Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
'Why did eBay side with the buyer when he returned my Apple MacBook?' (telegraph.co.uk)
60 points by jb1991 on May 14, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 48 comments

Ex eBay employee here. Don't buy or sell on eBay. It's not that no-one there cares, I certainly did, it is that no-one in power cares. The corporate culture is toxic. I worked in bad buyer experience and building algorithms to fix this is trivial. It happens a lot so there is a lot of data and the patterns are simple. The problem is that every fix costs eBay a discernible amount money.

We did customer analysis to show that existing customers were leaving faster than new ones were coming in. Usually people have one bad experience and never come back. They still didn't care and given their culture they will never care until their stock plummets or a real competitor comes along.

But they already have a real competitor: Amazon

Not yet and not really.

Can you elaborate a bit on that ? It seems from afar that both Amazon and Ebay are crashing into eachother.

Amazon, for it's side, is opening up to sellers. From secondhand sellers to etsy type products getting listed on Amazon. It's focus is different: getting many producers/middlemen to list the same products.

Ebay is working to get part of the logistics, payment, etc. in house. Ebay used to be just a listing site. But then payment came into ebay (with a hefty fee raise I might add), and now we see the focus on ebay to classify things the way Amazon does. You're seeing that when you sell something on ebay. Ebay will ask "is it like this ?" and then ask a few questions to determine the exact product.

Seems like both companies are evolving toward the same middle ground.

It's a big nuanced topic but I'll elaborate a bit more.

Amazon has bigger fish to fry than eBay. Amazon can always focus on second hand market place later while leveraging their infrastructure to ensure a win. My bet is that they will take a long time to get around to it. In the meantime phone based and social based have a pretty good shot at competing. This will also take a long time.

eBays efforts to take on Amazon at being Amazon is a total waste of what little focus they have. Like Yahoo, one of the best perks of eBay is that it's hard to get fired. It's very relaxed and people are quite comfortable - why risk an easy / safe job by taking a risk doing something innovative. After a while innovative people get jack of it and leave and all you're left is the lazy and incompetent. There are pockets of excellence within eBay but they're getting smaller. There was a potential for a turnaround when the stock price was $10 but at $30+ no-one is interested.

Sadly, this is just how things are when you're a 3rd party seller on platforms like eBay, Amazon, etsy, etc.

They side with the buyers. Bad behavior, or fraud, on the part of buyers isn't interesting to them when the seller is a 3rd party because they have no skin in the game. They want that buyer more than they want you.

There's no escalation point either. Push back, and the fraudulent buyer will just file a chargeback. The credit card companies are even worse about siding with buyers engaging in return fraud.

For me, it's just the cost of doing business. I have to pad my margin to account for it. Assholes like the buyer depicted in the article just make prices higher for everyone else.

Edit: It might be interesting if some fairly ubiquitous payment processor offered a shared buyer blacklist. I suppose though, nobody wants to expose themselves to the potential lawsuits. If it were managed well, by only allowing fairly established, higher volume sellers, to add to the list, it might work well.

Hmmm... sounds like an interesting startup idea, curate a list of bad buyers and sell access to it based on a monthly subscription. The catch being that whoever curates the list would have to do a thorough job either vetting complaints or developing a statistical model that predicts if someone is a jerk at a higher rate than the average consumer. There are issues with this idea of course, it might be more expensive to run the service than sellers lose in revenue, you're liable to tick off both sellers and buyers by attempting to be an unbiased mediator. You could also land in hot water if a minority group ends up having higher than average rates of getting black listed.

I think it would almost have to be someone like Stripe or Paypal, such that they have a broad enough view into the buyer. They would get data via chargebacks versus just seller initiated data.

Personally, I think credit card companies should send back something like "percentage of purchases with a chargeback" and let us decide how risky we want to be.

You could also function as a broad returns resale company, front a portion of the money for the return fix/dump products in house and resell them at a discounted price. Then adjust the percentage you refund the seller based on what type of item it is and how much of there stuff comes back unsalvagable. Target resale at the developing world/people on shoestring budgets/startups.

