Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Feb 12 2012 22:22:48

eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

By: Ina Steiner

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The Consumerist published a report of an online seller who claims he was duped by a bad buyer on eBay who purchased a gold coin, and told the publication he was a victim of the "empty package" scam:

The buyer emailed the seller after the package arrived, claiming "the envelope was empty." The buyer disputed the transaction though eBay, and, according to the seller, without speaking to him, eBay granted the buyer a full refund.

The package was sent UPS insured, but UPS needed to inspect the envelope in order to grant the claim. But, to make matters worse, the buyer won't cooperate. So the seller says he is out the coin and the money.

Could the seller could have done anything differently to avoid this nightmare in the first place? Let us know what you think, and what you think eBay should do in a situation like this.




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Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: Ron This user has validated their user name.

Sun Feb 12 23:15:44 2012

I always insure using a third party insurer, U-Pic, but they, and most insurers, will not insure precious metals.

In this case, there wasn't much else to do, but I would certainly sue the buyer and/or UPS in small claims court and the seller would most likely win.  It doesn't bode well for the buyer that they wouldn't co-operate with UPS in regards to the envelope.  And if UPS insured the parcel, then they can't put conditions on the seller that are out of the seller's control.  I do know someone else who insured with UPS and when they denied the claim, they sued them and won.  In general, judges tend to favour the small guy over a corporation.
eBay, of course, facilitates fraud, by making it very easy for scam buyers.  That being said, I believe that the law puts responsibility into the hands of the seller to ensure that an item is delivered with proof, so legally, eBay is off the hook.  But not ethically.  

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sun Feb 12 23:55:36 2012

Both eBay and PayPal work together to facilitate this kind of fraud. eBay and PayPal enable this kind of fraud on a daily basis without as much as a hint of an investigation on their part.

The seller should contact eBay's Trust and Safety department as well as PayPal's Security team in an attempt to determine if the buyer has an ongoing history of making these claims. While neither will publicly disclose if the buyer has such a history, persistence may pay off in the form of a reversal of the refund if one or both investigation teams determine the buyer has a history of making these kinds of claims and victimizing sellers.

That eBay and PayPal do not conduct such investigations before automatically acting against the seller by recovering payments is something both companies need to address.

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Mon Feb 13 00:09:30 2012

“That eBay and PayPal do not conduct such investigations before automatically acting against the seller by recovering payments is something both companies need to address.”

Ric, that sounds like you are asking eBay/PreyPal to use scarce and valuable human resources to actually do more than read off a script.

That’s never going to happen under the present management because the cost of the required human resources would affect their bottom line. No, better to use a simple computer algorithm: if buyer, you win; if seller, you lose.

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Mon Feb 13 01:46:09 2012

If the seller sends and insures through the Postal Service, then the buyer is guilty of mail fraud which could be a felony if they've made a false claim. The USPS Postal Inspector's Office will investigate, and the buyer could go to prison if found guilty.

Sending items through UPS, FedX, etc. and the buyer claims the box/envelope was empty isn't mail fraud and, for some reason, police departments don't take this type fraud and theft very seriously regardless of the amount.

If the buyer refuses to cooperate with the carrier's investigation, then NO refund should be issued and the buyer should be permanently NARUed.

Buyer refunds on INRs should be dependent on buyer cooperation and no disposition should be made until the carrier's investigation is complete.

This seller can file a small claims case against the buyer and UPS which will enable the seller to obtain any or all relevant records, policies, buyer history, buyer information, investigations, reports, etc. from ebafia and PreyPal via subpoena.

UPS will probably show up for small claims court, but the buyer likely won't in which case the seller can ask the court for a default judgement against the buyer and can order ebay/PayPal to return the seller's money.

Buyer's ID and personal information is now public information and newsof his or her conviction can now be posted across the internet as awarning to other scammers and to sellers as well.

Seller also now has accurate information to share that ebafia and PreyPal normally keep on double secret probation :-)

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: BetterThingsToDo This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 13 06:01:55 2012

Seller should contact police immediately and file a thief report.

Contact postal inspectors and file a report.

Forget Ebay as they don't care.

Botton line is never sell anything you can't afford to lose because aat some point in time Ebay and Paypal will conspire to take your money and item. They will smile all the way to the bank with your fees.

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 13 10:02:48 2012

''Both eBay and PayPal work together to facilitate this kind of fraud. eBay and PayPal enable this kind of fraud on a daily basis without as much as a hint of an investigation on their part.''

