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Nigerian Scammers
May 9, 2008 4:21 AM   Subscribe

It's Now Completely Impossible To Sell a Laptop on eBay. See also: A Few Thoughts About eBay's Decline
posted by chuckdarwin (158 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
consumerist is a terribly simplistic website and this post should be about the weak customer service ebay offers. it is possible to sell and buy laptops, I've done so myself.
posted by krautland at 4:28 AM on May 9, 2008


I'm not sure what's up with eBay recently, but they are not doing a very good job.

Putting it mildly, their UPS shipping calculator is fucked up. A package I should have charged the bidder $48 to ship by UPS Ground was listed on their calculator as $16, leaving me to eat the difference.

They also changed their auction listing form recently, so that sellers have almost no control over the shipping information until after the listing is posted, when you have very little time to make corrective edits. This leads to unwanted bids from out of the country and incorrect shipping info.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:30 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I managed to sell an iBook 2 months ago, and not a single email from Nigeria in sight. But I do know what they mean about the customer service issues. Complaints concerning deadbeat buyers or sellers often disappear into the ether. The answer to every question boils down to, "Sorry we can't help..."

A friend of mine recently quit eBay. Apparently the company is rotting from the inside as well as from the out.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:35 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Obligatory metatalk airnxtz thread from '05 where a purportedly US scammer actually scammed a mefite who joined just to tell us they had been scammed by the dude on eBay.

I remember feeling the similiar combination of rage and angst when I contacted eBay's "Fraud Security Team" only to receive canned response after canned response having nothing to do with my email. Not necessarily a den of thieves, and I guess their legal motto is "LA LA LA WE DONT SEE ANYTHING LA LA LA *cha ching cha ching cha ching*", but dios mio, somehow it makes craiglist want ads seem safer by comparison.
posted by cavalier at 4:43 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


They are really fucking up a good thing. Who's running the place, a Bush?
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:46 AM on May 9, 2008 [10 favorites]


Surprise, surprise. A once decent service made a whole bunch of money, got way too big and bloated and is now essentially worthless. . Microsoft, Yahoo, Google... the list goes on. It happens all the time and will keep on happening. The fact that Nigerian scammers helped speed up that decline is by the by.

While I'm on the subject, eBay Australia's recent decision to make transactions payable through PayPal only is fucked. Really fucking fucked. eBay can kiss my arse. And, it seems judging by the links in the FPP, a lot of other peoples arses also.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:49 AM on May 9, 2008


Why are people commenting like eBay was good any time in the last 10 years? I once found a good deal on used legos there. That was around 1996 or 1997. Every time I've gone there since it's been full of ripoff artists, scams, liars and shipping fees.
posted by DU at 5:00 AM on May 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


I wonder how many times a fake laptop was bought with a stolen credit card on ebay, shipped to a non-existent address.
posted by Mach5 at 5:08 AM on May 9, 2008 [21 favorites]


I had the exact same experience selling a cell phone on Ebay. Got to read an awesome short story about a guy who's boss was working in Nigeria on his birthday and desperately needed a cell phone. The author was enthusiastic, but the proofreader sucked.
posted by MotorNeuron at 5:14 AM on May 9, 2008


When was eBay a decent service? I must be living in a parallel universe where it was shit from day one. (oh, and don't get me started onPaypal)
posted by dabitch at 5:14 AM on May 9, 2008


I'd say eBay stopped being useful the second someone came up with an automated auction sniping system. Suddenly, no good deals any more. It's less of a hassle to just find what you are looking for and buy it from Amazon; at least that way you know it's not a scam and what it will cost you.

I never used eBay for anything. Used to look at it to see what was there, but never had a reason to buy anything. Now I'm glad I didn't.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:20 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry but that first article is completely one-sided on the issue and stems from one anecdotal case, and the second is completely worthless: "I wonder if it's greed"... and "it's too difficult to use" - what kind of criticisms are these?
posted by tybeet at 5:22 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can make your life a whole lot easier by stipulating that you will only ship to buyers in your home country or the EU or wherever. I recently sold a desktop to a very nice man who lived about 5 miles away.
posted by rhymer at 5:22 AM on May 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's a bit much to say that buying and selling laptops on Ebay is impossible, since the author only tried to sell one laptop. It's not a scientific study. But EBay is clearly flawed if they have so much trouble that they can't even afford to properly deal with it when people do run into issues.

On the other hand, clearly they've made a decision to cater to power-sellers who sell lots of crap. It's not a "Long Tail" thing anymore where everyone buys from everyone. All their advertising focuses on buying stuff rather then selling.

One thing we do know is that their dispute resolution system is heavily tilted towards buyers. It's easy to buy something on ebay, get it, and do a chargeback through paypal even if you got what you were supposed too.

So I think the lesson here is that if you want to sell something on ebay, sell it through an eBay consignment company (like the one that girl ran in The 40 Year Old Virgin). My impression is that eBay just dosn't give a damn about small sellers (not that I have any first hand experience)

Paypal also sucks.
posted by delmoi at 5:31 AM on May 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ebay's still great for cheap stuff from Asia (eg 20 unusual tiny batteries for a few quid) and bulky local stuff (nobody will try to get you to ship a second-hand sofa to Nigeria). I've also bought numerous used guitars on ebay, and I've always had good luck with those.

I wouldn't buy electronics though.
posted by dickasso at 5:34 AM on May 9, 2008


It must be tough if you're an honest Nigerian, trying to get anything mail-order.
posted by Flashman at 5:39 AM on May 9, 2008 [50 favorites]


Effigy2000: "Surprise, surprise. A once decent service made a whole bunch of money, got way too big and bloated and is now essentially worthless. . Microsoft, Yahoo, Google... the list goes on. It happens all the time and will keep on happening. The fact that Nigerian scammers helped speed up that decline is by the by.

I don't think Google is worthless, yet. They haven't completely destroyed the utility of their services. They've actually improved things, and their search results are far better than other corporations. I'm not a huge Google fan, but lumping them in with Yahoo and Microsoft makes your comment seem a little ill-informed.

re:EBay. I've used it over the last couple of years to sell computer stuff and I've been happy with the result. I've only dealt with the EBay UK and France hubs, so maybe that's a factor.
posted by gsb at 5:42 AM on May 9, 2008


(nobody will try to get you to ship a second-hand sofa to Nigeria)

If only that were true. 419 scammers regularly go through small town classified ads for anything that can conceivably fit on a fedex plane. Anything bulkier (like cars and industrial equipment) they have a local contact pick up and sell for quick cash which is wired over to a Lagos Western Union. Inevitably it's some lonely sad sack they've conned into believing they love who hocks the merch and takes the fall for the fraud charges.
posted by bunnytricks at 5:44 AM on May 9, 2008


From the second link :
"For nine consecutive months, the internet giant has seen declines in traffic, year over year."

WTF, how does something decline for 9 months over years? I don't get it.
posted by Vindaloo at 5:45 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Let me just add: I think eBay sucks. Since this incident, I have been trying to close my PalPay account. It has been six weeks, and there is still "a bug" that prevents me from closing it. I apparently can't even stop being their customer.
posted by procrastination at 5:46 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I bought a brand-new Waterman Harmonie fountain pen on eBay about two weeks ago for half of the retail price. Got it two days after the purchase. eBay works fine for what I use it for, esoterica and books.
posted by sciurus at 5:47 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


gsb, I think eBay UK is still pretty good (I use it a lot and have only had one or two bad deals).
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:48 AM on May 9, 2008


Granted, it was about three years ago, but I bought a laptop from eBay without a problem. Also granted, it may well have been from one of the power sellers to whom eBay gives special treatment; I don't remember at this point.

But it does seem the real issue here is bad customer service, which...uhh...seems to be the case with damn near every online vendor. I think the only way Netflix's could be worse would be if clicking on the "customer support" button got you rickrolled.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:58 AM on May 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


I have never had a single problem with eBay and I've bought mostly things on the high end of risk - 600 dollar camera lenses, cameras from people in the Ukraine, etc. I've also sold clothes, cameras, etc and never once had a problem. So all this stuff about "when was eBay ever good?" doesn't make sense to me.
posted by spicynuts at 5:59 AM on May 9, 2008


"For nine consecutive months, the internet giant has seen declines in traffic, year over year."

WTF, how does something decline for 9 months over years? I don't get it.


Biz-speak is biz-arre, but I think this means that for 9 consecutive months they've had their traffic decline compared to the same month one year ago.
posted by DU at 6:01 AM on May 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've had zero problems with eBay, selling and buying multi-k items like top end cameras, bikes and so on. As a seller I only sell to people with a good transaction history and as a buyer I only buy from people with 98% + feedback. I agree that it's an increasingly unpleasant experience though.
posted by unSane at 6:02 AM on May 9, 2008


eBay still can be useful, but like most things on the Internet that have been around for a while, (no, not YOU Metafilter!) the initial sense of community, of camaraderie, of "fun" has faded away. Not that long ago, most eBay sellers used to send a friendly e-mail to let buyers know an item had shipped. That rarely happens now. The whole "level of discourse" has dropped on the site, and most sellers just seem irritated if you try to contact them about anything. I think the changing seller attitudes are just a reflection of the overall declining culture of the site now.

I think you'll see smaller, more specialized auction sites start to fill the void. This for example is a site set up exclusively to sell video games. It's like-minded folks who are knowledgeable about what they are buying/selling and there is that "sense of community" that used to live on eBay but has since moved to Nigeria.
posted by Otis at 6:03 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


"For nine consecutive months, the internet giant has seen declines in traffic, year over year."

WTF, how does something decline for 9 months over years? I don't get it.


