EBAY IS THE PLACE TO SELL and has been for years and years! But sellers quickly learn that eBay goes out of its way to protect and even placate buyers—regardless of the patent absurdity of some of their claims against the seller! Everything from eBay’s flawed feedback system to the almost open-ended return policy favors the buyer. And then there are the eBay buyer scams that no one wants to talk about.
If you have friends or family that sell on eBay, you have probably heard tales of woe and outright anger about the crap that sellers go through!
The system sometimes seems to have been designed with the assumption that many sellers are either corrupt or stupid—and while many may, in fact, be the latter, only a small percentage are the former.
As this article touches on interests on all three of my websites, I have posted it on each site. If you subscribe to my other sites, you won’t have to read it there.
Certainly, safeguards need to be in place to protect buyers, but if you sell on eBay, more than a few people are going to try to rip you off via a fraudulent buyer claim. And that can be difficult to deal with on eBay.
There is little done to protect the seller from a buyer’s scam. Except for Ebay’s reps learning to recognize certain ‘traits’ or patterns among scammers, perhaps there is little that can be done.
Recent changes have PayPal handling the claims issues, and that may be something better beginning. At least it was in my BIG altercation, but first things first …
Most people see “eBay” and “scam” together (“eBay buyer scams”) and assume the worst about the sellers using the site’s services. Few stop to think about the buyers who are running scams every day on eBay. This article addresses one such scam and several buyers using it!
Shipping a record internationally
I am going to address this issue as one aimed at the international market, for reasons that will be readily apparent. There have been staggering increases in overseas postal rates over the years; sending items by even the least expensive means is costly. That plays into the play.
First, a properly packed LP in a standard cardboard box with protective pads is 13″ x 13″ x ¾” and weighs approximately 1 pound 4 ounces.
• To ship a single long-playing LP record album via USPS Media Mail anywhere in the US (including Alaska and Hawaii) costs $3.80 (up from $3.22 in 2016.). 1
• To send that same record to Canada via USPS First-Class Package International Service—which is international but not overseas and used to be relatively inexpensive—costs a minimum of $20.75 (up from 15.50 since 2016)
• To send that same record to England via USPS First-Class Package International Service—which is currently the least expensive—would cost $24.50 (up from $22.50 since 2016).
• To send that same record to England via USPS Priority Mail International would cost an outrageous $61.15 (up from $33.95 since 2016).
Shipping to other countries carries rates similar to those of shipping to England.
Slip an LP with at least one mailing pad into a box like this, tape it up appropriately (I use about 100 inches of tape per box), and you have a package that weighs in at about 1¼ pounds. 2
Do not return to sender
Of course, eBay ensures that customers can return items for almost any reason and the seller pays the return shipping. Which is fair—provide the reason is fair. But eBay allows returns for no reason at all!
So, if I sell a $50 record to someone in Pennsylvania and that person has a problem with the record, I can tell him to return to sender, I refund him $58, and I am out $4 for the whole affair. 3
But if I ship that record to someone in Europe and they complain, if they return the record, it could cost me upwards of $25 to pay for the return shipping!
So it is in my interest to find another option to placate that foreign buyer—and that option is usually a partial refund, and it’s a common device for settling such disputes.
The partial refund is a common device for settling disputes between buyer and seller—often over supposed overgrading by the seller.
That’s right: the customer complains that I slightly over-graded the record or the jacket and complains. But rather than return the record, he’ll be satisfied if I give him a $10 partial refund or a $15 partial refund or a $25 partial refund!
You get the idea: the system almost dares the buyer not to cheat the seller! And it’s even easier to pull this stunt off when the album shipped is a prerecorded reel-to-reel tape …
As late as 1968, RCA Victor and other major companies were still pushing reel-to-reel tapes, a seen in this two-page magazine spread. But the 8-track cartridge tape was the new thing and was selling better every year! Yet it would soon be supplanted by the cassette cartridge tape in the mid-’70s, which would be the medium of choice for about ten years.
I don’t play the tapes I sell
The first time that this happened to me only appeared to me to have been a scam in hindsight. I sold a prerecorded reel-to-reel tape and shipped it to Europe. And then I received the complaint. But first, a little bit on the tapes that I was selling.
The tape came from a collection of 3¾ ips and 7½ ips tapes that I had purchased years ago. I knew the man who owned them and I knew he handled his tapes with care and would not have knowingly sold a damaged one to me.
I state that here because I don’t have a reel-to-reel deck, so I don’t play the tapes that I sell. Except for the first few feet of the tape on the reel—which is either flat or wrinkled—I say nothing about the tape.
