First-World Problems

Fine, eBay. Here’s your $2. I hope you choke on it.

Just a head’s up – don’t use eBay to sell anything. Save yourself the time, effort, and money. That’s the tl;dr. But here’s the rest of the story:

So the iPhone 5 was coming out, and I very carefully determined the optimal time to start an auction for my iPhone 4. I wanted it to end after my iPhone 5 had arrived, and ensure that it arrived on a “good day” for last-minute bidders. I had spent a few hours on this, as I expected to get at least a couple hundred dollars and a good ending time could mean $50 or more on the price difference.

Mid-way through the auction, I saw that my little ol’ iPhone 4 was going for around $600, which is outrageous. Some quick Googling later, and I found out that this is apparently a very common phenomenon in the electronics category. Unscrupulous sellers will register fake accounts and bid up items competing against theirs to make their own auctions look better. The only solution is manually policing your bids and removing any from people with less than 3 positive feedback.

And that’s really the only solution! eBay offers tools to automatically block people with less than 0 feedback, but not any positive numbers. Further, eBay doesn’t offer any way to report these users (at least none that I found, and I looked for a while). So I spent the entire rest of the auction looking in on it frequently, manually pruning suspicious-looking bidders.

Finally, the auction wound down for a reasonable price. I contacted the winning bidder and… nothing. No response by email or through eBay or anything. I waited the requisite number of days and sent a second-chance offer to the next person on the list and… nothing. The same for the third and fourth. No responses from any of them at all.

A little upset, I decided to just leave negative feedback for the original bidder and relist. But… there’s no way to do that! Since I last stopped using eBay, they removed (or hid) the ability to leave negative feedback for a buyer, making their whole reputation system pointless and their automatic bid screening system useless.

Stymied at leaving negative feedback, I at least figured I’d relist, which I did with an additional paragraph about how I’d cancel bids from people with bad or no feedback scores. (Which is also difficult to do, by the way – a manual form found nowhere convenient to your actual bid list.) But the same exact thing happened, except this time the eventual winner didn’t read the auction clearly enough and didn’t realize that the phone was locked to a different carrier. All the other second-chance offers I sent out were completely ignored as before.

Frustrated, I cancelled that auction and decided to sell on Kijiji or Craigslist or through friends or something. I definitely wasn’t going to deal with eBay again.

Except that now I have to. It seems that they think I still owe them $2.00 for the privilege of wasting weeks of my life fighting scammers in their decidedly anti-seller system. I’ve tried to contact support by email, but that option doesn’t exist – the only option they provide for contact is a phone number that Google searches say can have up to hours long wait times that I have no interest in waiting through.

Eventually I found a vestigial web form for reaching out to customer support, where I detailed my case. It promised a response within 24 to 48 hours. Well, I got one within ten minutes, which directed me to phone them, and not to reply to that email because it is not monitored.

Look, in the end I just want to not constantly get these collection reminder emails. It’s not worth my time to spend an hour or more waiting for and then arguing with a customer support representative over this. So fine, I’ll pay it. Whatever.

But it definitely is worth a half-hour of my time to write up the truly awful, terrible, reprehensible experience I’ve had with eBay’s shitty service and customer support system.

eBay, I hope the word of mouth you get from this is worth the $2.00 it would have cost you to just refund those fees. You know, if you had a reasonable customer support system set up to allow for it.

Goodbye Dreamhost. Hello Linode!
  • Anon Imus

    Anon ImusAnon Imus


    Seriously dude! Eff Ebay and Paypal. But don’t worry, cause if you had actually sold it there, you’d have to pay the Ebay final value fee of like 5%.

    Then the Paypal transaction fee of like 7%.

    Then if you want the money the Paypal withdrawal fee of another like 6%.

    Wait, why am I paying the same company 3 times for 1 transaction?

  • Anon



    Did you follow this? I assume not since it is mentioned no where in the post. A quick Google search leads you here. There is no excuse for not finding this as a seller. If you don’t find ways to protect yourself because you are careless, then that is your problem as that’s life.

  • Bob



    Oh, there’s no email or phone? Go nineteen century on them and write them a letter.

  • gamualarm



    Wow! Evil is what that is. Haven’t had the pleasure of selling on eBay, yet. Will definitely think twice if it ever comes up. I’ll happily send you a toonie for your trouble. :)

    As a buyer, I’ve occasionally seen some suspicious looking activity on the part of my fellow bidders, but was never able to confirm there was something to it. If things like this are allowed to happen– essentially rendering their auction system hopelessly corrupt and unfair– it’s got to be the beginning of the end for eBay.

