A Novice Guide to Product Descriptions

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There is one thing that a few of us are guilty of (I know I am at times) and that is bidding on items without really reading the product description. Sometimes I just see something I've been looking for on the cheap and a deal appears that seems too good to be true - sometimes I'm lucky and it has turned out great, others... meh, not so well.

In my short time on eBay I've had to open 4 cases in the past 18 months, 3 of them were mistakes that the sellers decided to try and ignore in the hopes it would blow over while one was just a blatant attempt to worm out of the situation; Sold as an untested joblot of 2 items that were listed as used. After my experience, I realise now what "untested joblot" actually means to sellers on eBay however I won the case because of the errors in his product description, the chief among which was that he never used the word "faulty" in his description. 

What some sellers don't realise is that not everyone who buys from them will be gnarled eBay veterans or eBay store owners themselves and may not know what some of the lingo and hidden meanings are, but the first thing an eBay buyer looks at is the condition category:

Says it all, it's new, (should be) sealed and is expected to function as a new item would. What some sellers don't pay enough attention to is the "expected to function as a new item would" bit. A seller should not be allowed to deny a refund on a faulty item that is of new condition on the grounds that they didn't know it would be faulty unless they specifically state they won't accept a return of a faulty item in the description - and if this is the case I personally would steer clear of an item that has this. Think about it: Argos wouldn't tell you "no returns" on an item you bought a couple of days ago because they're not responsible for checking everything works.

New Other:
You usually find these on items that haven't been used but the packaging may be open or is supplied in an after market box. Others may stipulate additional conditions for the item in the product description though this is the responsibility of the seller. I once bought an item described as new other because the packaging was opened but it hadn't been used, however when it arrived I found parts were missing. Because the seller hadn't stipulated that parts would be missing I was able to return the item for a refund.

The majority of items marked as used should be expected to come with cosmetic blemishes from use however it should also function as intended and without faults unless they are stipulated in the product description. Generally most sellers are good and will do what you are supposed to: describe any wear and tear to the item in the description - an ommission such as a crack or break may be grounds for not as described. This is the one that grinds my gears when it comes to joblots - for anyone new to eBay or market trading joblot means nothing, even it's description in the dictionary states that a joblot is just a miscellaneous grouping of items that may or may not be related. I once bought Used items that were described as an Untested Joblot however there were no mention of the possibility of fault anywhere in the product description. When they turned up, lo and behold neither worked - so I contacted the seller to ask for a replacement or refund. I was met with a "you bought an untested joblot which means we aren't accountable if they don't work - so you can't have a refund". Needless to say because they never stated the possibility of fault and the default description of "Used" meant it should still function as intended eBay found in my favour and issued me a refund.

This is probably the most apt condition for someone who would use the term joblot. Spares and repairs are for items which don't work, are broken and require repair or are not guaranteed to work. Remember: as a seller you assume all responsibility for your listing. Simply stating that they are untested will not excuse you from any liability, if listed as Used then the seller has a duty of care to ensure that their listing is a true account of the condition of the item and failing that ensure they are ready to possibly issue refunds if it isn't. The only way of getting around this is to state in the listing that the item may not function as intended or may be broken. However, using the condition Spares/Repairs automatically sets the buyer up to expect a faulty item.

There are also some other points of the listing that novice eBayers may not be too clear on:

Returns Not Accepted:
Some new eBayers may confuse this with "No Refunds", although under distance selling regulations "No Refunds" does not apply. Returns Not Accepted simply means that the seller can refuse to accept a return should you just decide you don't want it. Basically unless it's not as described or has been damaged in transit the seller doesn't have to accept a return - though some may allow you to return at your expense for a refund minus the original postage. 

Buyer Pays Return Shipping:
Although unfair, if an item has this stipulated in its listing then unfortunately no matter what (not as described or otherwise) the buyer has to pay for the shipping to return the item. There have been a few rare cases where eBay users have been able to claim the cost of their shipping back for the mistake of the seller, though from what I've seen these are few and far between. 

Check the feedback score of a seller you are buying from and look at the individual accounts from other buyers - there is even a function to filter down to Feedback as a Buyer, Feedback as a Seller and even filter to view only Positive, Neutral and Negative Feedback. Be wary of eBay stores with a high feedback score, but no feedback as a seller. It's not just important to see how much negative and neutral feedback a seller has received but also the comments associated with their feedback - there was one seller who I found who was selling Mobile Phones at a remarkably low low price. I checked their feedback to find all of their recent negative feedback came to mention that buyers had not received their items and had been sent empty boxes instead. The seller is no longer on eBay. 

In Summary - make sure you read the product description and all features of a listing before bidding on or buying an item. With my experiences as an example you are covered for everything that is stated in the description - even an omission of a detail such as damage or fault immediately defaults back to the Condition that the seller uses. If a used item doesn't state that it's faulty anywhere or any cosmetic damage in the listing then you should expect to receive a functional, perfectly preserved item. If a New item comes with an open box or packaging then it's not new, it's New Other and it should state it's open in the listing. Distance Selling Regulations are there to protect consumers who can't see the exact item they are buying in person and eBay are there to help - don't feel as though you're lumped with an item you didn't pay for.

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