> It might be interesting if some fairly ubiquitous payment processor offered a shared buyer blacklist.

The article claimed eBay looked into the buyer's history and didn't see anything else like this. Maybe they didn't look hard, or maybe this was their first time, but such a thing wouldn't have helped in this case, at least.

eBay would only be one limited view into the buyer. A broader view might reveal more. Maybe they create new eBay accounts over time also. Based on experience, I doubt eBay did much research.

Can someone please build a better eBay? Something with stronger reputation signals, escrow based payment, and lower fees? I've had many bad experiences on eBay but there's nowhere better to buy/sell certain things.

I sold an old phone on eBay for $100. I choose PayPal as the payment and​ everything seemingly went fine. A few weeks later I wondered where my money was because I still didn't have it. The buyer had sent it but apparently I forgot to 'accept' it. eBay said I had waited too long and no longer had a right to get the money. So the buyer got my phone, eBay got the $100, and I had to pay $8 in seller fees. Sold a phone for negative $8. How is that not fraud?

Here's how one common scam works : the buyer sent you a fake payment mail. There was never a paypal transaction, nor was any money transfered. The money you paid to ebay was a listing fee, not a final value fee (yes you have to pay even if the item doesn't sell), but in reality the item was never sold.

This is like the old snail mail scam: insert extra bills for common things (like electricity or tax or whatnot) with fake payment instructions (ie. pointing to an account under your control). Suckers pay, then a month later receive another bill from the power company and complain, but of course the power company has no idea about any of that payment and will, of course, still insist on payment.

Make sure to go to paypal's site to verify paypal payments (and frankly if you can avoid it: don't use paypal). Check the sites YOU GO TO, not what ends up in your inbox.

Interesting scam but that was not it. eBay confirmed that the buyer had paid, I just was not eligible to get the money. What I paid was a final value fee.

I tried starting a business selling those 30 day WoW subscription cards as I came on to a box of them for fairly cheap. I sold most of them, then one person falsely reported me of fraud and that was it, my paypal account which had all of my profits in it was frozen and I never managed to recover the money. IIRC I had close to £300 and I never found out what happened to the money; I imagine paypal just took it as profit despite every buyer giving me positive feedback up until that point.

I was considering starting a marketplace on Amazon last year as well with a friend, just selling basic Chinese made goods but it sounds like things like this are rampant there too, and honestly I'm seeing a lot of sellers on Amazon lately that are scammers, so I'm beginning to lose faith in Amazon as a consumer as well.

If I'm going to try and make a business from selling goods online I would want to run my own ecommerce shop using shopify or something similar.

Check again. They should give you instructions on getting the money back after 180 days.

This was ten years ago; I might try and dig it up to see if I can get it back, but honestly by now I imagine all hope is lost.

Dealing with finicky buyers - let alone fraudulent ones - is what drove me away from selling stuff online. The system is set up to cater to the oversensitive mindsets of entitled online shoppers, which is the same setup that gives fraudulent buyers an unassailable leg up over sellers.

My marketplace of choice is Craigslist. I meet up with the buyer, they inspect the item, and pay me in cash if all looks good. There is no room for monkey business. I usually set up these meetings in front of the closest police station in order to keep everyone safe. A few times buyers have come to the lobby of my office building. I've never had an unhappy buyer after having sold dozens of items over the last decade or so.

Selling stuff on ebay / using paypal (they're the same thing from a seller's perspective) is a gamble. You can sell a brand new product and then the buyer creates a dispute with ebay/paypal and you're fucked. Often they don't even have to return the item. Paypal will freeze the funds. Only if the buyer agrees to cancel their complaint can you get your money back. It's too bad. Ebay used to be a wonderful platform. But like most Internet companies today, they are shit. Paypal's business is undoubtedly criminal. Craigslist works only because it's not a platform and you don't have to give them money. Much less exposure, but at least ebay/paypal/other shitty Internet company doesn't keep your money. All these advances, and a copy of the classifieds (craigslist) plus cash is still the optimal route for selling safely. Sad.

