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January 4, 2012 6:28 AM   Subscribe

After Regretsy's previous run-in with Paypal during a bout of fund-raising (previously), a reader contacts them with the tale of the $2,500 'fake' violin.
posted by mippy (83 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
That picture is heartbreaking.
posted by gemmy at 6:32 AM on January 4, 2012 [15 favorites]


I would now like to see a picture of the buyer reduced to shrapnel in order to get my equanimity back.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:36 AM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


The moral of the story, read the friggin' small print.
posted by tomswift at 6:40 AM on January 4, 2012


tomswift: The moral of the story, read the friggin' small print.

The small print being that counterfeit items may be required to be destroyed. Yes, given that it would only be prudent to have an expensive item appraised by a professional before selling it, right? Wait. That's exactly what the seller here did, though.

The only person who doubts the item's veracity was the buyer, but apparently that's all the assurance Paypal needs to require physical destruction of a fine instrument. Sad.
posted by gilrain at 6:45 AM on January 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


This isn't a PayPal issue but a problem with the buyer. Paypal was simply following their TOS. The buyer was the one being an asshat.
posted by FreezBoy at 6:46 AM on January 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am totally going to sell some fake earth via Ebay to an evil supervillain and when he disputes if it is real earth Paypal will force him to destroy earth in order to get his money back.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:48 AM on January 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


gilrain... that "small print" should have been read as "once you put your items and your money in our hands, we have the right to screw you over at our whim...signed, Paypal".

The concept of "buyer (and seller) beware" should be tattooed on the inside of our eyelids in the era of ebay, craig's list, paypal, and their irk.
posted by tomswift at 6:49 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am now out a violin that made it through WWII as well as $2500.

I don't understand this. PayPal told the buyer to destroy the violin, and then refund his money? And took that refund from the seller?

So the seller has now lost the item she was selling, and the money she got for selling it. How is that not straight up theft?
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:49 AM on January 4, 2012 [39 favorites]


Couldn't the violin owner sue, since she has appraisal docs?
posted by dejah420 at 6:51 AM on January 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


FreezBoy: This isn't a PayPal issue but a problem with the buyer. Paypal was simply following their TOS. The buyer was the one being an asshat.

The employees required to follow the letter of the company policy aren't to blame, no. Presumably, they aren't given enough freedom to properly apply rules on a more case-by-case basis, in a way that makes any sense.

However, this policy is problematic. A sane policy would have the suspected counterfeit item sent back to the seller. Unless Paypal wants to prove that the item is counterfeit, anything else is highly immoral. The seller had a professional verify the violin was as he claimed. The seller disagreed, apparently without appraisal outside themselves. Paypal said, "Right then, you say it's counterfeit, then it's counterfeit. Destroy it for us, and you get your money back."

The seller is out $2500, and their original property.
posted by gilrain at 6:52 AM on January 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


The small print being that counterfeit items may be required to be destroyed.

My understanding is that in the US, counterfeit goods are illegal to ship so that for the buyer to return the item on Paypal's behalf they could be liable for illegal activity. What doesn't make sense is that there is no distinction being made between a 'replica' handbag and an item which is believed to be not as described.
posted by mippy at 6:53 AM on January 4, 2012


I had a weird case with Paypal once - sold some toys to a French buyer, the French buyer told me that they got a book instead of the toys I sent, and Paypal ordered them to return the 'goods' to me. Hence, I received a copy of a book I had never seen before in a language which I do not speak, and the buyer got their money back. I still don't know if it was a peculiar scam, as it cost them more to send me the book than the value of the item.
posted by mippy at 6:55 AM on January 4, 2012


You ask " How is that not straight up theft", and I can understand how you could think that, but, I'm afraid not. (sorry, couldn't resist).

