Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue May 3 2016 15:46:26

Is eBay Money Back Guarantee Patently Unfair to Sellers?

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay's Money Back Guarantee may inspire confidence in shoppers and thereby boost sales on the marketplace, but a recent article in UK Newspaper the Guardian says the way eBay enforces the policy is not always fair to sellers.

"Critics claim the auction website's measures to protect buyers from dodgy transactions have left sellers at the mercy of fraudsters who can manipulate the system to effectively steal goods," it wrote.

It includes itself among the critics, writing, "We have been telling eBay that it has a serious problem for years." It explains, "Although eBay's own rules require buyers to send disputed items back, refunds are in many cases released before this happens - or after damaged or substitute goods have been returned."

One reader had some criticisms of the article. For example, the reader said a seller cited in the story "was wrong to sit back and do nothing. The wait and see attitude on eBay will rarely work out."

And regarding the statement above about eBay refunding buyers before they've sent back an item, the reader said, "That is misleading without a more complete explanation. Again, (the seller mentioned in the article) did nothing and let the claim time out. So eBay ruled in favor of the buyer and refunded."

The reader continued: 

"If a seller responds and reacts to a claim as they should from the beginning, what happened here is not necessarily how it would have ended. Yes, eBy does refund a buyer sometimes and allows them to keep the item as well. That is usually with a low dollar value item or something that is deemed a fake.  

"Most times when eBay refunds for a lower dollar value item, the seller is not even charged for it. This is a more involved subject than this article leads one to believe."

According to the article, eBay is now going to do something about these problems, and describes a pilot program that appears to be the same as the one described in this Newsflash article.

However, the newspaper writes, "just how impartial will eBay's pilot programme prove to be when the company lives in such dread of losing a buyer, however damning the evidence against them?"
If you've had experiences with eBay's Money Back Guarantee, do you think it was fair to sellers? And have you been able to participate in the new pilot program that provides sellers with broader options for resolving issues with buyers who choose a "not as described" reason for the return, when the actual reason may be different? What would you do if you were eBay?




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Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Tue May 3 17:00:33 2016

Glad to see the Guardian reporting on this.  I wish more large newspapers would report on the many ways that eBay mistreats sellers but most newspapers these days do not report the facts because they live in fear of losing advertising dollars.

Moreover, a Michael Moore or an investigative reporter that has the same level of enthusiasm as he does for digging up the dirt would have a field day with eBay.  

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 3 18:46:16 2016

Ebay's operation is criminal at best and if the so called powers in control in washington had any gonads they would be doing something about it. Until then its business as usual at Ebay. We don't care what they do anymore.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 3 20:07:51 2016

Everything on eBay is unfair to sellers, and it was designed like that on purpose.

It's rigged since no matter what you do as a seller you will loose.

eBay doesn't require items come back complete as they state on their own help pages.

eBays openly stated the need buyers not sellers and since eBay is in the advertising business more then ecommerce - they panic when any buyer walks since less eyeballs equals less advert dollars.

Of course you always escalate it or LMAO ask eBay to step in and "help" you risk getting a black mark on your account.

I've been here since 1998 and ive never won. My buyers have said the most outlandish things and eBay just goes along with it.  

The paper is right, like politics the game is rigged.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Tue May 3 20:39:18 2016

It is an interesting article.  All the sellers issues described [except for the first seller in the article] had real issues with the return / refund process.  The first seller talked about in the article really has no one to blame but themselves.  By their own admission, they did nothing on the claim.  They did not attempt to make work with the buyer or anything.  They just allowed the claim to time out.  

Ebay has enormous room for improvement on this subject.  The Money Back Guarantee isn't written badly at all in my opinion.  And it isn't a guarantee, so the name is misleading.  But that is nothing new with Ebay.  

The problem is how Ebay applies the policy.  They are inconsistent and often times don't even follow the rules as written on the site.  That is a real problem.  And it once again boils down to how inefficient Ebay is in training their CSRs.  Some are horribly inadequate.  Any trainer paying attention to those they are teaching would know they weren't grasping the concept.  Yet these ill trained people hold the keys to resolving many claim issues.

In the arena of policies and member to member transactions issues, it comes down to two things three things Ebay could do to vastly improve the problems.

