Ebay Sellers Hell

by admin on May 2, 2013

I recently purchased an horse saddle off of e-bay. I received it 5 days later, however the shipping box that it came in was very damaged with all the sides bashed in, and I imagine it only survived the journey on the good graces of some very considerate postal workers who re-tapped it several times. Fortunately, upon unpacking the saddle, it was not damaged, but I did note the leather was very dry and a bit scuffed, a fact that was not disclosed in the eBay add or pictures.

I am not sure how familiar readers are with eBay, but part of the purchase process is to leave the seller “feedback” in the form of a positive or negative comment and few star-based ratings. These are then filed as part of the transaction so that future buyers can recognize good sellers vs. those to avoid. As I was still overall satisfied with my purchase, I left positive feedback, and noted that the shipping was quite fast. However, I only rated the seller at 3-stars for qualify of product (since the saddle was dry and scuffed), and 3-stars again for shipping (since the box barely made it in one piece). However, three stars is still average and acceptable, and I gave 5-star ratings in the other three categories.

This brings me to the horrible etiquette blunder. The next day, I receive a call on my cell phone, whilst at work, from the woman from whom I had purchased the saddle. She proceeded to verbally berate me and scream at me for ONLY leaving her a three star review in the aforementioned categories. She was incredibly rude and pushy and didn’t let me get a word in. When she paused for breath, I apologized, but I was so flustered I didn’t think to explain about the box or saddle condition. She continued to rant at me how “just” a three star review would damage her reputation. Then she promptly hung up.

I was just appalled at her behavior! I am certain that eBay does not provide sellers with phone numbers so they can verbally abuse people who give them honest reviews. If she felt it was necessary to contact me about it, a message via eBay would have been more appropriate, and website moderators could have stepped in if warranted. I would have been happy to explain my reasoning in further detail, via an appropriate medium.

Unfortunately, since I had already left a positive feedback, there was no way to write a second review abolishing her bad behavior and warning potential other buyers. But I hope she finds a toasty little corner in e-hell. 0425-13

Ebay has a strict policy about using seller or buyer contact information to harass, annoy or solicit so check how you can report that behavior. Possibly the Resolution Center can address that issue.    You can also post to one of the Ebay community forums to get further input on how best to handle this seller.   “Feedback” would be the sub forum I’d choose.   You didn’t need to apologize to her and in retrospect, she obviously deserved the damaging review.

 

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie May 3, 2013 at 7:58 am

The seller was totally out of line! It sounds like the ‘less than perfect’ rating you gave her was justified given that the condition of the item wasn’t quite as described. You did nothing wrong IMO, and, from her response, she hardly sounds a reasonable type who would take on board your feedback!

While I do think that e-bay is skewed unfairly towards the buyer, as a buyer myself, I look not only at the star rating, but the number of items sold, the comments and the profile of the people who have awarded the ‘less than perfect’ rating. If the seller gives a courteous reply to the ‘OMG TERRIBLE!’ comments, then I surmise that it’s more likely to be the buyer than the seller who’s being unreasonable. So personally, I don’t see the ‘star rating’ as being the be-all-and-end-all that it’s perceived to be.

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Ergala May 3, 2013 at 9:29 am

I’ve sold things on FB. One woman bought about 4 thirty gallon bags of clothes from me. I told her they needed to be washed since they had been sitting in a box in my closet and smelled musty. She had noooo problem. I reiterated this to her several times. Sold them all for $30. Some even still had tags on them for $20+ from the store. I just wanted them gone.

We met up, she didn’t even go through the clothes, just paid and left with them. 24 hours later she messaged me and said she was wrong about her size and that they were too big. She didn’t ask for a refund, and when I didn’t offer one she then started saying that they were dirty, torn and stained. I had friends HELP me sort them, anything with even a pen mark went into the trash so no nothing was stained and torn and dirty. She went onto the FB group and started slandering me. One of my friends messaged her, she had no idea the woman was a friend of mine. She told her “Well they were the wrong size I just want my money back…”…I messaged her and said “I will refund the money if you give me back the clothes”…she responded back “I threw them away….but I still want a refund.”. Are you KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?! I told her there was no way that was happening and she reported me to the group admin who then contacted me. I sent her every single copy of the message we had exchanged. Thank goodness I wasn’t banned but I was in shock someone would be that low!

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Victoria May 3, 2013 at 9:45 am

Wow, admin, that is totally insane! I suppose she thought if she harassed you enough, you’d decide it wasn’t worth it.

I’ve been on both sides before, as a buyer and a seller, and as a buyer, I’ve always had the seller offer to make things right when something went wrong, either by accepting the return, or by refunding part of the payment. As a seller, I’ve had people do some crazy things trying to get part or all of their money back, and none of those were willing to return the items.

Stuff like this is why I no longer use ebay.

