Many sellers live by the maxim, if it isn't in writing, don't trust advice from an eBay customer service representative. We've read plenty of reports from sellers who say they've been burned by following advice offered over the phone that proved to be incorrect.
Now comes acknowledgement from an eBay moderator on the company's forums that many policies are not available in black and white on its site. A reader who forwarded the thread wrote, "Maybe I am wrong on my thinking, but if you are not able to find the rules anywhere in writing, how can you possibly follow them?"
The moderator, who often is praised for his helpfulness in resolving problems on the board, was participating in a thread in which a seller ran into difficulties and had their problem resolved. But the issue (involving returns) generated some interesting discussion about how to respond when such problems arise.
Here's the part of one of the eBay moderator's responses that our reader found troubling:
"As for your other point regarding policies not directly stated on the site, I can clarify that the vast majority of our policies are not publicly stated. This helps to minimize abuse of our protection programs, as those who seek to commit fraud are not able to exploit some of our procedures. Part of what I can help offer here on the boards is education and clarification when the written policies do not fit the specific situation. Every situation is different and unique and not every one will fit neatly under one procedure or another.
"When information is relevant, it is provided. Emails are sent with next steps for situations like this even though the details are not given on the help pages. Certain protections are available to sellers that would not be spoken of before they are needed, and at that time would be shared. This is a very common practice with various protection programs and while I can understand the desire to be knowledgeable on what to expect in a case, we are not able to provide all details about every process and also ensure the highest level of protection. Some things simply need to remain internal."
The reader said, "How are sellers ever supposed to be able to run a business on eBay when the vast majority of their policies are not publicly known? That makes it so eBay can just change the interpretation at will depending on the buyer and seller involved."
Before commenting below, read the entire thread
for context. The discussion is worth reading to see the kinds of problems that sellers encounter, how eBay deals with such issues, and what happens when the right eBay moderator gets involved. The specific post in question is #60.