Never have words been said then are more true!

eBay's ONE and ONLY goal is happy buyers. Sellers are ALWAYS wrong unless they have concrete evidence that the buyer is in the wrong or that they buyer is outside the window of opportunity eBay gives them to defraud sellers.

As told to me many many many times - the ENTIRE proof of everything in an eBay sale is the responsibility of the seller (what eBay does in this process I dont know, and I dont think anyone does either).

Its the seller's job to find hot, cool merchandise at a cheap price to sell on eBay. Your merchandise too good? We VERO you!

Even if you have such merchandise - its YOUR responsibility to take all the pics, make sure the description is correct and that the listing is true. If you dont - we allow SNADs against you. I had a case where my listing was correct - but I included the stock catalog info - which was wrong! and I still lost the SNAD!

Its the sellers job to ship ASAP - and for free. If you dont we tax you with high FVFs! (never mind that on Amazon its 79.99 for PRIME - for 2 yrs free shipping - but why not just steal it from sellers?)

Its a sellers job to make sure the carrier you choose actually delivers. Stop your job and follow the UPS or USPS vans and make sure the customer accepts it and the delivery goes as it should. All insurance issues are the sellers, overseas items are not excluded - who cares if eBay pushes ''global commerce'' then takes your money and your item in an overseas transaction as the post office/customs there stole it or delayed it!  (damn you seller - get off your lazy @$$ and fly to Albania etc and make sure its signed for!)

Sellers are also supposed to make sure buyers are happy with thier purchase! The item is purple and not chartruce? SNAD! Oh, and they have 14 days and can get thier funds back - most times with out even returning the item!

Selling on eBay is a minefield - unlike Amazon, which is why eBay will never be more then they are, no matter how many small to mid level sellers they can.

The seller lost this one simply because eBay and Paypal LET him/her loose - the seller is ALWAYS wrong!

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: JohnGermaine This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 13 10:19:30 2012

I worked at one of those pack and ship stores for over 6 years and was told that the only entity who will insure coinage is USPS and it needs to be sent Registered Mail to have said coverage. Why is ANYONE still selling at evilBay?

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON THEM ALL! This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Feb 13 10:39:13 2012

Re: Pace306
"Even if you have such merchandise - its YOUR responsibility to take all the pics, make sure the description is correct and that the listing is true. If you dont - we allow SNADs against you. I had a case where my listing was correct - but I included the stock catalog info - which was wrong! and I still lost the SNAD!"

YEP, back when I bothered with ebay much I had many ACTUAL pics of the real life item sitting in front of me in my photo booth.

I then included a 'manufacturers' pic in the string of 12 pictures showing the items use installed on/in an engine - Even had a disclaimer SAYING the manufacturers pic was there for 'show use' only...

Sure as hell a buyer (only 1 out of many, many sold thankfully) claimed he thought he was bidding on/buying an entire high end LS1 Corvette ENGINE for $12.99 shipped?!

I very honestly thought the guy was just kidding around (who wouldn't have?!) but lo and behold he filed against me when I offered a refund upon return of the part if he wasn't happy with it but refused to: "Ship him the engine/motor' he won" as he demanded... L.O.L.!

Now the REALLY hilarious part - Ebay actually took the full amount of time allowed to find in my favor and held the funds that entire time and THEN REFUSED to remove the claim form my record...
What a joke.

Very small amount of money we're talking about but it's the mentality of ebay at question here... That and the fact that they will, 99.99999% of the time side with the BUYER no matter how honest an ad the seller places, no matter how fast they ship the item, no matter ANYTHING - As others have said - if you're the seller -YOU'RE SCREWED, PERIOD.

Just another of many, MANY reasons I do very, very little of anything on that criminally minded site these days, right?

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 13 10:47:42 2012

The one key thing that can be done to most fairly handle these cases is that eBay should require the buyer to cooperate with the shipping insurance company or carrier in order for the seller to recover their losses in cases like this.

If the buyer refuses to cooperate with the seller in filing an insurance claim with the carrier chances are very good the buyer is trying to hide something.

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: Henry This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Feb 13 10:59:56 2012

I had a guy do this to me a couple of years ago.  I reported him to the internet fraud department.  Surprise I got the item back within 3 days.  No one wants the internet fraud group after them. I reported him to eBay's trust and safety dept not through customer services.  I also blocked him from all future purchases.

