This is Kamel! He sometimes writes on Saturdays (and sometimes on other days too… like Sundays). Enjoy!
So I’ve been using ebay for about 11 years now and every now and then I use it to sell random crap. When I go on these selling spurts, they are usually quite successful. Turning the crap into cash is really nice. Plus, frees up space! In all of those transactions, there have been 3 bad ones. Ebay is a little tricky because it’s all about getting money from a random stranger who you are trusting a teensy bit to pay you, and then they are trusting you to send them the random crap they bought.
Before the holiday break, I helped my friend sell her broken iPhone 4. The phone had a completely shattered screen (as they do) and scuffed up, but it still worked. I listed it for 99 cents with no reserve for 5 days ending on a Saturday and opened it up to the entire world (as you should). Bidding kept creeping up and up to the point where Lauren and I worried the winner would think he was getting a brand new iPhone (Lauren Edit: Kamel worried about this, I gave 0 fucks). But I had made sure my auction was super clear with the words “broken, cracked, as is” in the title and in the description, plus a lot of photos to boot. I also made it clear: No refunds.
Anyways, bidding ended at around $274 not including fees. For a broken phone! The power of the internet at its best! But then I checked where we had to ship the phone to. Russia. Great.
Now, I’ve shipped things to Russia before and have never had an issue, it just takes forever! And their customs is shady, and I have heard of some scary spam stories on the message boards. (Lauren Edit: hehehe… message boards… oh Kamel.) As per my auction, I was to ship to Russia via USPS International First Class Mail. Foreshadowing moment: This was my first mistake.
On December 18th I went to the Post Office and shipped the phone to the Russian dude. I couldn’t add tracking info because he did not choose to pay extra to add it. (This was probably the first red flag in hindsight). But I did have the Customs Form Number, which can be used as proof of shipment and can be partially tracked. The estimated time for delivery was around 20 business days, or January 18-21 ish. When I got home, I let the buyer know he could expect his package on or around those days (because I am awesome, and thoughtful and have a 100% rating…. booya).
Weeks went by and I never heard back from him, so I assumed all was okay. Then one day on January 4th I received a strange email from him. He said:
Hi. It took a long time after the payment. IPhone I got. Tracked number you gave. I ask you to give the information.
What? In my head, he was saying, “Hey sorry it took me a long time to pay you (he took a week to pay me), I got the iPhone and tracked it with the number you gave me. Could you confirm?” I think… The language barrier was obviously an issue, and I wasn’t totally certain what he was trying to say. Because I wanted to make sure that all was well, I replied asking him to confirm if he had, in fact, got the iPhone. At this point I was surprised that it seemed to have arrived much earlier than anticipated. I was a little relieved too, since there was a chance that customs in Russia would have delayed it even beyond the 20 business days. But I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t asking for further tracking information.
The very next day, without responding to me at all, he opened a dispute against me with ebay claiming he had never received the iPhone. Ebay – because they have almost ZERO seller protection and nearly always side with the buyer – automatically put a hold on my paypal for the amount he paid until I responded. This is 100% typical ebay protocol, so I responded the same day letting them know I had shipped the item, and thought he had gotten it based of his first email. I even went to the post office to double check that things had gone through. The post office assured me that it was way too soon (being only Jan. 4th) and that the recipient needed to wait until at least the 20th to be at all concerned. I gave ebay the customs number, and all of the info the post office had told me. He would get the phone (or he already got it).
The next morning, the buyer did not accept my response… because? I’m not sure. Maybe he is just a scamming douchebag. So ebay automatically refunded him the entire amount for the phone closed the case. What the fuck.
So, because I fucking hate customer service bullshit like this, I appealed the decision immediately, saying that, 1. Not enough time had gone by (For the 100th time) and the item should arrive within a few weeks. 2. A refund at this point is ebay basically facilitating a theft, since when the seller gets the phone (if he really hadn’t) he has no obligation to claim he got it. And 3. The decision felt automated and I wanted a human being to review it. (Lauren Edit: RIGHT?! Arrgghhhh. At this point I am pretty disgusted with ebay’s customer service. Especially when they make an ass load of money, dependent solely on the successful transactions between strangers!!)
Two days went by (while Lauren seethed and I was full of the regrets for not paying the extra 30 dollars for the tracking numbers, even just to protect myself) before ebay sent me a notice saying they had reviewed the case (yadda yadda), and … decided to keep their original decision.
They would not give me back the money and would not pursue it any further.
Once again ebay has proved terrible service for sellers. In the end, ebay will always side with buyers because, “the customer is always right” which I know from working in retail is a BULLSHIT statement. Sometimes the customer is an asshole.
At this point in my story, ebay removed options to appeal any further, and sent me an email saying I should move on with my life, in a polite yet robotic sort of way. BUT, as Lauren knows all to well, when does that ever stop me? So I picked up the phone and called ebay.
The first gentleman I spoke with was clueless on how to handle this and kept reading script lines to me in broken English. Ebay outsources their customer service which means… it basically has no customer service… The man kept saying that the decision was final and buyer protection wins out. I reminded him that ebay also has seller protection and asked if I could speak to his supervisor. He transferred me over to his supervisor, who I could barely understand (again). I told him that based on the initial email, the guy sounded like he did received the phone, but since I questioned it, he took it as an advantage to file a fraudulent dispute. The supervisor at ebay did not care, and said that a seller can do that and get a refund without being obligated to show proof or send the item back – IF! I could not provide him with a proof of delivery. I reminded him that on my auction page, I mentioned that international sales will not get tracking, and the buyer agreed to that. Plus, I did have proof of shipment, and at this point it was still WAY TOO EARLY to receive it in the first place! He apologized but said the decision was final. He said I could talk to a supervisor in the ebay resolution center in the US, but that it would probably be a waste of time. I did not care about this supposed “waste of time” deterrent BS, and asked him to transfer me.
The lady back in the US heard my story and said she would review the emails and get back to me in a minute. She came back and said (finally) in her opinion it did indeed look like he got the phone, but once I questioned it, the crazy Russian filed a dispute to take advantage of me. And then, just like that, after days and days, and many raised voices on my part, she finally reversed the decision and placed the money back into my account. HA! I win!! All hail the conquering hero!!
She apologized for my troubles, but said it happened because disputes are automated and just go through the motions without a person reviewing them. But it was good that I called. She also apologized for the first line of support, but explained that they are not trained on how to handle these escalations and cannot access my messages (Then why are they the first line of support at all?). No further action was needed on my part, her decision was indeed final. Case closed. Booya.
A few days later I saw the funds go back into my account, BUT not from Russian dude. The funds came from ebay itself. Which means Russian dude probably got to keep his money and the iPhone. Which sucks!! This is setting a precident where people can scam sellers on ebay, and shadiness reigns supreme.
But hey, in the end. I win one! Epic battle closed.