers!
    I finally built my own website and learned how to market it. And now that I don’t need them anymore. These days I receive emails and phone calls from eBay with offers of free listings and half price final value fees if I’ll come back.
    Will I go back? No.
    Why? I would never trust them with my business, my sole income again.
    They also have a tarnished reputation with the general public. I don’t want that image associated with my brand.
    It’s about trust eBay. You created this. You created a website that sold the concept that sellers could not be trusted. You told customers that they needed to protection from us and then you placed ads on our pages to drive them away from us.
    You treat your customers, the sellers like criminals.
    No thank you. Don’t need you.

    Reply
  7. Right On!!

    Mr. Tarver,

    Sellers everywhere on eBay are happy that your case ended up with a positive outcome. The issue here (as mentioned before) is that they have certain established rules that prohibit these types of fraud, but turn a deaf ear when these should be put into actual practice.

    The site is DESPERATE for buyers, and will do anything not to lose another to their main competitor, Amazon. As much as the eBay’ horses and all their men manipulate the sales figures, they have only shown a 3% increase in business, as Amazon is up 58%.

    There have been many who have commented on this issue in eBay Community forums, and the response from their moderator is to “raise prices by a dollar or two to cover these losses”. A phone call to a human being (after being placed on hold for an hour plus in many cases) also does not solve the problem, as you have found. The buyer is happy, and this is all that matters.

    The response from this company that we as sellers need to absorb these losses for the betterment for the eBay site as a whole, and returns are the cost of doing business. Or, basically, just EAT THE LOSS and move on (even though it can be proven the buyer is engaging in fraudulent activity). Easy to be generous with someone else’s money!

    I, as most other sellers, do not have a problem with issuing a refund for an item that does not work. One problem is with buyers who expect full refunds (including return shipping) for simple buyer’s remorse. All they have to do is claim the item was “Significantly Not As Described” (SNAD), and send it back on the seller’s dime. Again, there are published rules which do not allow this behavior, but are not applied.

    In the beginning, eBay preached that they were “only a venue”, and that buyers and sellers were responsible for the successful completion of transactions. Problem was that dishonest folks took advantage of this, and the only recourse for a buyer was to leave a negative feedback on the sellers account. Then, most times, the seller would just assume a new identity, and start over again.

    Yes, we do not live in a perfect world, and there are many legitimate reasons for a return. And, as you have mentioned in this blog, there are fraudulent sellers as well as buyers. The problem is that eBay went the other way, and labeled ALL sellers as liars and cheats, instead of operating on a level playing field, and taking the time to review each case individually.

    I think I speak for all eBay sellers- we hope you further develop public awareness of this problem (and there are many, many other troubles with them than just this issue, just read ECommerceBytes). It took someone with your credentials and influence to get this fraud, perpetrated many times daily, out into the eyes of the public. And, though certainly stressful, we thank you in advance for your help in presenting this in a manner which makes eBay even more aware than ever that their actions are not acceptable.

    Reply
  8. Mae

    If ebay would allow sellers to leave negative feedback for bad buyers it would give us a better chance to know who we are dealing with. I sure wouldn’t want to sell to a buyer with a lot of negative feedback. But now we don’t have no idea who we are selling to we are in the dark. Ebay has become so one sided favoring the buyers they have become unbalanced. I have read so many stories of sellers loosing money to scammers especially electronics. The internet is full of stories. I was going to sell a Samsung Galaxy s6 phone so I was curious to what ebay would tell me how to protect myself and all they could tell me was to take a photo and I said what if the persons wants to return and sends me back a piece of junk what then? She said you will have a photo of your phone. I said you didn’t accept a photo when my son sold a cabinet and the woman said it was broke and my son said to send him a photo and it wasn’t his even the cabinet he sold to her. He called ebay and they told him how do we know you didn’t send her another cabinet then what your photo showed so they ruled in the buyers favor. So I knew right then the photo thing was not going to hold up. If they returned to me a piece of junk I would be out the phone and my money. Thousands of good sellers have left ebay because of the unfairness to sellers. But glad you are getting your money back.

    Reply
  9. Marie

    FYI ~ Ebay does have an improved return / claim system currently in BETA testing. Some of the active sellers on Eccomercebytes are in that BETA group. There are promising parts to the program and then others that haven’t changed enough.

    However in your case specifically the issue of the where the return package originated was all it took to deny this buyer’s return. And since Ebay didn’t do that originally, then I’d say that the Bot they probably used when closing your claim and auto refunding the buyer needs a little programming work. With that said however, Ebay did market that escalated claims would be reviewed by a real person. I don’t however think that happens most of the time. And if it does, it is just another sad comment on the lack of training that they give their CSRs. Clearly the problem you had is in the exclusions on the MBG.

    I wish you well and PLEASE contact me if I can be of any service to you with your goal of getting Ebay to take a more proactive and respectful approach to this problem. I’m pretty versed on the Ebay rules and have been an active seller for more than 17 years.

    Marie

    Reply
    1. Administrator Post author

      Marie:

      Thank you so much. I appreciate your suggestions and support, and hope that we can continue to move forward to resolve this issue, or at least significantly improve the situation.

      David

      Reply

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