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: TheCuriousPhoenix This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 13 11:15:48 2012

It is well documented, over and over again, that eBay has been doing everything it can (courtesy of its lovely CEO) to drive away anyone who is not a big company selling junk.

At some point (just like with an abusive partner in any relationship), it is time to say "enough abuse", pack your bags and go elsewhere.

Bonanza.com became my new home last April. Fees are lower and sellers are welcomed and supported by other sellers (who will actually answer questions or give help!).

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Feb 13 11:17:59 2012

In some cases envelopes and boxes do show up missing content! I'm so glad as my usual USPS driver showed up one day hold a big box up on his shoulder tossing it around as if it were empty. I told him flat out that I didn't think there was a sewing machine in that box and he agreed as it weighed too little. Amazingly enough, everything but the machine was in the box including the power cord and cover. During a bad storm when mail had been backed up at a warehouse for a week someone had gotten into the box and stole the machine and retapped it shut. The listed weight was different as the UPS guy knew very well, etc. Thankfully it was insured and the UPS paid out the insurance promptly and picked up the box. But it sure was weird. To top that story off, tried buying the same type of machine from a different dealer and ended up getting sent the wrong machine in a lightweight box that got crushed in transit. I have also had complaints 10 days after sending out a pattern that the instructions were missing. This was before USPS via endicia put 3oz down for all small rectangle packages. Seeing what the actual mailing weight was, I KNEW that somewhere the lady had spilled them out of the envelope at her own house as the pattern couldn't have weighed what the scale had said if they were missing when sent. This is really not a case for ebay to be making decisions about who was right and wrong. Ebay has taken over and stopped allowing people to be mature and discuss problems by it's instant refunds, etc. I always give sellers a chance to fix their mistakes and I always refund when I make a mistake, but at times I expect the buyer to deal with their own created problems.

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: Red Ink Diary This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 13 11:49:37 2012

Seller has buyers name and address, the crime needs to be reported. Depending on the value of the coin it may be a felony.

Evidence that the envelope was not empty would include the shipped weight of the package (as buyer did not claim he was shipped something else.)

A useful Department of Justice link describing how to report and where to report:

http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/contact/report-fr
aud.html

I
would notify buyer by certified mail return receipt that a report has been filed.

I would also check to see where a small claims court action should be filed, at sellers location or buyers.

One more thought, although buyers refusal to allow UPS to inspect is suspicious, it is possible package was tampered by UPS employee.

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 13 13:15:22 2012

My post was just a general warning to sellers who dont understand, dont yet ''get it'', or whom are willfully ignoring how the ''new'' ebay works.

When selling on todays eBay, you need to know - you have to protect yourself as much from eBay as you do the customer.

Most customers are good people who just want what they ordered delivered in a timely fashion. But there's a group out there that uses eBays antiseller rules to help themselves to FREEbays - with complicity by eBay and Paypal.

Its shame that eBay works against its own sellers - the people who actually pay the bills - but that is the new eBay.

Large merchants, buying groups etc are the ones that get the attention, the ones that dont have to play by the rules, the ones who get to make up rules as they go along, the ones that collude with eBay to use VERO to remove honest sellers etc. All this is known, but it hits hard at home when you call them and expect abit of fairness - and you get stepped on.

I protect myself from eBay as much as I can - by trying to do as much off ebay, Amazon, Buy.com etc as I can. Helping eBay get rich only hurts me - as they appriciate NOTHING.

eBay isnt your partner, your friend, the landlord in some mall you rent space from, your old college roommate etc - they are a large entity that uses sellers to enrich themselves - most times at your detriment.

Yes, sell on eBay - but understand how the game is being played.  

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: BonzSeller This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 13 14:29:39 2012

And this is another reason I stopped selling on Feebay, years ago. I quit selling there clear back when they changed the feedback system to where a seller could ONLY leave positive feedback. And hearing more and more of these types of situations happening just reaffirms my convictions to NOT sell on that site !

