Over the last couple of years I’ve been using eBay and PayPal to buy all sorts of stuff, anything from heavy-duty auto parts to fine electronics and I’ve had an excellent experience.
Then in November last year something happened that got me on my toes. I do have to admit, the fault was mostly my own. I acted careless and made a purchase in the blink of a second and instantly realized my mistake. I checked the buyer reviews (which I should have done prior to the purchase) and of course there was no reviews there. I was still wishing that it might still work out but then I got an email from the buyer stating that delivery would take a looooong time and that I should just hold tight, followed by the buyer removing his account on eBay.
At that point I thought I was screwed, but to my surprise eBay stepped in and had me fully refunded within two days. Hey that’s freaking awesome I thought to myself! Still I’ve learned to be more careful and do more investigations before buying but should things go wrong I’m still covered. Sounds like a winning deal right?
Then reality hit me
And really hard this time. A few weeks ago I made a purchase for an expensive lens for my camera. The all new and shiny Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM. I did everything by the book, checked the reviews which was at 99.5% positive for the last 12 month and 0.5% neutral. No negative’s at all! Being confident I’ve made my homework I completed the purchase and waited patiently for my shipping info. Which of course newer showed up…. Instead I got a message from the buyer stating that his supplier couldn’t fulfil his order and that he had already sent my money, basically a “you’re screwed” email (But at least he was honest about it).
And from here it just took a ride downwards. I immediately registered a case with eBay, which is pretty darn hard to do since the seller hadn’t cancelled the order and the expected delivery date wasn’t due in a couple of weeks. eBay’s support functions just kept telling me to hang tight and wait for my goods which was never going to arrive and I was stuck in an infinite loop. Finally I somehow managed to report a case, I pointed out that the seller had informed me he had no intention of fulfilling the order and that by now the negative reviews where pouring in on the sellers page so I was clearly not alone..
I sent email after email to eBay support telling them that this was a major thing with lots of people having put down serious money for high-end electronics, just by looking at the negative reviews I could summarize it upwards over $100K. But eBay just continued to tell me to hang in there and if I was inpatient I could register a complaint with PayPal.
Now to be fair, eBay was always responding in a polite and correct matter and reassured me from the start that they got me covered. So what’s my problem then you might ask yourself? Well quite a few things actually, so here goes:
The merry-go-round of all things
While being excellent on taking care of the everyday struggles of online auction faults. My experience of eBays help and support system is that as soon as the issues you have goes beyond the ordinary (like when the seller has informed you that he won’t be fulfilling the order but has NOT cancelled the order) then your stuck in never never land. It’s just to hard to understand what case to register and how. How about a “fraud/panic button” or a simple “Hey eBay, I need help regarding this purchase”.
The polite but not so helpful responses
I’ve sent eBay all the info about the seller, messages, the negative reviews etc. Hey I’ve even sent them a draft of this blog post to hear their response. But all I got in return was the “hang tight” approach followed by some flattering comments about how much they value me as a buyer. I guess this is a common first line support issue, but I think it’s pointing out a major flaw in eBays handling of this case. Namely I believe they are handling all these cases individually instead of looking at the larger picture. Should they have taken my early warnings seriously and looking at the first negative reviews, then eBay would have seen what was about to happen and they could have acted more proactive regarding other buyers that was affected.
The eBay vs. Paypal dilemma
Now this is just inexperience from my part because what I did was to follow the instructions from one of the support representatives at eBay to register a PayPal claim. What they forgot to mention was that by doing this eBay is out, they will no longer assist you in getting your money back. This is bad because from what I can see PayPal is way slower in resolving these cases so now I’m stuck in a waiting period for a month or two while PayPal tries to contact a seller that can’t be reached. The seller has since removed all his listings on eBay and I believe his account is cancelled also. If you ever end up in this situation then my advice is to register a complaint with eBay and then just wait for a week or so, simply because eBay will probably resolve your case more quickly then PayPal.
The fundamental flaw of eBay reviews
This is for me the most troublesome. When watching all the negative reviews starting to roll in on the sellers page I thought to my self that I should probably write something to warn potential buyers. To my surprise I discovered that I could write a positive review of the seller, but the negative was grayed out with an explanation that I had to wait for eight more days before being able to post a negative review?! Whaat?! I then looked at the purchase dates from the negative reviews and realized that if they had been able to post a negative review directly, then I never would have made the purchase! Of course I tried to explain this to eBay but there response was simply “you can always contact the seller instead of writing a review”… not quite the response I was looking for.
Now to be fair there is probably a reason this “feature” exists but what I’m missing again here is some sort of early warning system that detects for example a seller that has had zero complaints and now are getting flooded with bad reviews. Combine that with a class-action handling of all the buyers from that seller and then eBay could act more pro-actively and earn a higher loyalty score from their users.
How will this end?
So where does this leave me? Well I’ll probably get my money back eventually, but until then I’m a grand short and the super fine Sony GM lens I wanted is on hold until finances are back in order. This is actually OK, I’m confident we will get this sorted out but what’s bothers me is eBays flaws in their customer journey a field very dear to me since I work at a digital agency. These flaws have seriously injured my loyalty towards eBay and this is probably my last eBay purchase at least regarding expensive items.
This post is a reflection of my experiences in dealing with eBay and when things go wrong. I’m in no way trying to say that eBay does everything bad and that they are a bad company, I’m just stating my experience in my customer journey with eBay/Paypal.
Edit (2019-03-19): I will update this post if there is any changes and when all this gets resolved. For now eBay has closed the dealer account and informed me that they will issue a refund, which they won’t since I’ve opened a Paypal claim 🙁
Edit (2019-03-24): Paypal has now decided to issue a refund and a week later they had refunded my money. This doesn’t change the fact that there are flaws in the customer journey but at least it shows that the buyer protection program works. The case where closed 2weeks faster then the estimated resolve date and I have no idea why. I can see from my social media statistics that a lot of people from eBay and Paypal had read the article but I have no indication of that affecting the case.
Feel free to share! //JJ
#ebay #buyerprotection #customerjourney #paypal