It goes like this:

Customer: "hi, i want to sell something in your store"
Paypal: "great, here, read this document that says we can screw you over, take your thing and not give you money."
Customer: "sorry, I don't have time, I just want the money."
Paypal: "Ok, sign here that says you read the document"
Customer: signs document
Paypal: "Thanks, now we are going to take your thing and not give you money"
Customer: "What????!!!!!"
posted by tomswift at 6:55 AM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


100 Dark Side Points.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:56 AM on January 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


I can understand the Paypal policy; they don't want people demanding their money back, then keeping the item in question. I can see also that the typical counterfeiter/scammer doesn't really want their crap products returned, other than to resell the item to some unsuspecting buyer. Paypal's policy is intended to be punitive as well as cost effective.

Lesson to be learned: don't sell expensive, irreplaceable items through Paypal.

What I don't understand is, the buyer's actions. The violin was evidently certified by a luthier. If the buyer wasn't happy, why not contact the seller for a refund? Why would the seller not issue a refund, if one was asked for? Why bother to destroy it unless all other options had not been exhausted?

And of course, the obvious: perhaps the buyer is indeed correct in his assertion and the violin was a fake. That would explain the seller's reluctance to provide a refund, if one were ever asked for.
posted by Xoebe at 6:58 AM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


tomswift, thankfully we have laws that attempt to protect the ignorant, rather than just laugh at them and applaud the cunning of predatory businesses. I don't know whether they apply in this case, but perhaps they should.
posted by gilrain at 6:58 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It goes like this:

Actually it goes like this:

Customer: I'd like to sell this not-counterfeit item
Paypal: OK, sign this document which says we can destroy counterfeit items
Customer: I will sign that because this item is not counterfeit and I have proof.
Customer signs document.
Paypal: OK we have destroyed this item
Customer: WHAT???
posted by muddgirl at 7:00 AM on January 4, 2012 [41 favorites]


Xoebe: What I don't understand is, the buyer's actions. The violin was evidently certified by a luthier. If the buyer wasn't happy, why not contact the seller for a refund? Why would the seller not issue a refund, if one was asked for? Why bother to destroy it unless all other options had not been exhausted?

The buyer got their refund, and at the expense of the seller, not PayPal. You seem to imply the seller got to keep their money. Not so. The seller lost their violin and the money from the sale. The buyer is the only person out anything, here. I bet Paypal kept their transaction fees, as well.

The buyer destroyed the violin because Paypal said they would not issue a refund, otherwise, per their policy.
posted by gilrain at 7:01 AM on January 4, 2012


The moral of the story, read the friggin' small print.

The moral of the story is don't ever do business with PayPal.
posted by grouse at 7:03 AM on January 4, 2012 [45 favorites]


gilrain: The buyer seller is the only person out anything, here.
posted by gilrain at 7:03 AM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


gilrain, I'm not intending to "laugh" at anyone. I am, however, wanting to point out that, given the never ending horror stories of theft, fraud, scams, and murder attached to online transactions gone wrong, entering into this level of exchange seems a bit foolish.
posted by tomswift at 7:04 AM on January 4, 2012


tomswift: gilrain, I'm not intending to "laugh" at anyone. I am, however, wanting to point out that, given the never ending horror stories of theft, fraud, scams, and murder attached to online transactions gone wrong, entering into this level of exchange seems a bit foolish.

I agree that people should avoid Paypal at all costs, if that was your point. I misread you as taking a certain glee that someone was fleeced for not reading the rules, when they might well have and reasonably assumed they were abiding by the rules in question.
posted by gilrain at 7:06 AM on January 4, 2012


I guess the part that makes the policy so ridiculous, to me, is that apparently it should read "We may require counterfeit items to be destroyed. Oh, and your buyer gets to define 'counterfeit'." if it's to serve as any kind of warning to someone considering using Paypal for something like this.
posted by gilrain at 7:08 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate to say it, but if you're risking $2500 on selling something using paypal, well ...

Was there really no other market for the item ?