I read that as, "For nine consecutive months, traffic has declined relative to the same time the previous year." So May '08 was lower than May '07, etc.

On topic: Ebay looked kind of neat at first, because it was a way to sell random stuff that had no market locally. I never used it, but really liked the concept. Now, it is just absurd, too much growth relative to their ability to administer it, too much focus on larger sellers, etc. There is no way imaginable I would buy anything via ebay now.
posted by Forktine at 6:04 AM on May 9, 2008


Vindaloo: "WTF, how does something decline for 9 months over years? I don't get it."

I would guess that for the last 9 months the traffic has been less than the same month a year ago?
posted by PenDevil at 6:04 AM on May 9, 2008


Their seller/messaging interface is a jumbled nightmare. I swear the links are in random locations.
posted by sourwookie at 6:07 AM on May 9, 2008


I still find ebay useful. I would never use it to buy an expensive, popular item where I have other options, but I have great success finding obscure items for not a lot of money, primarily car parts where my local salvage yard has come up empty. It hasn't happened yet, but whenever I place a bid I try to expect that something will go wrong and I will lose my money; thus I never bid a lot because I view it as at-risk money, and my expectations are so low that ebay always exceeds them.
posted by Doohickie at 6:09 AM on May 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


A very loud and fairly ignorant minority don't like ebay. News at 11.
posted by fire&wings at 6:16 AM on May 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


This thread is useless without reflectoporn
posted by Jofus at 6:22 AM on May 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


I stopped using my account when I had a seller give me shit for posting negative feedback for an obvious screwup. Own up to a screwup and promise to do better, don't get all defensive like "You ruined my home business with a negative feedback blip." The effort people put into having spotless reputations is really disturbing. And then my account got hacked and ran up a bill that I didn't see until collection agencies called on Christmas. D:
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:23 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the only way Netflix's could be worse would be if clicking on the "customer support" button got you rickrolled.

I would gladly do business with any company that adopted the song's lyrics as their principles of customer service.
posted by Kibbutz at 6:26 AM on May 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Last time I tried to sell something on eBay I had 3 separate scammers trying to outbid each other. I also recieved 2 obviously fake emails asking to buy the thing outside the confines of eBay.

It may have been the wording I used or the product I was trying to sell, but I got a huge amount of attention from unscrupulous buyers. Contacting eBay and getting them to investigate the wrong doings was difficult and slow, but it went quite smoothly.

Anyway - Put me in the eBay is broken camp. I don't plan on going back there. I still use payPal for a bunch of stuff though.
posted by seanyboy at 6:26 AM on May 9, 2008


The article A Few Thoughts About eBay's Decline is more than three years old. Not exactly braking news.
posted by punkfloyd at 6:32 AM on May 9, 2008


I was also confused by the "for nine months ... year after year" bit, so thanks for asking about that, Vindaloo.

I have a bunch of stuff I'd like to sell on eBay, but it just seems like such a pain.
posted by Shepherd at 6:33 AM on May 9, 2008


I had a huge ebay problem recently which was only resolved after I posted this on Huffington

Evil bots (I later learned their lines are written by ex-prosecutors) simply wouldn't believe that I was the real me, not a scammer, and I couldn't reach a real person. When I finally did, that person decided I was a liar because I didn't use my brother's birthday (which the person who'd faked my account had) and sent me back to the bots.

What was really annoying was that most of my commenters refused to believe I was dealing with the real ebay and hadn't been "phished."

After my post, I heard from ebay's PR people and a customer service person put me on the list of the 10 customers a day who get called by their CEO. I did actually talk to him and he apologized and said he would fix the problem. I am now back on ebay-- but someone else still might get caught in that catch-22 if they haven't fixed it systemically. I think it's very smart that he calls 10 customers with issues a day-- perhaps they will realize they have a problem and at the very least, hire some humans to deal with problems that the bots clearly can't fix.

But it was distressing to learn I could only get help because I am a reasonably successful journalist.
posted by Maias at 6:33 AM on May 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


It's Now Completely Impossible To Sell a Laptop on eBay

That sounds like one of Roast Beef's t-shirts, hanging in the closet between It Is Impossible To Have A Good Day and I'm That Guy Who Sucks (Plus I Got Depression)
posted by fleetmouse at 6:37 AM on May 9, 2008 [14 favorites]


Well this a disconcerting thread. I just dipped my toe in the ebay waters to sell a couple of wardrobes. I think one is sold (because ebay sent me an email telling me it was), but I'm not sure how to proceed from there. Yes, to sourwookie saying that the interface is obscure… it's been a learning experience.
posted by tellurian at 6:42 AM on May 9, 2008


I've been on ebay since 2000.

As a buyer, I've only been scammed (IIRC) once, and that was for a $3 G.I. Joe figure. It's probably because most of the time I'm buying stuff that's not worth very much or not likely to attract scammers. The one time I bought a laptop, it was an ancient thinkpad, and turned out better than described.

For now, I'll still buy things through ebay, but it's rare to find a good deal anymore. The site is really set up to favor the buyers (as at this point, they have the most power).

As a seller, I really don't like it anymore. They've changed the listing interface to make it really simple, but in turn have made it harder to set things just they way you want them. As Blazecock Pileon points out, it's harder to specify where you'll ship to and just control your auction listing in general.

Stories like procrastination's make me regret defending ebay, and make me hesitant to ever list anything of value on it again.
posted by drezdn at 6:44 AM on May 9, 2008


Braking news?
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:46 AM on May 9, 2008


As far as the second linked article, the rising fees and constant nickle-and-diming thing aren't symptoms of ebay being greedy, it's really just because they're a publicly traded company and have to show constant growth or their stock tanks. They can do it by raising fees (easy) or increasing the customer base (much harder).

It's a shame though, as there are some basic features that (IIRC) should be free, like the ability to start auctions at any time.
posted by drezdn at 6:48 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm in the apparently fast-shrinking and somehow blessed group who have never had a problem on ebay. I've bought cameras, movies, books, an iPod, movie posters, etc., over the past ten years without a glitch. I also sold a bunch of stuff; no problems there either.
posted by goatdog at 6:51 AM on May 9, 2008


The biggest item I ever sold on eBay were a spare pair of Springsteen tickets (ironically, purchased accidentally because TicketMaster fucked up and purchased twice the tickets I actually ordered, so I was already starting from a website fuckup). It turned out I was legally forbidden in my state to sell the tickets beyond 10% of face and I had to write the high bidder (who had already gone past that at this point) than I can just cancel the auction, he can PayPal me the face+10%+shipping, and we'd call it square. I got the payment and everything went well; sent the tickets priority with signature confirmation, etc.

The guy wrote me back a few days later just to say "the tickets got here fine, BTW check eBay's rules because what you did was totally illegal. Wanted to get the tickets before I told you though :)"

Turns out I unknowingly committed the standard wire fraud the Nigerians do and didn't even know it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:52 AM on May 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Not fond of Ebay nor Paypal. Does anyone know about this? I only joined to get the $25 sign up fee but if it turns into a competitor for PayPal, go for it. Just don't fall down on customer service like Ebay and PayPal. More about them here.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:54 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I bought a brand-new Waterman Harmonie fountain pen on eBay about two weeks ago for half of the retail price. Got it two days after the purchase. eBay works fine for what I use it for, esoterica and books.

Yeah, I have to say buying oddball european bike parts and bike clothing has worked wonderfully for me for years. I would never buy/sell a laptop or cellphone on ebay -- those two categories certainly attract all the scams, but the other 90% of ebay works great, especially for the more esoteric stuff.

For laptops, everyone I know uses their local craigslist or sell stuff.
posted by mathowie at 7:11 AM on May 9, 2008


I really HATE eBay. I had exactly the same experience trying to sell my old MacBook Pro. Even though I specified that I would only ship to the US, one of my auctions was ended when someone from Nigeria used 'buy it now'. After I told him that I wouldn't sell it to him, I got a faked PayPal payment email. Even though it wasn't sold, eBay charged me for the sale price (which I disputed and got refunded). After several others backed out after their winning bid for various reasons, I gave up and sold it to a dealer for $1000, which was quite a bit less than I could have sold it for on eBay, but it was a lot less trouble.
posted by mike3k at 7:12 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


A+++ post would read again
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:12 AM on May 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, I don't know about anyone else, but the customer support responses received by dude trying to sell on ebay sound exactly like the customer service response I get at other online sites - especially tech support tickets.

The customer service reps appear to be pressured to answer X number of queries per hour. They skim, see one or two key words, and kick out canned response Y. Case "resolved." Boss happy.

Except, of course, the customer at the other end is saying WTF? And he/she generates a response or another ticket. And another, and another, and another... and gets increasingly frustrated. Meanwhile, supervisors see increasing number of tickets or query volumes and say to the reps: Work faster! Which means the quality of the responses gets even worse... and so it goes.

This is why we don't allow the use of canned esponses at our company.
posted by Zinger at 7:13 AM on May 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


I just closed my eBay store after 2+ years. Mostly because I'm working full time now and the time invested in eBay was no longer worth the money I was making off it, but also because it's terrible and getting worse.

This thread seems to be more about scammers than anything else, but they consistently raise and raise and raise all kinds of fees (Monthly store fees! Listing Fees! Final Value Fees! Paypal fees! Paypal withdrawal fees! Let's not forget the terrible exchange rate Paypal uses for Canadians!) But recent changes like sellers no longer being able to leave negative or neutral feedback, or in some cases being forced to only accept Paypal, some people having Paypal hold their money until the buyer leaves positive feedback, and a ridiculous Best Match system that only serves to make it that much harder for smaller sellers.

