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Is it buyer beware or Ebay's responsability
December 30, 2001 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Is it buyer beware or Ebay's responsability when 75 winners of Playstation 2 systems receive nothing but a picture of the unit that cost them $300.00
posted by Eric Lloyd NYC (42 comments total)

 
Remember when we were all giggling to ourselves about the stupid people not reading the fine print on the Xbox ebay "scams"? Well, here's what happens.

Personally, I think those people have been ripped off and deserve to get their money back from the scam artist. If they ever will is another matter entirely.
posted by Grum at 1:56 PM on December 30, 2001


WoulD 300 dollars seem like a reasonable price for such a thing?
I have some sympathy,but surely it is only common sense to check the credentials of those you are buying off.Is there not a feedback section on e bay,if there are no positive comments on it would you buy from that source.I wouldn't.
I am assuming here that this fraudster had no positive feedback.
posted by Fat Buddha at 2:09 PM on December 30, 2001


Why would someone buy a Playstation 2 on Ebay for $300 when they can go get one in the store for the same price and know exactly what they're getting?
posted by karaleah at 2:18 PM on December 30, 2001


I am assuming here that this fraudster had no positive feedback.

That would have no bearing in a legal case, if someone is found to be misleading the public and practicing false advertising who they are and what they've done previously doesn't matter. If the Best Buy near me has a few bad records with the Better Business Bureau that doesn't mean they have some right to rip me off. In fact I could sue the city for letting them keep a business license and these people could also sue both the seller and ebay.

If ebay is found negligent and promotes shady sales that they get money off of they too are just as guilty for not providing decent consumer protections. I curious to see if a court will find ebay to be something of an open marketplace or something like a store.
posted by skallas at 2:22 PM on December 30, 2001




Regardless of e bays responsibilities,and the legality of it,personally,I would tend to be cautious.I do a lot of buying on the web and have had only positive experiences ( I stick to the major players admittedly).
If I was buying off an auction site I would assume the seller was dodgy and if I could find nothing that indicated otherwise,my card would stay in my wallet.
posted by Fat Buddha at 2:45 PM on December 30, 2001


Why would someone buy a Playstation 2 on Ebay for $300

It was a "bundle" so it probably included games and what not.
posted by geoff. at 3:33 PM on December 30, 2001


I was not aware there had been already a thread of this nature, my bad.
posted by Eric Lloyd NYC at 3:55 PM on December 30, 2001


It's a rather interesting situation because it's another classic example of people not taking in all of the information laid out in front of them. I experienced this first hand on my on website. We posted a letter we received from some right-wing christian web "watchdog" group with a little intro that preceded it. Naturally everyone read through the letter codemning the site and not the intro TO the letter. I got calls from contributors to the site asking why the site had changed it's content to such offensive materials, etc. It hadn't, people simply just didn't read everything on the page. I feel sorry for the people who were "jilted" but they did get what they paid for. People need to take more time and caution when they're on the web.
posted by mantaray at 3:59 PM on December 30, 2001


If he was able to pull it off 75 times, then I do feel the consumer is partly to blame, IF he used the same login name. A simple click on customer review remedies such cases.

I'll say it so no one else has to, as it's inevitable in every thread of this nature: Caveat Emptor --> Buyer Beware
posted by Mach3avelli at 4:50 PM on December 30, 2001


How can it be said that these buyers got scammed when they got what was advertised while some Amazon customers took advantage of an error to 'scam' free cameras?

OT: What was the outcome of the attempted Amazon camera purchases?
posted by DBAPaul at 4:55 PM on December 30, 2001


Because we have cameras.
posted by NortonDC at 4:59 PM on December 30, 2001


Caveat Emptor --> Buyer Beware

Thanks for the Latin lesson, kid.
posted by KLAX at 5:00 PM on December 30, 2001


It's a rather interesting situation because it's another classic example of people not taking in all of the information laid out in front of them.