I've sold one thing on eBay ever and I'll never do it again. My buyer tried to do the same thing mentioned in this article to me; luckily I made the item non returnable and I didn't let the buyer's threats of getting a lawyer scare me into giving in, I knew it would have to go through eBay's dispute system first. It's really a terrible system for sellers, it really sucks that eBay et al. are all guilty.

This is not a new kind of story on eBay but I'm not sure what the answer is. The reputation system works to some degree if someone commits systematic fraud but if someone does this as a one-off thing, I'm not sure what reasonable protections are other than using some sort of escrow service.

You can argue whether eBay's policies should default to favoring the buyer or the seller but they pretty much have to do one or the other. Even if their customer service were better than it is, it's not in the position to do a forensic investigation in cases where the facts are in dispute and can't be easily determined.

No, one or two minutes spent by a human would easily resolve this situation and most disputes. Just taking a look at the images and serial numbers of the macs would provide the evidence needed. Ebay does not have to be the shitty company it is. It chooses to be the shitty company it is.

Maybe the seller could've recorded as many serial numbers of parts of the Mac as possible? Ive not bought or sold stuff on eBay in years so I don't know if this would've helped.

At least part of this is on the seller for not keeping track of the serial number. Whenever you deal in used Apple products either as a buyer or a seller you should always check the serial number, always make sure you keep the original packaging, and always make sure the serial numbers on the unit and the packaging match. This is by far your best protection against all manner of shady dealings.

You say that as if it would have compelled eBay to decide the matter differently. It really doesn't work that way with eBay, Amazon, or similar. They just don't care about return fraud, especially when it's a 3rd party seller. The buyer can return a box of rocks and it works out the same way.

Edit: My classic example was one case where the buyer claimed "item not received". It was a one-off, custom item, and quite expensive. So, I was pissed off enough to hire a private investigator to go to the place of business. The item was there. The PI took pictures of the item, with the buyer's business (including signage) in the background. I submitted them in the counter dispute. I also had one of his employee's signature on a UPS delivery slip. Still lost. Their reasoning was that the signature was not the buyer's signature (no matter that it was the buyer's employee's signature). They didn't mention the incriminating pictures at all in the final outcome.

If it was expensive enough to hire a PI, seems like you could litigate civilly?

It was a $500 purchase. Buyer was out of state, 1000+ miles away. The PI charged $120 to take the pictures.

This was more of a principal thing. You can imagine these days I just shrug and move on.

I sold a MacBook on eBay once and the buyer returned a different (broken) computer. I had pictures and documentation to prove that the serial numbers were different.

eBay simply does not care. No matter what you do, if a buyer tries to scam you, you will lose.

I haven't sold on eBay for a very long time but that's good advice. It may even make sense (unless there are downsides I'm not thinking of) to put the serial number in the listing. Though I suppose the buyer can still just say that's not what they received.

I think there is a fundamental assymetry in buyers and sellers for eBay. A random buyer is much more likely to be a repeat user than a random seller. An individual might sell a few items, but would buy many more items. In addition, a bad experience as a seller where eBay took the buyer's side, is actually more likely to make them have confidence in being a buyer. On the other hand, a buyer that feels cheated is likely to never use the service again. As for businesses that sell on eBay, they assume a certain rate of these kind of things and price in the risk accordingly, so they don't really care as long as it is not too frequent. Given the above, it absolutely makes sense for eBay to be heavily biased in favor of the buyer in a dispute.

I am not surprised. I used to sell old iPhones and MacBooks on eBay but stopped since every experience became bad in some way and the fees are already high and getting higher.