Do people routinely use paypal for high-dollar transactions ? (ie more than some $5 trinket off ebay)
posted by k5.user at 7:09 AM on January 4, 2012


Do people routinely use paypal for high-dollar transactions ? (ie more than some $5 trinket off ebay)

Yes, lots of people buy high-dollar items on eBay. One of the original uses of eBay was for broadening the collectibles market. Counterfeit items is a concern for buyers which is why the seller had the item authenticated prior to sale.
posted by muddgirl at 7:12 AM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


God, I can't imagine what it must feel like to destroy that violin .How do you wash that guilt off of you?
posted by Think_Long at 7:16 AM on January 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I used to trade a particular type of collectible toy over eBay and specialist forums, and people would almost always do this using Paypal. This was a toy that, for some editions, would cost about $1500 - the (private) seller would often take a deposit in this case and offer layaway, which I suppose lessened the buyer's ability to claim as Paypal claims have to be filed within 45 days of the transaction.
posted by mippy at 7:17 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


A sane policy would have the suspected counterfeit item sent back to the seller.

Except that if it is really fake, the seller can then sell it again to another unsuspecting buyer. This is also why customs authorities destroy counterfeits they seize. However, customs authorities apparently make it easier than PayPal to contest such a seizure.

This said, one detail in the story makes me a bit suspicious. The seller writes about an "old French violin". The sharp-eyed will notice that the label in the picture says "Luthier à Bruxelles". Last time I visited, Brussels was in Belgium, not France...
posted by Skeptic at 7:17 AM on January 4, 2012


Skeptic: This said, one detail in the story makes me a bit suspicious. The seller writes about an "old French violin". The sharp-eyed will notice that the label in the picture says "Luthier à Bruxelles". Last time I visited, Brussels was in Belgium, not France...

A quick search on the maker's name turns this up, which clarifies. According to the Regretsy description, the buyer was disputing that the label is genuine, rather than that the label wasn't accurately described.
posted by gilrain at 7:22 AM on January 4, 2012


Brussels was part of France until 1815, though that would make the violin *really* old...
posted by mippy at 7:23 AM on January 4, 2012


Addendum: there appears to have been a famous luthier named "Maurice Bourguignon" (the name on the label) in Brussels.
posted by Skeptic at 7:24 AM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


And, folks, in case anyone is seeing me as a bit heartless in this, let me share that I've a violin, given to me 55 years ago by a 80 year old great uncle who had owned it most of his life, it has a Stradivarius label in it. I know it's probably fake, but I would be heart broken if this happened to it.
posted by tomswift at 7:26 AM on January 4, 2012


I doubt the seller gambled $2500 on the chance that the buyer couldn't figure out if Brussels is in France or not. Maybe at some point during the instrument's life it passed through the shop of a luthier in Brussels that chose to slap a label on it, in the same way car repair businesses will put those advertising frames on your license plates.
posted by Dr Dracator at 7:26 AM on January 4, 2012


My point was rather that, if the seller apparently didn't even know which country the violin actually came from, maybe the buyer had some actual reason to dispute its authenticity. And perhaps the dispute had more to do with the date on the label. Apparently, Maurice Bourguignon had a particularly long career as a luthier, but he won awards in 1933 and 1935. Coincidentally, 1933 is the date hand-written on the label. Perhaps Maurice Bourguignon violins of the second hand of the XX century are less priced than those from the 1930s.
Some information appears to be missing from the letter, anyway...
posted by Skeptic at 7:32 AM on January 4, 2012


No one should use PayPal, and it killed me to pay for this MetaFilter membership knowing that a slice of it went to them. There are other options now. I don't understand why anyone would voluntarily accept payment through them, or deal with eBay/PayPal at all, ever. Didn't this site have an issue with PayPal once?
posted by a_girl_irl at 7:34 AM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


The authenticity of the label doesn't really have much to do with the authenticity of the violin. That's the point.

