Sunday, January 25, 2015

Let the Buyer and Seller Beware

Since the very beginning of wide spread trade there have been those individuals who have tried to take advantage of others. It doesn't matter what industry, there are unscrupulous characters that try to ripoff everyone they can. In the old west the least trusted people were horse traders. Some were decent, honest folks who were just trying to make a living, others would do all they could to maximize their profit at the expense of others. One of these old crooks might sell a horse that they knew to be lame. They would justify the sale by saying the buyer didn't ask, they still knew they were selling a worthless animal and back then an animal was equipment. To many they still are. 

A more modern day example of the horse trader might be the sleazy used car salesman. Just like the horse traders of old, not all are bad but the bad ones get more talk than the good ones.

One thing that is/was good about dealing with these people was that you always met with them face to face. You had the opportunity to get a feeling for the person. I have met some people that I knew right away, I did not want to deal with them.

Now let's spring forward a couple of decades. Fewer and fewer transactions are taking place in a face to face manner. With the advent of websites like eBay and Amazon the variety of products we can purchase and the ability to price shop has dramatically increased.

Both sites give individuals the opportunity to be both a buyer and a seller. I have bought several things from Amazon but have never sold anything there. I have however bought and sold on eBay. There have been challenges as both a buyer and seller. I have had buyers win an item and not pay, I have had buyers retract bids and even had one buyer request that I cancel their purchase. I sent an item to South Korea. As a buyer I had had items come in damaged and had items not arrive at all. Until lately I have never had a problem that couldn't be worked out through talking. That has changed.

Our youngest daughter decided that she wanted to join the high school band. After trying several instruments she decided she wanted to learn the saxophone. If you didn't know,the sax is one of the most expensive instruments in a high school band. 

We started looking for her an instrument. Neither my wife nor I know anything about a sax. We received a list of name brands from the band director that were of good quality and easy to have repaired. After looking at all of the acceptable brands we found that buying a new instrument ranged in price from around $1,100 to $4,500. That was not an option. The band director suggested we rent one from the dominant supplier of band instruments in northern and central Alabama. They wanted $65.00 a month for 48 months for a used sax. That is $3,120 for a used instrument. They wanted $75.00 a month for a new one which totals $3,600, again no thank you. 

After all of this research we decided to try eBay. We had already checked on getting one tuned or repaired if needed. We were sure we had done our due process. We established our budget and were watching about 6 different saxophones. 

This is where the problems start. When you are watching too many items it is easy to bid on the wrong one. That is exactly what my wife did. My wife is a get it done now type of person. If she feels like there is a deadline that has to be met, this drive increases. She also works nights and because of that her sleep schedule tends to be off during her non work days. She placed the bid while she was tired and only half awake.

Once we realized our mistake we tried to retract the bid. EBay has strict rules on retracting bids. Once the auction goes under a certain number of hours, your time to retract the bid goes down and if you do not hear from the seller in time, it is up to them if they will allow you to retract. The seller did not respond so we purchased the saxophone. The total price was between $200 and $300. A fair price and we expected that we might need to have the instrument repaired. 

The seller chose the cheapest shipping method possible. I swear the pony express was faster. What we received was shipped on the 15th of December. We received a small box on December 31st. Below is the correspondence that ensued with the seller.

I contacted them and asked if they had for some reason shipped the saxophone separately. They informed me that the tracking had stated that the box had been received and that I should look around and find the correct box. I sent them a picture of the box we received, its contents, and a screen shot of the tracking information.

Rather than look at any of the information that I sent, they threatened to file a robbery charge against me. We emailed several times till the seller told me that they would not respond again until I had sent a photo of the correct box, even though I sent them a photo of their label on the box I received.

After all of this I finally asked eBay to step in and rectify the situation. I had to again send photos. Great, no problem. They also requested that I send a scanned statement that I had not received the item that I had purchased. My scanner was broken so I typed up the response as I was directed and tried to send a picture. No good. It had to be in this format and had to be a scanned image. I had to wait till I was at work. I scanned the proclamation and emailed it to eBay. It didn't come from my email address, so it was no good. I scanned the proclamation again, emailed it to myself, downloaded the proclamation and then was able to submit the document. So again another week of fighting to get my money back for something that I never received. 

