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…

Extreme Couponing is Fake

“Couponing” has become quite popular in the past couple of years. With sites like Groupon, RetailMeNot, and such, as well as shows like Extreme Couponing, using coupons is no longer looked down upon (as though it was such a bad thing in the past).

The problem is that shows like Extreme Couponing where you see “professional couponers” who buy a thousand dollars worth of merchandise and end up paying only a dollar or two are a complete crock and total fake. It is flat-out impossible to do that because companies are neither stupid, nor established yesterday. Pretty much every coupon specifically says that it cannot be combined with any other discount or offer. That means that you cannot get 75% off with an in-store discount, then use a 50% off coupon, and then add a $5 off coupon, and then get $3 back with a mail-in rebate to get a $100 item for $4.50. I really had stretch reality to get even that much of a discount which isn’t that impressive compared to what you see on the show.

There is absolutely no realistic way that these people can get such massive discounts and pay with just change like they do in the shows. Yes, you can occasionally get an item for less thanks to floor-model discounts and mail-in rebates, etc. but nothing like the shows. In all likelihood, the more realistic explanation is that the show’s production company calls ahead and makes arrangements with the store or at least when the store employees see the camera crew, they play along. For all we know, the people in these shows don’t even take the merchandise home and it’s all put back on the shelves after they shoot the scene. Alternately, the producers may pay the difference after they stop filming.

These shows are fake, plain and simple.

Wendy’s coupoons
Like almost all coupons, these cannot be combined, so no, you cannot get a combo meal for $4.

Rogers’ Continuing Bandwidth/Overage Charge and other Frauds

I strongly believe that Rogers Cable Systems is actively and purposely engaging in fraud to steal money from its customers in the form of bandwidth (and likely also mobile-phone) overage charges. Here are the facts.

Rogers provides a page on their site where you can view your “current” bandwidth usage, however it is never up-to-date and always at least a full day behind. Financial transactions are usually a day behind because they require a human to approve them. However bandwidth is nothing like that and can and should be up-to-date down to the second (except perhaps for the bandwidth of the actual usage page itself). I do not believe this is a mistake or a technological limitation but rather done on purpose so that customers cannot know how much actual bandwidth they have used.

Rogers also provides a notification service which will insert a banner into web pages to let you know that you have reached 75% or 100% of your monthly bandwidth. However just like the bandwidth usage page, this is never up-to-date (in fact, they even admit in the banner that it detects the usage to within two days). You can easily sail well past the threshold and not receive the notifications until at least a full day later, thus rendering them completely useless, even more so than the usage page since this is supposedly an “alert”. By having it be as behind as the usage page, it becomes completely useless and no more than a slightly more convenient way to access the usage page (though most people would argue with the term “convenient” in regards to a banner inserted into all web pages—some sites even detect the framing as a security risk). Again I believe this is done on purpose so that customers cannot know their actual current usage. In fact, the “notifications” are so much worse because they lull customers into a false sense of security, thinking that they will not go over because they will get an alert when they pass the two thresholds.

Of course this is all only relevant when the MyRogers site actually works, which seems to be rarely. Most of the time when you go to the MyRogers site to check your account status, bandwidth usage, etc., you are greeted with red text that says that they are having technical difficulties and/or that they cannot retrieve your account information and to please try again later. It has been like this since they created the site about a decade ago. I’m not convinced that it even truly is technical difficulties because it always seems to be worse towards the end (last week or so) of the billing cycle (on whatever day of the month that happens to fall for the account in question), when you are most likely to want to check how much bandwidth you have remaining.

The two mechanisms that Rogers provides customers to monitor their bandwidth usage are both behind the actual usage by at least one full day (when they work at all). I strongly believe this is on purpose so that customers have no way to know what their precise usage is and worse, believe that they are safe. In this way, customers are more likely to go over their usage than if they are provided with correct numbers. This way, Rogers can charge them a lot more money per gigabyte they go over. Moreover, not only do they raise all of their prices for everything almost every single damned bloody month, but they have also raised the fee for bandwidth overage, so they can gouge customers even more with this little scam of theirs.

It seems that since October 2012, the situation has gotten even worse! The stupid MyRogers website where you can check your bandwidth usage has stopped showing decimal places and rounds down to the nearest gigabyte, so you get even less accurate information than even before, obviously in an attempt to trick people into going over their limit. This is almost certainly on purpose to push anyone who uses their allowance over the line so that they can charge them extra. Despicable behavior from a despicable company.

What’s even worse is that the different Internet service tiers they have provide overage charges in the opposite way of common sense. That is, the tier with the highest monthly bandwidth cap (currently 100GB/month) has the lowest overage charge (currently 50¢ per GB over) while the tier with the lowest cap (currently 15GB/month) has the hight overage charge (currently $4 per GB over). (The interceding tiers follow suit.) This is absurd. If anything, the higher ones should be penalized more for using excess because they already have plenty of room, while the ones with the lower caps should have lower charges since they have such little to work with and are more likely to need to go over sometimes.

Unfortunately customers cannot even just switch to a tier that fits their needs better because the tiers are so unevenly distributed. For example a lot of customers would find the second lowest (and least expensive) tier to be excessive. Not too many people need 12Mbps speed or 60GB per month. However the next lowest tier is only 3Mbps with a cap of 15GB per month. Why in the world is there not a tier in the middle that provides ~6Mbps with 30GB per month? Because then customers are force to either go down a level to one which is too tight and get nailed with $4/GB over every month or go up a level to one that is too much for their needs and pay a higher monthly rate. Again, this is not by accident. They do this on purpose in order to squeeze every last penny they can out of customers.

This is specifically about Rogers’ Internet service, however because mobile phones are subject to bandwidth limits and overage charges, I would not be surprised if it applied in exactly the same way to their wireless phone service as well.

I wish I could say that this sort of behavior surprises me, but unfortunately I have come to expect very little from Rogers. This company has time and again proven itself to be a disgusting, money-grubbing, customer-abusing, greedy, manipulative, lying, fraudulent company. Customers should call them (1-888-Rogers1) and demand to talk to the highest level person that is available and demand that Rogers provide an up-to-the-second and kilo-byte accurate way for them to monitor their own Internet and mobile-phone usage. They should also demand more appropriate caps and overage charges and better tier distribution.

Another example of Rogers’ ongoing deplorable behavior is their continuing throttling of customers’ bandwidth despite being ordered to stop it almost two years ago by the CRTC, saying that they did stop, getting caught lying, saying they would stop, and yet continuing to do so. I am glad that Ted Rogers is dead and wish the same for the other executive rapists of that disgusting pile of garbage.

Most people (rightly) complain that there should not be a cap/limit in the first place. They are correct because bandwidth is measured in BPS. The “seconds” in BPS means that bandwidth is transient and therefore cannot be saved or hoarded for later. Either you use it or it is gone forever! There is no sense is limiting people and wasting bandwidth. Unfortunately, ISPs are just like airlines; they overbook so that they don’t waste their service, but end up overbooking over-zealously, and thus selling more than they have, so they have to limit everyone and then take advantage of that fact by charging more for better service.