Actually its not a classic example of that at all. Its a misleading semantic ploy, plain and simple. 'Picure below' or 'pictured below'? That's a scam, not laziness on the part of the buyer. I'm sure you would be singing a different tune if you lost $300 over the lack of the letter 'd'.
posted by skallas at 5:03 PM on December 30, 2001


Both my parents made a living as contract negotiators, so you can bet your ass that I learned to read the fine print, so my sympathy for the buyers is limited.

The description was accurate. It required no interpretation. There was no misrepresentation. There was no fraud. Nor was there anything you could even call bad faith since the seller fully intended to deliver what he promised.

Reading is fundamental, kids. That doesn't keep the seller from qualifying as a prick, though.
posted by NortonDC at 5:18 PM on December 30, 2001


About 30 years ago, which may have been before eBay came along, my dad told me about a similar scam he'd heard about. Somebody would put a tiny ad in the back of, say, Popular Mechanics magazine that said, "Please send $1 to (whatever address)." That's all it said. It made no claim that you'd get anything for your dollar, and apparently whoever did this made a mint. It's similar to this one because in both cases, if you read the material and take it literally and with a skeptical eye, there's no way you'd be taken in.
posted by diddlegnome at 5:39 PM on December 30, 2001


I think the 'send one dollar' scam is much older than 30 years, but not sure... I still won a little plastic car when I replied to a 'You've won this car !' postal spam scam some ten or twelve years ago. At least I had it for the price of a stamp.
posted by michel v at 5:50 PM on December 30, 2001


if you read the material and take it literally and with a skeptical eye, there's no way you'd be taken in.

I dunno-- I didn't have much sympathy for the X-Box Box buyers because the seller clearly stated what he was offering. In this case there's a real grey area: did they forget the "d," or are they really selling a worthless picture of a gaming system on eBay? I wouldn't take that chance, but if I had to make a $300 bet on whether an eBay poster might make a spelling/ grammar error, I'm guessing they messed up, every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
posted by yerfatma at 5:50 PM on December 30, 2001


Caveat Emptor --) Buyer Beware

Thanks for the Latin lesson, kid.


No problem, gramps. Just don't be so senile to think that it's a given that everyone knows everything.
posted by Mach3avelli at 6:13 PM on December 30, 2001


There is a story about the owner of Birmingham City Football Club which may or not be apocryphal.He is a multi millionaire pornographer,the story is he got the money to start his empire by advertising "cup final" seats in the small ads.Those who responded and paid top dollar recieved through the post a tiny wooden seat with cup final stencilled on.
It goes back years,as has been said:check a persons bone fides.
posted by Fat Buddha at 6:14 PM on December 30, 2001


Does anyone have a cached page or the actual link to the item the man was selling on ebay?
posted by bloggboy at 6:27 PM on December 30, 2001


if you read the material and take it literally and with a skeptical eye, there's no way you'd be taken in.

The description was accurate. It required no interpretation. There was no misrepresentation. There was no fraud. Nor was there anything you could even call bad faith since the seller fully intended to deliver what he promised.

I have to admit, I also sympathize with the buyer very little. But a point has to be made: we're gearing up for a global marketplace, in which English is not the first language of many of the participants. English has become the lingua franca of the Internet, and will remain so at least for some years. If no legal action is taken and the alleged scam artist is not reprimanded, we are sending a culturally elitist message to non-english speaking consumers: "If you can't read and correctly interpret all the intricate nuances of this solicitation, then hell, you're shit out of luck."

Of course, the buyer has to shoulder some of the responsibility. eBay should take some responsibility in this case, and cases like it, though.
posted by SilentSalamander at 7:09 PM on December 30, 2001


It's a scam, pure and simple. The ad was clearly written up with the intent to deceive.

"But it says 'picture'! Not 'pictured', but 'picture'! Clear as day, right as rain! What morons must they be!"