  • K



    Random q – how was the Craigslist experience as opposed to ebay? Did you get a better/worse price?

  • bobx



    Its true, Ebay has become essentially useless. I was going to list a guitar for a friend of mine a few weeks ago, and Ebay tried to force me to allow them direct access to my bank account in case there was a dispute with the buyer, in which case they would pull the full amount of the sale price out of my account without my explicit permission to do so.

    This is absolutely shocking to me, and of course I did not list the item as it was a 3,500 dollar guitar, and I cant have someone debit that money from my account in case of a dispute. Thats just crazy.

    I have bought and sold plenty of big ticket items on the web before, classic guitars and several cars, Ebay is not the place to do this anymore, and its a shame that one of the original web classified properties has become hostile to its users. It never was a good website, but it was at one point useful. Now its neither good nor useful.

  • Michael



    Here here! These guys are complete knuckleheads who think that just because they were one of the first online marketplaces to explode that they can just sit back and switch innovation and customer service onto cruise control. It’s frustrating as all hell but you can vote with your dollars–use free marketplaces!

  • William Harding

    Hey Dan,

    In eBay’s defense, striking the right balance between doing right by buyers and sellers can be very hard. I know this from running one of eBay’s largest competitors ( for four years now. Starting with DSRs around 5 years ago, eBay has become progressively more pro-buyer (or anti-seller), which is what has driven Bonanza to now have more than 4 million items and 25,000 registered sellers.

    The root of the problem is that sellers have an economic incentive to stick with eBay regardless of their policies (because sellers get paid). Your situation sounds like a worst-case scenario of what this buyer-first mentality can result in — when they have an obviously broken system (fraudulent bidding) and little incentive to fix it.

    I like to think that having competition will incentivize them to improve their seller policies. We’re trying to push them hard in that direction by having no listing fees and a large seller support that is staffed by intelligent humans.

    We’ll see how long it takes to work and push them in the right direction, at least they’ve made one step in the right direction by making free listings for some auctions in some cases.

  • Secular Traditionalist

    My sympathy for your situation. eBay’s business model is based on attracting activity, and so they’re unwilling to drive away anyone, including scammers. They also know it’s really expensive to have real people answering the phones. So they give up, and say “buyer beware,” and ignore the problems. They do this so they can make lots of money and because there are so many people who don’t care if eBay is a scam, either because they’re oblivious or because they’re scammers or both. For every one person like yourself who quits, there are a half-dozen more just waiting to try out their new scams or sell their worthless junk.

    A better solution might be a class-action lawsuit. I can’t join, because I quit eBay four years ago after their policies then struck me as biased against the honest person, whether seller or buyer. Really, we can’t leave feedback against bad buyers? It’s like we the decent people are naked sheep, and they fleece us anytime they want, basically.

  • Zach Inglis

    Zach InglisZach Inglis


    This happened to me too. I have a custom MacBook Pro. The total cost to me was around £2800. I decided after almost a years worth of usage, and wanting to quickly get rid of it, I’d be trying to look for around £2400. I listed it – and I went with all the extras. I figured £40 was a fine expense if I got it off my hands. The first winner turned out to be a scammer. So I cancelled it, and relisted – again paying another £40. Same thing happens.

    Of course, when I ask for my money back, they hand it to me in credit rather than an actual refund. I now have £80 in credit for a site that I have no want to use. (It can only be counted against selling fees, not used to buy things.)

  • Dhara



    I agree. Had a horrendous experience using ebay, more importantly with lack of customer support ! Would never again.. try using craigslist for iphones.

  • Dan Hulton

    Dan HultonDan Hulton


    Hey Anon – I definitely did submit an unpaid item request for both times I listed, and they went through successfully. However, certain fees cannot be refunded because… of reasons, I guess.

    Which I’d normally be totally cool with – if my auction failed to sell, or I backed out or whatever, that would make sense. But when a company fails this hard at providing a service, asking for and getting a refund shouldn’t be this hard. It should be common decency and simple to do.

    William – I don’t really mind eBay being buyer-biased, it’s how anti-seller they come off as. There are all kinds of tools that exist for sellers, but they’re not easily available. I had to Google how to cancel a bid – it’s an unrelated form nowhere connected to your auction, and the only place I could find it was a guide written by someone on cancelling bids of people with low feedback because they’re scammers in the first place.