The violin could have been labeled "Stradivarius" (which is pretty common) - that doesn't mean that the violin isn't of old French manufacture (which a luthier can determine based on wear, construction, wood type, etc. etc.)
posted by muddgirl at 7:45 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course we only have the seller's side of the story - this is all dependent on how she marketed the violin, I suppose.
posted by muddgirl at 7:50 AM on January 4, 2012


PayPal is utter shit but I am really inclined to believe there is more context to this story. Someone who is paying $2500 for a violin with enough interest to have issues with its intricacies seems highly unlikely to be prone to destroying it just because PayPal told them to, and someone who is selling a $2500 seems really casual about mentioning "oh BTW I forgot to mention it was totally authenticated."

There are several facts here we are all clearly not privy to. Instead of sending emails to websites, the seller needs to call a competent lawyer and sue both the buyer and PayPal. This is literally what lawyers are for.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:53 AM on January 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


Adjusting my rumpled Columbo trench coat here, isn't it possible that the buyer took receipt of the violin in question, then took a hammer to some old $50 fake and took a photo it to back up their claim?
posted by Sir Cholmondeley at 7:56 AM on January 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


...that would be a photo of it, of course.
posted by Sir Cholmondeley at 7:59 AM on January 4, 2012


I hate to say it, but if you're risking $2500 on selling something using paypal, well ...

Was there really no other market for the item ?


My mother is an antiques dealer and uses Sotheby's for things worth that much. Yes, they charge pretty high commissions, but considering that they handle authentication, marketing, and payments so well, it's really worth it for an item that expensive. Paypal is for buying $5 hairclips on Etsy, not buying $3000 paintings or $2000 musical instruments.
posted by melissam at 7:59 AM on January 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fortunately for the seller she can probably go get a new one that will sound just as good.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:01 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Paypal Orders Destruction of Orphanage
Paypal Ties Woman to Train Tracks
Paypal Pushes Baby in Stroller Down Flight of Stairs
posted by speicus at 8:02 AM on January 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


Sir Cholmondeley - the photo of destruction isn't to prove or disprove authenticity. At that point Paypal has already agreed that it is counterfeit and have asked for it to be destroyed for legal reasons.

Of course it's possible that the buyer destroyed a cheapo violin and kept the original in order to get back their payment - it's similar to buyers who claim to receive a box of bricks.
posted by muddgirl at 8:11 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


someone who is selling a $2500 seems really casual about mentioning "oh BTW I forgot to mention it was totally authenticated."

I think it's the regretsy poster that is casual about mentioning that, not the seller.
posted by inigo2 at 8:13 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a strange story but my assumption is that this destroy-the-counterfeit angle is intended more for fake Hello Kitty junk than high-end Monet reproductions. I haven't seen anyone but Skeptic mention that (in the context of customs seizures) but it certainly sounds like that's the principle that was applied here.

When I saw this story yesterday I was sure it was one I've seen before and even went to search Snopes for it, thinking it was a zombie story that got accidentally rerun. I didn't find anything but I still can't shake that sense.
posted by phearlez at 8:19 AM on January 4, 2012


It's an interesting conundrum as, at least in the UK, selling or even just having an item that is incorrectly brand labeled is a criminal offense and it is one they actually enforce - unlike phone hacking and corporate criminal conspiracies. (This is something you should keep in mind if you travel internationally with your fake rolex).
posted by srboisvert at 8:22 AM on January 4, 2012


I'm having a hard time composing a picture of a person who 1) is in the market for a $2500 violin, 2) doesn't understand the "violin world" enough to know that labels don't mean much, 3) disputes what seems to an untrained eye to be an authentic label, 4) disregards or doesn't know the intrinsic value of the violin as an artistic object or antique to such a degree that he is willing to destroy it, and 5) is motivated to share this destruction with the seller.

If the buyer is knowledgeable, then how could they destroy an antique instrument? If they are not, then how could they dispute its authenticity?

Why does the seller characterize the buyer as being "proud of himself" when he destroyed the violin?
posted by swift at 8:26 AM on January 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


My point was rather that, if the seller apparently didn't even know which country the violin actually came from, maybe the buyer had some actual reason to dispute its authenticity.

As anyone who's ever spent too much of their lives watching Antiques Roadshow can tell you, old violins had forged labels quite often. You're not buying the label, though - you're buying the instrument. Some instruments, though they were intended to be "counterfeits," are so skillfully made as to be worth some serious money in their own right. The instrument maker is determined by the construction details of the instrument, not the label. The violin could very well be French, as the Belgian label is a phony, but the instrument is still worth 2500, based on who made it when, which isn't determined by the label.

This isn't a fake Dali print or Chinese knock-off Gucci bag.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:12 AM on January 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


I dunno man.. this is a shame, but who the fuck sells a violin on eBay and accepts payment on PayPal.. for a VIOLIN? What a dope!
posted by ReeMonster at 9:40 AM on January 4, 2012


That said, I understand there are very clear principles that are being trampled on by evil PayPal. They suck. Still, if you want to sell a violin, do it the right way, through a trusted dealer. The seller could have gotten more money I bet.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:41 AM on January 4, 2012


As someone who used to be a professional violinist, and had the heartbreak of an instrument being vandalized I can't imagine anyone who really loved music destroying any instrument, even 1/4 size beginners Chinese fiddle. (And yes, I cringe at vids of rock musicians trashing their instruments.)

So that's why I want to believe there's something odd about this story.

Some instruments, though they were intended to be "counterfeits," are so skillfully made as to be worth some serious money in their own right.

I have a violin that's a knockoff of someone who wasn't even that famous. But evidently they well known enough for someone else to want to fake the label.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:41 AM on January 4, 2012


I love this argument: "This contract lets them do this terribly bad thing, therefore it's right!"

There is NO EXCUSE for destroying a real instrument, particularly a vintage instrument. I don't give a flying fuck if you have some contract that lets you put the hammer to it, you are just a bad person.

> I'm having a hard time composing a picture of a person who 1) is in the market for a $2500 violin, 2) doesn't understand the "violin world" enough to know that labels don't mean much, 3) disputes what seems to an untrained eye to be an authentic label, 4) disregards or doesn't know the intrinsic value of the violin as an artistic object or antique to such a degree that he is willing to destroy it, and 5) is motivated to share this destruction with the seller.

You clearly don't know too many rich people, do you?

As a musician and technical guy, I've done a lot of work for rich people who have expensive instruments that real players would die to use, instruments that they have no understanding of how to use and that basically gather dust until they get guilty, hire me to show them how to use it a bit, show it off to their friends for a week, and then put it back in the corner to gather dust.

I remember very well when I was at some rich kid's house (specifically, the younger brother of the cheating CEO of a company I was at who was so rapacious that he destroyed it before it actually ever made a profit). He had an expensive and rare MIDI/acoustic hybrid guitar (this was in the early days of MIDI guitars) - I asked if I could use it, took a MIDI cable from its out to the synth, checked to see that both were on channel 1 (they were), and then strummed a few chords on the default synth sound (some sort of xylophone).

"Gee, how did you do that?" He had literally never even tried to plug a MIDI cable in - so he was using it as a shitty-sounding, regular guitar.

There's no question in my mind that the violin murderer was some sort of rich guy who probably had already lost interest in the instrument before it was delivered and saw this as a way to get out from under the $2500.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


> I dunno man.. this is a shame, but who the fuck sells a violin on eBay and accepts payment on PayPal.. for a VIOLIN? What a dope!

Someone who's done most of their selling in person and thus is not used to how truly evil online people can be?

Someone who read the actual terms of the agreement and thought, "I'm safe from all these problems since I actually went to the trouble and effort of having the violin authenticated"?

A businessman who's used to the law for cash payments, check payments and credit card payments, but couldn't imagine a situation where his counterparty could just destroy his instrument and demand his money back without any proof of his claims?

GOD, I hate this new "blame the victim" world we live in.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:46 AM on January 4, 2012 [29 favorites]


I'm not blaming the victim at all. I've much sympathy. I just think common sense would tell someone not to MAIL a delicate historical antique musical instrument to someone they've never met face to face. I've sold instruments before using eBay (I'm a percussionist) and only sell to people who I will meet and shake hands with. At least with a dealer you have a conduit through which professionalism, security and respect can prevail.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:51 AM on January 4, 2012


A businessman who's used to the law for cash payments, check payments and credit card payments, but couldn't imagine a situation where his counterparty could just destroy his instrument and demand his money back without any proof of his claims?

This is why, even after previously working in an eBay resale shop, I don't sell on eBay anymore. If I ship you $expensive_thing and you claim I sent you a box of rocks, I have no way of proving otherwise. Bye bye $expensive_thing and the money I received for it.

Sure, the odds of this are pretty low and can be further mitigated by looking at feedback, but it's just not worth the risk for me. Craigslist is free, doesn't require boxing stuff up, and won't stress me out for a week.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:02 AM on January 4, 2012


If I ship you $expensive_thing and you claim I sent you a box of rocks, I have no way of proving otherwise. Bye bye $expensive_thing and the money I received for it.

And if you ship me a bag of rocks and claim you sent the expensive thing, I have no way of proving otherwise either. Both sides are untrusted, and eBay goes back and forth over which side they assume is correct in a dispute.
posted by smackfu at 10:27 AM on January 4, 2012


The president of PayPal is moving on apparently.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:29 AM on January 4, 2012


I've sold instruments before using eBay (I'm a percussionist) and only sell to people who I will meet and shake hands with.

I think you're confusing 'eBay' with 'Craigslist'.
posted by clarknova at 10:35 AM on January 4, 2012


smackfu: True, but my understanding is that buyers receive the benefit of the doubt.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:36 AM on January 4, 2012


Interesting, the very first line in the limits of liability in the eBay user agreement says:
You will not hold eBay responsible for other users' content, actions or inactions, items they list or their destruction of allegedly fake items
posted by smackfu at 10:44 AM on January 4, 2012


"There's no question in my mind that the violin murderer was some sort of rich guy who probably had already lost interest in the instrument before it was delivered and saw this as a way to get out from under the $2500."

There are a lot of complicated dynamics that go into making that statement. I tried to flow chart the events that led up to it, but lines started to connect and it digressed into a venn diagram where EVERYTHING overlapped and became a nightmare of black.
posted by tomswift at 10:53 AM on January 4, 2012


I think you're confusing 'eBay' with 'Craigslist'.

Nope. You can hold auctions on eBay where delivery is by pick-up only. It's limiting, but you're way less likely to get screwed.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:55 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, violin labels are often fake - it is very easy to replace them, and so it's done all the time, and has been for centuries. But a good look at the snippets by an expert would most definitely reveal most of the info needed.

What the seller should do is re-claim the snippets, have a dendrochronologist check the parts for their age, go with that info and the parts back to the luthier (or several ones), get an updated expertise, and if the value of the violin is anywhere near what he wanted to sell it for, sue the shit out of everyone in sight.

It would also be interesting to know on what grounds the buyer contested the label.
posted by Namlit at 11:23 AM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's kind of an interesting edge case, that something can be both a fake (or simply mislabeled) and also still valuable.
posted by smackfu at 11:32 AM on January 4, 2012


Paypal makes me really nervous. I use it, but only link it to a credit card (not my bank account despite their constant begging) and stories like this make me wonder why people selling big ticket items through eBay allow PayPal as payment. I mean, I get that it's easier for the buyer but it seems like it frequently goes really wrong for the seller.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:34 AM on January 4, 2012


It's kind of an interesting edge case, that something can be both a fake (or simply mislabeled) and also still valuable.


