eBay is no longer just a Web site or service. It is a part of the culture. When the name of a product or service becomes a verb, it’s game over. And say “I’m gonna eBay it” to anyone and they know what you mean.  Hell, I am typing this on an iPad and if I forget to capitalize the B it gets auto-corrected.

I have been using eBay for way longer than most people have even known about it. And I used it enthusiastically and evangelized for it. The Gear Hunter search module on every page on the Live2Play (L2Pnet.com) and SoundProLive (SPLNetwork.com) sites prominently displays eBay auctions for all kinds of music and sound gear.

But something has happened in the past year or so–shortly after Meg Whitman left to make a failed run for the governorship of California. And that something means that if are a seller, you need to think seriously about whether or not to use the service. Or to move to another place like maybe SoundBroker.

You see, the rules have changed. eBay has gone from being a great way to connect sellers to buyers to nothing more than a machine to generate corporate money in the form of sellers fees. To use the vernacular of the day, eBay has become the 1%.

Back in a better day, eBay was about being a way to get smaller sellers in front of a larger pool of potential buyers. But it looks like the bean counters took over cuz now it is all about the math. It is not about smaller sellers. It is not the online garage sale it was when it was useful and charming. It is now about companies selling large numbers of cheap, crappy goods to undiscrimenating buyers.

And it is easy to figure out why. An operation selling crap made in China for $10 and moving 1000 units a month generates significantly more fees than the guy trying to sell the guitar or small mixer he is no longer using.

If that was all that was going on, we would be just mourning yet another cool service that became nothing more than a money-grubbing corporation. But it’s worse. Way worse. Especially if you are a seller. Because the eBay “guidelines” have become so horribly skewed away from the seller that is is kind of sad and sick. You better be reading those guideline updates they send. Because they WILL be enforced, even when they are so unfair to a seller as to constitute outright theft.

(Ever see the South Park episode in which Kyle did not read the iTunes user agreement and ended up with his mouth stitched the the rectum of someone else? It’s kind of like that.)

Here is my sad tale…

I have been clearing out unused gear. And I had some software that I had never gotten around to even installing. And now I have the new version so, I figured I would just put the old one on eBay and make a few bucks. I listed it once and it did not sell. So I lowered the price a little and threw in an extra to sweeten the pot and relisted it.

First mistake. When I hit “re-list” I forgot that I had set the auction up with a Get it Quick option and that I would be at NAMM during most of the auction period. And sure enough, it sold on my first day away from home. I contacted the seller and told him what was happening, when it would get shipped and that I would refund the get it quick fee.  In the madness of NAMM I neglected to make that refund until I got home, totally my bad. But the refund was made.

Same day I made the refund, the buyer put in an “Item not received” complaint.  I provided the tracking number and confirmed that I had sent the item and refunded the shipping portion of the total.

With a complaint filed, PayPal–which is owned by eBay– put the funds on hold. Understandable. I figured I just needed to give it a few days and it would work out. But no. Almost a month went by and the funds were still on hold. Which maks zero sense. The total was a few hundred bucks and if the buyer had not received the item he would have escalated the complaint in order to get his money. It had to be a mistake. Right?

So I call eBay. And a very pleasant woman listens to my story and tells me this kind of thing happens a lot. That a buyer will put in a not received complaint, then receive the item and never inform eBay. Now, here is the first crappy thing eBay did. They did not tell me that in a “held funds” case that the funds were automatically released in 30 days if the case was not escalated. And I was just a few days from that mark. If I had been told that, I would have just waited it out.

Instead I was told to escalate the case. Which I did not want to do. Why mess with the buyer if it was just a mistake? But they told me it was the only option so I took it. Got notification right away that a decision would be made in three days.

So I waited. And got an email that the case had been decided in favor of the buyer and a refund issued. I had tried to reach the buyer three times using eBay’s system and gotten no response and this outcome was not expected at all.

So I got back on the phone.  First guy asked me to hold. Which I did and he came back in a few mins and said he had checked the USPS web site (using the tracking number i had supplied three weeks earlier) and that the item bad been delivered on Jan 30.  But, because a determination had been made I would have to talk to someone else. Back on hold.

New guy comes on. He has all the info including that the item was delivered. But, here came the real crappy news. Even though the package was tracked, it was sent flat rate which meant no signature. And in disputes without a signature, cases are automatically decided in favor of the buyer. Check it out. It is in the user agreement right next to the part about the mouth-to-rectum stitching.

But he did tell me he would try to contact the buyer. Instead, after 10 mins, I got an email saying my appeal was denied.

Back to the phone. This time I took names. Debee B. listened again, said there was nothing she could do and transferred me to Chris and after 20 mins with him where he kept referencing the mouth-to-rectum user agreement I asked to talk to his boss. Sergio was no more of a help and hung up on me when I demanded to speak with his boss.

But here is the kicker. Even though they knew the original postage had been refunded, they refunded it again with the full refund. And they knew, the refund was issued via PayPal which they own.  And then the real kick in the balls.  They hit my PayPal account for the seller fees. 

Yep you read that right. They refunded the money on an item that had been delivered and then charged me the user fees. And when I said, “so you are telling me I am screwed?” Sergio’s answer was. “Yes.”

Really. They record these conversations so if anyone from ebay ever reads this, they can check. And Sergio said it was my fault (which it is) for not reading the user agreement. And had I lost the appeal because of that, I would still be pissed but not enough to write this and post it everywhere I can. The thing that pushed me to this point was the user fee, mouth-to-rectum stitching part.

So, the moral here? Before you use eBay to sell gear read the buyer agreement. And don’t use flat-rate shipping. Or you just might end up eating crap and being told it is your own fault and to stop complaining and learn to enjoy the taste.

Originally posted 2012-02-26 04:57:29.