I would like to share an experience I had recently on eBay, because it could happen to you, and I’d hate for anyone to go through what I did. Here’s a brief timeline of events:
November 1, 2001- I won two auctions from the same seller (let’s call him "Mr X" - not his real user ID). He stated in his listings that he combined shipping on multiple wins. I received the 2 automated “end of auction” notices from PayPal. I emailed Mr. X that evening asking for the combined shipping/insurance total as well as giving him my shipping info. He did not respond.
November 8, 2001- I emailed twice more, and finally estimated the costs and sent payment through PayPal.
November 20, 2001- I STILL did not have my items or a response (and he lives only one state away), so I emailed him again - and again.
November 29, 2001- I filed a complaint with PayPal
December 7, 2001-I filed a complaint with eBay. (I waited because eBay does not allow complaints until 30 days have elapsed.) Mr X responded to eBay and told them that the refund was on its way. (eBay forwarded to me a copy of his response.)
December 12, 2001- I again emailed Mr X who finally graced me with a response (there's a first time for everything I guess). He promised to call PayPal right then and get right back to me. Guess what, no response.
December 18, 2001- I FINALLY lost my patience and emailed him to let him know if I didn’t have a refund or the items by December 21st I would be forced to leave negative feedback for him. He did not respond.
December 21, 2001- I left 2 negative feedbacks for him. His immediate response was 2 retaliatory feedbacks for me. (So much for my perfect feedback rating.) He also sent his 2nd ever email to me to let me know that I DESERVED the negative feedbacks for what I did to him.
December 26, 2001 - eBay told me that they would not negotiate removal of feedback per their legal dept.
December 27, 2001 - eBay referred me to SquareTrade (again) even though Mr. X specifically stated in his response to them on December 7 that he refused to deal with SquareTrade or any other mediation service.
December 28, 2001 - eBay told me they weren't affiliated with PayPal, so they could not address my lack of refund that Mr. X said was coming in his December 7th response to them.
December 31, 2001 - PayPal sent an email informing me that a refund was on its way.
January 2, 2002 - PayPal refunded me my money!
January 3, 2002 - eBay emailed me to tell me Mr. X was "no longer a registered member." eBay still refused to remove the feedback and said they could not discuss their investigation of him.
I filed complaint after complaint with eBay regarding Mr X’s retaliatory feedback. When it seemed that eBay refused to do anything about this seller, I began my own investigation.
Wronged buyers seemed to come out of the woodwork, and they emailed their horror stories to me. Several were watching Mr. X’s feedback to see who he was currently “ripping off.” These other sellers had also filed complaints with eBay that seemed to fall on deaf ears.
One buyer spoke of buying “Shrink Wrap” that turned out to be cheap plastic wrap (at $20/roll plus excessive shipping costs). Another stated that the item shown and described in the listing is not what he got - he alleged that Mr. X went to the manufacturer's Web site, downloaded a picture of an item, and then sent a model that was considerably older and did not have the listed features. Another buyer had to spend $125 to fix a piece of equipment that was listed as being in good working order. And then there was the poor buyer who was guaranteed Christmas delivery for her 7-year-old that did NOT happen.
These other victims of Mr. X emailed their apologies for my ruined feedback rating. From reading these emails, I formed the opinion that Mr. X had a history of leaving vindictive feedback for other buyers who left negative feedback for him when they felt he did not ship items paid for, shipped defective merchandise, or didn’t ship the merchandise described in his listings. The ones that had not left negative feedback for Mr. X (even though they, too, felt they had been ripped off) told me they were afraid to do anything because they feared he would retaliate against them. In his feedback, Mr X called one buyer an idiot, one a crack head and on at least 2 other feedbacks he made snide comments & then called them eBay rookies.
(An amusing aside was that Mr. X listed in his terms of sale that if a buyer had negative feedback, they shouldn’t bother bidding. This was Mr. X, who ended his eBay career with 21 negatives and 9 neutrals.)
One fellow buyer gave me the ultimate site to complain to - the FBI Internet complaint site http://www.ifccfbi.gov. (Believe me I did it). Many buyers who wrote to me felt hopeless that anything would EVER be done and felt that buyers would continue to be ripped off by Mr. X.
Lo and behold, though, eBay FINALLY suspended him on January 3rd. I don’t know if it was because of all the complaints filed, the negative feedbacks or the complaints to the FBI.
Will this experience keep me from buying on eBay? Not A Chance! However, it has made me more cautious and less trusting. There are a lot of really nice sellers that are just starting out who may not get my bids due to little or no feedbacks just because of what happened to me with Mr X. We all have to start at “1”, but after what I’ve been through, I’m going to think long and hard before bidding in that situation.
I’ve met a lot of terrific people through eBay - I was just unfortunate enough to have to deal with Mr X.
[NOTE: In the next issue, Liz explains what she feels eBay could have done better in dealing with the case of Mr X.]