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ArtK May 3, 2013 at 11:01 am

Sadly, feedback on eBay has become a high-stakes game. Here’s the story of one seller who went so far as to sue a customer for giving neutral feedback.

http://consumerist.com/2013/04/19/ebay-seller-who-sued-for-bad-feedback-backs-down-claims-hes-sorry/

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Elle May 3, 2013 at 11:13 am

I don’t understand why so many people are claiming, “you should have contacted the seller before reviewing,” – Kovitlac
I am genuinely surprised how many people are defending the seller. Even if it’s in a backwards sort of way. “Well sure she was rude BUT”. Yeah no, no buts. – CorkedXHead

Because this is an etiquette site, and, evidently, contacting the seller about hiccups in the order and giving them the chance to make it right before leaving a less-than-perfect review is part of the etiquette of buying on eBay. Presumably the OP did not know this. Now she does. I would not have known this either, but now I do.

This does not make the seller in this story correct, not-rude, right, justified, or any less appalling.

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Cat May 3, 2013 at 11:14 am

About contacting the seller before making a complain to eBay-I worked as a guidance counselor for twenty years and, if I made a mistake, I appreciated a student or a parent contacting me about before they went to the principal or to the school board ranting that I was a terrible counselor.
If there was a misunderstanding between a staff member and myself, I liked the ones who would come to me to discuss it first. Running to the principal annoyed the principal and me.
The same thing holds true for shopping on sites like eBay. I give the seller a chance to remedy the problem before I go any further. If the seller accuses me of “trying to rip them off”, as happened when a bird cage I ordered came with a broken, plastic seed cup. (They wanted a photo of the damaged item-for a bird seed cup made of plastic), I may take it one step further.

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FlyingBaconMouse May 3, 2013 at 11:28 am

…and this is why I rarely leave feedback on eBay unless I feel I can realistically give someone all 5s. I understand the rating system id screwy, but I think it should also be reasonable to buy things online without entering into a relationship that basically involves coded messages.

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kingsrings May 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm

This is why I dread buying anything from ebay anymore. I so resent being cajoled, bullied, or threatened by any seller regarding reviews. It is 100% completely MY choice as a customer on what I want to give and say about them, and they are so nervy to tell me otherwise. Also, the threat of legal action scares me away from buying, too. I’ve heard too many horror stories about buyers being sued by sellers because they gave them a bad review. Some people make their living off of ebay, so they get all bent out of shape about the whole thing.

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Enna May 4, 2013 at 4:58 am

You should do what Admin says and repor this woman. I have never brought anything on Ebay but if there are 5 catagorise to rate a seller on and each have 5 stars that is 25 starrs. If she was rated 5 stars on three that is 15 stars and three stars on two that is six: so in all she gets 21 stars. That can’t be too bad can it?

If the seller wants a five star rating she needs to provide a 5 star service across all 5 categories. She should be reported to ebay. She also needs to be warned that if she does it again she could be reported to police for harrasement. How did she have the OP’s number anyway? It is one thing if the seller rang to say “How can I get a full 5 stars next time?”. An average rating is okay or an average service.

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MonkeysMommy May 4, 2013 at 8:20 am

I used to sell on eBay (just as an individual when I had nice things I no longer needed and wanted to sell) but I won’t do it anymore- they’ve made it too difficult for people like me now. If you’re not a big store power seller, they really don’t want you anymore. I don’t buy off them either now. They totally lost my business and I have no interest when I can use amazon or Craigslist.

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JesBelle May 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm

CorkedXHead —
I didn’t realize my tone sounded angry, but I do have a bit of a tendency toward the hyperbolic. You’re right, it is very different buying a used skirt from E-bay and buying one from the local consignment shop. It is very easy to simply leave a poor rating online. The tools are there and you don’t have to confront anyone face-to-face. That makes it much easier to just say “Booo – this seller sucks.” because your transaction wasn’t all you hoped it would be. Human beings screw things up. It’s only polite to treat a seller like a human being and give her the chance to fix an error or even explain why there is no error. I’m not defending the seller in the OP’s story, she needs to get out of the kitchen, so to speak. I was just explaining why there is so much pressure out there for people to leave perfect feedback.

I had a 4.8 when I stopped selling. I quit because I couldn’t compete with the high-volume sellers. Of the dozen or so negative feedbacks I got I can only remember 1 being totally justified. I was new and I packaged some books very poorly. I learned from that and didn’t make that mistake again. Almost all of the rest of the negatives were the result of poor communication, usually on the part of Amazon. Amazon would promise 2-day shipping on marketplace items and customers would not understand that it meant that the items would be in the hands of a shipper within 2 days, not that the item would be in their hands in 2 days. That was a common one. Another was Amazon’s habit of auto-emailing all customers about 3 weeks after the transaction to ask them to rate their experience. I had 3 European customers leave a “1-I haven’t got it, yet” rating before I stopped doing international orders. In those days, a customer couldn’t remove a feedback, either. I had a few people leave comments on their feedback apologizing for leaving an angry feedback. This is not to trumpet what an awesome seller I was, just to point out that sometimes people leave a feedback when they are not in the best frame of mind for it. I’d also like to point out that the belief that “Nine times out of ten…the seller deserves the negative review.” is exactly why those negative reviews are so frustrating. Sellers know that is exactly what many potential customers believe.