Ebay is terrible these days (maybe it's always been, but it's getting worse and worse) but they're still the only game in town. I've been quietly begging for Google to resurrect their Auctions plans, but no sign of that for the longest time, so I've given up hope.

FWIW, I've never been scammed (except possibly with a giant $100 graphic novel that never arrived, but the reputable seller was quick to offer a refund), but I still know enough not to buy or sell even something as small as an iPod on eBay, forget about larger electronics.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:24 AM on May 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Put me down for the now problems with ebay (uk) camp... apart from the odd idiot customer (which I think you'd have to accept in any retail transaction) I've had no hassle really.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:34 AM on May 9, 2008


I've found that selling using Buy-It-Now with immediate payment required eliminates most scam attempts. You're still open to SNAD return fraud but that can be countered too (open returns at the post office).
posted by aerotive at 7:37 AM on May 9, 2008


My biggest complaint about ebay is the time I ordered an office chair and got a bobcat.
posted by drezdn at 7:40 AM on May 9, 2008 [14 favorites]


I had an identical experience recently, trying to sell a PSP. I hadn't locked down the auction by geography, even though I'd mentioned in my ad I would only ship to the UK, and strongly preferred a face to face. My fault, I didn't know about this option.

Anyway, someone ostensibly from Germany (Frankfurt) posted a bid about five minutes before the close. I rejected their bid, told them why and I'll be damned if they didn't posted another 30 seconds before the close, for about 20% than current price. It was too close to the close for me to reject, and therefore they won the auction.

I got an email asking me for final price which I ignored and escalated the problem to eBay. While their reps were chewing on it (24 hours, not bad turnaround actually) the jerk sent me the same fake paypal, "depositing" 150% of the final sale price into my account. And then an email advising that I wouldn't see funds until I provided a shipping number. Oh! And please ship to Lagos, as "I'm on business there now and really need blah blah blah".

As I had a good idea what was up I provided a bogus shipping number, but never heard back.

eBay advised I lock down the auction by regions I'd accept bids from, reversed any charges and the sale cleared second time around. For less money, but a real transaction. So all I lost is time.

I'm next up to eBay two Apple PowerBooks; both G4 class (1.25 Ghz 15" and 1.5Ghz 12") so we'll see how that goes.

Also, to date I've sold two Rolexes with eBay's help but not via eBay. I'm a Rolex fan and current owner of a gold GMT Master II (model 16713).

Each time I've got to move a Rolex (I upgrade every few years) I research dealers on eBay to find one interested in the specific model of Rolex that I'm selling (not all dealers are interested in all models).

I contact them, advise what I've got for sale, and mention going in that I'd like to do a face to face, cash only transaction.

I always do a deal in a public place - a Cafe in Central London each time - and usually have a nice cuppa & chat about Rolexes. As these transactions were in the first £2K then £4K sterling range; it was far too much money to lose sight of the merchandise without being shown the money.

The dealers are happy with arrangement and although I'm leaving money on the table (those dealers are making a profit you see) so am I.

Zero credit risk, minimal operational risk and immediate payment.

So I think eBay is still useful, but I'd draw a line at a PowerBook and even then insist upon a face to face. For Rolexes or anything else in that price class, I'd suggest that eBay is strictly a introduction service.
posted by Mutant at 7:41 AM on May 9, 2008


Book of Joe:
Every now and then, but as infrequently as possible, perhaps once a year, I buy something on eBay that I can't find anywhere else.
...
And every time I do, I'm reminded of why I repeat this behavior as infrequently as possible.

eBay's "Buy It Now" feature is the Bizarro World equivalent of Amazon's One-Click.

It involves innumerable screens, clicks and pages, confusing instructions, a terrible interface and, worst of all, the need to invoke PayPal as part of the process.

It is no surprise to me that eBay is fading.
posted by alms at 7:48 AM on May 9, 2008


Man, eBay couldn't afford this kind of bad PR. Their mediocre management people must be jumping with indifference.
posted by crapmatic at 7:52 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shop Victoriously!

...those ads make sense now. eBay is a battle.
posted by clearly at 7:54 AM on May 9, 2008


eBay remains quite useful for vintage items. It was always risky for things like laptops.
posted by caddis at 7:54 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I used to work for a small software company and we would see pirated versions of our products on eBay all the time. There was a form to fill out and a phone number to fax it to and it wouldn't take eBay long to take those auctions down.
posted by NoMich at 8:03 AM on May 9, 2008


Just saying that there was one thing that they did right.
posted by NoMich at 8:04 AM on May 9, 2008


It isn't impossible -- I just sold a laptop on eBay about two weeks ago. I was very pleased with the transaction and the price I got. I put very plainly in the listing that I would only ship within the US and that I would not end the auction early. That one simple sentence turns away out about 98% of the scammers.
posted by spilon at 8:06 AM on May 9, 2008


Things I would never buy on eBay:

1. Anything worth more than $200
2. Anything described as "untested"
3. Anything without photos, or with stock photos, or just one photo
4. Anything from anyone with less than 100 positive feedbacks as seller, including many for similar items
5. Anything from anyone with less than 95% positive feedback
6. Anything requiring a bank transfer.
7. Anything shipped via FedEx.

I still buy a lot of stuff on eBay, but given Rule #4, I wouldn't expect to be able to sell much.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:12 AM on May 9, 2008


I've never bought anything on eBay, and 90% of the times that I've looked at it, it's because Boing Boing or some other blog mentioned that someone was selling Captain Kirk's chair or their virginity or something stunt-like on it. The one exception was when I was looking for a decent used car recently, and looked at the local listings on eBay as one of my options. The only car within my area that was anywhere near my price range (actually, a couple grand above it) was this hideous riced-out acid green Honda. I ended up getting a nice bargain from the local classifieds.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:13 AM on May 9, 2008


eBay remains quite useful for vintage items. It was always risky for things like laptops.

Very true.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:14 AM on May 9, 2008


Let it be known here that though I may not be the smartest person in the world, I'm not stupid...

...I'm not stupid...

...I may not be the smartest crayon in the box, but I'm not stupid


He kept telling me that he wasn't stupid. At first I believed him, but because he kept repeating it, I now wonder.

I feel his pain with regard to technical support that doesn't actually read the email though. I've been through that, and it's so frustrating to get the same canned response which isn't even remotely close to addressing the issue for which I emailed them.
posted by quin at 8:19 AM on May 9, 2008


There is no other place that I knew with certainty I could get a Justin Timberlake doll to build a SOUTHLAND TALES action figure set. Or cans of OK Cola to be a Dan Clowes completist. Or an ancient pocket watch made in my father-in-law's home town. Or hysterically janky Juicy Couture knock-offs from Taiwan.

It's the world's coolest, most obscure junk sale, not Fry's Electronics. The value is in the long tail, not the big ticket.

And yes, their customer service, their fees and paypal all suck it hard.
posted by Gucky at 8:31 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not to rain on anyone's parade, but I have bought and sold (and continue to do so) both low and high-end electronics with absolutely no problem. I have an Xbox up there right now, in fact. I have only faced the nigeria attempted scam one time, on the sale of a Gameboy Advance SP. No problem, I relisted it and everything went well.

I think this is a bunch of hype and much ado about nothing.
posted by fusinski at 8:32 AM on May 9, 2008


Like others have said, Ebay is still a perfectly good place to buy and sell small, inexpensive items and niche stuff. I sell 10+ CDs a week there, and have had only a few problems, all of which were easily resolved with the customer. I buy Warhammer minis, books, and music there all the time, too. For larger and more expensive items, it takes some work to weed out the scams, but it's still quite possible to buy and sell electronics there.

The ever-increasing fees are annoying, but IMHO they're more than worth the exposure for stuff that not everyone is selling. The problem this guy had is that he was trying to sell a laptop (i.e. something that everyone is selling), and he was expecting to be able to get good money for it while also spending zero time and effort on the auction. Ebay doesn't work that way; whether or not that means it is "broken" depends entirely on one's expectations.
posted by vorfeed at 8:33 AM on May 9, 2008


I'm with DU. I haven't used eBay since 1998. It was great at first because of the values, but once it got bigger, any sort of savings (compared to your local antique mall or junk shop) evaporated, and scammers came out in full force. I got scammed in 98, got no help from eBay, and just stopped using it.

I can see how it's still useful for hard-to-find items, like a 1977 Ron LeFlore glass (the last item I bought), but now it mostly exists as a novelty item for freak auctions (fart in a jar, some dude's life). I wouldn't recommend it for any item over $10.

I pretty much use Craigslist exclusively for online person-to-person sales, and then just as an introduction site. That said, I think eBay's been "in decline" for almost 10 years now, so ...
posted by mrgrimm at 8:37 AM on May 9, 2008


As a waining e-bay user, I'd venture to say that Craigslist killed e-bay.
posted by djseafood at 8:37 AM on May 9, 2008


kittens for breakfast writes "But it does seem the real issue here is bad customer service, which...uhh...seems to be the case with damn near every online vendor."

I love the sellers who are sorry but they don't have the time to respond to pre-sale questions (specifically S&H to Canada). If your presale customer support is so crappy how bad must your post sale support be?

NoMich writes "I used to work for a small software company and we would see pirated versions of our products on eBay all the time. There was a form to fill out and a phone number to fax it to and it wouldn't take eBay long to take those auctions down."
NoMich writes "Just saying that there was one thing that they did right."

