eBay bidder buys vintage microphone, seller sends … a brick

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This eBay buyer threatened to sleep in the lobby for help

I have been reading with great interest about all the negatives about eBay (see Jan. 5 and Jan. 26 editions). I had more than my share of bad experience with eBay, here are just two incidents I had:

In 1999 I bought a Victor phonograph on eBay. It was advertised as being original, except the name tag was repro. When I received it, I spotted right away that several parts were reproduction. (I paid $7,000.)

I contacted the seller and after exchanging several e-mails, he said if eBay would tell him to refund the money he would do it .

Living only 30 miles from the eBay headquarters I took copies of all the e-mails to them. Well, eBay told me they did not have a customer complaint counter on site and the people in charge were busy in a meeting right now, so I replied I have my sleeping bag with me and I would wait here until they are done. Within minutes, 5 YOUNG people showed up, all under 25 years of age.

They listened to my complaint and told me the phonograph was worth a lot more and that I got a good deal and should be happy with it — so NO help from eBay — even though the seller said he would refund the money if eBay would tell him to do so.

My second experience with eBay: I bought a microphone from a seller in Berlin, Germany. I paid 1,200 Euros for it, and the seller never sent the microphone.

Finally, after dozens of e-mails to the seller, he sent me a package by air mail. I picked it up from the postal delivery person and there was rattling inside the package.

Inside the house, I opened up the package and I could not believe what I saw inside the package: It was a BRICK!!!! I took pictures of it, went to the post office, and they could not believe it either. I contacted eBay several times without a single reply!!

Luckily, I have a brother living in Germany and I called him and explained the case to him. He knew the police chief in his town and he talked to him about it. The police chief, in turn, contacted some police chief in Berlin. Anyway, the case went to court.

My brother had to travel 600 KM and stay overnight for the case; the German government paid for everything, including meals. To make the story short, the crooked eBay seller did not appear at court, so he was automatically found guilty.
He appealed because he was “sick” and got a second court date several months later.

My brother was invited again to the court, same expenses all paid by the German government, and the seller got a judgment against him.

Unfortunately my brother could never collect the money because the “poor guy” was living on welfare and did not have the money to pay me back.

Again: No help whatsoever from eBay.

Ekkehart Willms
via e-mail

Thanks for the tips to protect my eBay sales

Cathy Dahms’ letter in the Jan. 26, 2011, Antique Trader answered many questions for me.

My first question had been, “Why has glassware and pottery seemed to stop selling and why has the value been so slow when there is a sale?” I had no idea that unethical sellers would misrepresent an item and then count on the fact that it is too costly to send back an item so the item is just kept allowing these people to continue.

I am not a volume seller and have wonderful pieces of California pottery and EAPG, Brilliant and other cut glass. I have not listed these at auction because of the low prices and lack of interest. Now I understand.

My second question was “How do people respond to negative feedback?” It never occurred to me to use the positive seller line to slam someone. I feel a seller should be able to respond negatively when a transaction has gone sour and we sellers are given no option. There are buyers out there who are a problem I once had a buyer who gave me neutral feedback and the comment that “the item was broken when received.”

This person never contacted me for a refund or to tell me that the item was broken. She would have received a full refund and I would have told her to keep the item. Generally I let the buyer keep a broken item as I have no use for a broken item and have found that claims at the Post Office are a joke. Why make the person pay to ship me a broken item? We are both capable of throwing it out. To the best of my knowledge, no one has misrepresented an item as broken. Of course, I do not often have high-end, high-priced items. I am just a little guy in terms of sales. If glassware and pottery kicked in again on eBay that could change.

My last statement is just another eBay observation. When I sell an item, I spend hours of time researching the item. My listings, to the best of my ability, gives a little bit of history about the item. I may also quote a book where I identified an item. I want people to have some history about what their purchase is and how it came to be. On many occasions, I have written to a seller asking them how the item was identified as the picture does not show the signature. I have had no responses to questions such as these.

Secondly, when I have become frustrated and can’t identify an item, I will go to the discussion boards. I recently went to Pottery, Art and Glass to get help with a pattern identification. I had spent hours trying to do this myself. One of my first responses was “I don’t ID for free anymore because it interferes with my business.” Why answer me?

EBay needs a lot of help in many areas if it is going to continue to be a good venue. I agree with all the points made by others sending in their eBay experiences. What can we do as a community to help improve and unseat eBay as the leader on the Internet? I am currently looking elsewhere for a site to sell  my pottery and glass.

Lynda Vidas,
Brethren, Mich.

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