ItsyBitsy —
You read them and I read them, but let’s face it — We live in a TL;DR world and most people don’t even bother to skim them.

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badkitty May 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Contact the seller first if you want/expect them to do something about the issue. If it’s not perfect but fine enough to use and not worth it to you to return, then it is your prerogative to leave less than stellar feedback. To use JesBelle’s analogy – corrected – it’s like deciding you’re not going to shop in a brick-and-mortar store anymore and telling friends who ask, “yeah, their stuff is cheap enough but the quality sucks and I’d just rather get my items elsewhere”. If I buy paintbrushes in a shop and get them home and discover they discolor faster than these other ones, I’m not necessarily going to go back to the store and ask them to replace the brushes, nor do I forfeit my right to voice a negative opinion of the store just because I haven’t gone in and made a huge deal of it; I’ve had an experience of their quality, and decided that they are not worth my time and money. OP didn’t say that the saddle was unusable, just that it was not in the condition described. Frankly, if I were in that situation and did insist on a replacement item, the seller’s rating would be dinged for attempting to fob off damaged merchandise to buyers who don’t want to make a fuss.

@FlyingBaconMouse – I’m with you there! I really only leave feedback if I have something amazing or really horrible to say – I don’t bother with ‘neutral’ feedback because I figure that’s assumed. If something about the item or seller was absolutely horrible, I’ll say so. If the item is amazing and fantastic (or being unfairly maligned by ignorant reviewers who are trying to use a router as a stick blender and rating it poorly) then I’ll leave my positive feedback. “Meh” just isn’t worth typing out. In this case, the OP had a good reason to leave feedback: warning other potential buyers that this person will ship scuffed and poorly-maintained merchandise if she thinks she can get away with it.

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NostalgicGal May 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm

@JesBelle

Amazon has a Prime, you pay $79 a year for it and if it is Amazon Fulfillment, you get it in two business days, you can rush it for an additional 3.99 per item charge to possibly one day! And I live in outerboondocks nowhereville. If it doesn’t say PRIME and you are not subscribed, it won’t get there in 2 days. Where I live I save a bundle on shipping. Though it has to be weighed on some items, the Prime listing might be more than the cheapest available, but once shipping and more time delay is added in, the deal is to go with the Prime listed item. …

Amazon has several times though contacted me about PLEASE RATE THE SELLER/PLEASE RATE THE SHIPPING & PACKAGING/PLEASE RATE THE ITEM-WRITE US A REVIEW, especially when it’s sold through Amazon but fulfilled by another company (and in the fine print it says an additional X days on processing, etc) before the item even arrived. I just recently had one where the shipper seemed to have dropped it in a black hole and swirled it through some back room vacations for a good month; and Amazon asked me two days after it was supposed to arrive to do all of the above. I told them, what item? I can’t even find where it has been given to shipper yet! (truth at time). I contacted seller and told them Amazon was asking about feedback… a few more entries showed up in shipper track. It took three more rounds of Amazon asking me to rate what hadn’t arrived yet and write a review and almost a month for it to arrive. Seller was very nice, I didn’t rip them one, and they apologized and said they were going to have a serious chat with the (major brand) shipper… I just looked, 30 items of my last 18 shipments are listed as ‘shipped’ but never having been delivered!!! on the Amazon list of ‘my orders’

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JesBelle May 7, 2013 at 9:21 am

NostalgicGal —

I’m a subscriber to Amazon Prime, too — mostly for the free Dora the Explorer videos, but the free fast shipping is a big bonus. I haven’t been an Amazon seller for many years, though. We didn’t have the option to join the Prime program as sellers back in the day. We just shipped books through the mail, probably still the most reliable shipper, really. Even items sent “media mail” usually made it within a week.

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Dust Bunny May 16, 2013 at 9:27 am

Hmm. Couple of things:

I agree that the seller was absolutely out of line in calling and screaming at you. I wonder, though, that you’d have bought something as serious as a saddle without asking for more details? Even good eBay pictures usually aren’t that good, and if the seller didn’t expressly state the condition of the leather, etc., in the posting, you bet your bippy I’d be emailing her with a long list of questions before I bid.

Also, it’s my understanding that eBay has seriously cracked down on sellers lately and that lower (even 4-star) ratings can cause serious problems for them. Everything I’ve bought lately has come with a business card basically begging for 5-star ratings; they’ll do just about anything for 5-star ratings. Things that don’t seem like they should be that big a deal can apparently have serious consequences for sellers.

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