Well, OK, great! Can't wait for this practice to start propagating out to businesses in the real world! They'll have a field day with this! "Oh, well, sure, that big screen TV sure does have a red '$1499' written on it in the ad... but where did we ever say that the red value implied a price, hrmm? Maybe it was just for decorative purposes!" "Yes, the ad does say '2001 Nissan Maximas' all over the place, and it does say '0.9% APR financing' at the bottom, but do you see a single statement saying 'the 0.9% APR financing applies to 2001 Nissan Maximas'? I didn't think so! You should've called ahead if the ad was unclear!"

Caveat emptor, yes. But that doesn't magically give sellers free reign to be as deceptive as they damn well please.
posted by youhas at 8:08 PM on December 30, 2001


Well, OK, great! Can't wait for this practice to start propagating out to businesses in the real world! They'll have a field day with this!

I don't think this scenario, if played out too far, is a realistic one. If a "real world" business pulls a scam like this, they face probable major public disdain. Of course there are exceptions, but accountability really does keep practices like this in check for the most part. In an auction like eBay, this accountability takes the form of the ability of the buyer-elect to check the seller's profile. Maybe it's not enough, though.
posted by SilentSalamander at 8:34 PM on December 30, 2001


Hey, if this guy doesn't get prosecuted then I'm going to make a mint on eBay®.
posted by generic human at 9:05 PM on December 30, 2001


Of course, the buyer has to shoulder some of the responsibility. eBay should take some responsibility in this case, and cases like it, though.

They should probably reinforce, or at least make more clear their classification structure. If someone places an item under lets say, video game systems, instead of photographs, then that person should be held responsible for misleading the buyer...especially if the "buy now" price is the same as the system. Yep, a scam. But at the same time it does make eBay look bad, so I'm sure they'll continue to improve things.

If a "real world" business pulls a scam like this, they face probable major public disdain. Of course there are exceptions, but accountability really does keep practices like this in check for the most part.

Excellent point. Unlike most of the sellers they host, eBay has to worry about it's branding. For the most part, most companies do which in turn keeps them in check if they want to turn the most profit.
posted by samsara at 9:10 PM on December 30, 2001


The ad was clearly written up with the intent to deceive.

Of course it was. "Caveat emptor" applies to buying electronics out the back of a van, but not this instance.
posted by KLAX at 9:18 PM on December 30, 2001


A quick web search reveals a bit more on the seller: Mr. Anthony Van Dean. ... and Switchboard has two listings for a San Diego "Anthony Dean."
posted by MarkBakalor at 3:12 AM on December 31, 2001


Ebay's Fraud Protection Program covers items up to $200 (minus $25 of the item price). One of the definitions of fraud on ebay is: Receiving an item that is less than what is described -- such as winning a solid gold necklace but receiving a copper one instead.

Amazon also has a similar program, the A-to-z Guarantee Protection, which protects up to $250. In addition to failure to deliver, Amazon defines fraud as: The buyer received the item, but the item was materially different than as depicted in the seller's description. Amazon then goes on to define "materially different" as: If a seller has clearly misrepresented the condition or details of an item in a way that affects its value or utility, it is "materially different" and that seller should be willing to offer a refund or exchange. If the seller does not offer a refund or exchange, your purchase is eligible for our A-to-z Guarantee. Please note that this does not extend to cases where you are simply disappointed with an item. Amazon.com will ultimately determine material difference at our discretion.

While caveat emptor is a phrase commonly used to warn people to be careful in business dealings, most commercial transactions stopped being defined by this doctrine as the 19th century ended, as a standard of fairness in business dealings developed. It's pretty certain that a photograph of the product is not worth $300.00, and that the ad in question was intended to mislead people.
posted by bragadocchio at 3:38 AM on December 31, 2001


culturally elitist message to non-english speaking consumers: "If you can't read and correctly interpret all the intricate nuances of this solicitation, then hell, you're shit out of luck."

And exactly how is this bad? If I went to France, and got duped because I don't understand French very well, would any of you have any sympathy at all for me? Would you call for the French government to reimburse me for my time and troubles?

