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Wed May 30 2012 13:01:13

What's Your Worst Selling Mistake and How Did You Fix It?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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As an online seller, I've found it cathartic, if not necessary, to vent to my seller friends about annoying, unethical, or just plain AWOL buyers. But we're all human, and every seller I know has a story of a mistake he or she made. Then they usually launch into a long diatribe about the stress it caused, and how hard they tried to fix it, sometimes with no or even disastrous results.

So, share your "worst mistake" story here and get it off your chest! I'll start with two of mine. The first happened on eBay. In my haste, I had two orders to ship, and I sent the first order to the second buyer, and the second order to the first buyer. One of my seller friends suggested I ask each buyer to simply ship their item to the other, rather than routing it through me. I of course would fork over the shipping amount.

To my great relief, both buyers agreed to do it, and were even nice about it! That one had a happy ending, although I have had other endings on eBay that were not so happy.

The other, more recent mistake happened on Amazon.com, after I had not been selling for too long. In general, Amazon is much less buyer-hassle-saddled than eBay, in my experience, and those I hear anecdotally from other sellers. However, in this case, the buyer had a much lower tolerance for mistakes. (And you will also hear anecdotally that Amazon buyers have high expectations of a professional level of service).

I sold a bunch of my son's video games one month. After one sale, I noticed I had a dreaded "one star" feedback, not having even been contacted by this buyer at all...complaining it was the wrong item. Turns out it was an "expansion pack" for the game and not the actual game. I immediately gave a full refund, told the buyer to keep the item, apologized, and even offered this buyer a free game. I heard nothing back. Then I emailed her through amazon's communication system asking if there was anything else I could do, and would she consider removing the feedback, given I had fully refunded her and offered her a freebie to boot. Nada.

Finally, another Amazon seller friend of mine suggested I actually send her a letter (as in paper, yes) politely requesting the removal via US mail, and giving clear instructions on how to do so on Amazon. (You have to be very careful with these requests to not make them sounds like demands, or you could be in violation of Amazon's terms: "...When contacting a buyer, always keep in mind that pressuring a buyer is unacceptable and a violation of our policies..."). I sent such a friendly, but not demanding, note...and...crickets chirping.

The negative has been slowly wending its way toward scrolling off my Amazon feedback rating. But nothing was going to budge that thing.

What mistake or mistakes have you made selling, and what did you do to try to fix them? Were there cases where nothing you tried to do worked? Post a comment here!




Comments (20) | Permalink

Readers Comments

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: EssexEstateServices This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 15:25:45 2012

LOL... I'm a perfect seller so what stories can I tell?

I've done the switch packages to wrong buyers, Mis-identified items and not noticed hard to find damage.

The worst mistake is probably selling a small, but heavy antique wood desk and agreeing to ship it.

Trying to save on packing costs I found a big box and packed it in a way I thought would survive a commando raid. Guess I totally underestimated my friendly UPS handlers. The package arrived looking more like a round Yoga ball than a rectangular shipping crate. They had somehow managed to bounce it on all of the corners breaking all of the legs and shattering the top in the process.

Of course, the insurance claim was denied due to inappropiate packaging. I wound up eating the entire cost of the item and all shipping expenses, not to mention the hours it took me to fabricate the box.

Dumb, stupid and stubborn. And I thought I was smart!

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Wed May 30 15:34:11 2012

Back when I was selling gently worn clothing, I shipped the wrong pair of Levi's jeans to TWO customers. Each one got the OTHER one's pair of jeans.

This was 10 years ago... and back then, there was no RUSH to slam sellers with negs and DSR's were non-existent.

I explained the situation to both customers and told them that I would send each of them pre-paid return packing to return the items to me... and I'd re-ship them as each one came in.

However, one of them had a better idea... and BOTH of them agreed. I'd send them both pre-paid packaging and they would be happy to mail EACH OTHER the correct pair of Levis. (This saved everyone about 6-days in turnaround time... and it saved me in having to pay postage 3-times for both items.)

