eBay returns are a certain pain but usually not as strange as this remorse return story.
So I received an eBay message return request from a Buyer for a book saying it was a photocopied fake. This was a rather threatening message to saying the least, that he had had this before at school (many years ago I assumed), it wasn’t the same etc… and that I was lucky I was on the other side of the country “or else” he implied!
I laughed. However, the return would come to my house so this nutjob would also know where I lived.
Who makes fake books also? First time I had ever heard of that one.
I wasn’t totally surprised by this message. I had one of those gut feelings.
This buyer had contacted me straight after buying at full price saying he needed it asap and asked could I contact him via txt message. I did not and explained by the message reply it was against eBay policy but I would be happy to upgrade his shipping to express – at my cost.
I try to remain ego neutral for all eBay’s processes and manage anything like this in a logical manner. I went to accept the return as my policies have 30-day refunds but buyer pays return shipping. No problem, however in this instance, as the buyer has stated it was fake eBay was telling me shipping was on me.
I couldn’t help but think I was getting scammed. Little did he know that I had sold this exact same book (and its companion) on eBay a couple of months ago. This particular version was a later printing, perhaps the 16th or 17th from memory and no doubt were possibly a little different from the original, the original having thicker paper and even some colour I think. This was a much more recent printing with thinner pages. It was however 100% still genuine with ISBN and not “photocopied” as this buyer was trying to tell me.
So I called eBay for some direction and explained the situation. I also drew their attention to the threatening messages sent to me. They added some notes to the file as per my explanation and suggested I do nothing initially and wait for the buyer to request eBay to step in. That resolution did not sit very well with me either as I was sure gauging by the buyers frequent use of capitals that further messages would be forthcoming should I take this approach and frankly #1 that’s poor customer service no matter how you look at it and #2 I didn’t want my time wasted any more than it needed to be.
I sent a followup email to the buyer that I would be happy to accept the return but it would be at the buyer’s cost as per my policy and that I believed the book to be genuine having actually had the same book before. (bet he didn’t see that coming)
Later in the evening, I received a message back from the buyer stating that they still disagreed (polite summary) and that they would send the book tomorrow and just needed the address. I took this to mean acceptance of my condition that the buyer pays for return postage.
I immediately accepted the return but instead of printing the postage label and sending it to the buyer I chose the other option that the buyer and seller had agreed to an alternate method. (Namely, the buyer pays for the shipping).
I replied to the message that I had accepted the return and as soon as I had the book back in my possession I would make good on the refund as soon as practicable. I also asked the tracking number be provided as a backup for myself.
Now a waiting game.
I thought it prudent to plan ahead. I had heard previous stories of returns coming back with different items than the original so the buyer ends up with the original item and the seller ends up with something that’s usually worthless. To mitigate this possibility and to protect myself from even further loss I made the decision that when this book eventually arrives back to open it recording live video with a time reference.
Three days passed and nothing happened.
It was now the due date where the buyer could ask eBay to step in and help. By now I had blissfully forgotten about this problem.
Finally, the book showed up in a red package.
Now with the video camera on my phone, I record the opening. The buyer has paid $22 ($5 more than the original express I upgraded to) postage to return this book and has not even bothered to bubble wrap it within the padded bag. I open it up and thoroughly check that there were no angry words, comments or swear words or anything in there. Everything seems to be in order with the exception of small abrasive damage to one corner of the cover from the lack of protection.
I immediately open eBay on chrome browser, located contact details and requested a callback. eBay called me back within a couple of minutes (great). They were pretty good about it to be honest basically saying that they will close the case on my behalf, take care of issuing the refund to the buyer (which included the buyers shipping return cost), and that no defects would be recorded on my account. Great I thought. I also took the additional step of asking eBay to block the buyer for me (apparently they can do this over the phone too) so saved me a little bit more time.
The next day I noted that I had a defect on my account so this time I jumped on the chat and when I was connected I noticed that I was somehow in a premium eBay plus service chat.
I had no idea that when I signed up for eBay plus a couple of months ago that this was even a feature, I had heard of similar service in the states with specialist customer service for Anchor store holders but had no idea that an increased level of service applied to any Australian stores. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by this.
Anyway, I requested with eBay that the defect be removed and that was completed.
So the summary of losses:
2 Hours Approx.
Emotional Damage From Worry: Minimal.
I always try and remain calm, however when someone threatens to harm you physically, it still can mess with your head a bit and you will play out rediculous possibilities. This is your brains flight or fight response at work. I actually wasn’t worried about getting beat up per se as I have significant martial arts training, more so that this person was aggrieved and had my address.
Well, I received $55 for the book, I paid $5 cost, originally I had budgeted on a 3 kg satchel which would’ve been $12.85 but actually upgraded this to express as a courtesy resulting in $16.70. eBay ate the cost of the return shipping which was nice and saved me another $22 bill but they still kept the sold item fee… This means that I really lost $16.70 plus the $5.10 eBay fee as well totalling $21.80. In order to circumvent this again, I’m thinking I will list this on the Facebook marketplace instead as I am now invested in this book for $26.80. That way I don’t have to pay for shipping and can recoup some of the potential profit loss.
What else I learned:
So after being threatened and some of the messages it got me thinking that perhaps it might be time to invest in a PO Box just to have that level of separation from some of the crazies out there. I have added this to my to-do list.
I also need to make some standard templates for responses to do with returns just to make this process a little bit more efficient. I already endeavour to remain professional and believe in dealing solely with facts without my own emotion getting in the way. Templates are a great way to both do this and save time when these situations occur, which thankfully, is not often.