Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Problematic Buyers and Sellers Part 1

My posts concerning problems with buyers and sellers always get quite a few comments. People love discussing the problems they have had on eBay. My post, "A Seller's Intent—Honesty or Deception?" is a good example.

It is true that both buyers and sellers can cause problems in transactions. I have had more problems with sellers, but that is probably because of my habit of buying books that are sold at too low of prices, either because of a low Buy It Now price or because of a seller that provides incomplete information. Sellers that severely undervalue their books or provide incomplete information tend to be problematic sellers throughout all aspects of the transaction. Note that this is a generalization; the last time I made this statement someone with an attitude problem flamed me.

I just had another difficult experience last week with a seller. I bought five books, and shipping was stated to be $4.00 in each auction. If I had tried to pay before receiving a combined invoice, shipping would have been $20.00 total, since eBay does not combine and reduce shipping charges. The seller sent an invoice, and I tried to pay. The shipping was $26.98, higher than the original uncombined shipping.

I knew that the seller only sent an invoice for one book at $10.98, so the rest still showed $4.00. I told the seller this, and she told me that she had sent an invoice with the shipping discount. Okay... I tried again with a similar answer. I explained again what the seller needed to do, and she sent another invoice only for the one book at $10.98. The other books still had $4.00.

I then asked the seller if she knew how to send a PayPal refund. At this point I had serious doubts about whether the seller would even understand. I was also losing patience but remained polite. I explained how to send a refund through PayPal and told the seller that I would pay and then she could refund the extra. She said she'd figure it out and made no other comment.

I sent payment. She left positive feedback. A couple of hours passed and no refund. I sent another message asking for a refund of the extra postage. I didn't even know what the postage was supposed to be. She never told me. She finally sent a refund of $13.00, which made the postage $13.98. It was a little high but much better than $26.98. I think the books are being mailed priority.

I hope the correct books are put in the package. I am also concerned about how the books will be packaged. I am a bit worried about how this one will end due to my difficulty in communicating with the seller.

My next post will continue my thoughts but mention my problems with buyers.


Lenora said...

I really think that, as the service provider, the crux of a sale's success rests on the seller. While there will very rarely be the sort of buyer that's impossible to satisfy, doesn't read carefully, etc., it's much easier to mess it up on the seller's end. I'm still primarily a buyer, so that also slants my judgment. I have really had no memorable problems with buyers--the occasional inexperienced question, but that's about it. The secret is in giving them as little as possible to complain about--lots of description, responses to said questions, combining shipping, and packing well.

As you've said, "bad" sellers are a mix of the deceptive and the ignorant. I can usually spot and avoid the former (effusiveness is a dead giveaway) and am willing to take a risk on the latter, especially if I ask some questions. A book in worse condition than expected or poorly packaged is generally worth paying a lower price--of course, my mail person is also great about bringing packages onto my covered porch, negating some of the latter. I've had two memorable experiences with sellers, with vastly different outcomes--one Burt Beverly Gray in dj unexpectedly missing the frontis (promptly asked what I wanted and gave me a partial refund), and an Amazon seller drumming up funds for an adoption who packed a book (wartime Judy Bolton in dj) in a non-padded paper envelope, leading to a crush injury that broke multiple pages and part of one of the boards, plus, slight moisture exposure causing the non-archival dj cover to bleed ink onto the book and dj--that ended with them sending harassing e-mails to change my feedback to the maximum, since it was for a "good cause"--apparently they saw my payment as less of an exchange for goods and more of a charitable donation. Very annoying.

beautifulshell said...

honestly, the only real problems i have had with sellers have been: poor packaging (no real damage yet, though), apparently inflated shipping, and the occasional bad attitude in certain listings (which just makes me avoid those sellers, not that it's caused me actual problems). i imagine if i did more high-volume buying that i'd run into more issues.

in general, i like to think that if i communicate clearly and hold up my end, that the seller will do the same. in my experience, that's generally been the case. i resent when a seller preemptively assumes that i will be a pain in his/her ass, rather than reserving some semblance of good faith.

Jennifer White said...

I think that most buyers and sellers of books are great. We are lucky that we like books. People in other areas endure a much higher incidence of fraud on both ends of transactions. I have read about some truly horrible cases of fraud on various message boards.

