This is long, but I'd really like feedback or suggestions on this situation.



It is critically important that you consider tracking of ALL items that you sell and send off to a buyer. I have been with eBay since September 1999. I have over ten years of eBay experience. For the vast majority of my time with eBay, it was expected that the person selling the eBay item had a responsibility to pack the item very well and to ship off the item exactly in the shape they described and photographed for the site. It was the buyer's responsibility to accept that item and to have a safe destination for them. I.e. if a recipient lived in an awful neighborhood where packages were routinely stolen off of their porch, they got a PO Box to accept items at. I have talked to many eBayers in these situations and they did this as a matter of course. They would not blame the seller if they told the seller to ship to their theft-prone home and the item vanished off their front porch.

In August 2009 I did one of my usual bulk sell-offs in an attempt to clean my home. I sold about 90 CDs to clear out our music CD collection. CDs normally sell for maybe 99 cents each, with a media-mail shipping price of about $2.99 each. People buying CDs want to buy them at the cheapest price possible. They don't want to pay extra for special services. So on all of my CD sales I offered to combine shipping, and I offered tracking and insurance as options. I said on each listing:

"I do ship internationally and try to ship as inexpensively as I can. Note that I ship in PADDED envelopes so that your CD gets to you safely! So those are slightly more expensive than a cheap thin envelope but I think it's worth it, so your CD gets to you in pristine condition. Shipping to Canada is the same as shipping to the US, which is $2.99 for a single CD (that covers the padded envelope and postage and everything else). Prices rise slightly for multiple CDs based on weight and the larger envelope or box and so on."

I also said, in my payment instructions:

"Non-US: please contact for pricing. I will ship as cheaply as I can, but shipping across the globe often costs much more than shipping to a nearby US state. If you want Confirmation / extra shipping tracking: please discuss your desire BEFORE you make the payment. These options will cost extra."

Those sales all ended on August 8th, a Saturday night. Out of all of those sales, only 2 or 3 people chose to add on tracking - primarily people who had bought 10-12 of my CDs and were having the whole box of them sent out to them. Most people wanted their CD shipped as cheaply as humanly possible - i.e. opting for media mail rather than regular mail or priority mail.

However, one of the eBay buyers, featfan007, was even more deliberate. He bought four CDs. I combined shipping for him, saying "That is $4.49 for media mail or $9.99 for priority mail, your choice!" The $4.49 was clearly a big savings over the four individual shipping costs of $2.99 x 4 = $11.96 that many other sellers would have charged as a matter of course.

FeatFan007 wanted his shipment both cheaply but also well packed. His response was "please pacl with grateful love and care . i would like to get them in the great condition stated thanx" (exact wording and spelling) and he only paid for media mail. He explicitly chose to ignore my offers for priority mail and for tracking.

I sent his package - packed in a solid box, with padding and everything - as soon as humanly possible, which was on Monday. I drove an hour each way to send the package out from a major hub in the area, to ensure it was in the main USPS system quickly. I sent it, as requested, via Media Mail which according to the USPS can take 3-4 weeks to deliver. I replied to featfan007 with an email confirmation that I had shipped the box out.

A week after that shipment (i.e. before Media Mail even says delivery could take place) FeatFan007 wrote me: "just checking in. still have an eye out for the cd's . Any help like a deliver confirmation would be so helpful?" He had already turned down delivery confirmation twice. He knew there was no delivery confirmation. This made me very suspicious, but I replied kindly, explaining that media mail can take quite a while. That is why it is cheaper than normal mail. I responded that media mail is known to take a while.

The very next day FeatFan007 wrote me again: "still have not recieved the cd's. can you please send me a dc#". Again, this made me suspicious. When I again responded that media mail takes time, and that he had chosen not to pay for tracking, he responded: "thanx for the quick reply. i don't mind waiting a month. there's nothing time sensitive. let's give it a nother 2 weeks and hope it shows."

Three days later, FeatFan007 writes again: "wanted to drop you a line. let you know I still have not recieved the cd's in a box as you stated. i think the usps may have ate the shipment?" Apparently he was not willing to wait for Media Mail's time delivery. A few hours later on the same day, he wrote "are you going to issue a refund?"

