Posted by: Splosher | 20/06/2010

In eBay sellers we trust

eBay and the collection of utter cretins that now dwell within its virtual confines have stripped away my very humanity over the last couple of weeks. Amid ever increasing examples of (un)intentional seller idiocy to contend with no matter where I’ve looked, I honestly believe my days on the world’s biggest auction site are now numbered. As I actually run eBay sites for a living and have done so for the last 5 years, the above statement is tantamount to making myself unemployed and back in the bosom of Job Seekers Allowance, which is not the most ideal situation I grant you. However, I feel I have the insight and understanding of selling and buying on eBay as a whole to comment upon some recent examples of moronic traders I’ve had to deal with within this silicon-based market place.

When committing to buying an item on eBay, I follow a few simple rules that have held me in good stead during the time I’ve spent propped-up and bleary-eyed in front of a monitor:

  1. Always read your intended item’s description fully, including postage costs and estimated time of delivery, then re-read it again to make sure;
  2. Find and watch similar items to the one you intend to purchase and in doing so, you can see any price reductions happen if a seller’s eager for a sale, thus comparing against others;
  3. Avoid any “newbie” seller, i.e. a new eBayer who has a zero or single figure feedback score;
  4. And following on from new sellers, make sure you check a seller’s feedback score before committing to buy: this is the single most important action you should undertake if planning to part with your money.

Let’s say you find two sellers who’re offering the same item at the same rate, so after checking the postage options and delivery times, there’s really no reason to pick one over the other. This is where checking of feedback comes into its own and was implemented for – reassurance for the buyers to part with their monies. If a seller has 100% positive feedback and anything over around 20 stars next their name, then there’s no reason to worry, just spend and enjoy your purchase when it finally arrives as there shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you’re faced with a couple of sellers who have vastly different feedback scores but both have a similar eBay user percentage – let’s say 99.7% each for argument – then this is where the “Percentages game” comes into play. The percentages game breaks a seller’s feedback into – yep, you guessed it – percentages and this is juggled against the amount and type of feedback left, whether that be positive, neutral or negative.

If one of the seller’s has a feedback score of over 5,000 and the other seller has a feedback score of just 250, then with these odds surely the winner without question would be the one with the highest number, wouldn’t it? Well, the seller with a 5,000 plus feedback shows they’re selling over 400 items a month on average and the 250 feedback seller is only shifting 20 items every four weeks; however, the higher scoring eBayer has 10 negatives a month whereas the lower seller has just one negative feedback left in the past year, thus showing their commitment to their buyers and revealing the overall percentages left. Then it’s just a case of reading the comments left in someone’s feedback to finally make a decision. If you read something like “Took a week to arrive but seller helpful” next to a green positive feedback, then the seller is vindicated by a moribund postal service; perhaps you see “Not packed well enough and damaged but seller gave refund” that justifies the grey negative left; however, if you see something along the lines of “Absolute f**king waste of space – never arrived and seller didn’t respond! AVOID AT ALL COSTS!” with a red feedback dot preceding it, look for an alternative seller or just throw your money down the nearest drain. By the way, here’s a word of advice: if by chance you’re getting 10 negative feedbacks left each month, then believe me you’re doing something wrong and you need to take a closer look at your business before your buyers jump ship and evacuate.

Anyway, this is just one of the rules I adamantly follow but still, as mentioned in this article’s  opening sentence, I have had to deal with some real eBay tossers recently, who are either genuinely clueless or just unconcerned by their obtuse actions. My first problem came about through breaking one of my own rules, something I knew I shouldn’t have done but felt the benefits gained far outweighed the potential negatives, which in hindsight they certainly did not.

I was perusing for a laptop, checking all items ending within the following few minutes late at night; the reasoning in this is that most people are tucked-up in bed missing out on the night-time bargains, so potential buyers are few and far between. With a couple of minutes to go, I spotted one that ticked all the boxes and no-one had placed a bid on as of yet, so I dived into the seller’s description to read more. Its specs seemed perfect for what I required: dual core 64 bit CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 160 GB hard drive, wireless and a 17 inch wide screen, complete with battery and charger, all for a starting bid of just £80. Of course, with anything cheap there’s always a couple of issues and this portable PC was no exception, so within the short description the seller attempted to explain its foibles with reference to the operating system being a German version of Windows Vista – which is no problem to someone who’s I.T. literate as I am – and the bottom right-hand corner of the screen’s facia having, and I quote “… come away slightly.”

