Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
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by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun July 31 2016 03:56:03

New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay's policy of siding with buyers in disputes is under scrutiny once again, this time in the New York Times. An eBay seller asked the Times columnist "The Haggler" to look into a case in which a buyer claimed his item, a $1,400 doughnut fryer, was defective. And it's clearly touching a nerve with EcommerceBytes readers, who are sending us emails linking to the article.

The seller claims eBay overruled his return policy and wrote to The Haggler, "eBay demands I pay return shipping and refund the buyer, or the company will give her the refund and let her keep the machine."

Despite the columnist's best efforts, he says he failed to help the reader.

"The Haggler emailed eBay on Mr. Erike's behalf in the hopes of persuading the company to re-examine its conclusions. That didn't work. It only produced the following bit of email boilerplate:

"While the overwhelming majority of transactions go smoothly, eBay has designed a set of robust polices and standards geared toward fairness in cases where eBay needs to step in to adjudicate. We've reached out to this seller to provide best practices to avoid similar scenarios in the future.""

The seller told The Haggler he had provided eBay with proof the item worked while the customer "declined even to send a photo of her electrical setup" (the item requires a specific electrical environment - the right wattage and amperes - in order to work, information he said he had included in the listing description).

The Haggler said eBay's response to the seller's case "underscored that evidence was kind of beside the point."

You can find the column, titled, "Lesson From a Doughnut Fryer Debacle: Let the eBay Seller Beware," on the NYT website. What do you think, and have you run into problems with eBay overriding your returns policies?

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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Aug 1 06:55:21 2016

There are thousands of stories like this. I'm glad to see the New York Times shining a light on eBay's shady business practices.

Wish there was a way for The Haggler to dig into what happens to one's visibility once a dispute is filed. It seems that every time a case is filed sales tank.  Does eBay manipulate one's visibility when a case is filed?  It appears that they do.

eBay claim to be "just a platform" but they are anything but. The should be referred to as "the little ecommerce dictator".

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: tradernick This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Aug 1 07:20:02 2016

Rexford is right, there are thousands of stories like this that never see print.  Sellers have to deal with this stuff if you sell on ebay...it comes with the job. That...and the fees...are why I don't sell expensive items.  Most of my listings are less than $50. It's true that almost all ebay sales go smoothly.  It's that tiny percentage that don't that make me shudder because I know I'm going to lose every time.  There's been times when ebay found in my favor, or took action against a bad buyer, but you certainly can't count on it...ebay finding against the buyer is a rare occurrence, indeed.  
I've come to rely on the ebay revenue and can't find another outlet to sell stuff online.  I've tried most all of the competitors sites and sales are non-existant there. So what am I to do?  I keep trudging along, taking the occasional screwing and consider it as part of doing business on ebay.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: Lorric This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 08:12:45 2016

A buyer recently returned a 200.00 bracelet because it didn't fit though measurements were clearly stated in listing. I told her I would take it back but she had to pay return shipping. She opened a case with eBay. They (admittedly) escalated the case in error due to someone's incompetence, refunded her money and let her keep the bracelet due to their error! They also reversed their hold of her payment on my side but the fact that they let her keep the bracelet too is appalling! I think eBay is getting worse (if possible).  

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: GotToGetOut This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 08:37:56 2016

@Lorric, I agree, I really think Ebay is encouraging bad buyers by giving the person a refund and letting them keep the item. This has happened to me several times when the buyer is obviously wrong and eBay doesn't w2ant to side with the seller. It's an insult to us. Why don't they just send a free shipping label on their dime and refund all the money to the seller?? Sellers are the ones getting ripped off and that will make up for the times the buyer is able to finagle his money back including shipping because they lie about it being SNAD.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: Sierra This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 09:06:40 2016

In 18 years of selling on eBay, I've only had ONE return, and that was in 2015. My return policy is ''no returns.'' If someone had a REAL problem with something I would, of course, consider it on a case by case basis.

I sold an old (definitely not new) handmade quilt top as ''antique or vintage'' because I didn't know how old it was. I was confident that it was at least ''vintage'' since it had been in my collection for at least 10 years and it was far from new when I bought it. My eBay customer said it was NEW and despite my saying it wasn't, she won and I had to pay the return shipping to get it back.

Why does eBay allow sellers to set their own return policies, but then won't allow sellers to enforce them or, better yet, ASSIST sellers in enforcing them????? And why isn't that made clearer at the time sellers are choosing their return policy on eBay?????

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 09:25:01 2016

By now, all eBay sellers should be aware of the extreme RISKS involved with this venue. Anyone selling a high-dollar item here is an idiot.
Now that the 'nation's newspaper of record' has confirmed it, there's no excuse. As the old saying goes: "Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on ME!" You like to gamble? Fine. But don't say you weren't warned.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Aug 1 09:52:22 2016

Sierra, eBay seem to have a problem grasping the concept of "no returns".

