I think everyone will enjoy this story. It's a long read but worth it in my opinion. It involves eBay allowing buyers to misrepresent their location, commit mail fraud, receive a refund (from eBay, not the seller), and leave negative feedback.
This transaction and experience was so frustrating and baffling that I wrote a physical letter to eBay headquarters and demanded an explanation. Surprisingly, I received a phone call from eBay's Office of the President and had an hour long conversation with a member of the office. His explanation clarified a few things for me, but mainly just left me frustrated and with no doubt that eBay will do everything in its power to protect buyers to the point of absurdity, while neglecting and punishing sellers.
Here is what happened:
9/13/13 - a buyer claiming to be from New Jersey buys a $150 basketball card from me; he pays and I ship the card from Massachusetts.
9/16/13 - USPS confirms delivery of the card in New Jersey.
9/27/13 - Buyer opens an eBay buyer protection case; I allow a return for a full refund despite having provided highly detailed scans. He mails back the card from South Korea, at which point I notice his account is registered in South Korea. I have my account set up to only accept buyers from the United States, meaning the buyer changed his location in order to receive the card.
10/7/2013 - Buyer (by mistake) closes the case before I receive the card back, and eBay erroneously sends me a message telling me that I issued a refund.
10/8/2013 - I pick the card up from the post office and discover the card has significant damage not present when I shipped.
The nature of the damage was such that it could not have occurred from my shipment from MA to NJ. The damage either had to have occurred between New Jersey and South Korea, or done intentionally by the buyer.
I contact eBay, who tells me because the buyer closed the case, I did not issue a refund, that I should not issue a refund, and there was nothing more I should do.
Also, the buyer's feedback shows that he has pulled similar stunts (intentionally damaging cards and then opening a case) on other sellers. If you wonder why a buyer may do this, it's because sports cards can decline in value rapidly if the player gets injured/traded/does not perform well. Buyers will attempt to return the card if it quickly declines in value.
10/9/2013 - I get a message from eBay telling me to send a refund or else there might be "further escalation." Confused, I respond to the message explaining the situation but get no reply.
10/10/2013 - Without ever receiving a message from eBay, I somehow appealed the buyer protection case, eBay reviewed the appeal, and rejected my appeal in the span of three minutes, all despite the fact that I was at work at the time I supposedly appealed the case.
10/14/2013 - Without receiving any sort of message from eBay or PayPal, eBay refunded the buyer and in the PayPal transaction details, eBay leaves a note that I did not have enough money in my account to refund (even though I did have plenty of funds to cover at the time).
10/28/2013 - Buyer leaves me negative feedback. I call eBay and am told the feedback cannot be removed because I lost the buyer protection case and lost the appeal.
At this point, I sent a long letter to eBay's corporate headquarters, addressed to their legal department, explaining the situation. I explained how the buyer is committing mail fraud by, among other things, misrepresenting his location, and how eBay is facilitating such fraud by giving him a refund.
A few weeks later I received a phone call from eBay's Office of the President - we spoke for an hour. He first acknowledged that many messages sent by eBay are confusing and make no sense (i.e. an e-mail saying I provided a refund to the buyer when I did not), and they "are working on that."
He explained that I was given some wrong information on the phone from an eBay representative - I did not lose the buyer protection case because the buyer closed it himself. eBay then let the buyer appeal the case that he had closed himself, and eBay granted him a refund (eBay provided the refund, not me).
Because eBay granted the appeal, this supposedly triggered eBay to open and close an appeal on my behalf (which still makes no sense to me and was not adequately explained).
Now for the part that really makes me angry: eBay tells me that his negative feedback cannot be removed. His negative feedback also made me lose my Top Rated Seller status and the 20% refund on final value fees that comes along with it.
Here was eBay Office of the President's explanation:
1) My feedback cannot be removed since the buyer was unhappy with his purchase. Feedback is an entirely separate issue from the buyer protection case.
2) If eBay found that the buyer violated eBay policy in connection with the purchase, the negative feedback he left would be deemed unwarranted and removed.
3) It is a violation of eBay policy to use a "middleman" - i.e. a buyer located in South Korea misrepresents that he is located in the United States, has the item shipped to a location in the United States where he does not reside, and then has someone in the United States ship the item to him in South Korea.
4) eBay (supposedly) did an investigation into this particular buyer and determined that he is not using a middleman or violating any other eBay policy. He told me that many buyers live in more than one country and can legitimately change their location.
Therefore, eBay made the determination that the following occurred: the buyer received the card in New Jersey on September 16. Instead of returning the card from New Jersey, he decided to bring the card with him to South Korea. Then, 11 days after he initially received the card in New Jersey, he decided to open a case with eBay and return the card from Korea (a much more expensive option than just sending it from New Jersey).
eBay determined that this occurred rather than the much simpler and logical explanation that the buyer had the card mailed to him from New Jersey to Korea (which, quite coincidentally, takes about 10 days). I pressed him and explained how ridiculous his explanation sounded, but he would not change his position or acknowledge how absurd it was. I also pointed to other feedback of the buyer which indicated he pulls the same stunt on other sellers, but was again just told that eBay's "investigation" pointed to no wrongdoing.
The representative mentioned to me on the phone that, in the non-eBay world, businesses must deal with unreasonable buyers and are not immune from negative publicity. While this is true, it is also eBay's job to protect its sellers from buyers who leave unwarranted feedback, and even more so to rid the marketplace of buyers committing fraud.
In this instance, eBay failed to do its job multiple times. Their determination that this buyer resided in the United States, received the card, brought the card with him to Korea, and then sent the card back, is naive and unreasonable.
As a result, I have received both damage to my reputation through negative feedback, and I have suffered financial loss as a result of my loss of Top Rated Seller status. To date, it does not appear as though the buyer has been sanctioned at all, and he continues to buy and sell.