There was just one slight problem though and that was the seller had zero feedback, with this laptop sale being the first one undertaken, but I had literally only a moment to decide on whether to place a bid or not. With just seconds to spare and no time to ask any questions, I placed my bid and a quick refresh showed I had indeed won the computer at the opening price; quickly I paid through Paypal and sent a short message to the seller asking for confirmation of posting, etc, then turned into bed.

Come the morning and a check of my emails showed a reply from the seller, who turned out to be a young Fräulein based in Ireland, hence the Germanic-set Vista keyboard on the laptop in question and she went on to explain that she’d post the laptop off to me straight away but she couldn’t forward a tracking number to me. I re-read the message again, wondering why this may be and discovered the reason once I’d finally absorbed her pigeon-English prose – she wasn’t going to be able to reply as the laptop I’d won was her only one and would be winging its way in the post to me.  All credit is due to the female German-Irish amalgam as her laptop arrived in just a couple of days, complete with discs, cables and extras but once it was plugged in, the problems became apparent. As I’d been unable to converse any further with the seller and confirm certain details, I had to take it as read that the laptop’s advertised specs were indeed correct; however, the “Devil’s in the detail” as the saying goes and I felt Old Nick had definitely gotten involved through my haste for a new computer.

The first problem wasn’t that Windows Vista was set to the German language but that the seller had forgotten to forward me her password to get into the laptop to begin with. No big deal, I thought as I readied myself to attempt a translation codeword-cracking session; that is until I glanced at the keyboard and noticed all the keys were also in German. Now, this little hiccup definitely hadn’t been mentioned in the description and as I tried to absorb this surprise, I spotted something that had been in the description, which was the facia of the screen and its “… come away slightly” appearance. Well her explanation was pretty far out considering the whole right-hand bottom side of the screen was now drooping unsupported due to a snapped screen support and a broken hinge, leaving the whole thing with a look of having been abused by a technophobic imbecile. A deep breath was needed and an evaluation of the situation: yes it was bad but a fresh install, a bit of messing around to fix the screen and I’d have a good spec laptop at a fraction of cost, so all wasn’t lost to my simmering fury just yet.

It took the best part of five hours to install and rebuild everything from scratch but finally things were looking good, if a little slow due to a crappy wireless connection and its restricted stop-start downloading of essential updates. That’s what I originally thought was the problem until I entered ‘System’ to check out the details of the computer and in doing so, finally felt the straw breaking the Camel’s back. The specs were showing an entirely different laptop than what had been advertised: 1 GB of RAM rather than 2 GB, 120 GB hard drive instead of a 250 GB and an ATI graphics chip, not the supposed Nvidia one. The worst aspect of this delusional Euro bint and her mismanaged advertisement though was to discover the computer had a single core CPU as opposed to the declared dual core CPU: this one thing had sealed the deal to begin with and was foremost in my mind as I continually convinced myself of its merits in the face of its continually mounting fallacies.

Now running on pure brain implosion, I whizzed off email after email in a glorious frenzy to the either purposely lying or I.T. confused seller but even though I waited all day, no reply came through to my computer. It was only many hours later when I decided to report the problems to eBay that I remembered the last message to me and her prophetic wording: she wouldn’t be able to reply to any questions as the laptop was her only computer and it’d be in the post to me. This explains the broken laptop sitting in my kitchen as I write this due to a zero feedback seller who’s never logged back into eBay as they’ve no computer to do so…

The next example of eBay difficulties arose when I was feeling flush just the other week; I bought a new LG LCD TV to treat myself and to compliment this technological advancement in my life, I found a matching DVD player within one of eBay’s many sellers’ shops. These virtual shops offer goods at a fraction of the cost to many high street retailers, so if you know how to follow the buy-it-now bread crumbs left within eBay, you can find a real bargain hiding away from the auction throng. Again, I followed my personal check list regarding the ‘Bayer and all seemed good in the land of e-commerce: a great price, fast delivery turnaround and excellent feedback for the seller alleviated any dubiousness I may have otherwise felt, so I purchased it and paid immediately with Paypal in the hope of a speedy arrival.

