eBay Stories

Blowtorch with Kerosine
Lens Packaging
Alert! Alert!
Gift for Brother
Item Refund
Combined Shipment Cluelessness
Serendipitous Discovery
Fortune & Misfortune
Amusing Phish
Keyboard Fetish
Reserve Policy
eBay Customer Disservice
Transformational Media
Delayed Mail
Incompetent Seller
[ whine ] Message 20919 Tue Aug 25, 1998 12:01am
Subject: antiwhine

I now own a gen-u-ine old brass kerosine-fueled blowtorch. Just like you see in the movies. No armory is complete without one.

Amusement: the person who sent it to me shipped it full, packed in styrofoam. All of the kero leaked out and turned much of the styro to goop. The package reeked of petroleum. UPS must have loved that.

[ ecommerce ] Message 801 Sat June 30, 2001
Subject: poor packaging

Out of all the things I've purchased from ebay sellers, few that I've previously received seemed poorly packed. Many are quite overpacked - tiny cheap little things packed in acres of bubble wrap floating in an ocean of peanuts encapsulated in multiple layers of boxes sealed with miles of packing tape.

So today, I get a big ol' box, with a smaller box of perhaps 1/10 its volume bouncing around freely inside, nary a bubble nor peanut in sight. Inside that box, protected only by a soft case (no styrofoam), a quite heavy lens that I had paid $850 for. Doesn't seem the worse for wear, but still...

[ ecommerce ] Message 931 Mon Nov 5, 2001

So, yesterday I got this:

From: allison.berman@verizon.net
Subject: Question from eBay Member
Date: Sun, 04 Nov 2001 07:52:22 PST
To member: jhdiii
From member: allyb65
buyer beware! unethical seller-horrible experience!

My, that's cryptic. I had to find the intersection of allyb65's auction-bids and my own to determine who she was referring to - turned out to be a seller with huuuuge +feedback and a few negatives, for each of which she had posted a reasonable response. So, today:

From: allison.berman@verizon.net
Subject: Question from eBay Member
Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 08:01:48 PST
To member: jhdiii
From member: allyb65
Be careful with seller [seller] - [real name] - unethical business practices

Wonder if she plans on sending daily messages to each and every person who ever bids on any of that seller's items from now to eternity. She already left negative feedback - give it a rest! At least don't send me a message every damn day I have a bid outstanding.

Annoyance: Near as I can tell, ebay doesn't let you perform what would seem to be a popular operation - view only non-positive feedback. I had to sift through several thousand feedbacks to find the 3 of interest, by asking for the maximum of 500 feedbacks per page (still <1 item-of-interest per page) and searching for the string 'negative'.

[ HateAndLoathing ] Message 4514 Fri June 21, 2002
Subject: Re(4509): ^

And, though esnipe helps a lot, all too often it still doesn't save you from the idiots. After esnipe does my bidding and informs me that my bid wasn't high enough, I go to see what-all transpired, and what do I find?

Person A enters a bid max of $5. A day later, person B enters a bid max of $10. 5 minutes later, person A, having received ebay's “You've been outbid!” taunt, comes back and enters a bid max of $20. Person B isn't quite as email-connected; it's a couple of hours before he ups his max to $30. And up, and up, and up, over a period of days, sometimes switching to several different pairs of outbid-each-other-as-soon-as-they-receive-notification idiots who are either caught in the throes of MUST...CRUSH...COMPETITION or just completely don't grok proxy bidding. Sigh.

[ ecommerce ] Message 1131 Tue Dec 31, 2002
Subject: ha-ha

A few days ago, my robot turned up an item I've been looking for for a while, which I was going to enter an esnipe bid on. My plan was to split it and give half to my brother for Christmas if I had it soon enough (we haven't had our family gift exchange yet), and otherwise for his birthday, since I knew he'd love it. A problem is that this item has to be picked up in LA; the seller won't ship it. Phil offers that his father will (reluctantly) do the pickup, and store it until Phil's next trip south. I'm a bit worried about this coming together, but decide to go ahead.

Yesterday, bro mails me about a vaguely-related item (these fall in the category of “dangerous chemicals”), with the subject “Can you imagine what we'd have been doing 20 years ago if ebay had existed?”. I recall that bro made a trip to LA recently, and just might be up for another, so even though I had been planning on giving him part of it, I reply with “yeah, look at this”, and a pointer to the item. Today bro mails me: “damn, I was going to buy that and give you half for Christmas!” . He'd been planning another trip to la-la land soon already. For lack of this communication, he would have bid manually at the last moment, and esnipe would have bid against him on my behalf, wrangling over a would-be present from each to the other! An apropos item for it, at least :)

[ ecommerce ] Message 1170 Mon April 14, 2003
Subject: urgh

Purchased a set of 9 items from an ebay seller, of which only 4 were as described; the others are useless to me. The others were in cases that misidentified them, so I can imagine this being an honest mistake, though the cases weren't sealed so it would've been easy enough for them to check before sending them off. Sent them mail... no response. More mail a week later... no response. Today on a hunch I went to look at their feedback, and found that though they'd been an ebay seller since '99 with lots of sales, they're no longer a registered user, and there are a couple of recent negative feedbacks of the sort I'd leave - “never got the product” and “product not as described, no response to email”.

Grr! So I go to see if their paypal account is still active, which it is, and moreover it includes a customer service phone number. I call them up, and have a slightly weird conversation. The person who answers is on some sort of poor link that sounds like a low-bit-rate answering machine, and answers with “Operator”. But when I tell him what I'm calling about, he kinda shiftily says “oh, I think I remember that”, and readily agrees to refund 5/9 of my money. I don't really expect to see it...

[ ecommerce ] Message 1180 Fri April 18, 2003
Subject: Re(1170): urgh

like, OMG... I got a refund.

[ ecommerce ] Message 1342 Thu May 13, 2004

I win auctions for two items from an ebay seller. I ask her if I can combine shipment. She says yes, and sends me the combined shipping. I pay her via paypal, and include in the payment a note listing both item numbers. The items are shipped to me. A few days after they arrive:

Could you please pay me now...Auction CLOSED 4/13/04...PLEASE PAY ME NOW...Send Pay Pal Payment to anna@acpsuperstore.com Thanks Julie (:

My immediate thought is: OK, she got confused about the combined payment. But shouldn't the fact that she already SHIPPED me the items give her a clue to recheck her records? Maybe they're a big operation... but then they should have a tracking system!

But I just say:

I sent payment via paypal a week ago.

And include my paypal receipt. She replies:

Thanks John, sorry about that...I did receive it....sorry, thanks

Case closed.

Oops, no it isn't... today:

On Wed, May 12, 2004 at 07:51:27AM -0700, jbarnes@acpcomponents.com wrote:

You know I am going to relist this item....I should leave neg. feedback...but I dont really want to deal w/ it...so if you want this item..go ahead and bid on it...and please pay next time...thanks

This is getting tedious. I sent her a suggestion that she check her inventory before relisting the item, along with our previous exchanges to refresh her memory. Will it need refreshing again after another two weeks?

[ ecommerce ] Message 1389 Sun Dec 5, 2004
Subject: serendipitous discovery

When you do an ebay search, along with your search results you're offered a search box containing your old search terms for refinement, as well as a new-search box preloaded with the words “Start new search”. If you select the text box to enter some search terms, the preloaded wording goes away. But if you just hit the search button without touching the text, it actually searches for the terms “start new search”. Sooo... at the moment, 100-odd auctions have “start new search” in their titles :)

But wait... not to be outdone, one of these further has “grilled cheese” tacked onto the end. I can only imagine that this is a result of the “grilled cheese madonna” phenomenon.

NWT lot Easyriders tops start new search grilled cheese

[ ecommerce ] Message 1402 Mon April 4, 2005
Subject: fortune

There's a book I want. It was published in 1916, so it's out of copyright, but there is no e-text of it. The only modern version is a kinkos-style reproduction, from a single source. I actually bought that version a few years ago. I gave my purchased copy to my brother for his birthday, planning to buy a replacement, since I quite liked it. I remembered it today, because a friend's birthday is coming up - I'd actually like two copies, one for me and one for him. It also occurred to me that what I'd really like for myself is an “original” copy - not necessarily a first edition, just one printed around that time, to lend its atmosphere to the reading. So I went looking, and came up empty handed. Other than the site selling the reproduction, the book is only even mentioned a couple of places on the interweb. Didn't try ebay at first, since it seemed pretty scarce! Instead I tried searching for some text from the book, and just on the author's name, in case they had renamed it when reprinting it, and various other permutations. Nope. But then, just before giving up, I did search ebay. And there's a seller currently offering, as a single item: Two identical volumes, first edition, hardbound, good condition, both signed by the author. Cost < 2x that of two copies of the reproduction. “Buy-it-now”. OK!