The flip side is that it is sometimes impossible to sell software at all, even legitimte copies.
posted by Mitheral at 8:39 AM on May 9, 2008


I've never been an eBay seller, so can't comment on the experience - but as a buyer eBay has been very useful to me and it'll be a shame if it goes down the tubes. What eBay is great for - as some others have mentioned - is esoterica. For example, things like bike parts - I have a very nice bike built out out of parts from eBay (plus some hand-downs from other bikes) where I was pretty specific about what I wanted and was able to get it.
posted by pascal at 8:41 AM on May 9, 2008


Having joined eBay over 10 years ago, it surprises me how much the site has changed. Some ways good, some ways not. I just sold some books the other day, and it was amazingly easy to collect payment, print the shipping label, and send the thing on its way- the site all but put the books in the box for me. On the other hand, a few months ago my account was locked due to "suspicious behavior" (I was messaging sellers looking for something, and apparently there's a limit), and I had to get a personal friend to intervene or my account would have been locked forever, and gone with it my 10+ years of feedback history, because I couldn't find any way to get a real person to answer my e-mail. Very strange.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:46 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


350+ transactions on eBay and I've never had a problem. I've bought everything from $2 rubber belts for cash registers to $1200 pieces of furniture to a $2000 blender. I've also sold numerous computers and other stuff. Never a hitch.
posted by dobbs at 8:47 AM on May 9, 2008


I went through a few weeks of e-mails back and forth with eBay after they merged with half.com and made my account unusable. I had to keep explaining my situation over and over again to support people, who would send me unrelated form responses, finally understand my problem, and refer me to a new support person, and the cycle would begin anew.

The sleaziest thing they do is encourage everybody to process payment through PayPal, who they also merged with. PayPal lets you set up your account for free, and transferring money is supposed to be free too. Then, after an auction completes, and you're obligated by eBay's terms of service to complete the sale, you find out that the buyer (like any reasonably buyer) has funded their PayPal account with a credit card, and to accept the payment, you'll need to permanently "upgrade" your PayPal account to preferred status (which, oh, BTW, means that you will be charged a fee for all future transfers, even non-credit-card-based ones).

And in a fortuitous stroke of luck for PayPal/eBay, specifying that you can't accept credit-card-funded PayPal transactions is also against the eBay terms of service. Gee, I wonder how that happened.
posted by designbot at 8:48 AM on May 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'd love to use Craigslist more, but my Craigslist experience has mostly been quick email response followed by phone call followed by 'I'll be there around five' and then I never see them.

With eBay I already got my money, I stick your stuff in a box and send it. I don't really want you coming to my house anyway. So yes, for obscure low dollar stuff like old bike parts I'll buy and sell on eBay. I don't like their nickel and diming, and when they stopped allowing me to host my own photos that turned me off, but you can put me in the camp on millions of people who don't really have huge issues with eBay or PayPal beyond the pricing structure.
posted by fixedgear at 8:50 AM on May 9, 2008


I used to sell regularly on eBay and even had a store! But yes, it has gotten harder to use over the years, more complicated, more jumbled, crazy lag times, and broken features like not being able to edit a listing!! And how about the never-ending fees for listing, selling, upgrading, percent of PayPal payment, extra charge for international PayPal payments, monthly fees, etc. etc.? Not that any of the matters now --> many of the items I sold (decanted perfume) are now outright BANNED for no good reason.

Ebay is still marginally acceptable as a buyer, but for selling I've migrated over to refreshing simplicity of Craigslist.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 8:55 AM on May 9, 2008


Gucky -- "It's the world's coolest, most obscure junk sale, "

Absolutely. I'm frugal, but even so I subscribe to two Macintosh magazines (hey! I'd read 'em cover to cover).

Each issue comes with at least one CD a month and sometimes two. I save them up for a year, and eBay the lot.

Someone always purchases them, and usually for enough to pay for a good chunk of it not an entire subscription.

Not everyone has broadband, and even if they do I'm selling demos, fully working versions, podcasts, you name it. Lot of stuff comes on those promotional packages and "you can't beat the bandwidth of thirty CDs".

It's all in how you market your crap on eBay.
posted by Mutant at 8:55 AM on May 9, 2008


I bought stuff from E-bay years ago, but as I live in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area with a massive local population, Craigslist is extremely active and so much easier (not to mention free). E-bay seems to be going the way of Microsoft. They make everything so simple and convenient -if you do everything exactly they way they want- that it's just impossible to do anything any other way.

My neighbors are E-bay power sellers from way back, and still sell lots of their bread-and-butter business stuff on E-bay every day. But when they look to buy or sell a lawn mower, or they need some golf clubs, they go to Craigslist. E-Bay's days are numbered if they don't make some big changes.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 8:57 AM on May 9, 2008


I haven't bought much on eBay, but I've been annoyed with the "will not ship outside the US" types who sell something I really want. I mean, how hard can it be to write an extra line on the shipping slip and fill out a customs form? But if this guy's experience is representative, I understand why they're anxious. Maybe eBay should provide a "will not ship to Nigeria or Laos" checkbox...
posted by Harald74 at 9:00 AM on May 9, 2008


I recently purchased something off ebay but that was the first thing in like 5 years. When sites gets huge traffic they turn into spam (myspace for example)
posted by dombruno at 9:02 AM on May 9, 2008


djseafood: "As a waining e-bay user, I'd venture to say that Craigslist killed e-bay."

In the rest of the world I'd say you're wrong.
posted by gsb at 9:03 AM on May 9, 2008


drezdn: "The site is really set up to favor the buyers (as at this point, they have the most power)."

I hear this a lot, but I think it's just people who like to imagine that ebay can do *something* right. My recent experience leads me to suspect that ebay is in fact crap for everyone except extremely high-volume corporate sellers.

I bought an "as-is" item (mp3 player) back in January. The moment I opened the box I saw that the seller had sent a *different* item, and had opened the faceplate and scratched off the "2" in the "120" model number to make it look more like the advertised "140". I immediately emailed the seller for a refund. I used ebay's messaging system throughout because, of course, I wanted a record. There followed several weeks of bizarre and grammatically challenged emails with the seller claiming they had no actual knowledge of the items, they were waiting for their "partner" to return from abroad, etc. Finally, came the claim that "as-is" items are completely caveat emptor, and that sending a counterfeit item was acceptable. Personally I reject this notion because what's then to stop someone sending you a box of bricks? Etc etc. Also, threats to "finish" someone with bad feedback didn't inspire confidence that a successful resolution was possible.

So after several weeks of fruitless buyer emails, I fill in ebay's dispute page. Which is actually paypal's, because apparently ebay likes to pretend the two are separate. I include all emails, photos of device, close-up of bad counterfeit job, etc. I keep telling them all I want is to return the fake to the buyer, and explaining the difference between "as-is" (ie, no warranty) and "counterfeit" (ie, fraud).

After 4 weeks, ebay comes back and says no, sorry, no grounds for dispute. Several emails follow, corporate letters, etc. I keep getting the same form letters over and over until eventually an exec email bomb gets the response that a "special" dispute resolution specialist will review the case. Several days later: no grounds for dispute. So apparently ebay is okay with counterfeit items, as long as they are not about items related to RIAA or MPAA or BSA.

So then I fill in the USPS mail fraud form, the IC3 internet fraud form, the FTC scam form, write to the local Fremont, CA police where the buyer lives with a fraud report form, BBB, and CC ebay with all of this. No response.

Finally I contact American Express for a chargeback. Amex wrapped it up within two weeks, saying that neither the seller nor payment processor were responding with any counter information. During this time I left a negative for the seller. He of course responded in his feedback by claiming I was "drunk", a "liar", and attempting to steal his precious booty. Since then, the seller account, which was open for less than a year, has changed its name (probably in an attempt to ditch the negative), and now appears to be defunct. The scammy seller ("Chau Phan") has obviously moved on to a new ebay ID and is still sending out crap from Mayfair Park Avenue, Fremont, CA.

So that's my experience of ebay as a buyer: it's shite. The feedback system, originally intended to promote trust, now acts as a coercive whitewash with the effect of muting buyer complaints for shoddy merchandise received. This was my first negative feedback and now my 9-year-old ID has its first red mark next to it. The seller's new id will remain presumably spotless for as long as it takes him to shift a few hundred units of crap, at which time he will switch IDs again.

I do most of my selling and buying through Amazon Marketplace these days. Back in the early days of the public internet (we're talking 1992 here), I actually bought a vintage computer part from a person in California while I was living in Dublin, Ireland. The item was advertised on Usenet, the payment was through wire transfer, and the shipping was fast and reliable. It's sad that, aeons later in Internet time, ebay has become mostly an engine for scams and even with allegedly purposefully designed trust systems you can't reasonably trust anyone online because gaming trust systems has become trivial. Where are your Web 2.0 gods now?
posted by meehawl at 9:11 AM on May 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


I would never use it to buy an expensive, popular item where I have other options, but I have great success finding obscure items for not a lot of money

As others have remarked, this is key. I've bought a lot of cool stuff off ebay over the last 5 or 6 six years with nary a problem, but I've never spent more than 20 bucks on anything, I've never bought from anyone with a less than 98% approval rating, and I've only rarely bought from anyone outside the US. I've never sold anything there.

Add to Sys Rq's list: 8) Anything that must be paid for through a seller's "exclusive" checkout system.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:16 AM on May 9, 2008


So, are y'all saying that there are no scammers or other unsavory types trolling Craigslist? That's hard for me to believe.
posted by spilon at 9:23 AM on May 9, 2008


I've used ebay since it started. That's going to be 10 years pretty soon. I've both sold and bought.

Ebay is great.

UNLESS YOU'RE AN IDIOT.

All of those failed emails, lousy customer service responces, no support, yadda, yadda, whine, whine... give me a break. Thousands upon thousands of people buy and sell there every day without a hitch.