1.  TRAIN their CSRs properly.
2.  Write their policies clearly and concisely.  
3.  Apply the policies evenly and as supported by the written documentation / policies.

I know there is much more that needs to be fixed on Ebay, but if they just started here and fixed this, many of the problems would disappear.

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This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Wed May 4 00:14:39 2016

I am in favor of a paid third-party arbitration system and a caveat emptor business model. And without 2-way feedback there can be no caveat emptor. So essentially, we are at the mercy of eBay's arbitrary (and often unilateral) implementation of 'fairness.'  

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by: The Not So New Guy This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 4 01:11:06 2016

We've won and lost some, and we fight every one when we are in the right.

Last experience was the worst. Buyer purchased a new in box notebook battery. A week after arrival he claimed it was DOA. A replacement was offered but he wanted a refund. A few back and forth messages, and we accepted the return. Battery that was returned was not the serial number we shipped. We complained to eBay. They told us since they couldn't see it when it shipped they had no way to know what we shipped, and since they couldn't see the return they had no way to know what came back. The whole thing was a joke. They told us to file with local law enforcement and some other BS. They stated that unless we could get the buyer to admit they sent back a different item we were out of luck. We opened a BBB case, not much help there but at least there would be another complaint and a record of what happened. They gave us the same baloney at the BBB level to file a case with the local law enforcement and all that nonsense. We sent a final email to the buyer indicating that since he didn't reply to any of the prior messages we'd be filing a criminal complaint with his local pd and po. Amazingly the guy replied, said he had no idea the batteries were serialized, and had accidentally sent back the old battery even though the new one was dead. We sent that email to eBay and they gave us back our money. The buyer offered to send back the other battery still saying it was doa. Since eBay paid for it we said keep it. Whether or not he was a scam artist is still up for debate, but at least we didn't lose anything on it. But the show of process from eBay showed the clear flaw in the system.

The fact is that if you want to scam a seller you can simply order something, send back a piece of junk, and as long as it's say $300 or less, no one is going to investigate anything and you'll get to keep it free.

Of course on the other side of this are many unscrupulous sellers that don't care. Case in point, we ordered something, was delivered in the rain by the carrier. Have video footage of carrier leaving the package in the pouring rain. There was insurance on the package, we notified the seller, who didn't care. All we asked was he file the claim. He tried to tell us we needed to do it which is baloney as we all know. After a case was opened, he took another week to file the claim. He filed it, he got paid, and no refund for us. Had to escalate the case just to get a refund.

So not only isn't the system perfect I don't actually think it really works for anyone. Most especially it seems to fail when there are bad people on either end. It's definitely a flawed system with zero oversight.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed May 4 01:34:08 2016

I do wonder how a 'reader' knew so much about the case? Where yes, it seems the seller in the first instance didn't do everything he could, he went by his ebay instructions. Sounds a bit new and not up to date with ebay shenanigans!

I can't believe what ebay lets buyers get away with, that is for sure and then the nonsense of 'we can't see what the buyer returned so we have to believe him' instead of their own seller with 100% feedback or close to it. Yeah, most sellers want to spoil their reputation by sending someone beets (unless of course they bought some beets). I hope it was a raw one and not one out of a can because that would have been messy and leaking all over the place. It is insane! When ebay first started everyone was on the honor system and it worked out well enough that what had been a small group buying and selling became a huge worldwide vast corporation and they sure didn't get that way by not supporting their sellers. That was why I left during Meg's reign of terror. Too many lies and too many rules. From the sounds of it JD and now Wenig, Meg was apparently a pussycat and I was getting ulcers during her time!

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

Wed May 4 05:10:41 2016

Regardless of the Guardian article, it is most unlikely that eBay will ever change its "spots"—other than to respond positively to the individual cases that are taken up by the media.

Regrettably, the major media has better things to do than do the job that eBay should itself be doing but is never going to do because they simply will not invest in the human resources necessary to do so, when a simple, poorly written eBay algorithm can "do the job" for zero cost. eBay will always limit the its human resources to that barely sufficient to promptly respond to the occasional cases taken up by the media.

eBay is so demonstrably corrupt, eBay deserves to have their whole clunky system audited by an independent, court appointed special master; then, maybe, something might change ...