[ ecommerce ] Message 1405 Tue April 5, 2005
Subject: misfortune

Seller says he already has another buyer.

So much for “Buy it Now!”

And I really wanted this book. Sigh.

[ ecommerce ] Message 1411 Sun April 10, 2005
Subject: Well, I'm not counting my chickens until they're nitrated...

but the seller told me today that he hadn't heard from the other buyer, so I get them. I'm sending off a check. Wish he took paypal; that'd make it more final-seeming.

[ spam ] Message 1943 Tue May 17, 2005 12:53pm
Subject: I found this amusing

From phishing spam:

[blah blah blah] ...

NEVER give your password to anyone and ONLY log in at [3]http://scgi.ebay.com/verify_id=ebay. Protect yourself against fraudulent websites by opening a new web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Netscape) and typing in the eBay URL every time you log in to your account.
What's funny is that the href for [3] up there points blatantly at the phishing site. If you follow their instructions (probably cloned from ebay mail) to type in the URL, you will in fact be safe; if you go ahead and click on that link regardless of the safety advice, you l0se!

[ vague-annoyance ] Message 4857 Sat Dec 3, 2005

My favorite keyboard - the Unitek K-151L - has become a collector's item. Something for people's keyboard collections, not to actually USE. Every time one pops up on ebay it's going for some insane price.

Oooh! See, for this photo I have removed a keycap to show that the item I offer for sale has the most unusual BLACK keyswitches with WHITE posts!

[ ecommerce ] Message 1454 Thu Jan 19, 2006
Subject: ebay policies

So, sellers are (now?) allowed to remove their reserves during an auction.

“If a seller decides to remove the reserve, the reserve price will be lowered to $1.00 above the current high bid. The next bid that is placed will meet the reserve. This is done to confirm that the high bidder is still interested in the item.”

Sure sounds like this changes the dynamics of an auction. Simplistically: Want to get the most you can for an item? Set a high reserve. Wait 'til (say) a day before the auction ends. Remove the reserve. The high bidder will (I think) be notified by mail. They will most likely be willing to pay $1 more than their current high bid. And so the seller sells the item for as much as anyone was willing to pay, instead of a tad more than the second-highest bidder was willing to pay.

Reserves - bleah. I wish ebay's search system would allow me to exclude auctions with reserves, or at least those in which the reserves haven't been met. But that would be contrary to their interests. Maybe I'll add that feature to my robot.

[ www ] Message 7027 Tue May 30, 2006 11:10am
Subject: Re(7023): Re(7021): ^^^

It's like this:

I place my maximum-bid ahead of time. Joe Bad-Bidder comes across the item and decides that he wants it. He bids against me. He is outbid by me when eBay raises my bid on my behalf. Therefore he bids again. Repeat until either he wins the item, or the price rises above what he's really willing to bid.

Joe immediately bids again for two reasons: either he didn't actually tell eBay what he was willing to pay the first time, or he did, but being outbid by me gets his must-win reflex going and so he nonsensically raises his max-bid above what he should. The former case (not bidding what he's really willing to) resolves into two sub-cases: either he didn't give it enough thought, or not actually setting his max-bid to what he's willing to pay is his crude (non-sniping) way of dealing with the same thing that sniping does - avoiding showing what you're willing to pay.

Note that by entering a max-bid in the usual manner, you do provide an avenue for others to know what you're willing to pay in time to use this information. All they have to do is bid against you, and they'll find out. By sniping, you close this avenue.

If you watch a lot of eBay actions go by, you will see multiple people bidding against each other, one-upping each other, incrementally raising their bids, often dozens of times for days on end. This is extremely common behavior. It shows you what you avoid by sniping - someone hammering away, purely in response to a competing bid, until they're on top.