I responded that we had just discussed this a few days ago and agreed to wait for the normal MediaMail shipping period. He wrote back: "i forgot lisa i had surgery and the drugs are strong. let's continue to wait . it's not time sensitive like a concert ticket. i'm sorry my bad"

This repeated insistence for immediate refund on something I'd recently shipped out gave me the impression that this person never intended to "receive" his package and that he was looking for a refund. So I was not surprised a short while later when I received this email from FeatFan007 -

"you could have added a delivery confirmation to the box for .80 cents . dont say you can't. I put a delivery confirmation on every order Well I know my rights and I have paypal buyers protection. I have no need to buy insurance . I am insured by paypal. please don't make me open a paypal non reciept of merchandise don't blame me i'm the client"

So FeatFan007 deliberately refused to have delivery confirmation on his package - twice. He wanted the cheapest possible shipping option. However, he wanted ME to take responsibility for that lack of delivery confirmation that he chose. He was familiar with and relying on PayPal rules which apparently now require me to reimburse him for everything. This includes the CDs I shipped out and no longer have as well as the shipping cost I paid to the post office. I of course also "eat" the eBay and other fees I paid.

I emailed FeatFan007 a copy of the receipt I had from sending his package out to him. He replied, "this just means you sent something in the mail to port washington." I had handled every email of his quietly and professionally. In return, he was writing me daily on an issue he agreed we would wait the proper timeframe on, demanding refunds before the shipping period on it item had closed, and his rationale for doing this was that I was actively engaged in elaborate, epic fraud. According to FeatFan007, the reason he should get a refund immediately (rather than waiting for normal media mail shipment period) was that I had risked my 730 point 100% eBay rating and deliberately sent an empty box to a random person in his specific Port Washington, NY zip code area. I had done this all in order to fool him, for four CDs worth $14.28. I literally read and re-read his message, trying to figure out if he seriously felt this or if this was the only justification he could write in order to get his refund now that he saw I kept my shipping receipt.

I wrote to eBay asking them to clarify their policy. Does a seller have to cover 100% of all costs in a situation where a buyer refuses to get tracking but then claims they never got the package? Unfortunately, despite all the money eBay has taken from me over the years in fees, they did not find time to respond to my query. I sat waiting for them to get back to me with some guidance on this fantastic situation.

Four days later, FeatFan007 is taking a different approach. He writes, "Just wondering if you heard from Ebay? Still no box. I would like to come to a resolution with you. Since I have no box of cd's and you havent gotten them back. How about we both take 50% responsiblity? Split the difference and call it a day?" I feel morally upset by this, since I feel I am still losing out on this (since I was the one paying the eBay fees, driving an hour to get the box to the fastest delivery location, etc.) but I agree. Even though I agree to his offer, FeatFan007 promptly opens a PayPal complaint on the issue. Because he locks up the transaction in a PayPal complaint, I can no longer issue a refund! The PayPal transaction is now locked in an open complaint. It is impossible for me to issue a refund on a locked transaction, the refund option is no longer available.

So now I'm stuck issuing a PayPal payment for $9.39 (half the total amount) to Lee Rubinstein's account manually because of the transaction lock on the PayPal account. I do so promptly. I hope that this will finally resolve the situation. But no! He refuses to accept the payment for half of the fees! He literally hits the "refuse" button on the payment and cancels the transaction.

His reasoning? "because you did the refund process in correct. if you would have sent it as a refund it would show in eBay . as well you have seller's protection and if done properly you can recover paypal fee's as well If you send me the correct form I can sign off an ebay will return fee's but since you sent as services I am charged fee's and I guess you can not recover them. when you money clears I will close the dispute"

So Lee apparently does not understand how PayPal works despite his previous comments to me that he's intimately familiar with eBay and PayPal's workings. He is the one who locked up the transaction in a complaint. Once you do that, there is no longer a refund option. So at this point he's refused to accept my manual refund, and he's blocked the official payment with a complaint. I literally have no options here.

At this point I decide this is too important an issue not to publicize. And in order to publicize it, I need a resolution. I can hardly write about an issue and say "and we are still wrangling over this in PayPal." So I issue a **$20** refund to FeatFan007 for his purchase. At this point Lee Rubinstein has received:

* The four CDs packaged neatly in a box, shipped to his desired address
... (note - that box never came back to me, and I have never in my 10 years had a box 'lost' by the post office permanently, so this is my assumption)
* An additional $20 bonus

In the meantime, I as the seller have paid:
* The eBay listing fee and sale fee, paid to eBay
* I've lost my four CDs which I could have sold again for money
* The shipping cost, paid to the post office
* The $20 I paid to Lee Rubinstein which he demanded
* The numerous hours I dedicated to this situation which I was not working running my company
* Going forward, I will now have to add tracking and insurance to EVERY auction I list, which will add up to a huge amount of costs on items that typically only sell for 99 cents each. This will seriously impact my ability to sell items on eBay.

