Soap Box:  Ebay Headaches: my dealings with people who have treated me wrong on Ebay

July 16, 2007

Updated: 07/01/10

Ebay can be a wonderful resource, or it can be a nightmare.  You can find some great deals on Ebay.  You can find stuff that’s rare, or no longer made.  You can find modern stuff at a good savings off retails prices.  But unfortunately, you can also have a bad experience on Ebay.  It can range from just dealing with someone who has a bad attitude, to downright fraud and deception.

Listed below are some of headaches I’ve encountered during my Ebay transactions.  For the most part, my Ebay experience has been positive.  But as you’ll see below, I did encounter a few bumps in the road.  This list is for general information, and to serve as a warning in case you’re thinking about bidding on something that one of these people might have up for auction.  I’m not saying your experience will be the same, but it’s better to have extra information just in case.

If you have any questions or want more details, just let me know.

Some advice about buying on Ebay.

Problem Ebay sellers:










1)  Ebay ID: “ibuy2color-globes”

Against my better judgment and gut feeling, I bid on and won a lantern this guy was selling.  I wanted that lantern and I figured it would go smoothly.  Wrong!  I paid him EXACTLY the bid amount, the shipping charge, and the insurance charge listed on the Ebay ad.  I paid him a total of $120.42 which is the EXACT amount according to the Ebay ad ($105.02 bid, plus $12.95 shipping, plus $2.45 for the optional insurance).  Email me if you want to see the screen shots as proof.

When this guy got my check, he promptly cashed it.  Then he said he’s only going to insure the lantern for $100 unless I send him more money.  At first I wasn’t going to worry about the extra insurance.  Then I figured that I would give in to what in my opinion was blackmail and send it.  But then I got angry and decided to back out of the whole thing and ask for a refund.  I had a funny feeling about this deal and that feeling was too strong to ignore. 

So now he has my money AND the lantern.  I had to request over and over and over again before he finally gave me a refund.  He tried to claim that Ebay wasn’t going to give him back his listing and selling fees, and that he was going to deduct that from my refund, but I informed him that I knew that to be false, and that ANY missing portion would be considered theft.  Remember that he's not out of a single dime because he never actually mailed the lantern and was getting all his listing fees back from Ebay.  After making sure he understood I would pursue criminal charges if he stole my money, he finally relented and gave me a full refund.  He had the gall to give me a negative feedback when HE was the one that didn’t want to honor his Ebay ad.   He claimed I demanded higher insurance.  Wrong!  I expected him to insure the lantern for AT LEAST the bid price, given that’s what I paid him for.  I even told him BEFORE I mailed the check, how much I was sending.  But I got not a word out of him until AFTER he cashed my check, and then his threat to underinsure the lantern unless I sent him more money.

This is the first and only negative I have received on Ebay feedback.  I decided to leave a well deserved and entirely truthful NEGATIVE for him.  I should have known better than to bid on anything this guy has for sale.  While overall his feedback is positive, there are a lot of negative comments in there.  Take a look, especially at the withdrawn negative feedback.  You’ll see a pattern.  Even some of the positive feedbacks have negative follow-ups!  This tells you something is wrong.  If I'm not mistaken, I seem to remember this guy also whining a lot about a bad divorce in some of his listings.  Seems like one spouse made a very smart move, in my opinion.  This alone should have been enough red flags to keep me away.  I should have paid more attention.  Lesson learned.

2)  Ebay ID: “zangggg”

I bought a pocket watch from this guy.  Before I bid, I asked if the case had brassing on it (i.e. gold wearing off).  He said it didn’t.  When I got it, I found that it did indeed have brassing on it, easily visible.  Check out this image:

You can see long streaks of gold missing.  He said I could return it, but I would be out shipping, BOTH WAYS!  The shipping charges alone were a significant portion of the reduced value of the watch.  Given he wasn't truthful about the condition, I feared that if I sent the watch back he wouldn’t send a refund at all.  Then I would be out of my money and the watch.  So I decided to keep the watch and take the loss in value.  This is a prime example of how you can get burned, even if you ask the right questions beforehand.  My advice is to read the feedback, of course the negative, but look for withdrawn too.  And read the positive ones.  You’ll find that sometimes a person just puts a positive before they realize they’ve been scammed.  They’ll then go back and add another comment.  

3) Ebay ID: “estatedoctor”

I bought a railroad lock from him that turned out to be counterfeit.  I sent it back and pointed him to documentation proving it.  He turns around and re-lists it on Ebay again.  I threatened fraud charges and got a refund, but never actually got an email from him.  He’s very well known.  Google his name.  Lots of complaints about him selling fake jewelry, fake coins, etc.  Beware!

4) Ebay ID: “bestbikepartsinc”

I bought a Lionel train from this guy.  He claimed it was brand new in the box.  When I got it, it was obviously used as shown by wear marks on the wheels.  I contacted the guy and we agreed on a refund of the shipping costs to make it right (though I think it should have been more).  He said he would send a check.  Never did receive a check.  A year later I sent another request.  Didn't hear back from him.

5) Ebay ID: “azroadrunners”

 I bought a telegraph sounder from this guy.  He advertised it as brass, and the picture looked that way, but when I got it I found that it was nickel plated or something.  Given how this guy says in his email that he wants to make everything right, I figured it was an honest mistake.  I was even willing to ship the sounder back to him and let him keep my money until he had another sounder he could sell me.  Boy did I figure this guy wrong!  Not only was he not willing to do ANYTHING to make it right, he also didn’t want to give me a refund.  Started claiming he couldn’t buy Christmas presents if he gave me my money back and other such nonsense.  Then he tried to hold my refund hostage for a positive feedback rating.  Then he threatened to get a lawyer and sue me.  I finally had to threaten him with filing fraud charges before he gave in.  From contacting other people who have bought from him, I have found that this is typical operating procedure of this guy.   If something goes wrong with the deal, he demands positive feedback before you get your money back. He also will leave retaliatory negative feedback if you give him a neutral.  I think for the most part he does sell good stuff, but if anything goes wrong....look out and good luck!