I've bought hundreds of items on eBay. Books, computers, bicycles, this laptop I'm using to write this post. I've even sold a Jeep via the site. One time I bought a vintage political poster for $10 which never arrived. Shipper said he shipped it. I believed him. So I ate $10 and blamed it on the post office - a service which is much less reliable in my honest opinion. That said, I have saved thousands of dollars over the years and bought items which I never could have found locally.
posted by wfrgms at 9:24 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


No problems on Ebay or Paypal. I don't see what all the fuss is about? I've bought motorcycle parts, car parts, periphs. My wife and both kids use it for clothing and the like. We understand "buyer beware."
posted by winks007 at 9:26 AM on May 9, 2008


octobersurprise: "I've never bought from anyone with a less than 98% approval rating"

Quick post-preview comment. My ebay feedback was 100% for 9 years. It's now apparently 97.9% after a single dodgy seller's feedback - so apparently our chances of dealing with each other on ebay are now nonexistent. The seller's feedback for their <1 year account was 100% until I left a negative, whereupon it dropped to 99% or so (they were a high volume seller). Nonetheless, the seller ditched that "tainted" ID within days and switched to a new one. There are entire trust gaming systems on ebay that enable people to quickly get a large volume of 100% ratings within a few days. Ironically, you can buy instructions for these systems as PDFs on ebay itself.

Don't trust trust.
posted by meehawl at 9:26 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Harald74 writes "I haven't bought much on eBay, but I've been annoyed with the 'will not ship outside the US' types who sell something I really want."

That's kind of annoying (especially if it's a special interest item that doesn't even sell) but I figure "Hey, if you want to ignore a market the size of California [Canada] that's your business."
posted by Mitheral at 9:27 AM on May 9, 2008


1adam12 writes "A friend of mine recently quit eBay. Apparently the company is rotting from the inside as well as from the out."

Hate to say it, but I hope so. We need competition in this area badly. Sure, you can find used items for sale elsewhere online, but they're the only ones who really own the online "auction" format.

They got to this place by insisting they are only a venue and can't ultimately be responsible for the transaction itself, other than getting deadbeats and abusers off their system. This was done for legal reasons, but it's so tied their hands in dealing with serious fraud issues that they're hurting the viability of the venue they claim is the only thing they provide. And, as others have mentioned, they have progressively become more and more anti-seller in their policies, which tend to favor bigger businesses than smaller sellers, and that was always their stated strategy anyway: to become a venue for existing businesses to sell online using stores and BIN, and discouraging the open auction format that made them famous. I think eBay either needs to fade or die, or to live be shaken up enough to necessitate a retooling of the site, customer service to buyers and sellers, and their long-term strategy.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:28 AM on May 9, 2008


wfrgms writes "I've used ebay since it started. That's going to be 10 years pretty soon. I've both sold and bought.

"Ebay is great.

"UNLESS YOU'RE AN IDIOT."


Translation: "I haven't had serious issues on eBay, therefore other people haven't, either, and those who have had problems must be idiots."
posted by krinklyfig at 9:32 AM on May 9, 2008 [10 favorites]


Ebay's pretty great for keeping vintage cars alive -- an international parts market. I'd really like see an online auction that is more like a real auction -- ebay is missing is the going, going, gone part. If any bid made within, say, 3 minutes of closing automatically extended the auction by a few minutes then sellers might get more money for their stuff and the sniping would stop.
posted by Killick at 9:32 AM on May 9, 2008


In a more general way, I'd like to ask why the lucrative American company, a pioneer in its field, needs to suffer and die due to primarily the actions of, mainly overseas, scam artists? I always believed that the promise of our economy/culture was that good faith dealing would win out in the end. This is kind of like the head lice winning against the buffalo, at which point they have a huge party and consume the carcass, after which they all die.

I'm sure they could retool and fire everyone or we could have more competitors, but the take home lesson is the bin-Laden pattern: the foreign punk makes a *much* larger impact on tomorrow's world than our industry can.
posted by nervousfritz at 9:35 AM on May 9, 2008


Things I would never buy on eBay:

2. Anything described as "untested"


I agree in general, but there are exceptions, such as, say, "Old British microphone - as-is, not tested" which more often than you'd think really means "Classic vintage microphone - will work like a sparkle if only you slap a new ribbon in and spit-polish the electronics".

And then you've bought a Coles 4038 for a couple of tenners, which you can use to record some sweet sweet tunes and when you get tired of that, you can re-sell it for over a grand.

Or that's what I tend to dream a lot.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:36 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ugh. I remember when it first started up and I was able to send cash in an envelope to somebody in Hong Kong and get something neat in return via airmail.

I recently got burned on a transaction to the tune of $120 (I was the seller, but apparently stating the terms of sale explicitly in the text of the auction was not enough). Thanks guys!

I still have my 100 percent rating, though I'd rather have my $120 back. Bastards.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:38 AM on May 9, 2008


I wish Craigslist would get some traction in the UK.

One thing I've noted is that it's getting harder to find old, odd, computer equipment on ebay uk. Used to be you couldn't move for SGI Indys and Sun Sparcstations, but now it seems that it's just not worth the hassle for people to try and sell them. I hope they're not going in the bin.
posted by bonaldi at 9:43 AM on May 9, 2008


Anyone seen this one: You list a laptop, and an "art student" writes you offering you a price if you stop the auction. The price is typically a little too low. I actually fell for this one a few years back and then, when I listed a second laptop, heard from a very similar "art student."

Same story, classes are about to start, he needs it immediately and will send a check for your used iBook...
posted by johngoren at 9:44 AM on May 9, 2008


Killick writes "If any bid made within, say, 3 minutes of closing automatically extended the auction by a few minutes then sellers might get more money for their stuff and the sniping would stop."

I don't think that's a good idea. That would turn bidding wars into aborted sales, due to the overly-high ending price. It's very possible to see two people going at it just to outdo each other in bidding for one item, and extending the deadline is not easy to do in such an environment without holding people more accountable for non-payment.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:48 AM on May 9, 2008


The single coolest thing I've gotten from this thread is reading up on the whole hoo-ha with Aaron Madison aka. Arsen Rezai Asl. Does anyone know if there's a proper ending? Did m5biemer ever get his money back?

On a related note, the "MetaFilter History" tag is fascinating.
posted by WalterMitty at 9:56 AM on May 9, 2008


The feedback system, originally intended to promote trust, now acts as a coercive whitewash with the effect of muting buyer complaints for shoddy merchandise received.

Very keen observation. It's for this reason that the worst I feel comfortable leaving is a carefully worded neutral feedback, and I consider all neutrals to be negatives in disguise.

Still, I'd take eBay's flawed feedback system over Craigslist's crap-shoot any day.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:57 AM on May 9, 2008


If any bid made within, say, 3 minutes of closing automatically extended the auction by a few minutes then sellers might get more money for their stuff and the sniping would stop."

This is the way it works at GunBroker, which is an excellent example of a site created to get around the worst of Ebay and Paypal's bullshit (in this case, their refusal to allow gun & ammunition listings, even though they're perfectly legal). Auctions at GunBroker obey the 15 Minute Rule, and thus act much like live auctions. This system works very well for individual, easy-to-price, mid-ticket items like guns. That said, I'm not sure how well this would work for Ebay, since there are a lot more bidders there, and a lot more low-cost items.
posted by vorfeed at 10:10 AM on May 9, 2008


I have used eBay lightly for most of the last 10 years, buying a couple hundred items overall, selling a couple hundred items, usually older technology that I've replaced. I've had maybe two total ripoffs, receiving broken items, being charged $200 for shipping a $3 cable, and a few attempted Nigerian-type scams, but not many, really.

It's not impossible to use eBay, but it's much more difficult to use these days, indeed full of scammers and ripoffs where before you'd be much more likely to get real people. And indeed it seems worst in the commodity electronics categories. Exotic items, whether non-current Apple or specific Cisco or whatnot, are still pretty clean areas. I believe the commenters who say that buying and selling their odd collectibles (GI Joe, manga, antique watches) is still mostly scam-free. The scammers will go for the hot cell phone or laptop every time.

The pathetic customer service, though, and the lie that eBay/Paypal will be on your side, ever, is the real issue. It is exactly as frustrating as described in the post. Canned automatic e-mail responses, no real people at all, ever... a system that's unusable if anything happens that's outside the 90-percent (?) "normal" process. You will be banned/burned by automatic processes, and the scammers know how to play the game of those processes much better than any honest seller ever will. It's their livelihood.
posted by rokusan at 10:14 AM on May 9, 2008


BTW there was an article in some high-end magazine/website (Slate, Vanity Fair, something) about how these scam-shops actually work in Nigeria. 10 or 20 young men in an internet cafe working at a time following their written instructions, a team-leader who would jump in when there was a hot lead, and one mobster-boss paying them all six cents an hour while pocketing the proceeds of the scams. I was shocked to learn that they were pretty much wage slave employees in the scammer equivalent of a call center doing this.

Does anyone remember or have a link to said article?
posted by rokusan at 10:17 AM on May 9, 2008


If any bid made within, say, 3 minutes of closing automatically extended the auction by a few minutes then sellers might get more money for their stuff and the sniping would stop."

This is the way it works at GunBroker...

Gunbroker. Sniping. Ha.
posted by rokusan at 10:18 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I figure "Hey, if you want to ignore a market the size of California [Canada] that's your business."

California's larger. You also risk people trying to do a chargeback because they don't understand that they and not the seller are on the hook for any sort of fees that they might be charged due to the package's entering Canada.

It's also harder to go after people trying to scam you if you're not in the same country.
posted by oaf at 10:29 AM on May 9, 2008


I think the only way Netflix's could be worse would be if clicking on the "customer support" button got you rickrolled.

