eBay is riddled with scams and unscrupulous sellers, but neither they nor PayPal will do anything about it

I am sick and tired of eBay. While it is (still) a useful resource for getting items that cannot be obtained locally or for a good price, it has gotten to be quite a horrible place, riddled with scams and fraudulent sellers, especially Chinese sellers.

I was personally bitten a few times (both times by Chinese sellers). One of the them only sent part of order, another one sold me fake, counterfeit garbage.

There are several problems with buying things on eBay.

  • Beware of fakes.

    There are counterfeits on eBay and they are not all single, hit-and-run items; sometimes they are well known, long-running frauds that go completely un-actioned by eBay.

    For example, it is (apparently) well known that buying rechargeable NiMH batteries on eBay is a bad idea. If you see a listing for a pack of eight 3000mAh NiMH batteries for $10, you may want to pass (especially if they are “BTY” brand). Chances are good that the batteries are not 3000mAh, but rather 200mAh or less. Moreover, they may not even be NiMH, they may just be NiCD. This is flat-out fraud!

    The problem is further compounded by the fact that not all items can be immediately tested when you get them. For example, I bought a pack of such batteries, but I did not have the equipment to properly test them. Worse, I already had plenty of alkalines left, so I put the “ rechargeables” aside until I used those up first. It was not until much later that I started using the fake batteries and discovered that instead of lasting longer, they seemed to drain almost immediately. I then researched them and discovered that BTY batteries are infamous for being counterfeit garbage, but by then, it was too late for me to do anything about it.

  • Dispute and feedback periods are too short.

    eBay and PayPal provide the ability to leave feedback and dispute transactions that have problems. The problem is that these periods are far too short. eBay only allows you to leave feedback for an item for up to 60 days from the date of sale. PayPal only allows you to file a dispute for up to 46 days from said date. In this world of International trade and economy, that is just too short and creates the ability for disreputable sellers to engage in certain scams like the “Please Wait eBay/PayPal Scam”.

    Please Wait eBay/PayPal Scam

    If you have a problem with an item you purchased on eBay, you can file a dispute or leave negative feedback to warn others. However when you try to do either (or even leave neutral feedback or less than five stars), eBay and PayPal strongly encourage you to try contacting the seller to resolved the dispute instead.

    If you do choose to contact the seller, you open yourself up to getting totally screwed because a seller (especially foreign ones with long over-seas shipping delays) can politely apologize and explain that international shipments take several weeks and to please wait a little longer. If you wait a little and then contact them again, they will then helpfully apologize again and offer to send another one. After waiting for the replacement, you get tired and contact them again, but again, they say it takes a while to ship and to please wait.

    Eventually, you get sick of waiting and contact them, but it has now been longer than 60 days, and they finally show their true face by ignoring any further messages you send them. At this point, there is absolutely nothing you can do; you cannot file a dispute to attempt to get a refund, and you cannot even leave negative feedback to warn others.

    Sadly, eBay and PayPal refuse to acknowledge that 45/60 days are just too short for global purchases.

  • Reports go unactioned.

    There is a link on the page for each item on eBay to allow you to report listings that have a problem of some sort. The report form contains numerous reasons and sub-reasons and they even give you a report-ticket when you submit it. Unfortunately reports seem to go completely unactioned to the point that some theorize that it is just a placebo and unless the listing is egregiously bad (child porn, body parts, etc.) reports for other reasons get ignored. You can report an item and several days later, see that nothing has changed.

    When a listing is reported, eBay merely sends the seller an email to let them know there is a problem with their listing and to fix it, but apparently the seller is free to ignore the email because there is absolutely no follow up for anything that is not bad enough to be outright pulled.

    The eBay staff may ignore most reports because they figure that the item is expiring in a few days anyway, so enforcing their own policy is not worth the effort. If this is the case, then you would expect that long-lasting listings (e.g., 30-day listings) would be fixed or pulled, and yet they are not.

    This lack of enforcement allows sellers to cheat and lie with impunity.

    • Search and Browse Manipulation

      • Wrong Category Lure

        They put their items in the wrong category to lure people to items they don’t want. For example, a seller may put their item in the category corresponding to a different version of the item than the version they are selling.

        Some are so audacious that they even put low-demand items in a category for high-demand items so that they deceptively show up in search results and email alerts. The first problem could happen by accident (the seller doesn’t realize there are multiple versions), but the second one is usually on purpose.

      • Multiple Version Abuse

        Another purposely deceptive problem with eBay listings which is becoming more and more popular, especially amongst Chinese sellers is to manipulate browse and search results by abusing the multiple-versions option.

        If you have multiple versions of the same (e.g., different colors, different textures, etc. for the same product), you can combine them into a single listing. In this case, when users see your item in the search results, there is a pop-up box that lets you see the options for that product, and when you open the page for it, you can select the version you want to purchase. This is meant to be used for different versions of the same product and the prices should be about the same.

        What some sellers do however is to (ab)use this feature to make a listing of a bunch of expensive items (sometimes drastically different, which eBay policy dictates should be put in separate listings), and then to add an extra, cheap item to the listing. That way, when users perform a search, instead of the listing showing up further down where it belongs, it appears near the top of the list (assuming most users sort results by price, low-to-high). What’s worse is that they arrange the items so that the photo of the expensive item shows in the search results, but because eBay always lists the cheapest item in the listing on the results page, buyers are tricked into thinking that the expensive item in question is available for next to nothing (usually 99¢).

    • Shipping…

  • More to follow…

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