On eBay Fraud

I like eBay, don’t get me wrong – it’s like the 24/7/365 garage sale of the bizarre, where you can simultaneously buy a car, aircraft parts, custom-tailored clothing, long-obsolete computer equipment, lumber, and loose gemstones… all at four in the morning, wearing only pajamas. Great fun, right?

Sure. But you have to be kind of naive to overlook the fact that it’s the dumping ground of choice for stolen property… and a chaotic sea of almost endless fraud. Caveat emptor doesn’t even come close to covering it.

I’ve got a friend who reckons that about twenty percent of all eBay listings at any given moment are technically fraudulent – that is, they (knowingly) misrepresent to greater or lesser extents the items for sale. I don’t know how accurate that is, but my guess, based on years of experience with eBay, is that it’s certainly in the right ballpark.

I know a lot of people who – wary of fraud on eBay, and rightly so – won’t buy anything above a certain dollar value there; be it $20, or $50, or $100, or $400. I’m sure there’s a lot of fraud at higher price points, especially with computer and electronic equipment. But I’m constantly surprised at how much fraud there is with sub-$5 items.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised; the odds of people complaining and creating a fuss over $3 or $4 is a lot lower than if $300 or $400 is involved. Better to rip 100 people a week off for $3-5 each over the course of a year or two, than to rip 3-5 people a week off for $100 for a month or two, right?

What brought this on? For about three weeks, I’ve been trying to get a replacement battery for an older cordless phone. The original battery was ni-cad, and I want a higher-capacity ni-mh one. This shouldn’t be difficult, as apparently they’re fairly common at specialty battery retailers.

The first battery I bought was listed as a brand-name item in retail packaging, but came in loose “bulk” packaging, and didn’t have any manufacturer markings. It fit the phone, but was completely dead – wouldn’t take a charge at all.

I was refunded the full purchase price, including shipping, in about four hours.

The second battery I bought was also (a different) brand name item, also in retail packaging. It arrived, in retail packaging. It didn’t fit the phone, though – and while the packaging says “Made in China” and “2200mAh Nickel Metal Hydride”, the battery itself says “Made in Japan” and “Nickel-Cadmium 800mAh”. Hmmn…

I just got a full refund for that one, with shipping costs included, seven minutes after contacting the seller. No argument, no protestations of innocence, no excuses.

Both vendors, by the way, were based in the United States, not China.

These people know they’re peddling crap, and don’t care. Legitimate vendors don’t just immediately refund your money the moment you complain about their merchandise, because they not only know that the occasional defective product exists, and can be pretty sure that a replacement will work, but they can usually get reimbursed from their vendor for the faulty item, meaning they don’t lose out on anything but maybe shipping. Crap merchants, on the other hand…

Battery number three is on its way, ordered from a non-eBay online merchant. Wish me luck…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on July 16th, 2010| Comments Off on On eBay Fraud

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