Unlike a vinyl record, it is not easy to visually grade a prerecorded tape, and so I don’t play the tapes that I sell.
Unlike a vinyl record, it is not easy to visually grade a prerecorded tape. I suppose that I could unreel the whole thing and look for scratches with a magnifying glass, but needless to say, I don’t.
Nor does anyone else.
I would also have to double or treble the Buy It Now price to cover the additional time and effort—and then I wouldn’t be able to sell a single tape because my prices would be too furshlugginer high!
What I do in my ads is state that the tape is “complete and has no visible damage” and plays all the way through—to the best of my knowledge.
I guarantee complete satisfaction or the tape can be returned for a complete refund—including return postage.
In 1968, Jose Feliciano had his fifteen minutes of fame when his version of Light My Fire reached the Top 10 in the US and the UK and several other countries. His album FELICIANO! was a best-seller, and he has been an international star ever since.
Light my fire light my fire light my fire
The tape was José Feliciano’s ENCORE! The price was $40. I shipped the package to the buyer in Europe at a cost of $20 (rates were lower last year). 4
Then came the buyer’s complaint: in the middle of a track, the correct Feliciano music dropped out for sixty seconds and music by another artist was heard instead.
In this case, the buyer claimed that in the middle of Light My Fire, Feliciano dropped out and Peter, Paul & Mary’s Blowin’ In The Wind could be heard instead!
For that to have happened, the original owner of the tape would have to have been playing Feliciano on his tape-deck and had a Peter, Paul & Mary LP on his turntable playing simultaneously!
He would then have had to accidentally or intentionally push the ‘Record’ button on his deck, thereby transferring PP&M to the Feliciano tape!
He would then have had to quickly realize his mistake and push the ‘Record’ button off.
Imagine that …
Yet it’s possible.
This is how a new prerecorded reel-to-reel tape looks just out of the box: the tape is perfectly flat and wound tightly around the hub. The leading edge (on the right side above) was often affixed to the plastic reel with a piece of heavy adhesive tape. If an opened reel tape is found in this condition with the end of the tape still affixed to the reel with adhesive tape, it is safe to assume that it might be unplayed.
Which I thought kinda strange
The buyer asked if I would do a partial refund and return half the purchase price ($20) to him. As I had just started to sell on eBay after a ten-year hiatus, I wanted to establish a good reputation.
Therefore I replied ‘No’ to the partial refund and requested that he send the tape back to me. I would refund him the full $40 for the tape plus the full $20 shipping fee plus $20 to cover the cost of shipping the tape back to me.
As he had already sent me $60, I would be out $20 on the transaction—but I would have a good name for having done the right thing!
Instead, he responded by reducing his request for a partial refund to $10!
Which I thought kinda strange.
But I stuck to my guns and insisted that he return the tape for a full refund.
But he didn’t return the tape.
Which I thought kinda strange.
He also didn’t send any more requests for a partial refund.
Which I thought kinda strange.
He also didn’t leave me negative feedback.
Which I thought kinda strange.
I never heard from him again …
This is how a used prerecorded reel-to-reel tape looks: the tape is usually (mostly) flat and still wound reasonably tightly around the hub. But several inches of the leading edge (on the right side above) is often dangling about. This exposed tape can be flat—as the one in the photo above—or it can be wrinkled or even rather mangled looking. As most of the first few feet of prerecorded reels are blank, it almost never affects play.
I’m not your stepping stone
Months went by. I sold more tapes, all to domestic buyers, all without any problems or complaints. There were no dropouts in the tapes I sold stateside.
And then the same scenario played itself out: I sold a copy of a reel-to-reel tape of the first two Monkees albums (THE MONKEES and MORE OF THE MONKEES) for $50 plus $20 for shipping. Again to a buyer in Europe and again the same damn story:
The buyer claimed that in the middle of a track, the correct music dropped out for sixty seconds and music by another artist was heard instead.
Again, I thought this is kinda strange.
Again this buyer made the same request: send him a partial refund of half the cost of the tape ($25) and all would be well.
Again I refused and requested that instead he ship the tape back and I would make a full refund.
Again this buyer lowered his request.
Again I insisted that he return the tape for a full refund.
Again this buyer didn’t return the tape.
Again this buyer didn’t send any more requests for a refund.
Again this buyer didn’t leave me negative feedback.
Again I never heard from him again.
And now I’m thinking, “What a coincidence, huh? Same exact problem, same exact requests for refunds, same offers from me, same exact outcome.”