And I got positive feedback from both. A small hiccup, but everyone COOPERATED and it all worked out well.

Can you IMAGINE such a think happening on eBay TODAY? ~ I can't.

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
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Wed May 30 15:39:03 2012

Annie I love it! That story is a lot like my eBay one (buyers agreeing to ship to each other, with me paying..)...lol. Dem were the days, huh?

Essex that's sad about the desk, but in hindsight, it is pretty funny, huh? I mean, we can laugh about it, right? ;) Reminds me of the time I stupidly sent a beautiful shrinkwrapped hardcover Joseph Campbell bubble wrapped in a mailer..stupid, stupid! The shipping people must have flung it into a fence..a huge chunk was taken out of the corner of the book and I had to give a full refund. Now I only ship hardcover books in boxes, and often softcover ones too! ;)

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Wed May 30 18:08:04 2012

Honestly, Julia... this is such a great topic... and I was in such a rush to share *my* story, that I stopped reading *your* post after the first paragraph. (Sorry about that.)

In my haste, I didn't even notice that we shared a similar mix-up that had an identical solution!

Indeed, those WERE the days. Folks knew what eBay was all about... the world's best flea-market and garage-dale (with some re-gifted ''new'' items here and there).

A random collection of everyday people who were excited at everything they could find, and who loved the prices (and a few who were willing to prove just how MUCH they wanted that rare find by outbidding everyone else!)

Honest buyers and honest bidders coming together to make a deal. Nobody expected brand new packaging. Everybody understood that the used book, CD, VHS and clothes would not be in ''mint'' condition. They accepted it for what it was, and they were glad to have found a good deal.

Even IF something I bought smelled of smoke, or perfume (and that was RARE) or if it had a cat-hair on it (happened ONCE) I didn't care and I didn't give bad feedback for it.

Instead, it got washed or dry-cleaned in the same way that every ''perfect'' item did. ~ I knew in advance that I'd be paying a few extra dollars for dry-cleaning, and along with the cost of shipping, I made a determination if it was worthwhile to bid on.

If something didn't fit, or didn't ''hang'' just right... I'd donate it. I would have never considered DEMANDING a refund for something like that, or because the particular shade of beige was darker than I saw on my monitor. ~ Except for an *occasional* outlier were friendly, trusting, eager and cooperative. I looked forward to getting a sale and hearing from potential buyers. (Now, there's a sense of dread whenever I see an incoming message. My first thought is always ''what now?'' and ''is this going to be trouble?'')

In any case... my apologies for skimming your post. (But I *have* read it NOW.)

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Wed May 30 18:33:08 2012

After the "right item to the wrong person" dance - and with collectors, the few (well maybe a little more - or less) times I've done that, there was no consequences other than a red face - G-d bless the collectors.

The other more damaging thing is when eBay does their free listing thing, I rush to pump out a couple of thousand items of back stock (all cheap down-to-the minimum I'll sell without adding to the loss of a listing fee) and I forgot to update the list where I sell a few on other sites. So I sell a previously sold item.

Most people are cool, but there is always one person....

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Wed May 30 18:33:09 2012

After the "right item to the wrong person" dance - and with collectors, the few (well maybe a little more - or less) times I've done that, there was no consequences other than a red face - G-d bless the collectors.

The other more damaging thing is when eBay does their free listing thing, I rush to pump out a couple of thousand items of back stock (all cheap down-to-the minimum I'll sell without adding to the loss of a listing fee) and I forgot to update the list where I sell a few on other sites. So I sell a previously sold item.

Most people are cool, but there is always one person....

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: Saintsteven This user has validated their user name.
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Wed May 30 19:47:15 2012

While I've committed the wrong-Thing-to-two-different-guys mistake a COUPLE of times (one International, involving heavy boxes expensive Priority shipping), I think over time the biggest mistake I ever made was choosing a guess-able eBay password.  When the bad guys DID guess it, it took me several months to clean up the mess ....  

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 30 23:50:15 2012

I did the two person wrong item dance---and one of them then REFUSED to send the other (nice) person their item---which was for a CHARITY no less.

