phantom bidders and greedy sellers

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"Invalid Bid Retraction A bid is a binding contract. Except under special circumstances, bid retraction is not permitted. Furthermore, misuse of the bid retraction option to manipulate the bidding process is not permitted. This includes any manipulation of the bidding process to discover the maximum bid of the current high bidder or to uncover the reserve price."
 or
"You can retract the bid within one hour of placing it. In this case, only that bid will be retracted; any other bid you placed before the last 12 hours of the listing remains valid. "
 Clearly these two eBay policies seem to contradict each other since eBay cannot accurately discern either intent nor circumstance.... and sometimes well-meaning individuals get caught in the middle.
I refer you to this case where I have attempted every suggested eBay path to resolution and it has become apparent -at least to me - that the seller is/was either in cahoots with a bidder for their item or is willing to allow a bid to stand that is, at best, frivolous and at worst manipulative - and to knowingly use this bid to boost her price.
I, as a long term buyer in good standing, now face censure despite all attempts to settle without cost to the seller and a willingness to still buy - just not by being manipulated and threatened.

On 20/3/06 10:20 pm, "eBay United Kingdom Customer Support" wrote:
"Hello Tony, Thank you for writing to eBay. My name is Henrietta, and I appreciate the opportunity to assist you with your concerns regarding the bidding on the roof rack parts, item number 4620551039. After reading your email, I can understand your frustration upon viewing the bidding history of "pumkin9990". eBay is always very concerned about breaches of its policies and have thoroughly investigated your report. In accordance with our policies, however, I have found that there is not enough evidence to show that a violation has taken place. We can reopen the investigation if any additional information can be provided. "

 THE STORY SO FAR....
Sent to EBay on March 20, 2006
Message : regarding item #4620551039
"On the 11th march, I entered a maximum bid of £20 for this item. At the time there were no other bids for the item. Also on the 11th march, a new ebay identity was registered under the name "pumpkin 9990". This new ID drove the bids up to my maximum and then, curiously, ceased bidding - all on one day. I have now been invoiced for my maximum bid. Clearly this is, at best, highly suspicious behaviour. I have been caught before bidding against "ghost newbies" only to later discover the seller had set up - or had a friend set up - the new identity to protect their own interests by driving the bidding up. I don't feel that I should be liable for this purchase and should either have the transaction nullified without damage to my "feedback" or should be sold the item for the price at which I initially bid, which was the opening bid of £5. I am sending a copy of this email to the seller and would appreciate your advice. regards tony reay ebay member in good standing since 2001"

Communication with seller.
" Dear Mr Reay, Thank you for the copy of the mail you sent to Ebay. I am very disappointed that you are dissatisfied with the circumstances of your purchase. You have my assurance that I have no connection in any way with the identity pumpkin9990. If you were suspicious of bidding by pumpkin9990 I believe you could have retracted your bid before the auction ended. With regard to the bidding stopping at your maximum amount, you will be aware as an experienced ebayer that your maximum bid is only known to yourself. I could not see that as a seller. Is it not also reasonable that another bidder would attach the same maximum value to the item as you did? I would like to resolve this matter amicably, but your bid is a contract, and I am not prepared to reduce the final price. I hope that you will accept my word that there was no underhand behaviour in connection with this listing, and that you will be willing to complete this transaction without further ado. Regards, Mrs Kirby"

" Mrs Kirby, I don't think it's accurate to say that I am dissatisfied with the circumstances of my purchase. I am, in fact, both suspicious and skeptical of your assurances - after all, what else WOULD you say. Surely this is simple enough to resolve.. If your circumstances are genuine then simply sell the item to your other bidder - who matched my maximum bid. You will lose nothing - in theory. As for retracting my bid, I didn't know the circumstances until Sunday as I was working away from home. As an experience bidder, I know that there are several ways to ascertain a maximum bid. One simply bids until told that one is the high bidder and then cancels the final bid immediately. As I said, I have been caught in this web before. You may well indeed be an honourable and honest person, but surely, as such, you can understand my reluctance. We don't have to argue. Simply sell it to Pumpkin. "

" Dear Mr Reay, Thank you for your reply. I am indeed an honourable and honest person, and I state again I have no connection with pumkin9990. It seems to me that you have now decided that you don’t want to purchase the roof rack brackets. I have now offered pumkin9990 a second chance offer for this item as you have suggested. Should they accept this offer I shall have to report this item to Ebay as unpaid, and that we have mutually agreed not to complete the transaction. I trust that if you are an honourable and honest person you will co-operate in releasing the item for resale. In the event that they decline the offer (it’s valid for 3 days), I shall ask you one final time if you are going to pay for this item. If you choose not to pay, or do not respond, I shall report you as a non-paying bidder, and let Ebay take appropriate action. Regards, Mrs Kirby."