As a seller I have lost everything. As a buyer he has made out like a bandit! This indicates to me that something is SERIOUSLY wrong with the eBay / PayPal monopoly system. This was never how things worked back in the early days of eBay.

Over a week later, FeatFan007 had not yet left feedback, despite getting everything he wanted and more. Instead, I received this short message:

Dear lisajshea,
would you like your feedback or?
- featfan007

Again this seemed extremely odd to me. In my years of eBay it has always been the recipient who left feedback first. After all they receive the item and they report if the item was what they wanted, in the time they wanted, and so on. How can I as the seller leave feedback if I don't even know for sure that the transaction is resolved fully? For example he could still be planning to reject that $20 payment I made to him. So I responded:

Dear featfan007,

The recipient always leaves feedback first. I have been waiting on you ever since you got the full $20 and kept it.

Lisa Shea

The tale takes an even stranger twist at this point. Again, the items that FeatFan007 had purchased were four CDs (four separate auctions which I combined shipping on). On each CD's eBay page I link to a full review of that CD, and to a multi-article set of instructions on how to convert CDs to MP3s and other music types. I have had these remote informational links on every single CD I've sold (and I've sold hundreds of them) over the past ten years. These links have always been accepted by eBay.

So FeatFan007 - immediately after his feedback message, but before I had an opportunity to respond to it - added a complaint about the Led Zeppelin CD he purchased. He complained that the listing had these two links in the text! This is AFTER he bought the CD, after the transaction was complete, after he received his full refund for his purchase. He was now taking the time to say that a listing he found useful, that he chose to purchase from, had links in it that should not have been allowed. This listing was over! What did he want, for me to write eBay and ask them to remove an expired listing? A listing for CDs I no longer had, because they had been mailed off to New York to him? Those were my last CDs, really, so I'm not even going to be listing more CDs from this point forward. It seems that this eBayer, even though he received everything he could have wanted, now is going to hassle me over expired listings in my library. Items I have no control at all over. Even if those listings were active I don't think I have the ability to edit the existing descriptions - I believe I can only add additional notes TO those descriptions.

My Summary:
ALWAYS FORCE BUYERS TO PAY FOR TRACKING. I really hate to say this. My buyers are trying to buy cheap items and get them cheaply! That is the feature of ebay. If they're going to pay high prices, why wouldn't they go on Amazon or other sales sites? Because of people like FeatFan007, though, it comes down to this. If you ship something WITHOUT tracking - even though the buyer insists they do not want tracking - then you, the seller, are now liable. Someone could be a scammer, say they don't want tracking, and then make you pay for the entire purchase price. They end up with the item, the purchase price, and you are out both plus shipping and other fees. You can see how this can easily rack up a LOT of money in a very short period of time.

This was a serious blow for my trust in eBay and in online transactions. Up until now, ten years of transactions had gone smoothly and situations had always been resolved without any issues. FeatFan007 was the first buyer in all of those years who claimed he didn't get a package shipped to his home (before the shipping time period had elapsed) and then promptly wanted me to pay for the amount. Not only that - but FeatFan007 agreed to splitting the cost and then refused the payment when I sent it to him. It soured me on the whole eBay / PayPal tracking system.

Further Notes
According to PayPal's rules, if someone claims "I didn't get it", you the seller must produce proof of delivery. This means the item MUST BE DELIVERED. So let's assume you pay for "delivery confirmation" on your shipment and you send the item out. The item goes along its merry way, but along the way it gets lost or the post office screws up. They never log the item as having reached its destination. Because the status on the item never says "delivered" YOU THE SELLER are still liable for the full cost, even though you PAID for proof of delivery.

So the proof of delivery DOES insure you if the buyer gets the item - and the receipt is logged - and the buyer then claims they didn't get it. However, if the item really does get lost or misplaced or stolen off the doorstep, you STILL need insurance as well, to cover you for those situations. Because even if you pay for delivery confirmation, there are still other situations that you can get held accountable for even though you did everything properly on your end as the shipper to fully document the item, fully communicate with the seller, and properly package and send the item out to the buyer.

So for my CDs and games (10oz packages) it's $1.75 for the minimum insurance (this is the cheapest you can go and it covers up to $50) and then delivery confirmation is 80 cents. Add on to that the 40 cents for the envelope to mail the item in, and that is $2.99 just for the "extra costs" on top of shipping to get the item to the end user in a way that covers all scam situations. This will really hurt sales if people are out there looking for the cheapest possible game, and seeing that I charge $2.99 in "handling" where other people charge nothing and are willing to eat the costs if scammers strike.

It is definitely Seller Beware for the modern web world.

Lisa Shea, Low Carb and Video Games Editor
Low Carb Forum