Dude, are you serious? I called them up last week to complain that I had put my Gilmore Girls DVDs in the wrong order, and now I was about to receive disc 5 before disc 4. Wahh! Poor me. I fully expected to be laughed at, but instead they sent me disc 4 for free.

<3 <3 <3 Netflix.
posted by missrachael at 10:30 AM on May 9, 2008


I just want to clarify something I wrote earlier, when I say the buyer has power on ebay, I don't mean they have a ton of recourse, but relatively-speaking, they have more power than a seller.

As in meehawl's transaction, while ebay gave no satisfaction, a chargeback through their credit card was possible. A seller (like procrastinator) who is screwed only has ebay to try to get satisfaction from, and that can be like pulling teeth.

With paypal, I used to defend it all the time on Metafilter, that was until I misplaced my paypal debit card, so authorized my first bank transfer in a few years. Instead of calling me up and asking me what was up (even though it was to a long verified account) like a normal bank would do, they closed my account. It took a few hours on the phone to get it opened again.
posted by drezdn at 10:49 AM on May 9, 2008


The buyers having more power than sellers is also based on my understanding (maybe I'm wrong about this, I haven't sold anything on ebay in a little while) that sellers will no longer be able to leave negative feedback.
posted by drezdn at 10:51 AM on May 9, 2008


drezdn: "sellers will no longer be able to leave negative feedback."

That's interesting, if true, and also a sad admission that ebay's bilateral trust mechanism was very broken.
posted by meehawl at 10:56 AM on May 9, 2008


Dude, are you serious? I called them up last week to complain that I had put my Gilmore Girls DVDs in the wrong order, and now I was about to receive disc 5 before disc 4. Wahh! Poor me. I fully expected to be laughed at, but instead they sent me disc 4 for free.

<3>

Yeah, I noticed not long after posting the above that there's actually a customer service phone number (!) up there now that's not even all that tough to find, and lemme tellya, that is a VERY recent development. How easy it is to get through to them, I have no idea, but that it's there at all is kinda remarkable.

posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:56 AM on May 9, 2008


What what what. Tiny hearts confounding HTML! Anyway, that last paragraph's me.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:57 AM on May 9, 2008


That's interesting, if true, and also a sad admission that ebay's bilateral trust mechanism was very broken.

It was always broken. I have a less than 100% score on eBay because some asshole took a month to say she couldn't pay, I gave her the appropriate feedback, and she retaliated with a negative feedback rating. I tried to make it clear to eBay that I wasn't at fault, but they wouldn't remove or flag her false feedback.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2008


Feedback has always been broken. What is my responsibility as a buyer? To pay. Once I have paid - and particularly in the case of BIN/immediate payment required - you should leave me positive feedback. How could it possibly be otherwise? You got paid, I've upheld my part of a binding contract. If you are holding my feedback hostage, you are just wrong. You are waiting until I leave YOU feedback? No, that's not how it is supposed to work.
posted by fixedgear at 11:19 AM on May 9, 2008


fixedgear, to play devil's advocate, if you're a seller and you leave feedback as soon as you receive payment, you open yourself up to buyers who will then claim they never received the item or try to run other scams on you.
posted by drezdn at 11:28 AM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Here is a really interesting article on Netflix's customer service, and their decision to use higher quality call center support rather than on-line or overseas options. They also (according to the article) give their front-line customer support employees more autonomy for resolving problems.

Sort of the reverse of the Microsoft/Ebay/etc approach, and a substantial part of the reason I have a Netflix account but not an Ebay one.
posted by Forktine at 11:29 AM on May 9, 2008


fixedgear writes "Once I have paid - and particularly in the case of BIN/immediate payment required - you should leave me positive feedback. How could it possibly be otherwise? You got paid, I've upheld my part of a binding contract. If you are holding my feedback hostage, you are just wrong. You are waiting until I leave YOU feedback? No, that's not how it is supposed to work."

Have you sold much on eBay? No? All sorts of things can go wrong after someone pays. When I sell I leave feedback once I know the transaction is finished and the buyer is happy. If you leave feedback before then, it can turn into a huge problem if the buyer tries to do unreasonable chargebacks or otherwise game the system. Feedback isn't just about you paying, it's about your behavior. I can be a total jerk and still sell you something. It works both ways. Should I get positive feedback because I upheld my end of the deal by fulfilling the terms of the sale, even though I was a jerk?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:30 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of the PixelJam guys had a bad experience with eBay when his Transformers collection went for $21,000, but the guy never paid. Eventually had to sell for a little over a third of that.
posted by JHarris at 11:30 AM on May 9, 2008


The mention of GunBroker above reminded me of this paper:

Last-Minute Bidding and the Rules for Ending Second-Price Auctions: Evidence from eBay and Amazon Auctions on the Internet
Alvin E. Roth and Axel Ockenfels
The American Economic Review, Vol. 92, No. 4 (Sep., 2002), pp. 1093-1103

They found that "hard close" auctions led to sniping, in a comparison of two auction mechanisms - fixed end-time as in eBay ("hard close") and automatic extension with each bid as in Amazon auctions ("soft close"). Ockenfels has done a number of studies examining eBay and other online auction marketplaces, so Google his stuff if you are interested in the topic.
posted by needled at 11:37 AM on May 9, 2008


The sad thing about this article is that it's titled wrong. The title should be "eBay's farmed-out customer service team is lazy and incompetent." It's one thing to send out canned responses; everyone does it. The problem comes when you can't even be troubled to reply with the right canned response (or cook up an appropriate custom response). I've watched this story make its way around, and it's a black eye for eBay but they deserve it.

Meanwhile, if you can't sell laptops on eBay, someone should tell IBM because their eBay store is still open for business..
posted by mullingitover at 11:40 AM on May 9, 2008


drezdn is not wrong. It's been a few weeks since I left so maybe things have changed, but it was planned to stop letting sellers leave negative or neutral feedback, ever, as of this month.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:43 AM on May 9, 2008


Just checked, no change. Changes to feedback system (Sellers can only leave positive feedback, there is no mutual agreement to remove feedback) are effective May 19.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:51 AM on May 9, 2008


On a related note, the "MetaFilter History" tag is fascinating.

But no action for 2 years? Jeez, MetaFilter, I liked you better before you starting smoking pot.

Meehawl's experience was spot on.

Ugh. I remember when it first started up and I was able to send cash in an envelope to somebody in Hong Kong and get something neat in return via airmail.

Indeed. As soon as it lost that feel (which was early), and I got burned, it was over for me. I'm still not sure if that's eBay's fault, though. Maybe it's just not the type of service for me.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:56 AM on May 9, 2008


I have been using eBay for around 10 years now, and have never once had a problem. I bought the Power Mac G5 I'm typing this comment on, two expensive synthesizers, and innumerable smaller/cheaper items via eBay. I only ever tried selling once, and one guy did try to scam me by saying he never received his item when he did in order to keep the item and the money, but mostly I just decided it was too much of a pain in the ass and haven't bothered since. This was before the modern prevalence of Nigerian scammers, Nigeria may not have even had Internet access then.

Anyway, it seems eBay clearly has a problem so I'm not really trying to defend them, just saying I've never experience anything even close to the anecdotes in this thread.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:24 PM on May 9, 2008


Gunbroker. Sniping. Ha.

Ha indeed!

At any rate, I think that sniping is a perfectly reasonable behavior, one that has arisen naturally out of attempts to avoid the stupid bidding wars that plagued Ebay during its early years. Speaking as an Ebay seller, I'm not sure which is really better for sellers in an Ebay-like situation: selling an item for less via sniping, but ending up with someone who is serious about buying, or selling for more via open bidding and then having to spend an extra week going through the Second Chance Offer process and/or relisting in order to find someone willing to buy at the price they've bid. For high-ticket items, Ebay's listing fees can make sniping a much less expensive problem than bidders who will not pay.

This is why I'm not sure that Gunbroker-style auction extensions will work on Ebay. Gunbroker works because it's a medium-sized site, with a self-selected group of motivated bidders and sellers, and the punishments for breaking the rules are quite harsh. None of this is true of Ebay. Adding auction extensions to Ebay, with all else held constant, would create a horrid mess of non-serious bidding. Do we really want all those haunted-ghost-in-a-jar, my-divorce-boat-three-page-sob-story, teapot-with-a-reflected-wanger auctions to go on even longer?

Also, in my experience, much of the whining about sniping comes from people who give their auctions a much lower starting price than they are hoping to sell for, in an attempt to drum up bids and avoid Ebay listing fees. Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander; if you don't like people gaming the system, stop doing it yourself. If you won't openly display a reasonable starting price, don't expect others to give you the courtesy of openness in their bids!

At any rate, I personally snipe when I bid, and have no problem with sniping as a buyer and as a seller. IMHO, the optimal situation for both buyers and sellers involves buyers who place a single bid, in the minutes before closing, for the maximum they're willing to pay. This prevents extended bidding wars (which tend to lead to unhappy buyers and/or buyers who won't pay), and tends to ensure that the closing price is a fair one for both the seller and the top buyer. It also allows sellers to cancel the auction up until the end (which gives them the most freedom in where and when they sell their items).
posted by vorfeed at 12:29 PM on May 9, 2008


Feedback has always been broken. What is my responsibility as a buyer? To pay.