There's more to that. Something could both be fake, namely not made by Maurice Bourguignon, and real, as in: a real violin.

Imagine you sell a Volvo with a glued-on BMW label. Will Paypal ask the buyer to blow up the thing? Very unlikely. It is and remains a real car, not a fake one, not even "allegedly". The buyer may destroy the fake label, perhaps.
That's why I suspect there's room to maneuver in spite of the passage "You will not hold eBay responsible for ... their destruction of allegedly fake items." Law-non-laypersons might know the answer.
posted by Namlit at 11:40 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Both sides are untrusted, and eBay goes back and forth over which side they assume is correct in a dispute.

Does it though? Personally, I haven't sold on ebay in a while (I do buy alot though), and it was my impression that in general, ebay and paypal give the buyer more benefit of doubt than they do sellers. Though, if that is the case, I would think ebay would catch on if a buyer claimed they didn't receive the right item too many times.
posted by drezdn at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2012


Paypal makes me really nervous. I use it, but only link it to a credit card (not my bank account despite their constant begging) and stories like this make me wonder why people selling big ticket items through eBay allow PayPal as payment.

Not long ago i started getting payments in my paypal, despite only ever using it for buying things, and small things at that. The payments were all exactly the same amount, but also from people who had used the same internet provider in australia. I wasn't sure if i was hacked or them, but i went through and did all the return their money thing, (Which was more difficult than you'd think) and then a week or so of changing things and verifying who i am. The fact that paypal seems to think i would even remotely trust them with my bank account is laughable. I only have a credit card on there that has a very low credit limit, so while i can't buy expensive things through them, it keeps it safer.

Paypal really needs to be looked into, the fact that most places seem to only have that as an option is annoying as hell. I know credit card fraud happens, but i am at the point that i'd trust a random site more than paypal. (with the amount of times i've entered my cc at various sites, not one has caused trouble, paypal though, ugh)
posted by usagizero at 12:05 PM on January 4, 2012


I got scammed by a seller on eBay when buying small business equipment. Nothing in this price range, but the seller sent something that didn't work, wasn't as advertised, and eBay and paypal did fuck all for me. I went thru their process, and the seller disputed that was broken when he sold it and I was out a couple hundred bucks. I've never used them again. Paypal and eBay don't give a rats ass about either side, as long as they get their cut.
posted by dejah420 at 12:07 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only bank/card info Paypal has on me is their debit card and a second debit card to Greendot pre-paid account that is continually out of money. While I use PP a lot as a freelancer, I make sure the balance stays near zero.

Paypal only does one thing consistently well -- screw things up. I look forward to the day other online payment entities are as widespread and I can jump from the PP ship.

In the meantime, I just keep my fingers crossed and stay away from $2,500 violin purchases.
posted by lampshade at 12:21 PM on January 4, 2012


Personally, I haven't sold on ebay in a while (I do buy alot though), and it was my impression that in general, ebay and paypal give the buyer more benefit of doubt than they do sellers.

IIRC, it used to be that if you had a problem with a purchase as a buyer, you had to do a PayPal dispute, and PayPal disputes usually went nowhere because the seller would not have any cash in their account. That was changed so that the dispute is at the eBay layer now. Similarly, it used to be that sellers would give retaliatory negative feedback to buyers who genuinely had issues, while now sellers can't give negative feedback at all. So, it does ebb and flow.
posted by smackfu at 12:23 PM on January 4, 2012


Wouldn't it be easier to fake a photo of the destroyed instrument? If I'm the buyer, I purchase an authentic instrument as well as a cheap replica, then dispute the authenticity of the original. I destroy the replica and photograph it with a few discreet digital enhancements. I can then get my money back AND keep the real thing...
posted by sharkitect at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2012


Several people have said it above, but to repeat..

