Ebay: Be very careful ..

All vintage music aficionados turn to Ebay to hunt for and to buy new records, tapes or other music sources. We literally bought hundreds of tapes without serious trouble – but now we ran into a fraud. And Ebay just doesn’t care. Here’s the story ..

Once in a while your permanent search finds something unique or rare and you really want to have it. This happened to us when we found this:

This is a unique tape. And it was advertised to be in “very good” condition. Not only that: The seller made it clear that the tape was “in great working” order. So we bid on it and won. Yeah – we were excited.

But not for long. The package arrived and a pungent smell emanated as soon as we cut it open. The smell of mildew.

We carefully extracted the reel – which, like the box, had mildew stains on it – and decided it was worth the risk to give it at test on the reel-to-reel machine. The next disappointment:

The tape material was curled and the sound – well – it was garbled, with plenty of drop-outs and not in any way usable any more.

We had problems with tapes in the past. And that’s ok. If the seller is honest and describes his product as “untested” or “we don’t have a tape deck but it looks good” – we can accept the risk, return the tape if it is bad, get a refund and all is well.

But this case is different – because the seller must have known that the product he was selling was simply – crap, unusable and maybe even a health risk. So – just shipping the tape back for a refund back wasn’t enough. You can’t just defraud somebody into buy something and – when you’re found out – just go and say: Oh .. sorry.

Because we didn’t trust the seller anymore, we asked for a full refund before we would ship the tape back. The seller refused. After fruitless negotiations, we gave the seller a negative feedback and escalated the case to Ebay. We explained the situation to several Ebay people and got their sympathies, even a case number, but they also insisted that we stick to the normal return procedures (why do all Ebay team members have Indian accents?) Which pretty much meant, they would do nothing in regard to that fraudster. He can happily continue to post misleading and false selling facts.

So we got our shipping label for the return – 7 days deadline – but I was out of town. I managed to put the return box into the mail on the last day of the deadline, but USPS didn’t pick it up. On the very next day I received an email from Ebay that the case had been closed and a refund would not be issued. Now – we don’t have a tape and we don’t have a refund.

I called them to appeal – referred to the case number – got their sympathies again but the case was closed and it would not be opened again. It doesn’t matter if you’re out of town, sick, if you are a business, they simply just don’t care.

So – here’s the summary: However you describe your item doesn’t really matter. Ebay doesn’t care if you are lying, if you are misleading, if you misstate facts or if you promote your products unprofessionally. Fraudulent sellers can hide behind Ebay and do whatever they like. And the fraudsters take advantage of this. They make misleading sales statements and claims and get more sales compared to those sellers who are honest with their descriptions. In case of trouble they just quietly refund and continue with their scheme.

This is sad because by not enforcing professional rules, Ebay penalizes all honest sellers.

So – for future reference: If someone has high volumes of sales in a variety of products and claims a vintage tape or record to be in “very good” condition – it’s most likely a estate sale vulture who knows nothing about the product he sells. And we’re not going to fall for it again.

UPDATE: July 2019

Just checked the seller’s Ebay site. What didn’t I find? The negative feedback I gave. Ebay expunged it. It’s gone. Nothing ever happened. My money? Gone. The product? Gone. In other words: If you get screwed, you won’t even have the opportunity to warn others.