I'd say that 99% of items returned to us have been due to the fact that the buyer did not read the listing.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Aug 1 10:01:22 2016

Just wondering:

Would anyone care to say what kind of return rate they have?

If you sell 1000 items how many come back?

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: bpm This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 10:08:26 2016

@RPSJP - your problem with the ISV being charged on revision of an ad has been going on on my account since 2013 (when I first reported it to Ebay). It is still happening - Ebay say it is a glitch. They wont fix it, or refund the excess fees. The only solution I had was to cancel the ad and re-list the item afresh.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: spooky This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 10:15:46 2016

you sell retain anywhere - storefront, Amazon, eBay - anywhere, you get a certain percentage of unhappy buyers. It has always been that way and will always be that way. Fortunately it is a small percent. LIVE WITH IT.  

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 10:30:14 2016

@toolguy

Over 5 stores we sell about 3000 items a month.

Rate of returns is about 3 maybe 4 a month. Two of the stores have been open for just under a year and have yet to have a return for any reason.

The other 3 stores have been open for years and average 1 or 2 returns a month. Our practice is to just refund, block and move on.
It makes no sense to call ebay as they don't care and to try and reason with the customer is sucide as all it does is piss them off.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: gizmo This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 11:09:56 2016

I can remember when there were no refunds , & I could warn sellers of bad buyers ( via feedback). I remember when they had free gift searches. I remember them before they became evil & greedy. They once were fun & profitable. Now they are lazy & greedy & could care less about sellers & their familys.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 12:19:58 2016

I actually run a few accounts for a company and ebay constantly steals money from them, letting buyers keep 2,000 dollar products. If the conpany didnt make a mil a day theyd be upset about it..but it worries me that ebay does this to people who barely scrape by..ebay can rot in hell and all of its employees

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 12:21:07 2016

I forgot to mention, even if you ask fir photos of damages, and the buyer refuses, ebay still sides with buyers.

Do NOT sell on ebay

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: minnie This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 12:48:01 2016

I have been selling on ebay since 2001.  I am a low volume seller, so I get very few returns.

Looking at my Seller Dashboard, my return rate is 0.79% for 2 out of 252 transactions.

I am a top rated seller, so I offer 30 day returns so I can get that extra 2% discount on FVF.  No one has ever returned an item that I did not send.

I do sell on another venue, but very few sales there, so I stick with ebay.  I did inquire with Amazon about selling, but I would have to retake all of my photos as they require WHITE backgrounds, and no mannequins to be used with clothing.  Too much work to retake all of my photos, so I'll pass.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 14:50:07 2016

Make it easy for yourself. When a buyer is not happy no matter the reason it is best you offer a full return. If they demand return shipping then that is what you will have to do. Anything else just gets you into hot water and product loss.

As for buyer ignorance that is rampant for electronics and clothing. I think if we could get the comedians started in making Ignorant Buyer jokes on stage, some folks out there might decide they don't want to be one of those kind.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Aug 1 15:32:17 2016

I liked eBay a lot better when they let me take care of my buyers and did not insert themselves into the situation.  I always took care of them.  I didn't need them sticking their nose into my business.

Filing a case against a seller without contacting the seller first does not engender goodwill but it appears to be what eBay wants.  Forcing a seller to pay for return when the seller has done nothing wrong (buyers remorse) also does not engender good will.

Perminate Link for New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware   New York Times Advises eBay Sellers to Beware

by: 27tcle This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 1 15:43:25 2016

There isn't a point of having no returns if all a buyer has to do is file a SNAD and get a free return anyway. Better off setting a reasonable return period to attract more customers instead and give them a chance to have the option open for making the right decision.

It also does not help that ebay makes sure buyers know they get FREE return shipping if SNAD is filed.

The worst screw i got was when a buyer bought stuff over the course of about a month, asked for a consolidated invoice on about 3K worth of stuff. On the day of delivery, he filed SNAD disputes on everything he bought. Lost the stuff I sold and the money. Got a box with scrap computer parts instead of the equipment he bought from me. I was extremely tempted to buy a airplane ticket...  

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This user has validated their user name. by: FEEbay

Mon Aug 1 16:08:37 2016

It truly sucks, but alot of folks on here do not seem to understand that doing biz on Ebay means taking alot of returns.... Like it or not, this is just "how it is"
Instead of fighting the customer, the NYT reader should have just taken the friggin' thing back, and saved himself the $$ and aggravation. This is the nature of E-Commerce in 2016, and it isn't a whole lot different on other marketplaces, or on your own site..... DEAL WITH IT, TAKE YOUR LUMPS, and MOVE ON....

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This user has validated their user name. by: FEEbay

Mon Aug 1 16:12:53 2016

@toolguy
On Ebay, our return rate is approx 4% ( we sell music gear like gizmo)
On our own site, it is less than 1%, and on other marketplaces such as Reverb, it is around 1.2%. I don't like it, but as other posters have said, we take the return in a polite manner no matter what, and move on.... There is no other way

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