" Mrs Kirby, I have NOT decided that I don't want to buy the rack.. I simply don't want to be forced to have to pay my maximum any more than you would like to have to be forced - in a manner you consider to be unfair and manipulative - to have to accept your minimum amount. I suspect that you will not hear back from Pumpkin, altho' I hope that I am wrong and you get your money. Perhaps you now know why so many Ebayers insist that bidders with no feedback contact them first, simply to avoid this very circumstance. I have neither desire nor reason to make an enemy of you but you seem to show little understanding or attempt at empathy and I find that distinctly unfriendly... not really what Ebaying is SUPPOSED to be about, is it? Why, if pumpkin ACCEPTS this second chance, would you consider the item unsold? I sent an email thru Ebay to pumpkin earlier today releasing the item - all should be well. regards tony"

" Hi Tony, Firstly I agree with you that I hope Pumkin9990 comes good and I get my money that way. Secondly, you asked ?Why, if pumpkin ACCEPTS this second chance, would you consider the item unsold??. The item would be unsold to you, and in order to complete the second chance offer I would have to register it as such otherwise I would be liable to a second set of listing fees. Having read the rules it is possible to do it by mutual consent, and neither party has a mark against them. You did say yourself I would be "no worse off" if I sold it to pumkin9990, so that includes no relist fees. Since I am the seller of this item, may I point out that you do not have the authority to "release" the item for sale to pumkin9990. Your bid was a contract, and that contract is between myself and you. I am sorry that you feel I am being unfriendly. It is not my intention, and I hope that you appreciate my co-operation in trying to resolve this matter through a second chance offer. The facts are I have given you my assurance that I have no connection with pumkin9990, I have made a second chance offer as you suggested, I am still communicating with you, and when you bid, you agreed to buy the item up to a maximum value. You and you alone made that decision. I have two requests, firstly that we now wait until the second chance offer is either accepted, or expires. It was made at 19:08 in the 21 March, and is valid for 3 days. Secondly, in future replies, please reframe from using capital letters. This implies you are shouting, and I feel that is un-necessarily aggressive. Regards, Maria Kirby."

" Mrs Kirby, I agreed to buy this item at my maximum bid as long as the bidding was fairly done. I believe it wasn't. I also believe it was your responsibility as the seller to be a little more diligent about accepting bids from people with neither history nor feedback.. if this party had bid £400 would you have accepted that?? I doubt it. If your interest was indeed to be fair about all of this you would, when/if it turns out that pumpkin9990 either doesn't want this second chance or - more likely -doesn't bother to respond to you either, just as I received no response then perhaps the fairest thing would be to simply split the difference... had pumpkin not bid at all you would be selling these things for a fiver - had pumpkin been more legitimate then they probably would have bid that extra pound more and won the item. BTW I'm not shouting when I use caps for emphasis.. just emphasizing. "

" Dear Tony, Unfortunately Pumkin9990 didn't take the second chance offer for the brackets. However you might be interested to see that Pumkin9990 is a legitimate Ebayer, as they have now completed a sucessful transaction. Have a look at; (url given but unusable in this form) I hope that this will reassure you that there was nothing underhand in the bidding on the roof rack brackets. True to my word I'm offering you one last chance to pay £25 for the item and postage that you bid for and won on 19th March. To quote Ebay's rules; Buyers automatically enter into a legally binding contract to purchase the item from the seller if they win the online auction-style listing or use the Buy It Now feature. eBay's Unpaid Item policy requires buyers to pay the seller for the items that they commit to purchase I look forward to recieving your payment promptly so I don't have to report you as a non-paying bidder. Regards Maria."