The last straw for me was a MacBook sale. I took great care of it and listed it in great condition and included pictures. The buyer considered it "good" not great condition and after several back and forths arguing I sent him $50 to buy a cover. I searched around for information and experiences from others during the process and eventually realized that he had all the control and eBay essentially always sides with buyers. I'm glad I only got taken for $50 instead of the outcome from the story. Never again though. F eBay

I recently bought MacBook on eBay and it arrived with bended lid that was not mentioned in the description. Messaged the seller hoping that he could at least offer $50 compensation for that. Will see how it goes.

I buy and sell on eBay, but I only sell things on it that I'm OK with losing without compensation, which generally means small items of moderate value that I am trying to get rid of to declutter. Low-value items get donated or trashed. Free or high-value items are given away or sold for cash through Craigslist or other in-person means. This has worked out pretty well for me so far.

I am scared to sell anymore on Ebay given these stories. How can you protect yourself if you are selling a high priced item?

You really can't. When dealing with high priced items, always ship with insurance and signature confirmation. It costs more but it's worth the trouble. I'd had cases where the seller claimed the box to be empty. I've had cases where they claimed it to be damaged. Whether they are lying or not I don't know, but that's where the shipping insurance covers it.

The cases that the seller does want a return, you really can't say no. I usually just say yes, I can process a return, but can you explain what is wrong with the item? Maybe we can walk through it before processing a full return. Usually you can get away with compensating them something since no one wants to go through the hassle of the return.

I also make sure I tell them to ship with signature confirmation and tracking. Since I offer "free shipping", that means they would have to eat all the costs when they return the item. More often than not, it's not worth the hassle for them.

After hundreds of sales, I would say there are definitely some complications, but more often than not it's fine. It's one of the risks you have to consider when selling.

I bought an item from Amazon recently and I actually did receive an empty box. Was nervous about reporting it as I was highly aware that it could easily look like I was running a scam and I had no way to prove otherwise. Fortunately Amazon gave me a refund. It seems that whatever policy you put in place for this situation, some people are going to get screwed at least some of the time.

I have a few items valued at several thousand dollars. I am going to see if I can do a sale locally maybe even at a high end consignment shop.

There really is a hole in the market for goods in this price bracket.

I would almost want some Ebay certified place that could verify the item and act as an escrow.

You really can't. I heard stories of people selling MacBooks, buyer requesting a refund and sends an empty box back and you can't do nothing about it

It's hard. I don't know about computers but for photo equipment with any real value, the last couple things I just sold to Amazon directly. I was actually pretty happy with the value I got and zero hassle.

I'm sure I could have gotten more with a private sale but then there's the risk and the hassle. (I live far enough outside of the nearest major city that Craigslist doesn't really work for me in general.)

Last time I sold on eBay I remember there being options to restrict who can bid. Like having users that had a good track record. Do they not do that anymore or have the scammers managed to mess that up even?

They removed these settings. That's exactly the point at which i just started losing interest. I still have a huge pile of stuff i meant to list years ago that i just don't have the motivation too now.

Too many crap bidders, no way to block them. Ebays logic was that they "didn't want to discourage new users" or some nonsense.

How does one get a good track record if they can't bid on anything?

Plenty of things you can buy with 0 history. Mainly from large sellers that can absorb the cost.

I've never sold anything on eBay/Amazon because of this. For used items I'd just try anything like Craiglist, Gumtree or alike.

Why not put a tracking chip in the package and get the buyer's physical address?

Or sue the buyer in small claims?

I'm surprised there isn't seller-side insurance... eBay etc all have buyer side insurance.

eBay always, always sides with buyers. If there has been a case of eBay successfully handling buyer fraud, I haven't heard about it. You just have to accept it as a cost of doing business.

Couple years ago I won as a seller. Item was delayed by usps and the buyer (rightfully) started the claims process. Usps delivered with a signature but the claim was never cancelled. Eventually eBay said they reviewed it and awarded in my favor. Granted this is a bit different than someone sending an empty box back, eBay does sometimes actually look into it.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact