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Monday, 08 July 2013


Three or four years ago, I was out on a golf course with a friend who'd been taking banjo lessons for a couple of years. He confided in me (his wife didn't know, and he wanted it to stay that way) that he'd just sent off money for a banjo advertised on e-bay that he'd lusted after ever since he started taking lessons. It was some exotic handmade thing that in the states would cost $3,000 or more, but he'd found a guy in Budapest who apparently didn't know what he had, and was selling it for only $700. My jaw almost dropped on my shoe-tops. I said, "Please, please tell me that you just didn't send $700 of to Budapest for a rare banjo." He had. The banjo, of course got lost in transit.

Here's where I get philosophical about my own experience with an eBay scam.


But at least the ending was happy for me. eBay refunded all my money.

I always check the credentials of a buyer or seller on EBay....if I don't find an adres I like (using Google Earth) no sale. If I sell pro stuff and I don't find a professional website (using Google) no sale. If I find an adres in Nigeria (no sale and I'm sorry for all the legit Nigerians who are co-vitimized).

Greets, Ed.

you should know that for new sellers e-bay (in fact paypal) does retain the money in escrow for 21 days. This is clearly explained in their rules and it is to ensure buyer protection, at least from first-time sellers; then it's up to the seller to build good feedback. I did sell a lens a few months ago and I only got my money after 21 days. However this only happend for the first sale, second time I sold something I got my money right away.


One of my favorite scams is:

"Double your IQ or none of your money back."

I would like to extend the words of caution regarding the seller rating, and recommend to also check if what they sell fits with their usual merchandise.

A friend of mine almost got scammed when she wanted to buy a used (but of course like new, and of course with 1 year warranty) camera from a seller in England (we're in Germany). He'd taken the camera off the site shortly after she'd mailed him with some questions, because he claimed he hadn't been sure if he wanted to sell it after all, but proposed to send it via a shipping company. They would send the camera to her after she sent them money, and if she was satisfied after seven days the shipping company would release the money to him. When she asked him to relist the item on Ebay, or said friends of her could pick it up, he ignored that.

At that point she asked me what I thought of the deal. The seller's shop had a very high approval rating, and her husband, who sometimes deals with overseas business, said it's not totally uncommon to do it that way, but it still felt a bit weird. When I looked at the Ebay page of the supposed seller, it turned out to be a small business that otherwise dealt in plumbing fittings and the like, and had a different email-address when I googled them than the one she'd been mailing with, even though it had been part of the listing. Also, at that point none of the camera and electronics listing she had seen earlier were on there anymore. It seemed like a scam to me, and she declined his offer.

It turned out that the shop's ebay-page had been hacked somehow, and a few listings for cameras had been made and taken off after a short time, presumably after enough contacts by interested buyers were collected. The camera models were kind of current, but not easy to find models (a Nikon D3s in her case), so people wouldn't have many offers to choose from, and of course had a good price. It took place in the evening, so the owners of the ebay-shop wouldn't notice anything amiss with their listings and couldn't be contacted by inquiring buyers, while the deal with the shipping company sounded just believable and kind of safe enough that some people might go through with it. The shop was, after all, rated as very reliable and safe.

So, words of caution: don't just check how other people rated a seller, but also if what they sell is consistent with their usual stock. And if anything of the deal seems slightly weird, or they try to propose a different way of business than is usual (especially after the fact, like what was an ebay-auction turning into some kind of relay-shipping-deal), step back and save your money.

My current gripe on eBay is about 85% of buyers seem to have lost the ability to leave feedback, no matter how much you do for them as a seller, it used to be a much nicer, more couteous, place a few years back.

I find e-bay best for all those little adapter things. Just got 3 step rings from China. The quality was good and they fit perfectly and the whole amount was about $11, a good deal. With the disapperence of the camera store there is little choice anymore for us old film dogs.

I apply the same maxim to buying on Ebay as I do everywhere else in life: if it seems too good to be true, it definitely is. I've bought pretty much every piece of gear I own via Ebay and gotten some great deals. (Including an 800 dollar Sigma lens the seller threw in on a body purchase because they thought it was broken...it wasn't.) But when I see something so cheap it can't possibly be legit, or someone wants to pay me "extra" outside of PayPal, I just move on.

As a seller, too, E-Bay has become a less secure place. I just recently sold a lens, or tried to. A week after completing the sale, payment received, item delivered and funds transferred to my bank account, the buyer called their credit card company to dispute the charge. I should have cancelled the transaction when the buyer asked me to ship to an address that wasn't her confirmed Paypal address (because it was a gift), but after confirming with the buyer through E-Bay messaging the request appeared genuine.

E-Bay was good enough to remove the charges for the auction, and PayPal is disputing the chargeback as I would seem to be in the right. The CC company is conducting an investigation and will have it completed in 70 to 90 days. For the moment it is siding with the buyer.

E-Bay now seems to be both buyer beware and seller beware.

I simply don't do online auctions. First living in Canada means dealing with Revenue Canada at the international border and secondly often the eBay price oftens ends up being a stupid high price after shipping costs
are added. Being within an hour's drive of the international border, many friends who purchae motorcycle parts, photo gear and similar on eBay and in the USA use a drop box service
and drive there to collect same for a US$5.00
fee. BTW most drop box addresses are commercial as many couriers can't
deliver to a post office box number.

Fill your car with cheaper US fuel, have some Buffalo Wings, and come back across.

Am amazed at the number of people who share
and use such a service usually out of the Buffalo NY area; understand similar operations are in Port Huron in Michigan.

Beware authentic-looking Second Chance Offers too. The tip-off here is that communication is expected via direct email, not through eBay.

A few eBay things:

Sellers who say they have not tested an item because they don't have a battery, or whatever. I have seen this said when another listing by the same seller featured the same camera with battery and charger. Either lazy or it doesn't work; either way not a good sign.

Lenses with "a few cleaning marks" need to be evaluated very very carefully. Same with "a little haze."

Any seller who has an email address in the listing and says to contact before bidding. These are inevitably frauds who have hacked into someone's account. You contact them, they offer an irresistable buy it now price off of eBay, but you must pay by wire transfer or whatever--and there goes your money. Often if you look at the "seller"s record you will find that they have specialized in antique buttons or something, then suddenly listed a whole raft of expensive tech and photo items, all with hotmail, yahoo, google etc disposable emails to contact before bidding. The new listings are from the hacking fraudster.

I've used eBay since the 90s, but as a seller do not bother anymore.

The 10% charges by eBay and their mandatory use of only PayPal is bad enough. They charge a fee even on your shipping costs.

I recently had a buyer keep and use a lens for about a week, and decide it was not as described, although they could not elucidate the discrepancy. I offered a full refund, but instead they logged a case with eBay.

I sent detailed proof to eBay that they had used my lens for some purpose for some extended time, damaged it, and tried to return it. eBay ignored everything I said and rules in favor of the buyer.

The buyer returned the damaged lens, eBay took the money out of my credit card. eBay completely ignored my arguments, and ruled for the buyer without any explanation.

Now I have a damaged lens, am out both eBay and PayPal fees (they refused to refund them) and out my original shipping costs.

I will go out of my way to avoid selling on eBay again. Buying- maybe. But selling, no.

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