A little while ago I had a cleanout and realised that I could make a bit of money by selling some of the items on eBay. However, I was surprised by the number of scammers and non-paying bidders that littered my auctions and appalled by how little eBay seems to care.

The first non-payer

I started with smaller, low value items and listed a handful of them on eBay one weekend. When the auctions ended, I was surprised to learn that the same eBay user won all of them. This seemed odd to me as the items were all quite different and shared no relationship whatsoever. I waited a couple of days and received no payment, then I received a message stating that “payment will be next Tuesday”, which was a week away.

I waited until next Thursday, then decided to contact them and delve into the user’s profile. Their account was created one day before they won my auctions, and they had gained nearly one hundred feedback ratings in the span of less than a fortnight. All of the ratings were positive, however, the associated comments were not. Almost all of the comments were unfavourable and contained terms such as “non-payer” and “scammer”.

This made me realise that selling all of my items to one person was too good to be true. What didn’t make sense, however, was that the user had a 100% positive feedback rating, yet all of the comments were unfavourable. It turns out that sellers cannot give non-payers negative feedback ratings, as there is no option to do so. It isn’t possible to give neutral feedback either. Instead, their only option is to leave a positive rating with a negative comment.

Accusations and refunds

I relisted the items, and some of them sold. All of which were good experiences, except for one. A brand-new wind-up robot. The buyer paid quickly, so I packaged the item very well and sent it off. A few days later I received a message from the buyer accusing me of selling him a used, broken wind-up robot. He believed that the item was used as the box was dented and the item was faulty. I explained to him that the box had no dents when I posted it, so it must have been damaged in shipping, despite the generous amount of padding it was shipped with. I also explained that I did not know the item was broken, as I had never opened it. It was quite an intricate item, so shipping could have easily broken it; it’s also possible that it has always been broken. He demanded a refund, stating “I believe you owe me a refund”. Although none of the damage was my fault, I gave him the refund. I never received a “thank you”.

Trying to sell my Surface

As I have previously mentioned on this site, I recently purchased a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon to replace my Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I expected that my Surface would be worth nothing but was pleasantly surprised to learn that my particular model (i7 / 8GB RAM / 256GB SSD) was selling for more than $500. It’s quite rare to see a four-year-old PC sell for more than $200; it’s difficult to even give away a second-hand PC for free.

Since eBay had a no-fee promotion running at the time, I promptly listed my Surface. Even though I specifically stated that I was only posting to Australia, a bidder from Thailand won the item. They asked me for a shipping quote, which I complied with even though I didn’t want to send it to Thailand. I waited four days and received no communication or payment from the winner. I then looked at their feedback profile and learned that they had just paid for a cheaper Surface from the US. It appears as if they had bided on all of the Surface Pro 3 computers that were on eBay at that time, only intending to pay for the cheapest one.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t open an unpaid item case yet as enough time hadn’t lapsed. However, opening an unpaid item case would mean that I’d have to wait at least another four days until I could relist the item. Since I was certain that the winner wouldn’t pay, I called eBay. This took nearly an hour and wasn’t overly helpful. They didn’t seem to care about the non-paying bidder and wouldn’t do anything about it. I then discovered that there was an option to cancel an eBay order, and did this. After this I set up a “Second Chance Offer” for the non-winning bidder, which was a waste of time as they didn’t respond to any of my messages.

Since I didn’t offer shipping to Thailand, this eBay user shouldn’t have even had the option to bid on my listing.

Trying to sell my Surface again

After waiting a couple of days, I relisted the Surface. Unfortunately, there were no fee-free promotions running at the time, so I would have to pay a hefty final valuation fee if someone won. A short time later I received a “Best Offer”; I didn’t even know this was an option on my listing! I accepted the offer and waited for payment. Two days later I received a message stating that “I am no longer interested in the item, please ignore my offer”.

Trying to sell my Surface again again

eBay was running another fee-free promotion, so I listed the Surface for the third time. This auction is still running at the time of publication, so I’ll have to wait and see if someone will actually pay this time.

A bit of a rant

From my experience it appears that many eBay users do not understand that they are obliged to pay if they win an auction. I believe that the problem of non-paying bidders could be resolved if eBay automatically debited the winners PayPal account at the end of an auction, rather than relying on the user to log in and pay manually.

It is not helped by eBay’s poor user interface. One of my items was quite bulky, so I listed it as “local pickup only”. An eBay user asked if I would post it to them, which I agreed to. I could not work out how to add postage as an option to the existing listing, so I contacted eBay. They informed me that it’s not possible to add extra shipping options to a live listing. Why!? Another annoyance was that some functions of the site wouldn’t work in Chrome, so I had to resort to Internet Explorer!

Besides not receiving payment and having to relist items, perhaps the most annoying part about being an eBay seller is the inability to leave negative feedback for non-payers. This really annoyed me, as the three non-payers I have had to deal with still have 100% positive feedback and are free to continue wasting the time of eBay sellers. Scammers and non-payers don’t seem to receive enough punishment. They can say that they “entered the wrong amount” and get away with it. eBay sellers pay a lot of fees to eBay and should receive better treatment. The scammers and non-payers should not be favoured.

I have listed less than ten items on eBay so far and have had to deal with three non-payers and a refund. I cannot imagine how frustrating it would be to sell items on eBay as a full-time job.