Monday, March 4, 2013

E-Commerce "Buyer Protection" A Scam

I've written before about how the buyer protection plan that the online auction giant (you know, the one that has become a four-letter household word) is designed to rip off sellers.

In that case I was parting out a Subaru I owned that needed a new wheel bearing, which unfortunately is a $600 job on that car, and the car wasn't worth $600. So I sold a few parts from the car prior to scrapping the rest. One of the items I sold was the alternator. The alternator had never given me any problem, and I re-tested it before selling it, just to make sure. When I listed it on the well known auction site, I priced it at half what other sellers were selling the exact same item for, and I also offered free shipping. Of course the shipping was not free for me; I had to pay for it which cut into my profit. I also had to pay a listing fee and a selling fee to the auction site, and the auction site owns the also well-known online banking service that is another household word. The auction site pretty much forces sellers to use their online banking, and there is another transaction fee for that "privilege." Bottom line: my profit for removing the alternator and selling it came to about enough to cover my fuel cost to take it to the post office. Since I was not making any money on it, I specifically did not offer a warranty on the part. Nevertheless, the buyer (who was a reseller, by the way) claimed that the alternator did not work, initiated a buyer protection case, and left me negative feedback. The auction site sided with the buyer. Well, actually, it's not quite that simple. The way it works is this: the seller has to answer the buyer protection case by selecting one of a very few choices. Non of the choices dispute the buyer's claim; all assume that whatever the buyer says is golden. What it basically comes down to is that I paid my money, time and effort to give the guy an alternator (that he in turn re-sold), and the only thing I got in return was negative feedback. Well, actually I got a bit of wisdom from the experience, because I scrapped the rest of that car intact, and have not listed anything for sale on the auction site since. After that experience, I did continue to occasionally buy items on the site, because I figured with a buyer protection plan like that, there was no way I could lose. Wrong again.  

I bought an outboard boat motor on the four-letter auction site back in January. The listing claimed it was in good condition. Still, just to be sure, before bidding I sent a message to the seller asking if it runs well. I got a reply back that it runs fine. Based on this and the "Buyer Protection" claims posted all over the auction site, I bought it. However, I did not use the auction site's online bank, because I object to being controlled like that. Ok, actually I used a card from another issuing entity, but even when you do that you have to do so through the auction site's online bank, so you still have to deal with that online bank.  

The problem
I found out, although the auction site is not forthcoming with the information, that their much-touted "buyer protection" is null and void if you elect not to allow their private online bank to hold and dispense your money, even though you must still pass the money through the online bank. They don't tell you that, until it is too late. So pay attention to this warning. So here is what happened: I waited three weeks for the motor to arrive, during which time the seller had my money. Finally I contacted the seller to inquire. Four days later, the motor showed up. The shipping tag showed that it had been shipped the day after I complained. The motor was poorly packaged and partially sticking out of the box. It was not crated; only shoved in a cardboard box. The spark plug was broken, and the air filter/breather was shattered beyond repair. That part is no longer available. But I decided, no biggie. I can easily fix those items. So I replaced the spark plug, put some fresh pre-mix fuel in the tank, turned on the fuel petcock, and tried to start the motor. No dice. It didn't even pop, so I removed the bowl drain screw from the carburetor. Nothing came out. I had to rebuild the carburetor, during which it became obvious that the seller lied when he claimed to have started and run the motor. After I rebuilt the carb, I tried again to start it. It started and barely ran for a few seconds, but had a severe knock as though it were just about to throw a rod. So I delved further into the engine and discovered that the flywheel was loose on the crankshaft, and both the crankshaft and flywheel were damaged. I contacted the seller, described the problem and asked for a fifty percent refund to partially pay for repairs. I knew that would not actually pay for it, but it would at least make me feel better about having bought a parts motor when I thought I was buying a usable motor. The seller agreed, saying that sounded more than fair. And that was the last I have heard from the seller. It has been over a week now, and the seller has neither issued a refund nor replied to further attempts at communication.

 Enter the Online Mafia
So this morning, I attempted to avail myself of the "Buyer Protection." Guess what I found out? In spite of heavy "buyer protection" ad hype, the auction site offers absolutely no recourse whatsoever to a buyer who did not pay out of an existing balance in their wholly owned online bank. This online auction site, including its online bank, does business in a similar manner to the Mafia. If you failed to give them full control of your funds, you might as well "shut up you face." Wow. I hope they don't send an enforcer after me for publishing this. That's why I didn't use their (the auction site's) four-letter name.


Anonymous said...

Thank You! You have confirmed for me my gut reluctance to buy and/or sell on that site. I had a very bad experience about 8 years ago in my first and only attempt to sell on that site. That was before their banking thing was pretty much the exclusive payment option. Now that it is, I will not even buy on that site...simply because in my gut I have never felt at ease about settig up the required account.
Also, since then I have come to believe more and more that buying locally is the way to go.
Again, many thanks for this post!

Anonymous said...

I used to do Ebay. Had a non-verified Paypal account which I funded via debit card. Good for me that way bc I don't think anybody needs to know who the buyer is as long as the seller gets paid.

Paypal froze my funds & tells me that they won't unfreeze without verified ID info. FU!.

Paypal is now an arm of the Justice Dept Financial Crimes Section for all intents & purposes. Guilty till proven innocent & no privacy.

So... I don't support those types of orgs. A classic example of business & gov't in bed together. FASCISM. I ain't sponsoring that.


Tracy said...

SNC, thanks for calling it what it is. Most people nowadays are afraid of that word, fascism. But if you look it up in a dictionary, that is exactly what it is.