It’s every sellers nightmare; a message pops up in your inbox:
“A case is open: Please respond now”
If you’re a seller and you’ve never had this message, chances are you’ll get one eventually. First of all, what does it mean? eBay have a Resolution Center for buyers who may have had problems with their orders. Problems can range from an item not turning up, to receiving damaged goods or something that isn’t as it was described in the listing. When a buyer has an issue, they can choose to either get in touch with you directly to resolve the issue or “Open a case”.
At the moment from within my Ebay it is incredibly easy for a buyer to open a case against a seller, it is even possible to do it accidentally (I’ve had this happen to me!). Usually however it means a buyer is not happy with their purchase, and this is what happened to me. Let’s rewind a little bit…
On July 23rd 2013 I sold a classic WWF Wrestling VHS Video of the Summerslam 1994 event for £10.19 plus £2.99 p+p (surprised? see my Is Video Dead post!). The buyer paid straight away and I packed up the video in bubble wrap, stuck it in a mail bag and sent it off first class with the Royal Mail at a cost of £3 on July 24th 2013.
On the 25th July 2013 I received that dreaded message “A Case is open: Please respond now” this always fills me with dread because it means that a buyer is not happy with an item and I’ve got a fire to put out. More often than not a refund also needs to be issued. In some cases it is possible to negotiate with the buyer, but unfortunately not everyone is reasonable all of the time.
In my opinion the resolution process is heavily stacked in the buyers favour, it seems that the buyer can claim a refund for any reason for example if they receive the item on a day which just happens to be a full moon and Jupiter is in retrograde.
I clicked through the message to discover that the buyer had claimed the following:
“Hi, I received the Summer Slam 94 video from you today, but the tape from inside is missing and would like my money back”
What to do when you think your buyer is lying?
The tape was in the case when I sent it, so one of three things must have happened:
- After I sent the item at the post office,someone opened the parcel, took out the video tape, resealed it and sent it on to it’s destination.
- When I packed the item and checked the correct tape was in the case I actually imagined it.
- The buyer is lying.
Lets look at the evidence
The buyer was a new user with zero (0) feedback. Selling to users with zero feedback doesn’t usually bother me, after all everyone has to start somewhere with eBay don’t they. I was new once and I didn’t know everything there was to know about buying. I still don’t, and so I try and be gentle with zero feedback buyers and hold their hand through the process if neccessary.
The package weighed in at 390g which accounts for the 3 hour tape, the plastic case and the packaging. This weight was noted on the Royal Mail sticker which looks like a “large stamp” and shows the price paid for postage. It was also stated on the certificate of postage.
I am a trusting person, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, however I’ve learned to trust my instincts and immediately my spider senses started tingling. The buyer claimed the tape wasn’t there, why would he do this? I went into paranoia mode and the possible reasons for this claim being made that went through my head were:
- He decided he didn’t want the item and thought he had to lie to get a refund.
- He decided he paid too much for the item and wanted a refund.
- He decided he wanted a free item and planned the whole thing from the offset, committing fraud and leaving me out of pocket.
- He actually received the parcel without the tape in.
That last option, I didn’t really believe that. I convinced myself that I was being had and thought, what can I do about this?
What I decided to do
I responded to the case by sending the buyer a message. I outlined some of the points made above and said that if he had indeed received an empty plastic case then I would have to report the issue to Royal Mail and possibly even the police as interfering with the mail is a crime and if he hadn’t got the tape clearly someone had done this. I asked if he would be willing to cooperate with the process or would he like to change his story?
After I clicked send I thought to myself what else has this guy bought? If I can find out what else he has bought I may find he has bought another of the same item for cheaper and so wants a refund for my item, which has recently happened to me. So I headed over to the Advanced Search form, which you can find a link to next to the search button on the eBay homepage.
Click “By Bidder“, enter the User ID into the search box and click “Include completed listings” and you can see all the items that the user has bought or bid on in the last 30 days. Try it yourself with your own ID to test it. I found that my buyer had bought two other items recently, both WWF VHS Videos, the usernames of the sellers were clearly displayed. Should I contact them? On the one hand I wanted to know if they had fallen foul of the same evil scheme and warn the other sellers of the potential scam which would no doubt befall them soon. On the other hand I didn’t yet know the full story as my buyer hadn’t yet responded. Roll on one day.
The buyer sent me a message. The reply saw the buyer change their story, now instead of the video not being received they said that the tape had snapped and so was unusable. A far cry from having no video all. So I was now clear in my mind that the buyer was lying. But what options were available to me?
The answer being I had very few. I could continue to contest the case, but it would never be found in my favour as its my word against theirs. Even though they have changed their story, I just couldn’t see eBay ruling in my favour. The last thing I wanted was a black mark against me so I decided to bite the bullet and simply issue a refund, which would leave me out of pocket and hit my bottom line, but I thought I had no choice.
I asked for proof that the tape was damaged in the form of a photo, this way they would have to spoil the video in order to send me proof, the last laugh will be mine I thought. I then messaged the other sellers that the buyer had bought from to give them the heads up. Perhaps I had overstepped the mark, however if I was in their shoes I would want to be aware. Both sellers replied thanking me for the heads up and promising to keep me updated should their deals go south.
The process of a case being brought against you is, in my cynical view, an unwinnable task unless the buyer claims they haven’t received an item and you have proof to the contrary in the form of a tracking number etc. eBay and Paypal’s guarantees heavily favor the buyer, you’re over a barrel, the buyer claims the item is broken and they can have their money back. The buyer doesn’t want it any more, they break it on purpose and claim it happened in transit.
I thought that I would never hear from the buyer again, but he bought another video from me! One of the same titles that he had already bought from one of the other sellers. What was he playing at? Why would he want two? I didn’t want to do business with him again. So I sent him a message:
“I am concerned about the second video you have purchased from me, I see from your bid history that you have already bought that video from another seller. Why would you want two copies of the video?”
I didn’t have to wait long for a reply:
“Apologies my mistake, can I cancel ?”
I canceled the transaction, blocked the bidder for good and tried to put the whole incident behind me. Nine months later I am not sure exactly what happened here. The buyer currently has a total feedback score of 3 and hasn’t bought anything in the last 6 months. I don’t know if it was inexperience or stupidity or something else, but I learned to use my block list very quickly.
Have you ever had something like this happen?