I sincerely doubt it.

We use language for communication. If English is in fact going to be the lingua franca of the internet, shouldnt we require some basic understanding of the language and how it works?

Or should we just let everybody rely on what they "intended" to say and force it all to the courts?
posted by Irontom at 5:03 AM on December 31, 2001


And exactly how is this bad? If I went to France, and got duped because I don't understand French very well, would any of you have any sympathy at all for me?

We use language for communication. If English is in fact going to be the lingua franca of the internet, shouldnt we require some basic understanding of the language and how it works?

OK, I agree, the fundamentals of a language should be understood before trying to conduct a business transaction. But if native speakers are even duped, as they [apparently] were in this case, I would have to say that this follows well above the rubric of "basic understanding" of the language. Sure it's just a 'd' - transformation of tense. But, speaking as a former foreign national who considers his speaking ability above par - I wouldn't necessary be able to make the distinction.

However, your point is taken. Where does one draw the line? It has to be drawn somewhere.
posted by SilentSalamander at 6:44 AM on December 31, 2001


If you wanna be truly semantically nitpicky, the folks who got a physical photo still got scammed.
You are bidding on the Sony PlayStation II Xmas bundle picture below.
Unless Mr. Dean sent the winners of these auctions the actual digital photograph "below," he reneged on his own auction. The description didn't promise a physical photograph, only the photograph below.

It's easy to get screwed at e-Bay if you don't pay attention. I used to buy city Homicide Unit t-shirts on e-Bay; I thought I'd made a rare find- the auction promised a brand new t-shirt emblazoned with the New Orleans Homicide Unit logo on it. And that's exactly what I got- somebody scanned the patch, made an iron-on, and slapped it on a brand new shirt. Was I disappointed? Yes. Was I scammed? No. I got exactly what was described. These Playstation folks assumed a "d," and got neither what was described, nor what they expected.
posted by headspace at 6:56 AM on December 31, 2001


bragadocchio
Receiving an item that is less than what is described -- such as winning a solid gold necklace but receiving a copper one instead.
They recieved exactly what was described.

The buyer received the item, but the item was materially different than as depicted in the seller's description.
The item recieved was exactly as depicted.

Amazon then goes on to define "materially different" as: If a seller has clearly misrepresented the condition or details of an item in a way that affects its value or utility, it is "materially different" and that seller should be willing to offer a refund or exchange.
The seller accurately represented the condition and details of the item.

Please note that this does not extend to cases where you are simply disappointed with an item.
This is exactly the situation. The buyer got exactly what the seller promised, and the buyer is thoroughly disappointed.

headspace
Guess again. There are two ways in which it is still accurate. Number one, they did receive the digital photograph, even before the they paid. Number two, if as he wrote it he was referring to a physical picture that was physically below his vantage point, it still holds.

But both of those are bullshit, and those and your's are weaker than just accepting that what he wrote was accurate because both rely upon exotic interpretations.
posted by NortonDC at 9:37 AM on December 31, 2001


Norton...I'm not certain that I could see a judge seriously considering the argument that the buyer received exactly what was described, in a prosecution for criminal charges. In the context of an online auction, the interpretation of what was offered would be an actual product. If a photograph was being offered, then the language of the ad was intentionally phrased to mislead, and deceive. If the seller was trying to sell a photograph, he or she could have offered "a photograph of the Playstation 2" for sale. Also, the picture used on ebay is supposed to be a graphical depiction of what is being offered for sale. A photograph of an item, and a photograph of a photograph of an item are two different things. The photograph used was as misleading as the words of the offer.