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: smithy713 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 13 15:08:11 2012

I work for one of the largest sellers of coins on ebay.  Here is how we do it.  Domestically(USA) we ship everything USPS and self-insure up to $500 and everything $250 and above with required Signature Confirmation.  Anything $500-3000 we ship USPS with Signature Confirmation and insure through Shipsurance which is a 3rd party insurer.  We used to use U-pik but their claims service was terrible.  Before that we insured with USPS insurance which took months to settle claims.  Shipsurance is awesome.  Anything $3000+ we ship via-Fed Ex and insure through G4Si.  All shipments above $250 we box(250lb Crush-test Uline) and strap tape so they cannot be tampered with.  All shipments above $1000 we double box and strap tape then brown reinforced kraft-tape.  All international shipments up to $500 we insure through shipsurance and any above $500 we fed-ex and insure through G4Si and charge our customers appropriately for international and we have to sell them on the value of it since it is more expensive.  Every month I get at least one customer who pulls the ''My tracking number says the package is delivered but I don't have the coins,'' thing on us.  Some of them are honest and we usually find that the mail person simply left it with a neighbor or on a back porch or something but here's how I fight the ones playing games:  I immediately inform them I am going to call their local police.  If it is a certified coin I tell them I am going to call the certification company and report that numbered coin stolen so they can seize it if it ever shows up at a coin show or someone's dealership.  Just the mere mention of ''Police,'' and ''Reported Stolen,'' and I usually end up getting an email from the customer a few hours later saying ''Oh we found the coin it turns out our son got it this morning when he went out to get the mail.''  Lol.  Yup of course he did!  In 7 years of selling on ebay, amazon, and our own site shipping up to 2000 packages per month we have only had 12 insurance claims and lost only 2 paypal claims.  I would think if the item shows delivered paypal would have had to back you because of the seller protection agreement especially since you sent it UPS which should require a signature especially if it is insured?  I think there might be more to the story?  In either case I would never ship UPS as they are terrible.  I've seen more stuff smashed and damaged by UPS than any other shipper.  One of those 12 claims we had was a UPS shipment and it cost $1200 and after that we stopped using them because we had too many customers receiving damaged merchandise. I would also plan ahead and create a self-insurance system for yourself in your ecommerce business and jack up the price of every coin you are selling $1.00 and keep those Dollars in a reserve account in case something like this happens again.  It's bound to happen again anytime you start selling alot of stuff online.  Consider it a cost of doing business.

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: Tired of eBay's Bullsh*t This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 14 13:13:30 2012

@smithy713 (just above)

Great advice, I agree. Though I ship UPS-only and I think UPS is great (way better than USPS).

I would also suggest:

• Add a line to your Terms of Sale that if buyer does not cooperate with carrier regarding insurance claim, then buyer agrees to assume the loss.

• Also, a line stipulating YOUR locality for legal proceedings might come in handy, should you ever have to sue. Which, it seems to me, is your only recourse in this case. And, since buyer left you neg FB, your lawsuit can stipulate extra big damages (beyond the item value). Sue the bastard !

• The fact that buyer is trying to extort money just to talk to UPS ... I would think this would help you win any court case.

• This won't work for many sellers, but: Don't list a phone number. Make your buyers communicate with you via email. Yeah, you may lose some buyers with no listed phone, but having all communication in writing can really help in any sort of dispute.

• If you ship easily pilfered items like coins, you might want to get a roll of "security tape", check the Uline catalog. OTOH, this will attract attention as to value of contents (driver+employee attention, etc), but ... you gotta trust somebody, and at least, in the very unlikely chance that driver opened+pilfered a box, well, you have the cut security tape (assuming your buyer is legit and cooperates)

• It is, btw, perfectly understandable that UPS wants to meet the buyer and inspect the box. How else can UPS discourage fraud? My guess is that when UPS inspects the box that they also get the buyer to sign an affidavit stating that box was empty upon arrival. Just that requirement probably scares off most scammers that are trying to scam the carrier on insurance.

... but, your buyer, refusing to show UPS the box ... an obvious red flag that the guy is a crook.

Good luck. And I hope that you'll let AB know how it all turns out in the end. I, for one, would like to know.

Thanks
- Tired of eBay's Bullsh*t

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: Fruity This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 14 13:14:13 2012

Yup report ebay and the buyer to the Secret Srvice. THey investigate coins you know! I bet you didn't know! Call ebay and paypal up, tell them to give you back your money or you're going to report them to the SS. They have a specific division that handles currency! lol

Perminate Link for eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope   eBay Dispute - The Case of the Empty Envelope

by: mh53egod This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Feb 6 21:54:39 2014

Wish there was a FREE website for you to compile all of the "assumed" addresses that report empty/broken boxes or packages??
http://www.dbsbyhutch.org/emptybox/emptybox.html
Now there is. Get it started.



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