" Maria, OK, let’s take this from the top.... ASSUMING that you are indeed an honest and genuine ebayer, you must surely now see that this pumpkin person has intentionally fouled the waters of your sale by deliberately bidding up to the max bid offered and then declining to buy. (The fact that this person has bought something from someone else with questionable feedback does little to allay my fears.. but the fact that he/she suddenly doesn’t want to honour his/her own bid for your item certainly reinforces my own sense of tampering with the system). So – as an honest and genuine ebayer – you do not wish to have to force an equally honest and genuine ebayer to suffer for the actions of another, particularly when you, as the seller, could have used a traditional ebay system of disallowing “bump-up” bids from brand new members with no history. And I, on the other hand do not want to have to pay my maximum bid simply because some other bidder drove up the price with no apparent intent to buy. here is the FAIR suggestion. I – as the high bidder will pay you your relisting fee so that you suffer no financial loss and you, as the genuine seller will relist the item for auction. I, and hopefully others, will bid on your item and the person who wins the item in an untampered-with auction will then purchase it. You will have lost no money, just a little time and you will then have conclusively demonstrated that you are just as you claim to be.. an honest and fair ebayer. If this offer is not acceptable to you and you insist on threatening me with reporting to ebay go for it – I shall list all this correspondence on a link reply to my feedback and ANYONE will understand why I refuse to be forced to buy something on an unfair auction, you will then have to relist the item anyway.. and I may still win it for less than the ten pounds I offered you in my last email.. and you’ll have to pay your own relist fee. Your insistence to date that you are entitled to the highest bid in a tampered auction merely suggests that you are fully aware that I was the only real bidder and you would have been forced to sell it to me at your minimum. Perhaps common sense can prevail here.. waddya say? regards tony PS I take this opportunity to reply directly simply because there is a character limit on the ebay message system."

" Tony, You bid, you won, you procrastinated and despite my reassurances, honesty and patience you?ve ignored my final request for payment. You are a non-paying bidder. Maria."

" Maria, I DID bid, I DID win - a rigged contest. I most certainly did NOT procrastinate - I responded immediately throughout this entire proceeding. Your reassurances are just that... YOUR reassurances. Your honesty, at this point, is debatable. Your patience is apparently insufficient to allow for a re-sale at no cost to you and I have ignored none of your requests. Although you may view me simply as a "non-paying bidder" your view is singularly one-sided and rather deliberately self-serving.. and doesn't take in ALL of the data. It's s shame that this particular amount of money is so important to you but, if sword rattling is your game then as I said, go for it - but it's an unnecessary shame. sadly tony".

 NOW - I'M ANGRY.. On Monday, April 10th, at 2.30pm I received the following email from eBay

 eBay Unpaid Item Response Reminder: #4620551039
"Dear tonyreay: According to eBay's records, you have not yet responded to owl-hoot's notification regarding your payment for item 4620551039, Vauxhall Cavalier Roof Rack Bar Feet Fixings which was filed on 03-Apr-2006. You may have already resolved this situation through email or paid for this item directly, but eBay has not yet been informed. Please respond using the link below so eBay can confirm your communication. Please note that if you do not resolve this situation within seven days of the date the notification was sent, you may receive an Unpaid Item strike under eBay's Unpaid Item Policy. Also, if you don't respond and the case closes with an Unpaid Item strike against you, you will lose feedback privileges for this transaction. You can still leave a feedback comment for this transaction, but the feedback rating that you choose will not appear, and will not count toward the seller's feedback score. "

 As you can CLEARLY see, it allows me seven days to respond. On Tuesday evening, April 11th, THE NEXT DAY, I received the following email...
 eBay Unpaid Item Strike Received: #4620551039
tonyreay, you have received an Unpaid Item strike You were the winning buyer on eBay item #4620551039, Vauxhall Cavalier Roof Rack Bar Feet Fixings . The seller, owl-hoot has informed eBay that payment for the item has still not been received, or that the two of you were not able to come to agreement. As a result, you have received an Unpaid Item strike. Furthermore, because you did not respond to this Unpaid Item notification, you have lost feedback privileges for this transaction... Etc,. Etc

"I DID respond to this notification.. I have carried out an ongoing communication with both the seller AND EBAY for several weeks. If you wish to give me a strike for refusing to take part in this charade of a sale.. Then so be it, but you have no right to claim that I didn’t respond. FIX THIS NOW or hear from my solicitors. Infuriated Tony Reay"

Your eBay strike has been removed for Item# 4620551039
"Dear tonyreay, Thank you for contacting eBay concerning the Unpaid Item Strike you received. After reviewing all of the information provided about the item 4620551039Vauxhall Cavalier Roof Rack Bar Feet Fixings the Unpaid Item strike has been removed from your account However, since you did not participate in the Unpaid Item process, the rating that you choose for this transaction will not appear. This action only applies to this particular transaction. Other strikes could still negatively affect your account. Remember, repeated Unpaid Item Strikes may result in your suspension from eBay. We recommend you save any documentation regarding your transactions for future reference. You can read about the online appeals process at the following web address:.....

 and then... finally..
"Hello Tony, Thank you for writing in with your appeal in relation to the Unpaid Item Strike you received on your account for the item 4620551039. We hope that this situation has not caused you any undue concern. Since this is your first appeal, and we have the evidence that we require, the Strike for this item has been removed from your record without any further inconvenience to you. I trust that this information has been useful to you. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us again. Regards, Elisabetta Neri SafeHarbour Team ______________________________
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