Regardless, this is a good example of why using a credit card to pay - so that you can dispute a charge, is a good idea. If the seller is unable to accept credit cards, there are escrow services that can be used. This practice can be useful in avoiding being scammed like this, as the money isn't turned over to the seller until predefined terms are met, such as the buyer receiving, and approving of the product. While looking at ebay, I noticed that they offer the use of an escrow service.
posted by bragadocchio at 10:44 AM on December 31, 2001


I can't authoritatively confirm that this is the actual post -- especially because the price listed is $275, not $300, and there were no buyers for this particular listing -- but someone on an eBay BB says it is.

While I agree with the whole idea of having to be very careful about what you buy online, and needing to read the fine print, et al (although I have more sympathy for those who swallowed this bait than many others here, it seems), after looking at this auction firsthand, it appears obvious to me that this guy wholly intended to scam people.

Unfortunately, the subcategory he chose -- "Consumer Electronics:Video Games:Sony PlayStation2:Accessories:Other" (emphasis mine) -- doesn't instantly incriminate him as one might hope it would.
posted by verdezza at 3:59 PM on December 31, 2001


The "overstocked" comment is clearly misleading for multiple reasons.

a) The warehouse that picture was taken in is not overstocked. PS2s sell like crazy, so the comment clearly isn't about the items in the picture...

b) And I think that a quick interview will demonstrate that he was not overstocked with photographs. He only printed them out when needed.

Therefore, the overstocked comment is a red herring designed specifically to confuse consumers. If it could reasonably be said to apply to either the photograph or the contents of the photograph, then maybe I'd think differently. But as is, it's there to mislead, and the dude should give the people their money back already.
posted by Ptrin at 4:48 PM on December 31, 2001


I think this would be a dead giveaway:

"User avd444 (private) has elected to make their Feedback Profile private so comments are not available for public viewing at this time."

What's the purpose of having feedback if it's not available for viewing? This seems to me to be a serious lack of integrity on the part of the seller, for hiding it, and on the part of eBay for allowing it to be hidden.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:14 PM on December 31, 2001


What's the purpose of having feedback if it's not available for viewing? This seems to me to be a serious lack of integrity on the part of the seller, for hiding it, and on the part of eBay for allowing it to be hidden.

It may have been eBay who recently hid it (for various reasons). If you look at the profile, the seller has received 40 positive feedbacks (23 of them in the last 6 months). He may have spent the year pumping up his feedback so that people would be more trusting once he pulled his picture scam.

Btw, the auction linked to above is not the dutch one that had 75 units (er, I mean photos) for sale. Here's a list of his recent auctions and this one is the dutch auction one.

I was going t complain about some of you people who are calling these buyers stupid, but instead I'm just going to say Happy New Year.
posted by gluechunk at 7:02 PM on December 31, 2001


He may have spent the year pumping up his feedback so that people would be more trusting once he pulled his picture scam.

A year? Looks like six weeks to me.

The conspiracy theorist in me thinks Mr. Van Dean was, in October, performing a little due diligence regarding how carefully eBay members scrutinize a seller's feedback.

And if you read *all* the descriptive copy in the ad, it's painfully obvious, given the language he used, the intent of that auction was to deceive bidders.
posted by KLAX at 12:17 AM on January 1, 2002


A year? Looks like six weeks to me.

His feedback summary shows that of the 40 positive feedbacks he's received, 7 were received in the past month and 23 of them in the past six months.
posted by gluechunk at 10:02 AM on January 1, 2002


His feedback summary shows that of the 40 positive feedbacks he's received, 7 were received in the past month and 23 of them in the past six months.

Isn't November part of the past six months? My guess is that's when he pumped up his feedback rating by winning a bunch of dollar auctions. "I wonder what people look for when reading feedbacks. Do you click on the item number to see what was sold?" Kinda makes you wonder when Van Dean decided to privatize his feedback comments (before or after eBay suspended him?), as each contains a link to the completed auction.

And this cockroach has been scamming people via the Internet since 1995.
posted by KLAX at 12:14 PM on January 1, 2002


It really is a shame that he was able to get away with it again and again without consequence.
posted by Eric Lloyd NYC at 2:04 PM on January 1, 2002


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