Unfortunately, the demonstrable reality is, eBay is likely the most unscrupulous commercial entity operating on this planet; but, have no fear, eBay is an equal-opportunity fraudster; they will knowingly aid and abet the defrauding of buyers by unscrupulous eBay merchants who bid on their own auctions, and, conversely, the defrauding of honest sellers by unscrupulous buyers—as long as there is a financial benefit in such fraud for eBay. The only fraud that concerns eBay is fraud that directly affects eBay ...

The eBay executive suite—where the incompetent mingle with the disingenuous, the unscrupulous, the malevolent, the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid. ...

For a detailed analysis of the ugly reality of eBay’s calculated facilitation of endemic shill bidding fraud on consumers on its auctions marketplace, see http://bit.ly/11F2eas

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

Wed May 4 05:15:43 2016

Hal Lawton, head of eBay North America, announced the program on the eBay corporate blog. "Since the very beginning, the story of eBay has been the story of entrepreneurs taking a dream and turning it into a business - starting with our founder, Pierre Omidyar, whose idea for an online buying and selling website became the global marketplace that never sleeps. In a sense, the Shine Awards are about going back to our roots and celebrating the very spirit of eBay. I couldn't be more excited."

http://www.ecommercebytes.com/cab/abn/y16/m05/i03/s01


Fortunately,
it’s always been easy to tell when an eBay/PayPal spokesperson is being disingenuous—their lips are moving ...

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed May 4 07:22:27 2016

How many times have we heard them say "we are going back to our roots"......and they never do.  In fact, they do just the opposite.  They really do live in some sort of fantasy land.

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by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 4 08:12:17 2016

"Not always" fair to sellers? Try NEVER fair! A money-back 'guarantee' effectively voids any pretense of fairness when it comes to arbitrating SNAD disputes. feeBay was positively awful on those to begin with. Sellers knew they were gonna get porked on SNAD's. The 'guarantee' made it official.

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by: ElevenPastEleven This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 4 08:58:51 2016

To be fair, Amazon's policies have a similar effect in holding the door wide open to unscrupulous buyer behavior.

While there's little that can be done to change these policies, sellers CAN minimize their risk by being proactive and vigilant in how they handle each situation. Having contingency plans for the most common scenarios is important, as is the ability to remain professional.

No one likes to be scammed, but it's part of the reality of doing business, and no business model will ever be completely immune from it. A smart seller will analyze the risks and leverage them with the benefits, and would either build the loss into their plans, or stop selling on the platform if they find it unfeasible or unacceptable.

In my personal experience, these sites provide easy sales and access to new markets, and ultimately have always more than made up for the loss of revenue from bad buyers. At the end of the day, the big picture makes things clear.

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by: HRT This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 4 09:30:11 2016

I have been eBay-free since April 19. I moved my vintage business entirely to Etsy, and couldn't be happier. I could no longer afford to do business on eBay. I have had just 3 returns on Etsy over the past year, and the buyers paid the shipping both ways, returned the actual item, and I got to handle the whole transaction as if I were actually running my own business. What a concept.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 4 09:45:11 2016

Since this is my "favorite" eBay topic - I'll burden Ina's servers with yet another comment ....

As a seller since 1998 (one with a PERFECT record BTW) I can only say - "there isnt ONE part of eBay that isnt fraud/criminal/usury/or theft oriented"

I DARE anyone (not you TOOL - sit back down) to prove the opposite.

When you log onto eBay for the first time - they TELL YOU UP FRONT - that they are going to defraud you. They explain that even though you pay for the listing "they may not at their whim - show it". There are NO guarantees if or even when or where it  will show ... "click here to agree and continue".

So out of the box, you are getting scammed. Yes we ALL continue - because as human beings, we cant grasp the fact that a major corporation that "wants our business" would rip us off.

But thats HARDY the end of it is it?

eBay not only condones fraud & theft - they encourage it.

From fake Pan Am bags, to allowing counterfeit items on site, to allowing picture theft form manufacturers and other sellers, to putting ads in the listings you pay for - it goes on and on.

The mafia steals with clubs, the Triads with Tec 9's, and the Yakuza with folded steel, eBay however, steals with Paypal.

