December 08, 2011

More on EBay Seller Misrepresentations -- EBay Backs Sellers Up Regardless

Yesterday I talked about how eBay has backed up a seller who sold me a Size LARGE coat which tied closed with a belt in the photos.. except that the belt is Size SMALL and won't actually close the coat on a size LARGE person: me.

Interestingly, EBay's phone reps said that it was my fault, that I didn't ask if the belt was a size large, even though the first and subsequent photos show the coat with a belt tied around it and the listing said the Coat was a Size LARGE. Any reasonable person would assume the WHOLE coat was a size LARGE.. not just parts of it.


So in thinking about this, I was reflecting back on an in-person interview eBay did with me this summer, as a regular customer. Basically, they wanted help figuring out what was working with eBay and Paypal, and what wasn't. And they wanted to talk about how to make eBay more like Amazon.

One of the things I commented on was that while I buy a lot from eBay, it does happen about 5% of the time that a seller misrepresents the item. They didn't seem to flinch over that figure. But I said "...EBay makes it safe to shop there, because they protect buyers with "buyer protection" where you immediately send the item back to the seller..." (i did in the coat case, send the item to Boca Raton, FL, and in fact in past cases eBay has scolded me for not sending the items fast enough back to the seller.. as in, when I call eBay, the item should already be in the mail back to the seller, with tracking and insurance... I shouldn't wait for eBay to tell me to send the item back.. I typically use FedEx ground for returns). I did in this case immediately return the item to the seller, and told eBay in writing as i described the problem, as well as over the phone.

What's interesting though is that based upon the user interviews they did with me this summer, they would like to compete with Amazon. Amazon has a seller's program and my response to this was as follows:

If eBay wants to do what Amazon does, have a fleet of sellers with high volume sales, then eBay will have to create a lot more consistency with returns for misrepresented items (again about 5% of items I've purchased are misrepresented.. this coat thing is the first time though that eBay has refused to honor buyer protection and told me the seller's misrepresentation was the buyer's (my) fault).

I also said that eBay would have to get much more consistent on requirements for the listings from sellers, that sellers would have to be held to better account as Amazon does for items and descriptions, because eBay sellers routinely try to hide things. For example, i purchased a new La Perla bra from someone two months ago. The seller managed to only photograph part of the bra and left out the flaw. The flaw was that the straps were sewn on backward and therefore didn't lay flat, but instead were twisted. It cost $10 to have it repaired at a tailor, or $10 to return it. The seller didn't care and refused to do anything about the problem and frankly it wasn't worth the fight, even though i sent photos to the seller of the flaw. So I took it to the tailor and ate the $10 fix. But in that case, the seller clearly photographed out the very top if the straps so that the twisted nature of them could be hidden from buyers.

That would never fly on Amazon, as Amazon would require the item be returned and refunded, no questions asked. In this case, I did pay 50% of full retail for the bra, a price very much in line with Amazon sellers. But given the fix verses send back prices, it wasn't worth the fight with the unscrupulous seller. You can bet that from now on, anything like that I'll be buying at Amazon, not eBay.

There is no way eBay is going to encroach on Amazon territory when seller misrepresentations like this are routine at eBay, and eBay doesn't protect buyers. If 5% of all eBay transactions are like mine, where sellers try to pull a fast one, as Kathy Don (sempaidon) did on the coat with the belt that is too short, or the La Perla Bra seller did with a new but "second" or flawed garment (twisted straps), or for that matter, the Tod's purse that was a vinyl fake that the seller insisted was real, or the opened and used "new" bottle of Furterer shampoo, buyers won't purchase at eBay, but they will at Amazon. I just don't see eBay being safe for buyers now that sellers who misrepresent are backed up by eBay. There is so much slippery seller action going on at eBay. Buyers have to be very very careful.

Additionally, the eBay representative yesterday said that I couldn't rely on photos with the listing, to show what I was getting. That I had to ask questions about the photos, and that my email with the seller verifying that the photos were correct was all I could rely on. That's the biggest shocker of all, that eBay no longer requires sellers to provide what is in the photos. That if the photos don't match, buyers are out of luck.

Or, buyers could shop at Amazon and feel secure about buying discounted items from sellers there.

I may still use eBay but will be even more careful now, since I have to suspect that even the most thorough listings may be filled with potential fraud, as was Kathy Don's listing saying that her sized LARGE coat would fit (and close) on a LARGE body, when in fact the closure belt doesn't tie on a Size LARGE.

Be warned, eBay is no longer protecting buyers against sellers who misrepresent items like Kathy Don did. I no longer recommend to people they purchase through eBay unless they are very experienced eBay buyers and do a ton of email before each purchase, to verify all aspects of a listing, INCLUDING ALL ASPECTS OF THE PHOTS, even if the seller has stated many details in the listing and in the photos.

Posted by Mary Hodder at December 8, 2011 08:41 AM | TrackBack
Post a comment

Remember personal info?