And you know I thought that kinda strange …
The Monkees go in and outta style with various generations, although I don’t expect the hip-hoppers to ever pay attention to anything with a melody. For those who dismiss the group as so much bubblegum, there’s enough strong material on these two albums to make one strong album. And I’m A Believer remains a classic!
Here to there and then another there
The third time was the most interesting: this time the European buyer wisely had me ship the tape to a cousin in North Carolina. By having a US address, the buyer’s shipping fee was $4, an enormous difference from the $20 he would have to pay for shipping directly to his country.
Fortunately, this cousin made frequent trips from the New World back to the Old and brought the buyer’s eBay acquisitions with him.
That made sense to me: it probably saved the European collector a lot of money over time!
So I sold him a reel-to-reel tape of Elvis Presley’s FROM MEMPHIS TO VEGAS / FROM VEGAS TO MEMPHIS for $60 and charged him $4 for domestic Media Mail and sent the tape off to North Carolina.
And all was well this time …
Hah! Three months later I received an email informing me of … well, you want to guess?
Yep, there was a dropout in the sound and the buyer would like a partial refund.
No, I said.
And the whole charade started over again, except this time the buyer argued with me over many emails that I should send him some money!
No, I said each time. I argued, “My responsibility to you ended when the package was safely delivered to your cousin’s address in North Carolina. What happened to the item after that is your responsibility and your problem.”
For the 1969 Christmas market, the powers-that-be decided that Elvis should have a double-album like other artists and so two album projects that should have remained separate were joined and issued with the gawdawful title FROM MEMPHIS TO VEGAS / FROM VEGAS TO MEMPHIS.
This time PayPal handled the complaint
This time, the European buyer lodged a complaint with eBay, who almost always sides with the buyer. Except that the split between eBay and PayPal in 2015 placed the buyer’s complaint in the hands of PayPal, not eBay.
So I received a phone call from a PayPal representative located here in the United States. She addressed the issue to me. I explained my side.
“My responsibility to the buyer ended when the package was safely delivered to the buyer’s requested destination in North Carolina. What happened to the item after that was the buyer’s responsibility and the buyer’s problem.”
The rep said that she had all the emails that the buyer and I had exchanged and that she would review them and get back to me.
While this is both funny and true, it’s also true for many major corporations who farm out their customer relations to other companies—often to companies where English is a second language. Therefore, the “representatives” DO NOT understand the situation when you speak with them. They hear a few key words or phrases and then read prepared “answers” from a script! Such is the contempt that these companies hold for their customers.
A fair and balanced decision
A few hours later she called again. She said the emails described the transaction exactly as I had told her. She also agreed with me that sending the package to the address requested by the buyer was the only option I had and that once it arrived there my obligation as a seller had been met.
She said, “I am finding in your favor. You owe the buyer nothing more. I will contact him and tell him of my decision.”
She politely thanked me for my cooperation and that was that!
I had stood up to my third scammer and prevailed—even through the complaint process!
I felt like an eBay superhero!!!
Which is not why I am writing this article
I am writing this article to alert sellers that they should also consider defying the scammers—that perhaps PayPal is going to have a more rational take on the affairs of sellers and buyers on eBay.
Perhaps the tide has turned!
Since returning to selling on eBay last year, I have sold hundreds of records to buyers here in the States without a single complaint about grading or damage.
At the same time, I sold ten records to buyers in countries overseas. I have had five complaints.
I assume that the three mentioned above were scams. It’s possible the others were, also. But they came earlier and I was more trusting and simply sent the partial refunds as a way to avoid the expense of having the items returned.
These transactions negatively affected my score as a seller with eBay.
Now I believe that they may have been eBay buyer scams.
I no longer offer my items for sale to buyers in any country other than the US and Canada.
That may change, but for now, I prefer to avoid any more international incidents …
1 For the old-timers out there, Media Mail used to be known as 4th Class mail.
2 Most mailing boxes are white; I don’t why, as it would seem bleaching the paper is an additional cost. But the brown box above looked better against the white backdrop of this page, so I went with it!
3 On top of the $3.22 shipping fee, the cost of the box, inserts, etc., add an additional 80¢ to the “shipping cost.” Also, in this case, I would be paying almost a dollar for insurance, so I would be out $5.
4 The names of the tapes and the artists who recorded them have been changed to protect them, their friends, their families, and their followers from being hassled on their Facebook pages by rightwinged trolls, Bernie Bros, or Chelsea Clinton.