I've almost never bothered with feedback. My usual eBay M.O. is Buy It Now, PayPal, and we're done. All my feedback is "A++++ BUYER PAID QUICKLY", except for that one guy I mentioned above who scammed me. The one time I can remember ever leaving feedback was for a guy who lived in the same city as me who I picked up the item from personally, and he turned out to be a cool guy who I hung out with for a while. The rest of the time, feh, you've got your money, do you really need some poorly worded platitude from me too?
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:30 PM on May 9, 2008


I have a love/hate relationship with eBay... probably the same way a junkie has a love/hate relationship with his dealer. As a toy collector, eBay has made it not only possible, but likely to find just about any Superman collectible or Mego action figure I might want to purchase at any given moment. There are thousands of items I would never have seen had I been forced to find them in the traditional way, in person at toy shows, comic conventions, flea markets or antique malls, or through classified ads in collector publications. Just as an example, in 20+ years of going to local toy shows, I've never seen the composition Superman doll Ideal released in 1940. However, there have been two in the last month on eBay.

That said, they've been getting worse and worse for me as a seller. I stopped selling on eBay during the boycott when they raised their fees, and found that I didn't miss the eBay money as much as I thought I did, so I never started up again.

One very frustrating issue with eBay is that they like to claim that they are just a venue and that they aren't responsible for scammers, yet they clearly profit from scams like shill bidding to the point where you have to wonder when someone's going to legally test them. One example: It was possible in the old days for the collecting community to police the site for sellers that were shill bidding and warn each other away from them, but eBay's recent policy of camouflaging bidders in the name of security have made it impossible. I have little doubt that it was a deliberate attempt on eBay's part to 1.) increase revenue from the higher bids that result from shilling and 2.) minimize the support hassle of having to deal with people reporting shill bidders. I can remember several times where I and my collecting buddies found obvious patterns of collusion between sellers and bidders, and you would literally have to argue back and forth with eBay support to get them to enforce their own policies.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:35 PM on May 9, 2008


wfrgms, spare us the blink tag, OK? It'd be bad enough if you had something to contribute.

I personally haven't had any issues on ebay but I certainly know smart people who have. If someone sells you crap ebay and paypal have gotten together to make it almost impossible to ever get your money back.

And if you're selling to someone, there's nothing to prevent someone from doing a chargeback the moment they receive the item, no matter how smart you are; or if you use PayPal, if your scammer does get their complaint through to PP, then they freeze ALL of your account so you lose thousand of dollars.

My reading is that 95% of the people on ebay are legit but the dishonest 5% are extremely active. Each scammer has their own strategy so you need to constantly be looking for loopholes in each deal.

It's tiresome. Imagine if Macy's allowed hordes of pickpockets to wander their aisles.

And, again wfrgms, it's not possible to be always vigilant. Just because someone falls for a scam that they might have been clever enough to figure out doesn't mean that the crime is theirs. Calling people "stupid" who might be someone's perfectly-intelligent older relative who simply didn't understand that this particular "store" might be filled with con artists is objectionable.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:45 PM on May 9, 2008


I think the only way Netflix's could be worse would be if clicking on the "customer support" button got you rickrolled.

<zim>
Worse.... or better?
</zim>
posted by flaterik at 1:05 PM on May 9, 2008


DecemberBoy:

I have been using eBay for around 10 years now, and have never once had a problem.

I only ever tried selling once, and one guy did try to scam me by saying he never received his item when he did in order to keep the item and the money


Um, what? Sounds like a problem to me.
posted by procrastination at 1:12 PM on May 9, 2008


Um, what? Sounds like a problem to me.

He didn't get away with it. All that really happened was a negative feedback. I mostly don't bother with selling now because it's too much of a pain to package all the shit up, schlep it to the post office, etc. The point was I've probably bought like $10,000 worth of stuff off eBay and every single time it's been delivered promptly to my door, no muss, no fuss.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:18 PM on May 9, 2008


I use Ebay a lot to find mold makers for soap. It's an easy place to find silicon mold makers that would be tedious otherwise to compare. On ebay I can look at 5 or 6 makers offerings and make a call based on materials for the mold, recommendations from other soapers, etc.

But would I use Ebay for anything like ingredients? Oh no. Those vendors have to be organically certified and I want copies of the certs before I'll cut a purchase order. I've seen what other soapers have gotten from ebay, and it's universally crap.

I made a drastic error in using Ebay to buy a large commercial scale that was broken when it arrived, and I've never been able to get a refund for it. That was the last time I'll ever buy anything over about $50 on ebay.

And truth be told, now that I have a pretty good selection of vendors I've used before, I often just go to their site, or drop them an email and ask for a bid price on creating custom molds when it's not something that manufacturers are going to have in stock.
posted by dejah420 at 1:49 PM on May 9, 2008


DecemberBoy writes "The rest of the time, feh, you've got your money, do you really need some poorly worded platitude from me too?"

Until you get 40-50 feedback it's pretty important, a lot of people (just check this thread) won't deal with you until you have a history.
posted by Mitheral at 2:03 PM on May 9, 2008


I use ebay for impossible to find computer parts (like powerbook 190 power converters) or event tickets, but only local sellers in cash.

I MUCH prefer craigslist and thats saying something.

Craigslist, too, used to be great. Ive bought two cars on CL, got three apartments, 4 dates and two jobs on Craigslist. What am I saying? I still love craigslist. I wish the Casual encounters were less spam, though.
posted by subaruwrx at 2:47 PM on May 9, 2008


My worst ebay experience was when I sold my watch to buy my boyfriend a comb, and he sold his hair to buy me a watch chain. Nigerians scammed him out of his hair, so now I don't even have a chain.
posted by troybob at 3:12 PM on May 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


This thread is a bizarre coincidence since I have been burning daylight with mother-fucking eBay for the last two weeks. It got so bad I just sent them an invoice billing THEM back for my time. My experience was very much like Maias's above. without any satisfactory resolution or contact with any responsible party. They must have purged that feature from the Trust and Security department.

First off the "All Virtual" eBay Customer Service system is idiotic. 90% of the problems stem from the virtual interface and how people either exploited it or relate to it. And then your only redress when there are problems is through the same problematic system. The idiotic grievance forms that don't tell you how to find the information they request from you. And Live Help? What an idiotic and inefficient idea. So every time I get on there I have to type out the same explanation over and over which takes for ever I have to HOPE the Live Help person will know what questions to ask. How about this thing called phone support so at the very least I can talk to a manager.

Second. The user interface itself is totally backwards with out any sense of what has taken place in user centered design over the last 10 friig'n years.

IOur very first purchase - of an iMac - as a company was a few weeks ago. And we got ripped off. Or at least after a week of hearing nothing from the seller eBay emailed me and told me the auction was null and void. With no further explanation. It was up to ME to figure why and what happened. This was the third time I have been ripped off or nearly ripped on eBay.

In the mean time I begin getting emails through the eBay system from the supposed seller telling me my computer was on it's way and payment had been received. Which was odd sine we canceled out check when the auction got scrammed.

Turns out, after five days of trying to find somebody to talk to I get a bot email from Trust and Security.The sellers account was hacked. And they refer me to the same dispute resolution forms I already filled out.

And now I'm getting emails from both the real guy and the fraud and there is no way for me to tell the difference - it's ALL through the eBay system. One guys is mad that I canceled the check. Both appear to not know the auction was scrammed. So they left this poor guys account active? Does this company even know what is going on?

Fuck eBay. I will never use them again.
posted by tkchrist at 3:25 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


eBay? In decline? But just look at some of the awesome things you can buy -- like this!
posted by phatkitten at 5:10 PM on May 9, 2008


> Also, in my experience, much of the whining about sniping comes from people who give their auctions a much lower starting price than they are hoping to sell for, in an attempt to drum up bids and avoid Ebay listing fees. Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander; if you don't like people gaming the system, stop doing it yourself. If you won't openly display a reasonable starting price, don't expect others to give you the courtesy of openness in their bids!

Wait... huh? If I put up a starting price that's close to what I expect the item to sell for, then why am I using eBay as an auction site?

I speak as a 99 cent, no reserve eBay auction seller. How am I "gaming the system"?
posted by meowzilla at 5:25 PM on May 9, 2008


meowzilla writes "I speak as a 99 cent, no reserve eBay auction seller. How am I 'gaming the system'?"

Sniping helps, though, no matter which side you're on. It's easy enough to do as a buyer, and as a seller it only drives up your price. But if you just want to be smart about auctions on eBay, as a buyer you put in a bid at the top amount you want to pay and leave it alone, and as a seller you put in a reserve unless it's a rare item or hot seller. Of course, this is too simplistic for sellers anymore due to their byzantine rules, but buyers can still rely on the bid-and-leave-it strategy. If someone else snipes or bids more, oh well. The worst strategy for a buyer is to get into a bidding war, and the worst for a seller is to put a common item in a saturated category for auction starting at $1 with no reserve (unless it's only worth that much).
posted by krinklyfig at 5:44 PM on May 9, 2008


Do the problems on eBay correspond to types of items? I'm relatively new to it, and only a buyer, but no problems yet. Then again, I only use it to acquire the lost tokens of my youth. I really don't need it for anything I can get from a store for slightly more at no risk and don't use it for that purpose.

The feedback problem I understand, though, having been through that. Your feedback as seller is supposed to be contingent on my prompt, full payment, not my evaluation of whether or not you held up your end of the deal.

Sniping bothered me till I figured out that's just how it works. Now I know enough to stick around till the zero hour (and it's fun to out-snipe snipers) but often the item is just not worth that kind of effort and I let someone who wants it more take it. I don't take eBay too seriously because I can't be bothered to sell anything through it. I do realize that I may get burned, that it will happen eventually, and that eBay will do squat about it. That's eBay. Hasn't it always been that way?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:45 PM on May 9, 2008


Durn Bronzefist writes "Do the problems on eBay correspond to types of items?"