At least here in Australia (and it seems in other jurisdictions as well) ebay/paypal insisting on the destruction of an item seems to only occur in cases of counterfeiting.

I've always understood this to be because the original sale of the counterfeit item, possession by the buyer, reshipping back to the seller, and (possible) resale by the original seller are all crimes, and ebay/paypal do not wish to put themselves in a position where they are or could be seen to be knowing accessories to a crime.

For a paypal counterfeiting claim to be successful (at least here in Oz) you need to show that a current trademark exists (often this is apparent, or part of getting a formal assessment); that the thing/s sold were sold under that mark; and have an assessment from at least one expert indicating that the thing/s you have purchased were not manufactured by the owners of that trademark.

So.. in this case.. given the total lack of any likelihood that a current trademark exists that is directly associated with the original manufacturer, I call shenanigans.

Either this is one of those ridiculous dramas that you see on ebay's own forums gone viral ("Everyone look out for fake murano beads, they're not really made on Murano and you'll have to smash them to get your money back!") or a junior ebay/paypal dispute resolution worker misunderstanding the difference between "item significantly not as described" and "counterfeit item" and insisted on destruction.

Shenanigans.
posted by Ahab at 1:31 PM on January 4, 2012


While I'm am totally on the side of the seller here, and am appalled by that image of the destroyed violin... I just have to say that $2,500 really isn't that much for a violin - indeed, it's certainly not in the price range in which you start to get into fights about authenticity.
posted by Jimbob at 2:35 PM on January 4, 2012


$2,500 really isn't that much for a violin
Yeah, I thought that too. Googled it and it seems in fact that for violins of this particular maker (probably just pre-war) the price could be about right. Somewhere I saw that he was famous for his 'cellos, which catch considerably more.

Authenticity, on the other hand, is not necessarily bound to super-high value - it even interests people of carved wood trinkets at flea markets, for example.
posted by Namlit at 3:44 PM on January 4, 2012


The president of PayPal is moving on apparently.

Wow, good luck with that.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:54 PM on January 4, 2012


How do we know this wasn't some hoax aimed at Regretsy?
posted by Ardiril at 6:09 PM on January 4, 2012


> > "There's no question in my mind that the violin murderer was some sort of rich guy who probably had already lost interest in the instrument before it was delivered and saw this as a way to get out from under the $2500."

> There are a lot of complicated dynamics that go into making that statement. I tried to flow chart the events that led up to it, but lines started to connect and it digressed into a venn diagram where EVERYTHING overlapped and became a nightmare of black.

Really, you need very badly to work on your reading comprehension if that short, clear sentence is difficult for you to understand.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:49 PM on January 4, 2012


Yeah, it was pretty clear the intent was "rich people suck, amirite?"
posted by smackfu at 6:23 AM on January 5, 2012


Well, rich guys may suck or not, but it is indeed unlikely that one of them would seriously consider
a) buying a violin for mere 2,500
b) buys it on the internet
c) bothers with physically messing around with it

Violin buying for real rich guys goes entirely different.
posted by Namlit at 6:31 AM on January 5, 2012


differently whatever sigh
posted by Namlit at 6:34 AM on January 5, 2012


Guardian article.

Andrew Hooker, an antique violin dealer and former auctioneer at Sotheby's, said that "only an imbecile" would buy a precious instrument without playing it first. "The whole point of a violin is how it sounds to the player. At Sotheby's I knew of Stradivariuses that were pronounced to be almost unplayable by well-known virtuosi, only for a different one to come in and buy it. The things are absolutely individual to the buyers and anyone who doesn't understand that really is naive."

He added that difficulties in eBay sales often arise when either the buyer or seller is more knowledgeable than the other party. "I was involved in a case recently where the seller was selling a fake deliberately. The buyer did ultimately get their money back but it took the best part of two years.

"I sympathise with the wronged party but a fool and his money are easily parted."

posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:42 AM on January 6, 2012


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