You're wrong about sniping engines missing bids (at least in the case of esnipe). I just looked through my last year's esnipe mail.

I told esnipe to bid on 120 items.
In 53 cases, my max-bid had already been exceeded when esnipe did its 90-minute checkup, so it didn't bother to bid.
Of the 67 bids that esnipe did attempt to place for me, 29 resulted in wins, 37 were placed but did not result in wins, and in 1 case, esnipe was not able to place my bid.
That's not enough data to generalize to a good failure rate estimate, but it gives an idea of how well it works.

I have esnipe configured to place my bid 3 seconds before the auction closes.

[ ecommerce ] Message 1466 Fri Aug 11, 2006
Subject: ebay customer disservice

I buy a docking station for my digicam.

A day or two later, another ebay seller spams me (via ebay) with a suggestion that I might want to buy some (identical) docking stations from him, too, and provides links to his auctions. It turns out that, actually, I only need one docking station for my digicam. Really. So I ignore it.

But then a couple of days later he spams me again. That's too much. The message, coming through ebay, has ebay text appended that says that spamming is against ebay policy, and if this is spam, please “help the community” by reporting it. This is of course followed by at least one word regarding how one would go about reporting such spam. Not.

So I go poking and drilling up and down ebay's help pages until I finally find something about spamming, which even more explicitly says that other sellers offering to sell similar items through ebay is considered spam and is a violation of their policy. And with only a little MORE drilling I find the place to report it. I select this option. It wants me to copy in the FULL headers, and separately the body. I do that, and select the option to Cc me on the mail, and send off the complaint. The copy I get has a nice explicit subject line of “Spam (Unsolicited Commercial Email)”, and the complete headers, and all that.

The !@^$^& seller sends me ANOTHER spam. I bother to report it, too.

Three days later, I get a response to each complaint. One tells me that I “may have received a spoof or phishing attempt”, and the other tells me that “The message you received is a “spoof” (hoax or fraudulent) email.” No, it wasn't, you incompetent fools (yes, this flagrant and unceremonious discarding of the time I spent bothering to follow their advice pisses me off). I was complaining about SPAM, like the SUBJECT line says! It wasn't a phishing attempt; it had nothing but links to actual, still active, ebay auctions. And it wasn't a spoof, it was sent THROUGH EBAY, you IDIOTS. It would be trivial for their system to tell the drooling moron at the keyboard that and so prevent them them from issuing replies that are quite so maddeningly useless, especially since the header includes an ebay mail message ID, but I suppose that would risk short-circuiting the monkey at the keyboard.

So, feeling masochistic, I bother to reply to this and explain to them, fairly diplomatically, the error of their ways. Note that this message consists of several paragraphs of text that have nothing to do with complaining about some suspect message I've gotten - this is all about where they went wrong, and what they should do about it.

What did they reply to that with? Yes.....

Another spoof tutorial.

[ ecommerce ] Message 1469 Sat Aug 12, 2006
Subject: transformational media!

Got a package today, marked with the USPS MEDIA MAIL rate. I wondered what it was, since I didn't recall ordering any books or such recently. And it sure was heavy - like, heavier than any paper-based object would be even if it completely filled the box.

Contents of said package: Industrial Control Transformer (one that I paid $9.99 to have shipped, exactly the same price as the item itself).

[ ecommerce ] Message 1476 Wed July 18, 2007
Subject: stuck in an eddy somewhere

Last September I won an auction for a DLT drive sold by “firebuy”. The auction page said I'd get mail from them within 3 days telling me how to check out. I didn't get it. I mailed them. They replied that they send mail to my “registered ebay address”. I told them yes, and it's working just fine, but I haven't gotten any mail. They gave me the information neccessary to complete the purchase.

So, ten months later...

From firebuy.com!questions Wed Jul 18 13:35:44 2007
From: questions@firebuy.com
To: spcecdt@armory.com
Subject: Notification for Ebay #300026376764
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2006 15:12:04 -0400
Received: from mail pickup service by corpweb with Microsoft SMTPSVC;
Wed, 18 Jul 2007 16:31:11 -0400
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2800.1807
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 18 Jul 2007 20:31:11.0078 (UTC) FILETIME=[94127860:01C7C97A]

You are the high bidder on Ebay Auction #300026376764. Please click here
to log into our checkout page.