Yes. Anything that's relatively small and valuable, like laptops, iPods, luxury brand watches, jewelry. Especially laptops. Anything that might look a bit fishy at the local flea market, although there are plenty of legitimate sellers of these items. Any sort of fashion brand being sold gets undue scrutiny from their intellectual property lawyers, who constantly scan the site and report a whole lot of sellers, even if they're not selling counterfeit goods (although plenty are). Same thing with Disney. The collector categories are still pretty good, but it helps if you're knowledgeable about the general market for the category, because there are plenty of ripoffs there, too. It's easier to find decent sellers, though. As a buyer, always use PayPal, always pay with your credit card (never leave a balance on PP, or it will use it automatically). The international market can be fun and very worthwhile if you're willing to deal with shipping, but it has it's own problems, some places more than others. Although it's possible to buy from China or Italy without problems, it can be sort of tricky ...
posted by krinklyfig at 6:02 PM on May 9, 2008


Wait... huh? If I put up a starting price that's close to what I expect the item to sell for, then why am I using eBay as an auction site?

Well, a sniper would say, "if I'm supposed to bid high on the first day and then let everyone else drive up my bid for a week, then why am I using eBay as an auction site? Why not just find some place where I can buy the item with my maximum bid?" Yet the sellers who complain about sniping seem to expect this behavior from buyers, while still demanding the right to start low.

I speak as a 99 cent, no reserve eBay auction seller. How am I "gaming the system"?

You're not... unless you plan to cry and complain if people snipe and you don't make what you expected to. My point wasn't that people shouldn't price their auctions low, it's that they can't blame buyers for behaving much the same way in regards to sniping.
posted by vorfeed at 6:15 PM on May 9, 2008


Ack. Well, I almost sound like I'm promoting it. I don't use it much anymore. Used to be a lot of fun, though.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:29 PM on May 9, 2008


Everyone thinks Ebay works fine until they get scammed. I did too.
posted by loiseau at 7:10 PM on May 9, 2008


But would I use Ebay for anything like ingredients? Oh no. Those vendors have to be organically certified and I want copies of the certs before I'll cut a purchase order. I've seen what other soapers have gotten from ebay, and it's universally crap.

"Wait, what is this place?"
posted by spiderwire at 7:37 PM on May 9, 2008


Data point: In the last year, I successfully bought an unlocked cellphone and a used desktop computer via eBay. Received both items, both were in great condition for less than half of what they'd have been new...

A++++!!!
posted by limeonaire at 8:29 PM on May 9, 2008


The worst strategy for a buyer is to get into a bidding war, and the worst for a seller is to put a common item in a saturated category for auction starting at $1 with no reserve (unless it's only worth that much).

Well, a sniper would say, "if I'm supposed to bid high on the first day and then let everyone else drive up my bid for a week, then why am I using eBay as an auction site? Why not just find some place where I can buy the item with my maximum bid?" Yet the sellers who complain about sniping seem to expect this behavior from buyers, while still demanding the right to start low.

Ah, this explains why I haven't run into many of eBay's problems. I don't sell easily-available items in saturated categories at high volumes. I infrequently sell relatively rare items to a small group of enthusiasts who know exactly what they're buying. These people are usually not snipers.

On Craigslist, I post stuff up and don't get a peep - on eBay, I put things up and often get 80% or more of my purchase price.
posted by meowzilla at 8:40 PM on May 9, 2008


eBay should have automated feedback, plus a final word, perhaps. Feedback might look something like this:
[b] Buyer (maxwelton 98)
[s] Seller (sell-o-matic 371)

[b] 2008-05-10 12:47 Auction #1234567890 ended, $67.12 high bid
[s] 2008-05-10 14:34 Sent invoice
[b] 2008-05-10 18:59 Paid via PayPal
[s] 2008-05-12 08:12 Shipped via UPS standard ground
[b] 2008-05-15 10:04 Signed for package
[b] 2008-05-15 11:42 Agreed item was as described

---TRANSACTION COMPLETE---

Additional comments:

Seller:
"Great buyer, immediate payment, will press '+' several times."

Buyer:
"Well packaged, speedy shipping, exactly as described. Thanks!"
Only the final buyer step of agreeing that the item is as described requires the buyer or seller to actively do anything; this assumes eBay can work with sellers to use payment and shipping systems they can interface with.

In this system, positive feedback would be awarded automatically to both parties unless certain time constraints built into each step were not met. The seller would have some options to set those time limits, within reason, and those time limits would always appear in the auction itself ("Buyer must pay within five days of auction close. Seller will ship items within five days of payment clearing.")

Negative feedback would also be automatic if, for example, a buyer pays but the seller never ships, or an auction ends and the buyer never completes the transaction.

Obviously this needs to be thought through by someone smarter than me, but it would turn feedback from a ponies-and-butterflies-everything-is-fine system to what would actually be valuable: a fact-based set of data. Does this person, when buying, pay and pay quickly? Does this person, when selling, ship quickly and ship what they say they were going to ship?
posted by maxwelton at 8:40 PM on May 9, 2008


Does this person, when selling, ship quickly and ship what they say they were going to ship?

Does this person, when selling, pay so much for proof of shipping that Ebay isn't even worth it?

If I have to send using a method that allows people to sign for the package, I can't really afford to do business. Even USPS delivery confirmation is pushing it -- it would take postage on a CD from $1.81 to $2.56, an increase of almost a third! And about 70% of the stuff I sell goes overseas, where proof of delivery involves paying twice as much or more to send via courier.

Unless Ebay is going to pay for it, I think this is a terrible idea. Besides, under your system the "item was as described" section would still be a problem, and I don't see a way to automate that part.
posted by vorfeed at 9:23 PM on May 9, 2008


I use eBay all the time, for all kinds of things, and I rarely have any problems with it.

Frankly, I have more problems on craigslist, where every time I've ever posted an ad to sell something I immediately get a dozen or two emails from people asking me to ship the item to some overseas location for somebody's aunt's birthday after they pay on Western Union, or something.
posted by streetdreams at 9:44 PM on May 9, 2008


But if you just want to be smart about auctions on eBay, as a buyer you put in a bid at the top amount you want to pay and leave it alone

Bidding any earlier than the last possible second just opens the door for counterbids from the many, many eBayers who mistakenly think they're in a traditional live auction. That's why sniping evolved in the first place.
posted by Lazlo at 9:54 PM on May 9, 2008


Since it isn't a traditional live auction, I've always wondered if it would just be better to keep ebay bids blind until the auction ends. Maybe that would open up new doors of mess, though...
posted by troybob at 10:41 PM on May 9, 2008


The last item I bought, a camera for around $300, arrived with a dent in the lens threads, that obviated the package of lens attachments. The next day I recieved some kind of warning from ebay about the seller. I did get the camera, and I pulled the dent out with pliers, so I guess I was lucky.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:22 PM on May 9, 2008


...here's the email, BTW:

Item Number - 220203288827

Item Title - Nikon coolpix 8800 digital 8mega pixel camera

Our records show that you were a bidder or buyer of one or more of this seller's items. We recently removed this seller's active listings and suspended the seller's trading privileges. Due to privacy concerns we cannot share further details about this seller.

If the seller asks you to complete this transaction outside of eBay, we strongly recommend that you do not proceed with the transaction. Transactions for items listed on eBay but then completed off of the eBay platform are not covered by buyer protection programs offered by eBay and can be highly indicative of fraud. For more information on Offers to Buy or Sell Outside of eBay, copy and past the following Help Page link into your browser: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/rfe-spam-non-ebay-sale.html.

If you have already paid for this item but have not received it, you should take all possible steps to receive reimbursement.

1. If an amicable resolution cannot be reached, the buyer can close their Item Not Received dispute and escalate it to a claim. If the transaction was paid for using PayPal and qualifies for PayPal Buyer Protection the claim will be routed to PayPal for review typically within 30 days. (http://pages.ebay.com/securitycenter/faq/itemnotreceivedprocess.html)
2. Stop payment with your bank if you paid by check.
3. Contact the Security Department of your credit card company to file a chargeback if you paid via credit card.
4. If you paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, contact the company directly (Western Union 800-325-6000 or MoneyGram 800-926-9400). eBay does not protect payments made via Western Union or MoneyGram per our Acceptable Payments Policy (http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/accepted-payments-policy.html).
5. If you paid with PayPal, eligible transactions will receive coverage up to $200 at no additional cost. However, the majority of transactions may be covered up to $2,000. To file a claim with PayPal, login to your PayPal account and copy and paste the following link into your web browser: http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/gen/protections-buyer-outside. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the File a Claim link. PayPal claims must be filed within 45 days of the close of the listing. It may take at least 30 days to complete the investigation and resolve the dispute.

Please do not respond to this email, as your reply will not be received.

Regards,

Customer Support (Trust and Safety Department)

posted by StickyCarpet at 11:26 PM on May 9, 2008


You can make setting changes to rid the Nigeria scam emails, but I kinda hope ebay continues to struggle for a while. They really need to get back to basics and quit nickle-and-diming their sellers
posted by Mr_Chips at 4:59 PM on May 10, 2008


Inside eBay's Quest for Craigslist

eBay suing Craigslist for same "poison pill" techniques it used itself
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:36 PM on May 10, 2008


I've used eBay dozens of times over the years from everything to electronic goods to TVs to computer laptops (as both a seller and buyer). I've never had a bad transaction.

Maybe I've just been lucky, but it helps to list your item with proper limitations, and to buy items from folks with only positive, dozens+ feedback in the U.S.

I still buy decent Windows XP laptops from eBay all the time for $300-400. Never had any trouble with it......
posted by docjohn at 5:54 PM on May 10, 2008


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