Jennifer White said...

Sellers who assume the worst are always off-putting. The same has happened to me with buyers. One of the stories I will mention in my next post concerns a buyer who threatened me before giving me a chance. She had had past bad experiences, but that was no reason to take it out on me. Many sellers do that as well. They have problems with a few buyers and assume that all of us are bad.

Paula said...

I think the absolute best sellers of series books are the ones who started out as collectors and buyers themselves. They understand the disappointment of unmet expectations and concisely provide the information - both descriptive and visual - that most buyers need. Of course, there aren't many bargains there, :) as these sellers know the general worth of the books they sell. But when I am looking for a particular book, I find it well worth the price to go to one of these sellers. You know that what you see is what you get. You don't have the hassle and risk of buying an ebay lot of books for the one you want, which then may be a disappointment because of unmentioned flaws or flattering pictures. (I think we have all been sucker punched with those! Gee, it looked so much better in the picture….)

As I have detailed before, one of my problem ebay transactions was with a professional bookseller, so I guess I have to add that if you don't see the usual information you would expect from a knowledgeable seller, i.e., description of flaws or detailed pictures, then stay away. I try to remind myself that statements of condition (good, VG, etc.) are often meaningless because they are so subjective, but I often find myself giving the seller the benefit of the doubt when there is no contradictory evidence. I’ve received both better than expected and disappointing books this way, so it is a risk.

I realize now, since I am supposed to be talking about problematic sellers, this probably sounds like a plug for many sellers on this blog, but I didn't mean it that way. It's fun to bid on ebay items to treasure hunt for bargains, and most of my purchases are there. I find inexperienced sellers usually don't give enough information about flaws and don't show detailed pictures, creating risk about condition. I've learned to take this into consideration with my bid, and it's usually not a problem, as I realize I have chosen to take this risk. I only complain if I feel I have overpaid due to something the seller did or if the seller omitted really obvious flaws that anyone would mention. Most sellers are good about rectifying any problems I have complained about. be continued...

Paula said...

The one problematic seller that I really remember was a guy who sold me a lot of 34 PC Nancy Drews from an estate sale. He had listed them on ebay with a minimum bid of $99, a few small pictures of the lot, and a description stating they were in mint condition and looked unread. I couldn’t see any flaws from the pictures and I figured if he was saying mint, they were most probably in very good condition. He had listed it without "Nancy Drew" in the title, and I was the only one who had bid on it.

I could tell he was going to be a problem almost immediately. He was very chatty in emails and told me what a great deal I got, and that these books were going for $25 each. I tried to tell him that that price sounded high, and it depends on the particulars, but I think he was convinced he had sold me the farm. He told me he was interested in learning, and kept asking me questions about how you can tell when they were printed, etc., to the point I started to think he was checking them out before sending them to me. Unfortunately, I had shared quite a bit of information before feeling that way.

He kept saying he was sending the books and then had all kinds of excuses as to why he hadn’t - it took him 3 weeks after I paid to send them to me! (Then of course I had to wait another 10 days for them to actually reach me.) When I finally received the books, most of them were far from mint condition and many had obvious flaws such as scribbling inside, torn pages, etc. I still to this day think he may have switched some of the books on me, because they weren’t consistent condition throughout, although subsets of them were. I looked very closely at the pictures, but couldn’t prove any inconsistency that way.

Anyway, there were so many poor condition books that I really felt ripped off. Even assigning what I considered a generous true value to the “good” books, I had overpaid. So I complained, detailing the obvious problems book by book, and, nervously expecting an argument from the seller, asked for a $20 partial refund. This was less than what I really thought I deserved, but I was wanting this to be over. I didn’t want the expense of returning the entire lot in addition to the high shipping expense I had already paid, and thought maybe he would consider giving me back this much without too much fuss. I probably could’ve asked for more. He sounded thoroughly relieved and more than happy to return my 20 bucks. It took him only a week to send my refund by money order – he didn’t do it through Paypal for some odd reason. Anyway, I was glad to be done with it! This experience has made me most appreciative of other sellers I have dealt with who are generally great!