6) Ebay ID: “ebob7956”

Won the bid on a lantern and paid within a minute via Paypal.  The very day that the lantern arrived, I let this guy know it was here, thanked him for the transaction, then left him positive feedback.  What did he do?  He left me a neutral feedback saying the transaction “could have been better”.  What?  He’s fully paid within seconds, I communicate with him, plus give him a positive, and he thinks it still could be better?  How?  He also refused to communicate with me after this, when I asked him why.  I figure two possible reasons.  One, he was upset about not getting more the lantern so took it out on me (like it was my fault) in feedback.  Or two, he got me confused with someone else.  But he refused to communicate with me so my opinion of him isn't that great.  After this guy, I decided to NEVER leave feedback first again for any transaction.

7) Ebay ID: “old-n-days”

This was my first negative Ebay experience.  I bought a railroad switch lamp from this guy.  Claimed it was in good shape, etc.  When I got it, it was a rusting heap of junk.  Even the fuel fount had gaping holes in it.  Only rust was holding the thing together.  Took lots of threats and even contacting the police before I got my money back.  Had to get my credit card company involved.  Ebay and Paypal refused to help.  Pay attention to that, Ebay and Paypal REFUSED to help.  They may claim they protect you but they don't.

8) Ebay ID:  hrtlandamerica

I haven't bought anything from this fellow, but I was thinking about bidding on a pocket watch he had and he acted VERY strange when I asked him some questions about it.  He described the dial as having "no visible hairlines".  Looking at the images, I could see some imperfections on the dial so I asked him about them.  Email me if you want to see an image with the imperfections marked.

 I've seen sellers in the past miss stuff, or even leave out stuff, that they would clarify when you asked them about it.  I even told him I wanted him to clarify that the dial had no hairlines, and if it didn't, to describe the imperfections I was seeing.  He responded that it didn't have any hairlines, but didn't address what the imperfections were.  Then he said that if I bid on the watch, he would remove my bid!  That caused red flags to go up.  People reacting that way are usually hiding something.  His feedback contains negatives, neutrals, and withdrawns (previous negatives) with complaints such as postage rip off, bad communication, broken merchandise, bad packaging, and watches not working properly.  He probably did me a good thing by not allowing me to bid, because I don't trust him.

9) Ebay ID: coinopwarehouse

This guy had a railroad lamp that I wanted to bid on.  He said to email or call if you had any questions. So I asked him three common questions that collectors ask: 1) does the access door work, 2) is the fuel fount/burner solid and usable, and 3) the overall condition of rust on the lantern.  Here’s his response:

“Do not bid under any circumstances on my items!  I have no clue and do not want to deal with someone who would ask that many questions on a cheap item.”

It seems he might be too ignorant to be selling railroad lanterns on EBay.  These lamps can sell for $150, which I don’t consider cheap.  Or is he hiding something, like the real condition of the lamp?  He does have some negative and neutral feedbacks.  Definitely some red flags on this one!  I don't trust someone that reacts in this manner to simple, honest, and typical questions.  It's not a good sign.

Some advice about buying on Ebay.

 When you walk into a store or market, you can see and handle merchandise before buying it.  You have a location to return to if something isn’t right.  But with Ebay, you have to rely on images and seller descriptions in order to make your buying decisions.  A lot of sellers also say all says are final.  So how can you increase the odds of having a smooth transaction and not getting cheated?

 1)  Ask ALL questions before bidding.  I’ve been amazed at how often a seller didn’t list a major defect, but admits it’s there if asked.  Questions can also clarify item descriptions.  Don’t just go on the images.  They can be blurry, or not detailed enough to show any flaws.  Keep in the mind that even if you do ask beforehand, there’s nothing to stop a seller from being dishonest and lying to you, as you can see with my experience.

 2)  Read ALL feedback! Or more specifically, read all feedback that’s anything but “positive”.  Of course read all the negative feedbacks.  See any pattern?  Read all the neutrals.  Read all the mutually withdrawn feedbacks.  Remember that these started out as negative and probably were withdrawn by each person to get a mark off their feedback, but that doesn’t erase the negative experience.  And read all the positives that have negative follow-ups.  Sometimes a person just automatically marks a transaction as positive, even before it’s finished.  After they have been hurt, they go back and offer more commentary.  If you see a pattern of bad comments, especially retaliatory stuff from the seller, just walk away.

 3) Don’t overbid!  Unless your item is a one of a kind, look at completed listings to see what your item normally goes for.  It helps you determine a ballpark range for bidding.  If it’s a relatively common item, resist the temptation to pay too much just because it’s available.  Wait for the next one to come along.

 4)  Try to pay for your item with a credit card, or Paypal linked through a credit card.  First of all, despite all of Ebay's claims, they do NOT stand behind you when something goes wrong.  They will refer you to mediation, for a price, but that’s it.  Also, despite Paypal’s claims of buyer protection, none exists.  They will also wash their hands of you if you have a problem.  This is particularly true if you actually receive something from the seller.  If it’s a piece of broken junk, Paypal will claim it’s a subjective disagreement between you and the seller and refuse to help you.  Your CREDIT CARD company is your friend.  They will stand up for you and fight for you.  Take my advice, from experience, if you want some kind of buyer protection, use a credit card.  Do not depend on Ebay or Paypal for buyer protection.

 Jeff Polston

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