Now, this being Sunday night, I expected there would be a slight delay in receiving the DVD player and made concessions for this by making a mental note to contact the seller on Wednesday night if there was no sign of the item by that time. Counting down the days waiting for any item to turn up on your doorstep is real agony when you’re desperate for the arrival of a new toy – or essential addition to your life as I look at these things – and so the next couple of days dragged by. This uncertainty was especially annoying as I had to keep putting up a note on my block of flats’ security door as I left in the morning telling any deliveries to leave their deposits with one of my out-of-work and lacklustre neighbours. This enforced reliance upon the slobs who co-habituate within my flats really infuriates me and there’s plenty of times I’ve staggered home from work to find a “Sorry we missed you…” slip posted through my letterbox; especially annoying when you’ve just past some of the lazy b*****ds lounging outside sunbathing and quaffing cans in the sun without a care in the world.

Come Wednesday night however and still there was no shiny new DVD player sitting beneath my shiny new LCD telly, although at the same time, I’d bought a TV unit which had arrived, been assembled and was now looking barren with its empty slots screaming out for company. My fingers were a blur as I whizzed off an email requesting courier details, tracking numbers and anything else which may be relevant from the seller and come the next morning, my anticipation was palatable: on with the computer, my password typed wrong three or four times in mounting rage, then Windows Mail double mouse-tapped open but no greeting from my DVD player’s seller. Straight into eBay I then went to check on everything, opening a separate browser tab to check my Paypal payment for about the tenth time but the payment was fine and as I double-checked the item’s description, I was met with a strange and new addition that made my heart somersault with fluster. A flagged eBay message now greeted me running along the top of the page that read “You can buy this item but the seller is away on holiday until Friday the 18th June 2010 so there may be a delay in posting.”, which caused me a little consternation as it was now only Wednesday the 2nd of June. This seller-imposed delay meant I had bought and paid for an item on Sunday the 31st of May and I was now going to have to wait THREE WEEKS until the DVD player was eventually posted off, and then only f**k knew its final arrival time!

Boiling with a rage and consumed by a furious anger, I immediately tried to but couldn’t get an answer from this vacant seller via eBay messages, so they had numerous emails asking where the DVD player was in case they logged into their account. Then, after a couple of stressed days and still with no reply coming through from this pillock, my next approach was to eBay itself in the hope that they could rectify this buying fiasco. As usual however, they just reiterated their empty-headed mantras of “Sorry, but there’s nothing we can do until… blah, blah, blah…” and “Have you tried contacting the seller and working the problem out with them… blah, blah, blah…” in a perpetual, soul-sapping cycle. With eBay’s banal rhetoric still prodding the big dog, I flexed my carpal-tunnelled typing fingers and bit the consumerist bullet as I succumbed to buying another DVD player, an action that appeared to be the simplest option open to me in order for my movie-watching future to progress in the land of HD TV.

The replacement DVD player arrived in just under 48 hours, so with still weeks to go until the idiot was back and I could finally get my money, I gradually forgot about the fiasco and settled into enjoying my new TV set-up. Then, right around the 18th of June, I had an eBay email pop up from the vacant seller ,obtusely informing me that I must have been the only one on earth who didn’t see his away on holiday line inclusion as no-one else had complained! Now I know that this imaginary flagged message in the description wasn’t there when I bought the DVD player way back in May, so to be informed by this cretinous twat I was blind as well as stupid really added insult to injury. I sent an email back informing him I run eBay sites for a living, had done so for the last five years and I would have spotted anything telling me I had a three week wait for an item’s arrival if I bought from him. I demanded an immediate refund and wished that I lived closer to this moron as a personal workout thrashing seven colours from him would have done wonders for my stress levels.

