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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden TrainsTM and Garden Train StoreTM

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How to Lose a Perfect Feedback Rating on Ebay Without Doing Anything Wrong

So I bid on two small items on ebay. Win the items. Get an e-mail from the "seller" asking me to send a check or money order to a P.O. Box in a Michigan city we'll call "Dodge." The P.O. box is held in the name of a "business" that for all intents and purposes doesn't exist. There is no street address, no phone listing, no PayPal account, no Internet presence.

So, to be sure I can get ahold of the seller if things go south for any reason, I call the phone number he sends me. The phone is disconnected. I e-mail the seller several times. He doesn't reply.

I google the company name and discover that the seller's "business" once rented a table at a train show in Michigan, but no person's name is attached to the business. I contacted the club that put on the train show and nobody I got ahold of could remember the fellow or had any contact information for him.

I also discover that the "company" was recently listed as a "store" on Ebay in the recent past but is no longer so listed now.

In the meantime, the "company" was racking up several positive reviews a day. Going back a few months, there were some 25 negative reviews in the last six months. Several involved products that arrived that were not as described. What bothered me was the number of people who said that communications broke down as soon as they discovered there was a problem. A few examples:

  • BEWARE Never got my couplers even had the nerve to leave me positive feedback
  • I never got the item. Wrote to seller, he didn't care! I'll never use them again
  • Seller did not send item as described and now will not honor his guarantee
  • Claimed no paymt rec'd, I sent second MO, he cashed both! Gave proof, no refund.
  • Box car arrived damaged, seller refused any resolution, insufficiently packed
  • Payment sent per instructions. Buyer refused certified mail twice.
  • Impossible to obtain IBAN and BIC of the seller. Impossible payment. Distressed.
  • never received the parts, I asked why, He said I sent them and that was it..
  • I bought Lionel Bridge. Critical Part Missing. Seller Unresponsive. Lost My $
  • broken items due to poor packing! sellar beligerant! EXTREME CAUTION

Keep in mind, that according to Ebay policy, I've already committed to buy the item. And I don't mind buying the item, but considering the problems other folks have had getting this guy to respond to them when they had a problem, I thought it would be fair to have a real name and working telephone number before I sent my check.

I send a message to the guy through the Ebay message system and he responds angrily saying that he doesn't give personal information out to anybody, and that he doesn't answer e-mails at the e-mail address he sent me.

I asked around in the garden train community, and it turns out a friend was burnt by the same seller under a different name several months earlier. Back then, the seller was accepting Paypal, and my friend got his money back. But the seller doesn't accept Paypall now (wonder why?).

I copied Ebay on my e-mails to him. They suggested I request his "real contact information." They also sent me warnings that said I needed to send him a check NOW or be considered a "bad buyer."

I requested the "real" contact information from Ebay. They sent me the name of ANOTHER nonexistent company with no street address, internet presence, or phone number. They also sent me a "personal" telephone # that I called several times. No one ever answered or returned calls. Based on the message, (a woman's voice saying "You know what to do. [click]", I wasn't even certain I was contacting the "seller." For all I knew, I was harrassing some innocent third party whose phone # he had given out at random.

I contacted Ebay telling them. They told me it didn't matter that the contact information they had on file for him was apparently no good. I needed to send this fellow money NOW or be considered a "bad buyer."

I e-mailed the Ebay "safeharbor" people about this several times. They said I shouldn't send a check under these circumstances. They also told me that they would get his real contact information and get back to me with that. They never did.

In the meantime the other Ebay people were sending me warnings daily to send him a check NOW or get listed as a "bad buyer/non-payer." I copied the people sending me the nastygrams the notes from the Ebay "safeharbor" people. They ignored what their own people had told me and sent me more warnings. Every time I went to Ebay there were new warnings.

Finally somebody from the Ebay "safeharbor" resource admitted they couldn't get valid information about the guy, told me to give him bad feedback and forget about it. For the text of their last e-mail to me on that subject, click here.

The seller gave me good feedback on one item and bad feedback on the other item - the ONLY bad feedback I've ever gotten on Ebay.

The seller complained to Ebay that I hadn't sent the money yet. Ebay sent me more warnings. I told Ebay that the seller had yet to give me working contact information. Ebay told me it didn't matter - I needed to send him the money anyway. . . You get the idea.

Finally when the "seller" gave me bad feedback, I e-mailed the Ebay "appeals" people and sent them many copies of all the emails I'd sent to the seller, sent to SafeHarbor, received from SafeHarbor and so on. They e-mailed me back and said they couldn't remove the bad feedback because it didn't fit the categories under which they remove bad feedback. For the text of their last e-mail to me on THAT subject, click here.

I responded again, sending more copies of e-mails, including the emails I had received from the Safe Harbor people telling me not to pay.

Ebay told me that they had recently gotten new contact information from the "seller" that they were sure was valid this time. They also claimed that they had the "seller's" real name and address on file, so they knew he was a real person. Of course they couldn't send that information to me, but I should take their word on it. By now, six or eight weeks had gone by, and needless to say, I had no interest in ever doing business with the guy. I also asked if they had tried the new contact information themselves and they didn't reply.

They also took my "bad feedback" off of the "seller's" since I was a "bad buyer" and didn't have a right to give bad feedback when it was "my fault" the sale didn't go through. I sent them a copy of the message from their own "safe harbor" people telling me to leave bad feedback, and they ignored it.

On the other hand, they left the bad feedback that the "seller" had left, claiming that I was a "bad buyer."

The end result is that I have accumulated one bad feedback mark on my Ebay record, just for wanting someone else to tell me who he was before I sent him money.

Doesn't mean I won't ever buy on Ebay again (I've bought several things since.) But it does mean I'll be more careful about knowing who I'm dealing with before I bid on anything from a buyer who won't accept PayPal.

I guess I've figured out why the same items often sell for 25% more if the seller accepts PayPal. Yes, I know that PayPal can take their "pound" of flesh, and I don't have a problem sending a check or money order to a real person who prefers not to pay the PayPal fees. Ironically, I've also discovered that people who accept PayPal are a lot more open about who they really are than people who won't. Maybe it's because they have nothing to hide and some of the other folks do. So now the first thing I look for before I bid is that little box in the right corner.

Of course, that was the OTHER thing Ebay was probably trying to accomplish by bullying me into sending money to a P.O. box without any real recourse if the sale went bad. Oh, well, you live and learn.

Have a great summer, all,

Best of luck,

Paul Race

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