IF I had demanded that they do this---send each other the wrongly addressed items--I could understand.  But no--I had contacted each of them and they both AGREED to do this.  

I felt TERRIBLE because the NICE buyer was buying warm winter childrens coats to donate to families in need and this was during the terrible winter before last here in the North East.  And this person was buying high end can't wear 'em out things to give away.  

She mailed HER mistake package practicaly instantly and the OTHER buyer waited---and waited---and waited.--and then got mad at ME for daring to ask WHERE the item was.  

Sheesh.  

Then there was the Guitar Incident.  I discovered that I had bought a rare guitar at an Estate Sale.  JOY!!!!!   So I did my homework and listed it.  After answering about a zillion questions--most of which I had no clue on---I sold it for a very handsome price---esp since I had paid about $10 for it.

I tried to get a guitar shipping box but could find nothing locally.   Having constructed packing boxes for museum pottery and other fragile items I decided to make my own and spent half a day on  it and braced every part that could be braced;  floatted the whole thing in the case etc.

Imagine my surprise when I got an email telling me that UPS had smashed the thing.  Of course I immed let the buyer know that there was insurance on it and to file a claim with UPS.  However the buyer turned out to be a guitar repair person and had already FIXED it so there was no way to prove to UPS that it had been broken by them.  Why she even opened the very damaged box is beyond me.

In the end she actually refused a refund---for which I was extremely happy---  and left me PFB.  But---this could have turned out much differently.

The guy who threatened to come and hurt me because his plastic TOY gun didn't make the SAME noise he remembered as a CHILD---well---that was a different story altogether!!!!!  

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: bentley283 This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 31 01:11:14 2012

A few years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to provide excellent service by shipping the items BEFORE the echeck had cleared through Paypal.  I got burned several times before I wised up.

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ed Gadfly
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Thu May 31 01:22:41 2012

Biggest mistake was believing in eBay Community and that they had a ''Seller's Advocate'' who was looking after my interests.

The big money is not in selling on eBay - it's in selling out others to get THEM to list on eBay and buy your snake-oil.  

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: Ebay_roadkill This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 31 01:56:27 2012

I really miss those good old eBay days too. What's happened to people in the last 10 years or so? Were there always this many hostile people & they just happened to find eBay all at the same time?
Actually, it's not just eBay, I see the hostility everywhere I go anymore.

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: bobbieb This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 31 02:01:51 2012

My biggest mistake is when I decided to sell two Lingerie Barbies out of the three I had left. I wanted to keep the final one for myself and never sell. I hadn’t sold another of this particular one for several years (I had 2 originally).  This fellow who collected dolls bought the two I was selling and left me spectacular feedback.  As I was going through my remaining Barbie collection I have in my one closet cabinet, I realized I had sent him the more expensive and rarer Barbie I wanted to keep for myself. I had to peek carefully under the original paper wrap when I was mailing them and I was sure I picked the correct two but made a mistake.  Stupid me as it was almost a year later but I was so mad at both myself and him that I felt I had to at least let him know about my mistake. When I wrote to him and wondered what he thought when he got a different Lingerie Barbie than I sold him said he never noticed.  Gave me a story about just putting them in a closet never looking as he collected so many dolls.  As expected he refused to exchange it for the one he actually bought and I still had for which I was going to pay for all the shipping plus.  I suppose no one would really do so after all that time had gone by. I felt I had to at least ask.  

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Thu May 31 05:31:16 2012

RARELY I too have sent the wrong item  to the wrong person (before endicia got smart enough to flag a label if we were printing postage for the same person again--haven't had this problem since then). So I discover that I shipped the wrong pattern to the wrong person, I email the receiver and never hear a word back from them. Why would someone want a sewing pattern in a size that isn't their's? Somehow they responded to emails prior to the one where I had to admit that I shipped them an extra pattern. Obviously I'm telling them I will give them the money to reship it back to me and all I hear are the sounds of silence. Needless to say, I'm very happy endicia changed that quirk in their postage program.