There was nothing forthcoming for the next 24 hours but then I got a confirmation message of an immediate refund through Paypal, a full three and a half weeks after I first paid for his DVD player; finally, I thought, this messing about has eventually been resolved. With a fresh bolster to my online funds (indeed, his refund was the only money in my Paypal now), I figured I’d check over eBay and straight away I spotted a bargain: a Canon-fit camera lens with no bids and a start price at just under my £35 reimbursement. Quickly checking and double-checking all sentences in the description to make sure the lens was all working, had no damage and there were no added stipulations by the seller, I then checked their feedback, which was a perfect 100% positive at nearly 500. This seller’s account sealed my decision to place an opening bid at just ten seconds to go and with fingers crossed, hoped for once my bad eBay luck had changed for the better.

No contest, I won the lens hands down and for once was feeling vindicated over grabbing a great deal that didn’t seem to have any problems attached to it. I logged into Paypal to pay for this steal, dreaming about how my pictures might benefit from its focal length, its lower f-stops, etc and was greeted with a heart-stopping sight within my account: the DVD player tosser had indeed refunded me after three weeks of waiting but had issued me an e-cheque, which now required an additional ten days before its funds cleared, thus further reducing me to the level of a gibbering, ranting Ape…

So, eBay then: a wonderful site full of miscreants, misanthropes and mistrust, just the right place to spend your hard-earned money on bargains that appear too good to be true and to believe in accords that will stretch anyone’s confidence in others to breaking point.


  1. :( Poor you!

    I’ve been using ebay for a couple or more years now and I’ve also got some rules I apply before I buy stuff. (I’ve only sold two items myself, both pick up only and both sales went fine, though that was some years ago before I had my present account there). Some are the same as/similar to yours, some aren’t. Here are mine in case you, or anyone else, want to use them too!

    1. Check feedback.
    It’s extremely rare for me to buy from anyone who doesn’t have a total lack of negatives. 100% feedback as expressed as numerals mean zilch since ebay changed their rules some time back. Now, a person with 100% feedback, can, if one looks more closely at the actual info there to see what people have given and what they’ve said, have masses of negs and neutrals. (The biggest culprits for these seem to be the big booksellers and people ‘specialising’ in tat!)

    2. If buying from someone either new or whose feedback has a few neutrals or maybe just one or two negatives, email them first with a question. If they don’t reply at all, don’t buy from them. I like to buy from people who care about me as an individual customer, not just a number.

    3. While one can get bargains from nearly ending listings, try to avoid impulse buys and take your time thinking about it.

    4. If anything ‘feels’ wrong about the item or the seller, go with your intution.

    5. If buying something in which colour is important (ie, fabric, clothing, artwork) don’t rely on what you see on your monitor: firstly it is backlit, secondly very few monitors are calibrated to reality. If you do have to judge carefully, take a quick screenshot of the item, print it out, compare the colour of what you’ve printed to what you see on your screen. Do it in daylight, not artificial light as the latter tends to make things look more yellow (or blue, if you have fluorescent or ‘art lamp’ lighting).

    6. Look on Amazon and see if the product is there too. If it is, have a look at the sellers – very often the same seller is trying to sell the identical item on Amazon and ebay as well. Compare the feedback. Go with your instincts.

    I’ve had a few problems myself with ebay items, but not the ‘big things’ like you’ve been buying. I avoid electrical and computer stuff from ebay unless I am certain that the seller has impeccable feedback and I read the actual feedback from buyers, too.

    Hey – I wish you better luck with ebay in the future… if you use it anymore. I’ve just posted my own rant about how the internet is affecting me.


    • Hello again

      Sorry for not replying sooner but have been tied-up with trying to accept the arrival of the big “Four-O” and it’s not something that’s being taken lightly, I can tell you! (blog entry to follow shortly)
      You’ve written a wonderfully in-depth examination of eBay’s pitfalls and how to avoid them, so if anyone clicks my blog (I wish!) and reads the eBayer entry, they’ll see your message. I thank you for that because it adds some much needed gravitas!

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