In February 2011 I was helping my dad sell off some of his audio equipment. On February 18 one of those items sold to someone in Korea even though I set the listing to show shipping in USA only. Being lazy I told the winning buyer I would ship it to him if he sent me the extra shipping cost. He paid me via PayPal the next day. I gave my dad the address and he packaged the item and shipped it out that Tuesday, February 22, via USPS International Priority. Since the buyer did not pay for the extra cost of tracking I forgot to tell my dad to add it on. On March 14 I got a message from the buyer that his item had not arrived. I let him know that I shipped it out February 22. A few days later on March 21 he sends me another message asking for more information since it still had not arrived and then filed a dispute on eBay saying he did not receive the item.
What eBay did in this situation is they put a hold on my PayPal account for the amount of the item plus the cost of shipping. I couldn’t use my PayPal account until I paid off that amount, which was not worth it to me. I quickly replied to the dispute with a picture of the receipt showing when I shipped the item out and the Customs Form #. At first I was afraid eBay would side with the buyer since there was no tracking number for the item, but then I thought with the proof that I shipped it out that I would be fine. A few days passed and the buyer had no response. I was not sure if I should escalate the dispute. If I escalated the dispute the decision would be final and it could go in the buyer’s favor and I would lose the item and the money. Instead I called up eBay. Customer support told me that if the buyer did not respond within 20 days that the dispute would just expire and everything would be fine. She told me that since I did show proof of shipment and the buyer has not responded I should just leave it at that and let the dispute expire. That was good to hear. I decided to just wait it out and hope the buyer received his item.
Two weeks or so passes and there’s still no response from the buyer. I was wondering if eBay disputes could expire sooner so I gave eBay another call. This time I’m told by customer support that it would require 30 days for a dispute to expire. So now I had to wait a little longer. The whole time I was not able to use my PayPal account, but I guess that’s a good thing since it prevented me from buying anything on eBay that I did not need. The new expiration date for the dispute was April 21. I called eBay one more time before that and got what must have been a new guy. I asked him what the expiration date for the dispute would be just to make sure it was 30 days and not 20 days like I was originally told and he just told me I should escalate the dispute. Why would I want to do that? If I let the dispute expire it would be in my favor, but if I escalated it there’s a chance it would be in the buyer’s favor. I told this to the man on the phone and he agreed. So he put me on hold to find out how long it took for disputes to expire and confirmed it was 30 days. Two days before the expiration date, on April 19, I woke up and saw an email saying, “The buyer has asked eBay Customer Support to review this case and make a final decision.”
I was frustrated. This guy did not respond for 28 days to the information I gave him and then just 2 days before this would have been all over and he escalates it. eBay should have the picture of the receipt so this could work out for me. On April 20 I got an email from eBay saying that they issued the buyer a full refund. What? My eBay account was now also put on hold until I paid them back the full amount. eBay’s system allowed me one appeal if it their decision did not go in my favor. I hastily typed out an appeal with no new information and hit send. After thinking about it I knew that I needed to give them more information if I wanted the appeal to be successful. I did not see an option to edit or add more information to what I wrote online so I called up eBay. The customer support was no help at all. He told me that they could not change the appeal or even connect me to that department. I accepted this like an idiot thinking the appeal could still be in my favor and got off the phone.
eBay said the appeal usually takes 72 hours to review. On April 23 I received an email from eBay saying, “Recently, you appealed a case to eBay Customer Support. Unfortunately, we need a little more time to make a decision. You’ll hear from us again soon.” I was starting to think I would lose this case and how I should just pay eBay and get this over with, but I needed to first wait for the appeal decision. On April 25 I received another email from eBay saying, “This is our second notification concerning your open and unpaid eBay Buyer Protection Resolution fee balance and our inability to bill your current reimbursement payment method on file. Consequently, your account has been restricted, and you can no longer bid or list on eBay. Please pay the amount you owe immediately to avoid account suspension and further collections.” If I did not pay my fees my “account will become restricted and you will enter collections. Your account may be sent to a collection agency for the balance owed.” So I had to pay before eBay even made a decision. That did not make sense.
I quickly called up eBay and explained that to the customer support representative and he said he would transfer me to the sales and refund (I do not remember the exact name of the department, but I think this was it.) department to get this fixed. I explained my situation again to the lady and she said that I was talking to the wrong department. She would instead transfer me to the disputes department. I get another lady and explain my situation to her. At this point I was frustrated and started stammering a little. I told her that I received an email about being sent to collections when I was told by eBay they needed more time. I should not have to pay until I received a decision on my appeal. I told her how it was not fair that I had to repay the money and would never get the item back and how unfair it was that I am being penalized for USPS losing the mail. She told me she would look into it and put me on hold. After a few minutes she came back on and said she saw that I had supplied the Customs Form # and she could use that to track the package. I did not know that and typed in the number into usps.com to check for myself. I showed that the package left the post office and that’s it. The lady told me the same thing and said there’s no way for anyone to know if it ever arrived. I thought this was bad news for me, but she then said that since it did show I shipped it out that she would close the case in my favor and the hold on my eBay and PayPal accounts would be taken off. I thanked her and hung up.
So what’s the lesson from this giant wall of text? If you sell something on eBay it’s probably not a good idea to sell it internationally. You should also always buy the tracking number. It seems to be more of a protection for you than the buyer. Also, transferring funds out of your PayPal account does not prevent eBay from putting a hold on your account and forcing you to pay them back. Will I keep using eBay? Probably, but I will be extra careful from now on. At least I know if I’m the seller eBay will most likely side with me until the buyer is even able to get to the proper department to have it reversed.