Caveat Emptor. It's Latin for "Let the buyer beware." But if you're a "Brady Bunch" fan, you already know that, since you learned about it along with young Greg Brady after he was ripped off buying a car without his dad's permission. It was a harsh, but valuable business lesson for Greg to learn, but if he was selling stuff on eBay today, forty years later, he'd be learning about Caveat Venditor instead. "Let the SELLER beware," because there's a new scam which not only robs the seller of the money earned selling a product but of the product itself. And eBay isn't too keen on helping the victims, either.
“In reality, he simply took my camera out of the packaging box, put his inside, took photos and sent them to eBay as ‘proof’ that I’d sent him the wrong product,” Moughon says.
PetaPixel detailed a story about Liz Moughton, a photographer and intern for the Los Angeles Times. Moughton was seeking to sell a new Sony a6500 with an 18-135 kit lens on eBay, on which she earned a tidy sum of $1,400 minus a 10% cut for the auction site. The buyer paid through PayPal and everything seemed to be on the up and up.
Shortly after completing the sale and shipping her camera, Moughton received a refund request, the buyer claiming they received the wrong product, an older model Sony NEX-6 mirrorless camera with a 20mm lens. The buyer complaint included a picture of the shipping box, with the NEX-6 inside and a demand for a full $1400 refund.
“The buyer returned the Sony NEX-6 camera. (It was of similar size and weight so I didn’t bother trying to get USPS involved because shipping had gone smoothly.) eBay refunded him $1,400. The case was closed.”
Fortunately, Moughton had taken her own pictures or the product for the listing, including serial numbers clearly visible on the box. But even with her own photographic evidence, eBay ruled against her, refunding the scam artist $1400 and leaving Moughton with an NEX-6 camera, she didn't want and a loss of $140 for eBay's cut.
“I begged [eBay] to investigate the buyer, but [they] said it’s not in their policy to do so.”
Distraught, as anyone would be, Moughton appealed the ruling requesting that eBay investigate the buyer further. eBay demurred, citing procedural issues. Then she talked to PayPal, her own bank, and even filled out a police report, but no one was able to help her. Even the police couldn't since they don't investigate online shopping scams. But they did offer to speak with an eBay rep on her behalf.
After several hours on the phone with eBay customer service, a miracle in and of itself, Moughton was able to get eBay to agree to refund her the sale price if it was proven that the buyer returned to her a camera she didn't send him. eBay also requested the police report that Moughton filed. The sad part is, that eBay then denied her again, and didn't even bother to tell her.
"My frustration is that during every conversation they started with ‘Well the buyer said…’ They began by believing the buyer first.”
With nowhere left to turn legally, Moughton resorted to social media, telling her sad tale on Twitter and Facebook. Well, that seemed to do the trick, as ultimately, eBay not only refunded her the entire $1400, but also her 10% seller fee. A happy ending.
It's a hard lesson to learn, that eBay would rather protect buyers than sellers, but that's the simple truth of it. The money comes from the buyers, and eBay would rather side with them, thereby protecting their 10% of the pie, than do any kind of investigating for potential buyer fraud.
Now to be fair, I've heard horror stories both ways. A friend of mine was ripped off buying a video camera off eBay that never came, even though the seller claimed to have sent it. And then there's the old story of a buyer receiving a box full of paper instead of a camera. That puts eBay in a tough position, and ultimately, ending up the victim. “I just hope that they consider changing their policy to protect sellers and buyers equally," Moughton concludes. "As it is, sellers can’t even leave feedback comments about buyers.”
This is why I sell my gear on the Facebook Marketplace. Seeing the buyer face to face makes it easier to "let the seller beware."