A reader alerted us to a discussion thread where eBay solicited feedback about a certain change it had made, but only appeared to want positive discussion.
"eBay posted on the eBay Selling board about "Improvements to the iPhone Buying and Selling experience,"" the reader said. But as he explained, a moderator stepped in and cautioned that the discussion was getting off topic. "There were calls for attempts to stop the scamming in the iPhone sales arena," the reader told us. "It's like the Wizard of Oz saying ignore that man behind the curtain."
The eBay employee who started the thread explained he was looking for feedback
about an improvement to the iPhone buying and selling experience on eBay. The explanation of the change was confusing, and users quickly pointed out the dangers of selling expensive smartphones on eBay, particularly for new sellers.
Since eBay charges a commission fee, it encourages users - especially consumers - to sell their expensive gadgets on its site. But scammers are also attracted to eBay, and it has its share of "bad buyers" who target new sellers of expensive items.
In 2014, we pointed to an eBay marketing campaign called "Flip your phone for the win" that coincided with the launch of the latest Apple iPhone, and some of the challenges sellers encountered when selling iPhones. ("Is eBay Really the Best Place to Sell Your Used Smartphone?" was the title of the article.)
We cited sellers who called in to an eBay "Town Hall" webcast who described carrier-compatibility problem. "For instance," we wrote, "a buyer may seek to return a mobile phone that only works with AT&T because AT&T doesn't have coverage in their area, which results in defects against the seller and puts them at risk of losing their selling privileges."
Ironically, it appears the improvement described in today's thread soliciting feedback addressed that very issue. Buried in the poorly formatted post was the following:
"Apple creates multiple models of their iPhones that support different network technologies like GSM or CDMA. These network technologies determine which network carriers are supported on the phone. e.g. The iPhone X Model A1901 supports GSM only. This means that you cannot use Verizon or Sprint as the network carrier on that phone. To help sellers and buyers navigate through this complexity, we have updated our experience."
Regardless, forum posters zeroed in on what they thought was the most important issue; in the words of one poster, "The iPhone scams are rampant here and it needs to be addressed."
As eBay was trying to manage the discussion and was removing some posts from the thread, the very problem users were describing surfaced on the same board
in a different thread: a seller explained they were victimized by a buyer of the phone they had sold.
The seller said they had checked with eBay customer service about whether it was okay to ship the iPhone to a different address at the buyer's request and was assured by the rep eBay would protect them. (Some readers are now groaning, suspecting what's coming.)
Here's what happened, according to the seller:
"I shipped the item to the new address, and what would you know, the next day I get an email from PayPal that the buyer is trying to reverse the transaction because it was "unauthorized". I responded to the case, saying that the buyer requested me to ship it to the new address. PayPal closed the case in the buyer's favor because I didn't ship it to the address on file, HOWEVER, I did my due diligence and contacted eBay to make sure it was safe, and they told me it was, so how was I supposed to know better? So now, I'm out $400."
The initial response from the eBay customer service rep was infuriating to posters who wondered why the eBay rep didn't know about the scam and about the PayPal loophole and fully inform the seller. Said one poster:
"It's also a glaring omission on the part of the CS person to give eBay's blessing to the redirected shipment without even raising the possibility that either (1) it's the hallmark of a classic scam, or (2) the most likely payment processor (PayPal) is not going to protect the seller if it does indeed turn out to be so. Given that PayPal is holding the purse strings anyway, shouldn't the CS person have referred the seller to PayPal to answer that question?"
eBay is doing its best to attract new buyers to its marketplace, but if it doesn't have the customer service in place to protect those trying to generate some cash, is it throwing those marketing dollars away?