    Basically every time I thought “Oh, there should be a simple way to resolve this problem”, there wasn’t. There was a convoluted, inane process if there was any at all. Just maddening.

    Oh hey, actually. Zach, your story reminds me. I had $1.50 credit on eBay before I started this fiasco due to basically the same reasons. So I’m actually out $3.50 due to their ridiculousness. Huh.

  • Lisa Dean

    Lisa DeanLisa Dean


    I haven’t sold much on Ebay after I found out I could sell my stuff on Amazon. Sure Amazon’s got their own issues but everything about it is easier and selling prices are a little bit cheaper I think. You still have to deal with scammers wanting to do transactions outside of Amazon but if you stick with doing everything through Amazon, it’s been reliable for me.

    For big ticket items like iPhones & Macbooks, you will probably have your account frozen at some point for potential seller fraud but there’s a simple form to request that your funds be unfrozen. I just tell them I’m selling my own personal stuff and they’ve unfrozen the account within 24 hours each time.

  • rob



    I had this same experience selling an ipad 2.. it got bid up to a crazy price then the buyer just never paid. I went with the buy it now feature after that because you can force the buyer to checkout after clicking the buy button. It rids any of those jerks trying to scam or manipulate the system

  • JP



    Been trying to sell a Nokia Lumia 900 on eBay and have gotten three Nigerian scammers in a row. SO MUCH WASTED TIME. Buy-it-Now is broken.

  • Rocky



    Similar experience… sold an Xbox to a nice gentleman who bid up to more than the new price, and directed me to some cockamamie escrow-type scheme that would allegedly release funds upon proof of shipment to Nigeria. Relisted, sold it a lower, more reasonable price. Of course, Ebay had already charged me based on the initial price, so since that time they’ve had an extra $10.03 in my account for 5 years, with no way for me to ever get it back, except selling more stuff to their classy clientele, which I guess you now can’t even rate. Why would they charge me based on a cockamamie price some goofball bid up and not have any way to get the money back? Madness.

  • Zach



    I sell most of my stuff on Amazon – as long as it’s in Amazon’s catalog and isn’t something unique or specialty. I could probably make a little more money selling on eBay, but it’s not worth my time to put up with the crap – from both the company and the buyers. On Amazon, I name a price, someone buys it, and I typically have no issues.

  • Mitchell



    “…which directed me to phone them…” Send them another email using that form saying that phoning is not an option because you have sold and shipped your phone elsewhere!

  • Brice



    Issue a chargeback on the $2 charge and laugh.

  • Dan Hulton

    Dan HultonDan Hulton


    Or not – I’ll probably just go back to getting “Your account owes us $2! We’ll put you in collections!” emails.

  • somewhereovertherainbow

    I hate ebay/paypal just as much as most people but:

    Solved, done. Your $2 will return to you.

    *If your buyer agreed to cancel your transaction or didn’t respond, you’ll receive a credit to your seller’s account for the final value fee within 7-10 business days of closing the case.*

    *If you want a refund for your credit, see Requesting a refund of your eBay credit balance.*

    Granted it’s buried in their help system, but it’s there.

  • Dan Hulton

    Dan HultonDan Hulton


    I already got the transactions cancelled and the values mostly returned. Except, of course for the remaining $2 fees which are un-refundable because of reasons.

    Also, for me, that page just says to call them, which I already don’t want to do, so… It doesn’t really fix things, sorry.

    But thanks for trying to help!

  • Sinan



    but hey, they now have a new logo.

  • Timmy



    While the situation you describe sounds completely ridiculous , you can’t complain about shitty customer service without ever having rang their help line. Not wanting to do it isn’t a valid excuse

  • Ayur



    How much money u r making from this website by displaying the google ads? Bcoz of some penies you screwed up the design. Otherwise this looks really pleasant

  • Ash Bhoopathy

    Ash BhoopathyAsh Bhoopathy


    It’s anyone wonder that no one has displaced eBay — I’ve had similar experiences and haven’t the faintest idea how they’re still in operation.

    They have one of the worst user experiences imaginable. Recently my wife said she wanted to start selling some older things we had on eBay and I literally recoiled at how vile the listing process was.

    Some day when I’m an angel investor I think I’m going to exclusively fund “eBay killers”.

