eBay - apology please. I'll wait. Maybe.

Mon, Dec 12, 2022 7-minute read

Whilst some big tech businesses are very much imploding publically in a high profile ball of flames (I’m looking at you Twitter and Ticketmaster) for so blatantly not caring about being evil, it would be easy to overlook some others who are doing exactly that, but just a bit more discretely. Except when you anger them, of course.

I could be talking about any number of tech companies and not even just generally - because more than one has behaved badly recently. Maybe I’ll write about Garmin another day because today I have my sights set on eBay.

Objectively, it should be of little to no surprise that eBay is evil. They embody perfectly the usual trajectory of “small innovative game-changing startup grows fast to become huge evil conglomerate” that we’ve all known and come to love expect.

Sell sell sell

According to my feedback profile which stands at 100%, I’ve been a member of eBay for more than 20 years. Which itself is pretty scary. I used to use it a lot, for both buying and selling, but in recent years this has decreased considerably related mostly to increased cost of shipping and Guernsey removing low value consignment relief which has made shipping low value things off-Island to be more hassle than it’s worth.

However, in a bi-annual fit of “let’s clear out some old stuff I don’t use” I took to eBay to clear some… old stuff I don’t use. And by surveying closed / past auctions, it showed that enough of the stuff I had was worth enough that the hassle of shipping and paying VAT would be worth it in the long run.

One item was a Garmin BC-30 wireless backup camera. A sufficiently niche item that is designed to turn a Garmin GPS head unit in to a reversing camera. I had bought and used it with an older van, but was now no longer used due to a change of vehicle. It was now hard to find and good quality second hand examples, even incomplete or broken, were selling for well over £100… and mine was complete and fully functional. So, worth a punt.

It (amongst a slew of other things) was duly listed on eBay and in next to no time at all, all of it had sold. Some good quality but now unused stuff had coined in - after eBay fees and Paypal fees, of course - a good few hundred pounds - very nice.

It makes sense with eBay to (a) post things as soon as possible and (b) always use at least a recorded delivery method - and Special Delivery is the way forward for anything worth a decent sum. This additional peace of mind obviously eats in to your returns, but is generally worth it, since you are, of course, dealing ultimately with people you don’t know and there is the inevitable “I didn’t receive it” risk if you don’t use some sort of premium service.

And so the Garmin backup camera got packaged up and shipped, but, two things conspired against me.

  1. For a reason that eludes me, it was sent via Recorded Delivery - so this only provides a signature when it’s actually been delivered (as opposed to e.g., Special Delivery which provides a full tracking service); and
  2. During a time of major Royal Mail postal strikes, which inevitably meant things were taking longer than usual.

It was sent at the same time as other packages all on the same recorded delivery service. Based on the remoteness of the location in the country, arrival times are fairly predictable. Anything near major centres is usually there within 1-2 days and you can add extra days for the further away the location is (requiring additional hops through the network.) Something near a major hub like Reading could be there next day, something to a large city maybe 1-2 days and then something to e.g., rural Cumbria could easily be 3-4 days, and even up to a week. (In normal, non-strike times, of course.)

But, unfortunately, there is sometimes no accounting for the impatience of human nature. Whilst delivery tracking showed some items arriving next day with very happy buyers - and one item in particular taking a fortnight but with an untypically phlegmatic buyer, the BC30 was somewhere in the middle - after 3 days it hadn’t arrived and the buyer felt obliged to go postal as it were and jump straight to the ‘item not received’ case management feature in eBay.

Did I happen to mention that this was also right in the middle of the Royal Mail postal strikes? And so for all the will in the world there was virtually no surprise that things were taking longer than expected.

eBay gives the big fuck you

That’s all sort of a given… everyday life can suck. Humans are humans. And it’s not the point of this story.

The point of this story is eBay’s response.

The request was opened late on the 5th December, and I immediately received this message…

Your buyer opened a request because they didnt receive their item. Please respond by 8 Dec 2022.
To resolve the request, please confirm tracking details. If you don't have tracking details that show delivery, please consider refunding the buyer. We’ll credit the variable portion of the final value fee if you issue a refund.
This item is covered by eBay Money Back Guarantee. If the buyers request is not resolved by 8 Dec 2022, they can ask us to step in and make a decision.

and then a minute later

Your funds are on hold until this request is resolved

Request ID: xxx
We'd previously contacted you about a request that xxx filed for an order. The reason for this request is that the buyer hasn’t received their item yet.
Until the request is resolved, the transaction amount will be withheld from future payouts.

That ‘previous contact’ was… 60 seconds ago?

So 20 years of history, 100% feedback record, many, many items sent with no issue and boom, immediately, the eBay pack dogs are on me. All despite the fact that the tracking details (such as they were) had already been provided. I immediately responded to the request, kindly asking the buyer to accept the difficulty of the situation and could they just hang on a bit, you know, what with the postal strikes and all.

8th December rolled around and still no sign of the package, so of course, another automated face slap from eBay, this time ramping up the passive aggressive threat to my seller profile:

Your buyers request is still open because their item hasnt arrived. Resolving your buyers request will help maintain your seller level.

To resolve the request, please confirm tracking details. If you do not have tracking details that show delivery, please consider refunding the buyer. Well credit the variable portion of the final value fee if you issue a refund.

Please be sure youve responded to your buyers request by 8 Dec 2022. After that date, if the request is still open well help find a resolution. Keep in mind, if you dont respond, theres a chance it could affect your seller performance level.

Despite the fact that there was open dialogue between me and the buyer.

All fine… sorry?

I was at this point worried that due to the strikes, maybe Recorded Delivery items were being delivered but perhaps they weren’t always getting signatures? And so it could have been delivered but they buyer could claim it never arrived?Fortunately though 2 days later, it turned up, and the seller messaged me to that effect.

All good, no harm, no foul - and eBay’s response? Nothing. Request closed, move on, nothing to see here.

No recognition of anything, thanks for being involved in the process, sorry for jumping the gun a bit, sorry for threatening to tarnish your profile.

Nothing. Case closed, fuck you, let’s move on. Oh and we’re still collecting our fees.

Meh. Hardly any wonder I barely use eBay anymore.

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