No other business could operate under the conditions that eBay expects sellers to.

The BS line of "taking losses is ok since its part of business" is Alice In Wonderland FANTASY.

You have car insurance in case you crash or get hit.

You have homeowners insurance in case of fire/theft.

You have health insurance in case of illness.

Human beings dont like loss and spend time and effort to mitigate it ... unless you call eBay CS, where they tell you to just blindly accept it ... 'cause selling on eBay is so amazing that its OK.

I wonder why retail stores - of ANY kind have security guards - isnt taking losses OK?

Try buying a 60" 4k tv from Best Buy and returning a 5 yr old 22' LCD tv and see what happens. Watch as the security guard escorts you from the building.

BTW - try that routine on Amazon and see how far it gets you.

With 11,000 employees - surely eBay can do better then "well, if you say you accpet returns you have to take ANYTHING back", no ?

I've said it 1000x and I'll say it again - when you have people like Hal, Jordan, Wenig JD - all people with ZERO experience in ANY kind of commerce - this tripe is what you get.

Philip is right (again). As long as the loss(es) arent out of eBays pocket - they could care less.

So you loose money - so what? They dont care. If they dont care about VERO games, if they dont care about copyright infringement (%99 of the pics in the Watch category are copyrighted as an example), they will HARDLY be concerned with "your little loss".

They know full well that not everyone can go to Amazon, Jet or Walmart. TRUST ME - if everyone here could (and walk away from eBay %100) they would - myself included.

If EBAY had to back up its MBG program with ITS money, things would be ALOT different. But its a sellers money and thats free - so why care? why care at all?

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Wed May 4 09:55:40 2016

@pace306

"As a seller since 1998 (one with a PERFECT record BTW)"

So what's your problem?

It's like you've been in 18 Indy 500's and won them all yet you're complaining.

What am I missing?

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by: Secret Seller This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed May 4 10:43:18 2016

Look at here feedback she has been scamming the system for a while  http://feedback.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback2&userid=k
ayla5392&ftab=FeedbackLeftForOthers

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 4 11:41:43 2016

Tool - ur missing common sense but more then that, that eBay treats its sellers unfairly.

They start out at a disadvantage and it gets worse from there.

I don't steal "from you" why should a company I do business with, a company I pay fees to month after month, help random buyers steal from me?

What did I do to deserve that? Can a seller have a better record then %100?

I went from 30 to 14 to no days in returns to protect myself, and eBay thinks that my protecting my business is wrong and that it deserves to be punished.

EBays policy of take back anything regardless isn't grounded in any kind of reality.  

I want a honest forthright business partner not a criminal enterprise.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Wed May 4 11:49:02 2016

@pace306

Why would you offer No Returns when you know well that you'll take them anyways, eBay will force you to take them. And in fact with a No Return policy you'll lose your money and the item not to mention a lower place in search results.

I get less then 1 return a year out of 1300 sales.

eBay's been a GREAT business partner if you ask me, I couldn't ask for anymore except to end the FVF on shipping. That's my only complaint with ebay, It's not a fair policy to my heavy overweight tools.

Weight discrimination. . .

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Wed May 4 13:01:17 2016

@Secret Seller - I don't understand why this person keeps buying on eBay. Virtually every recent purchase doesn't work, the zipper is broken, or the item was the wrong color. It's also interesting to note that all the purchases shown after page two are okay. It's almost like this person read an article on how to scam sellers and put her new knowledge to work.  

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by: epuise This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 4 13:11:28 2016

IMHO "Shipping" that is, ACTUAL POSTAGE bought & paid for on the site, should NOT be refunded... it can NOT be... it was SPENT... the CARRIER has it... If a Buyer has to return an item to a B&M... there is NO 'compensation' for TRAVEL expenses... "Shipping" is a CONVENIENCE... getting item DELIVERED to one's door... A received item means the Customer HAS REC'D that "service", and, therefore, "shipping" should ONLY be 'reimbursed' IF the seller (and good sellers DO this): 1. feels the seller is at fault, or, the "loss" is covered by insurance (lost/damaged)... IF "buyers" want "free" shipping BOTH WAYS... then, eBay will NO LONGER be "the cheapest"... as PRICES must be INCREASED to COVER this COST to the seller.

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