Most of my other oops, worked out fairly well due to understanding customers, a willingness to take responsibility for my mistakes, etc. I'm just glad I don't have to do the feedback DSR dance with ebay anymore.

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: Lennie This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 31 09:01:50 2012

Sold On Ebay...
Left!

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Thu May 31 10:54:23 2012

Lennie - You beat me! That's what I was going to post.

But reading all these stories of the "good ol' eBay" is making me misty-eyed. It was so much fun back then and people were so nice. Like "Ebay_roadkill" above, I am astounded by all the hostility permeating the site now.

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Thu May 31 12:58:32 2012

I, too, have done the wrong-package shuffle. This was many years back and I also had accommodating customers who were willing to ship to one another.

Two years ago, I accidentally re-listed and sold an item that was already sold. The buyer bought two things, so I sent her the one I still had, refunded the other, and explained the error. This one was not so nice and started playing the "I didn't buy that" chargeback game. Luckily, the person had erred by initially filing a SNAD, then changing stories and filing a chargeback. To my great wonder, Paypal actually sided with me, so I didn't lose money and also didn't get bad feedback. I'm much more careful now, especially since I also list on several other venues in addition to eBay.

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Thu May 31 17:55:28 2012

My biggest mistake was not selling full-time on eBay back when it was simple, FUN, and items sold for higher prices!

I've done the package switcheroo, too. In one case a buyer returned an item that could have gone USPS first class at the most expensive method possible - & I had to refund her that amount of course. That was a lasting memory that comes back every time I have a lot to ship.

Worst was not a sale but a weird buyer that wanted to buy a poke-e-mon card that I was selling for my teenage son. The person was asking strange questions, couldn't spell, & kept emailing me to the point of harrassment & seemed threatening. This was when we used our email addresses on eBay & I had AOL at the time. I finally thought I had gotten rid of him by blocking whatever I could & then he pops up on AOL instant messenger & seemed even more threatening with live conversation. I ended the listing, gave the cards back to my son & told him we were NOT selling them on eBay, & kept a wary eye on IM & email. Although the guy seemed like a stalker, most likely this potential buyer was a 9 year old! You could not PAY me to sell in that category!  

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: Eagle This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 1 20:46:40 2012

We too have attached shipping labels to wrong packages, except this one time we had seven orders going out that day. One order was a $300 item whereas the other order was only $25. Obviously I heard from the customer that ordered the $300 item when she opened package and found a $25 item enclosed. Needless to say I didn't hear the slightest peep from the guy that got a $300 item for $25. This caused a little confusion since we weren't sure who received the $300 item out of the other six customers. Once the guy did admit to receiving the $300 item, he held us hostage refusing to send back the item until we paid him a "reward". Long story short, we finally got things straightened out, but it cost us dearly. The guy ended up with $75 of goods and reimbursed shipping the $300 item back to us. We refunded the lady her shipping cost also and remailed correct items to each customer free of charge. I had originally thought about asking the customers to forward items to eachother, but realized more issues could have arose not counting privacy issues.

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Sat Jun 2 00:50:22 2012

Seems fewer and fewer people are accepting of sellers making honest mistakes. Buyers not wanting to understand but going right to "off with their heads". More and more buyers looking for a weakness in the seller or a flaw so they can take advantage or extort. What is that expression "Don't mistake my kindness for a weakness" obviously has no place in the business world.  

What's  Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?   What's Your Worst Selling Mistake & How Did You Fix It?

by: Thekewlshop This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Jun 7 10:39:10 2012

I sold a pair of shoes that got caught up in the mail so I sent my customer a promotional coupon giving her a 15% discount on her next three purchases. When she got the shoes, only two days later than expected, they were a size too small. So I refunded her 80% of the selling price in line with my returns policy. But in my eagerness I sent her a replacement pair before receiving payment from her. I asked politely that she submit payment, but nothing, nothing! She now has two pairs of my shoes, one a size too small at an 80% discount and the other absolutely free. And on top of that a further 15% discount on her next 3 purchases. She must love me!



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