The good news is that we did get our money back and that I only lost a little hair over it, (not that I had much to lose). I will be a lot more selective about what sellers I bid on their items in the future. During all of this I asked readers from my Facebook page if they had ever had a bad experience while shopping on eBay. I was surprised that there were as many horror stories from sellers as there were from buyers. So how do we avoid dealing with situations like this in the future? Here we go. 


Most people that sell on eBay do so for the same reasons I did. Ease of entry, wider market, and not too high of fees. All of the suggestions I am going to make for sellers will also apply to good customer service no matter what you do.

  1. Provide good descriptions- A good description will help to make sure that there are no misunderstandings. Normally people who do well on eBay have a knack for this, but if you are just getting started, write two or three descriptions and have people read them. They will tell you which one is best. Be as informative as possible. 
  2. Communicate- If a buyer is asking a question they are at least interested in what you have to offer. Answering questions makes a person feel like you value their business. This is important.
  3. Realize there are Costs of Doing Business- If you start selling on eBay you have fees every time you list and sell an item. The upfront fees are standardized, but the final fees are based on the selling price of the item you have listed. You should take fees into consideration when pricing your items.
  4. Some Bidders Don't Pay- When a person places a bid, they have made a promise to buy your item if they are the top bidder. Only one problem- some bidders don't pay. When this happens eBay still takes their cut. You can get it back, but you have to file a request with eBay which takes time and you will still have to relist your item if you still want to sell it.
  5. Not Everyone is Out to Rip You Off- When a buyer has a problem they should and normally will reach out to you the seller first. If you want to keep a good rating and provide excellent customer service so people will continue to buy from you, do your best to take care of your customers.
  6. Familiarize yourself- Know at least the basics of eBay's Terms of Service, how shipping companies work, and customer protection laws. You cannot get out of these as long as you sell something through their service.


As a buyer you are expecting people to be true to their word. This is only right, but there are somethings that will help us not to be disappointed.

  1. Be Realistic-To illustrate this point I am going to tell a story... hey it's what I do. I like old clocks. I have searched for them many times, just looking to see what I could find. I came across this old travel clock. It was very inexpensive. Honestly, I think it was less than $1.00. I bid on it and won. Okay, so if it works I have something cool and if it doesn't I only spent $1.00. Shipping wasn't much either. When the clock arrived I opened the box. It looked exactly as it did in the photo, but it didn't work. When it came time to leave feedback all I said was. "It was as I expected." The seller left feedback for me that I was "A wise and well reasoned buyer". 
  2. Do Your Research-Check seller ratings. Read the worst and the best ratings. Be sure to reader the ratings from buyers. My ranking includes rating from both buyers and sellers, but you can read ratings from one side only.
  3. Don't Bid Impaired-Bidding on an item creates a contractual agreement between the buyer and the seller. If that bid is the highest you have agreed to buy the item and the seller has agreed to sell it to you. If you are overly tired, have taken certain medications, or have been drinking, your judgement could be impaired. No purchase decisions should be made with impaired judgement.
  4. Communicate-Yup, this one works both ways. If you have questions ask them. It is better to ask them before the purchase, but sometimes that is just not possible. If you have a problem contact the seller first before taking it to eBay. If you don't they are just going to make you talk to the seller anyway. Most sellers are trying to make an honest living or a little extra money.
  5. Give a Benefit of a Doubt-Things happen. Things get broken in shipping, things get lost. All kinds of things can occur. Be courteous and professional, normally the seller will return the favor.
  6. KEEP EVERYTHING-If a problem does occur you must make sure that you can prove what you are saying. Do not delete emails and do not throw away boxes. You will have to be able to provide pictures of everything as it was received.
  7. Don't be Intimidated-The seller that I was dealing with tried to use intimidation to get me to just deal with the situation. It did not work.
  8. Be aware of all deadlines-no matter what platform you are dealing with deadlines are set in stone and cannot be extended. The reason this is the case is to keep people from dragging thing out too long. 
  9. Be Willing to Escalate the Claim-There are times people just cannot work things out. When this happens there needs to be a mediator. 
Like I said, we did get our money back, but we still had to find another saxophone. We were able to find a fairly local music shop that had just started offering rent to own band instruments. They are much more affordable than the one we had first contacted and they are close enough to go to if we have problems.

I wish I could share all of the stories that I have read from my Facebook fans and my readers, but I am already very long in this post.

I whish you Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes.

Have you had a bad experience or even a great one? I would love to hear it. Tell us all the story in the comments.

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