  • Chris



    So, they sent me a note saying hey Chris, if you post something with Android you won’t have to pay any fee’s on 1 item! I proceed to post a hot rod of mine and during the auction I actually called into their support and they said, yes, no fees. I asked them for an email and they sent it.
    Fast forward to the end of the auction and they try to collect directly out of my paypal. I had already removed all of my credit cards from paypal knowing full well they were going to try to charge me for it. Now they’ve suspended my account (been on there since 2000).

  • Dan Hulton

    Dan HultonDan Hulton


    Gonna have to disagree with you there, Timmy. Customer service doesn’t just mean what happens once you finally manage to get in touch with them – the fact that it was ridiculously difficult to even do so is a large part of the problem. There’s a form on the eBay site to do everything except contact customer support. Phone calls are more arduous to undertake and require more effort on the part of the caller (and arguably, on the part of the company, too). When a company the size and scope of eBay limits their contact options to phone only, that’s them deliberately making it difficult to contact them in hopes of dissuading people from doing so.

    Well, it worked. I had two options – waste thirty minutes on hold and fighting with customer support, or spend thirty minutes writing a blog post. I chose the latter, and had a much better time doing it!

  • Andrew R.

    Andrew R.Andrew R.


    You guys should check out as an eBay alternative.

  • Ben



    Next time try Swappa:

    No listing or seller fees. It’s mostly for Android devices, but iPhones are allowed too. And Swappa has great customer service.

  • Thomas



    eBay doesn’t refund listing fees, which for auctions are 99cents each. These listing fees are like what you used to pay for a newspaper classified ad, except of course much, much lower. Like with a classified ad, you are paying for the exposure, not for the actual sale.

    You spent all sorts of time figuring out the perfect auction ending time etc to ensure you got the ideal price. What you should’ve done is figure out what the phone was likely worth (current average selling price), how much shipping would be, and exactly how much you wanted for your specific phone. Set it as a fixed price item with immediate payment required and all the problems you described would not have happened.

  • ornob



    i agree with this – checking prices between amazon and ebay shows ebay is also expensive – the auction paradigm seems broken to me.

  • ali



    This whole post is down to poor seller education. There are ways when listing on ebay to disallow bids from buyers with certain attributes I.e. DSR and feedback scores, etc.
    I am an ebay seller and protect myself in this way and have no problems. There are hundreds of thousands of ppl selling on ebay every day, and many who have
    Successful ebay businesses. Seriously, if you are going to do something take the time to do your homework and learn how its done properly before doing it. If you don’t educate yourself and you screw up coz of this and then kick up a stink about it, you just land up looking like an ever bigger ahole then you are in the first place.

  • Maia



    If instead of asking in Google how long will it take to the eBay support to answer the phone call – you had called it, you would find that they answer in a few minutes. I already called them several times in the last months and they always answered in less than 5 minutes time. Strange attitude…

  • Noatao



    Paypal and ebay alike. I only recently got my account limited for absolutely NOTHING. Then I tried with the customer support and again with the appeal resolution center. Just nothing. Worthless company.

  • Mike



    And yet bizarrely I had absolutely no problems selling my iPhone 4 on eBay, and I’ve also never encountered this problem with all the other electronics stuff that I’ve sold over the years. Don’t let one bad experience put you off.

  • john



    Ebay and Paypal are con-artist from the beginning.All they think about is money,money,and more money.I hope and pray that someone out their will hear the voices from all the poor ebay sellers that have lost it all.I pray everyday that ebay and paypal gets what is coming to them,that day i will celebrate !

  • Rachel



    I just hate how the system is set up for Best Match which puts anyone with enough low detaied ratings, right to the back of the listings, effectively putting you out of business. when, like me you get 3 low dsrs in one month you’re left waiting a year to wipe them off, even if, like me you’ve performed excellently on average, for the whole rest of the year. You can’t even argue that buyer feedback is unfair, you just get told its their opinion. When at times you give evidence that proves you’re right, and the buyers obviously in a bad mood, and decides to slate you on all criteria, but they get away with it anyway.

  • Molly



    EBAY is horrible! They say they are all about protecting both buyers and sellers but all they do is protect the buyers…even SCAMMERS! Crazy! I sold a Tiffany bracelet to a woman and she didn’t like it so she completely made up that it was scratched! I let her return it but she turned out to be a bit of a psychopath so she started reporting me to EBAY saying I was selling items under false listings, etc. and now I have negative ratings, cannot leave her negative feedback, and moral of the story no longer sell on EBAY…shut them down I say, they’re useless!