Like many people money was tight this Christmas so I bought a number of my smaller presents from eBay. In particular I bought a number of PlayStation 2 games for my children one of whom is mad on Star Trek.
One seller, xela1366, had a number of games for sale including Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force which was one of the games I was looking for. I bid on, and won, this together with two other games which were all listed for 99 pence with P&P of £2.50 each.
Having won several items from the same seller, xela1366, I did as I always do and sent them a polite message asking if they would combine postage for multiple purchases and by way of a reply I received a combined invoice for the three games (99p, 99p and £1.70) plus £2.50 P&P making a total of £6.18. I thought this was extremely reasonable so paid immediately and in full.
The Plot Thickens
Two of the games arrived within a week, "Great Service" I thought so positive feedback was left. Twice!
However when two weeks had passed and the third game had not arrived I sent them a polite message asking them to confirm it had been despatched.
Much to my amazement the reply I received was as follows;
"The item was dispached at the same time as the other two, I assume you are aware that you have not paid the full postage yet, it is £5 short. As a matter of trust, I would expect you would pay this and if your item have not arrived by the 30th, I will refund the cost of the game. Regards Alex Lane"
It was as if Marks and Spencer offered to carry your bags to your car then demanded twenty quid to put them in the boot or they would take them back to the store and lock them away.
Or Burger King refusing to hand over your burger after you had paid unless you gave them a fiver for the bag. Totally Outrageous!
There was something about their message that unsettled me, the whole tone was wrong. They claimed the third game had been despatched yet the meaning was as clear as day: " We want more money. If you want the third game you're going to have to pay a further five pounds otherwise you can have your 99p back".
And, to add insult to injury, they were implying I was dishonest by using weasel words like " as a matter of trust" in an attempt to shift the blame onto me when I had been nothing but polite and had fulfilled my side of our deal by paying their invoice in full when requested.
This was not just my opinion, I showed the message to three or four other people who all agreed it was dodgy to say the least. Each and everyone of them read it and said words to the effect of " you'll only get that third game if you hand over another fiver" and don't forget, that's an extra five pounds over and above the invoiced amount which I had already paid in full.
Ok, so they claimed the £2.50 combined postage was a mistake, they had tried to charge the full amount but - for some reason not forthcoming - found themselves unable to.
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't believe this for a second! I have NEVER had a problem with shipping costs when invoicing for multiple items. Very much the reverse, each and every shipping charge has been included in the total amount and I have had to manually apply a discount.
Never, ever, the other way around!
Even though I did NOT accept their explanation that "it was an simple mistake" I am an extremely honest person and as I am currently suffering from a medical condition that makes it very difficult for me to do many things I used to take for granted I really didn't need the grief this person was obviously looking to cause me. Furthermore as I wished to receive the third game I had won and paid for in good faith I suggested a compromise.
I, once again, very politely offered to pay the £2.50 P&P they claimed I owed for the second game I had already received and would pay them a further £2.50 if and when the third game was received even though I had already paid their invoice in full.
I thought I was being reasonable and trying to resolve a dispute without further upset but soon discovered I was being conned.
Having received the sum of £2.50 over and above their invoice (which I had already paid in full) their response was to restate their position "...if your item have not arrived by the 30th, I will refund the cost of the game." which is all very well but as I told them I wasn't really interested in a refund, I just wanted the game I had paid for and it was becoming very clear I was not going to be getting it!
December 30th came and went with no delivery so I sent them a polite message to that effect and when two days had passed with no reply or no refund I opened a dispute only to get another snotty reply and more accusations of dishonesty!
"Refund of 99p made, thanks for the dispute, season of good will and all that, happy new year. I assume you will pay for the item with the postage if it turns up as a matter of trust, if not, i guess I will have to stand the loss."
Needless to say I was not happy to read yet more of their sarcastic, derogatory comments. They were, once again, accusing me of theft and dishonesty when all my communications to them had been polite and civil.
I replied, again remaining calm, polite and civil, explaining - in a simple 'matter of fact' manner - why I had opened the dispute and they responded with:
"You have had your refund that ends the matter; please do not bid on any of my items again and if the game does arrive, don’t worry about paying for it, have it with my complements"
How easy it is to be generous when you are not actually giving anything away - they know I won't get to keep that game, because they know I will never receive it!
The Stinger!Despite them saying " ...that ends the matter" they could not let the matter rest, they had to stick the knife in and give it a jolly good twist.
After that message they logged onto PayPal and posted a number of derogatory remarks to the dispute log which, among other things, accuse me of;
- Not paying their invoice
- it is a matter of record that I paid their invoice in full
- Making a fraudulent claim to PayPal
- which I most certainly did not do
At first I thought perhaps they didn't get the price they wanted for the games they'd auctioned and instead of saying " C'est la vie" and accepting it they tried to extort further money from me. It wasn't until I read their invective it dawned on me there was more to it. This wasn't just a simple misunderstanding over an eBay item, this was a well practiced scam.
The ScamSo, what is the scam I hear you ask?
After reading their libellous comments I realised I had been conned over the third game and decided to dispute the £2.50 payment only to discover you cannot dispute a PayPal transaction unless it relates to a physical item.
The Scam In Detail
- Seller puts an item up for auction
- Seller invoices Buyer an incorrect (lower) amount
- Seller doesn't ship the item
- Buyer enquires "Where's my item"
- Seller replies "I assume you realise you haven't paid for it yet? You owe me another £5 / £10 / £20 / whatever. Please pay the £5 / £10 / £20 / whatever now as a matter of trust. The item should be with you by the 30th otherwise I will refund..."
- Buyer, being honest (like me), pays the disputed amount even though he doesn't feel he owes it.
- Seller doesn't ship but refunds purchase price (possibly quite small) but NOT the P&P
- SELLER POCKETS THE ORIGINAL P&P PLUS THE EXTRA £5 / £10 / £20 Whatever
Ok, so I only lost a small amount of money (£2.74) through this scam but I have to ask myself how many times have they done this before me? Or will do after me?
If they were to list heavy items at a penny start but with a commensurately high P&P you could easily pocket £10 each time through this " undercharging by mistake" scam. Do it a couple of times a week and that could easily add up to a grand a year... Think about it
In ConclusionAlthough the majority of people on eBay are honest you will find the occasional rotten apple who;
- lies about their items
- deliberately sells broken items and blames the postman
- is unpleasant and abusive
- or simply there to con you and steal your money
Or in your never ending search for a bargain you might be unlucky enough, like me, to run into several of the blighters!
Whatever your situation please don't let my bad experiences make you cynical or put you off eBay. I suggest reading this guide again, applying a little caution and learning from my mistakes.
Thank you for reading this far and if this guide helps even one person from being conned it will have been well worth the time it has taken to write.