The information we collect serves for shipping and billing purposes only.

Thank you for your business,

Staff @ FireBuy.com
[ ecommerce ] Message 1489 Sat Aug 29, 2009
From: jhdiii
Subject: lame'

I purchased a dual link DVI cable via eBay. The seller (esmartphone) has a vast amount of pretty good feedback (345997 / 98.9%). But what showed up was a single-link cable. I sent them:

This auction was for a DUAL LINK DVI cable. The cable I was sent is a single-link cable (as it says right on the cable). Please send me the cable specified in the auction.

Today's reply:

Thank you for contacting us. We are sorry for the troubles. Please note we have check our records and revealed that this item is 100% compatible with your phone. Please advise?

The seller name suggests that they mainly sell cellphone stuff, which makes me think that the above is a completely automated response intended to cut down on the number of complaints that they actually have to deal with.

[ ecommerce ] Message 1493 Fri Sept 4, 2009
From: jhdiii
Subject: Re(1489): lame'

Now I'm thinking they connected their response system to a random fortune generator. I sent them:

On Sat, Aug 29, 2009 at 08:04:39AM -0700, Bargaincell.com Customer Service wrote:

> Hi,
> Thank you for contacting us. We are sorry for the troubles. Please note
> we have check our records and revealed that this item is 100% compatible
> with your phone. Please advise?

No, you did not check your records for any sort of compatibility, because this has nothing to do with a phone. It's a DVI cable, for a computer monitor. The pins on the cable connector and the marking on the cable itself both show that it is not the cable advertised. You need to either issue a refund or send me the cable you advertised in the auction.

Their response, 6 days later:

From: “Bargaincell.com Customer Service” <customerservice@bargaincell.com>
Thank you for contacting us.Can you please elaborate us your concern a bit
more so that we can assist you better.

Maybe they're trying to stretch this out beyond the feedback/ebay-complaint time limits.

[ ecommerce ] Message 1495 Sat Sept 19, 2009
From: jhdiii
Subject: Re(1493): Re(1489): lame'

So, next they asked for the SKU printed on the invoice they sent me (they couldn't look this up themselves??) I sent it to them, and also did a web search on it. It proved to be the mfgr's part number for a single-link DVI cable - so they didn't just put the wrong item in the package, they associated the wrong item with the auction description. They clearly recognized that this SKU number was not the correct one for the item I ordered, because once they received it from me, they acknowledged their error, and told me they'd send the right cable.

It arrived today.

Same wrong-item in the package.

Same SKU number on the invoice.

A bit more of this and they'll have set a new record for incompetence of an eBay seller I've dealt with.

[ ecommerce ] Message 1496 Wed Oct 7, 2009
From: jhdiii
Subject: Re(1495): Re(1493): Re(1489): lame'

So, they finally told me to just send both cables back for a refund - implicitly, they don't actually have the dual-link cable at all. BUT, they're still selling them on eBay, surely sending out the single-link cable to everyone who buys one. wtf?!

[ ecommerce ] Message 1500 Fri Dec 4, 2009
From: jhdiii
Subject: wtf!

My brother sends me this little gem. Yes, this is the entire exchange(!)

From: [Laurence]
To: valkyrie375
Subject: Message from eBay Member Regarding Item #...........
Sent Date: Dec-03-09 12:53:23 PST
Dear valkyrie375,
I have determined that this is not the correct heat exchanger for my water heater. Of course I will pay for it if there is no other way to resolve the problem (check my feedback), but would it be possible for you to offer it to the next-highest bidder? I would happily pay the difference.
Laurence DuBois

Dear [Laurence],
This is to bad for me as I have, by mistake, aready sent this item to you. I have no other recouse but to post the most negitive feedback that I can. At this point I see this a total ripoff for me. You are right this is my fault, but I'll try to make the beat of it. If this means slaming you, then so be it.
Thorp Thomas
- valkyrie375

This web page maintained by John DuBois