Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ebay and Conflict Resolution

Every day, if we stay awake, we learn lessons in all kinds of ways. As in, people are people, no matter where we meet them. But if it feels like a duck. . .Not that people are ducks, but their behaviors can be predictable if you trust your instincts about them.

Ebay, like most other websites,  lets users know what’s going on with their sales by email. It can be annoying, but constant notices are one way to inform sellers and buyers about inquiries, things that might matter or not, and possible fraud. 

When my father passed away a few years ago, he left me a few things that weren't worth all that much. Out out of respect, because he was a business man and he liked to make deals, I made a few myself, sold a few of the items left over from his gift shop on Ebay, that flea market in the sky. It was great fun, in its way, taking pics of the merchandise, listing items to sell, packaging and mailing them off. I got pretty good at it and met a bunch of people. Almost everyone values, to one degree or another, what they buy and sell on Ebay. 

Nowhere close to the end of the inventory, the game got old. My mother needed help moving and adjusting to her new residence, and my job never lets up. When the last of the auctions ended, I didn't notice. The whole chapter was over without fanfare. In retrospect we called it a grief exercise, holding the things he bought but never sold, and selling them. 

When Mom passed away it seemed a good time to pick it up again, if only for a little while. She was in the business, too. So I half-halfheartedly put a few things up for auction, even sold one or two of them, sent well-packaged merchandise to the right addresses and promptly forgot about it all. 
Then last week, well after I thought the game had ended, I received an Ebay notice. The signature Ebay colors, red, blue, orange and green, announced a copy of a past buyer's message, the beginning of a stressful correspondence.  

Let's make JustHondle my Ebay name (to hondle is to bargain, in Yiddish), and the buyer's store name Rick3456711. In conversation I become "Lee," and the fictional buyer, "Richard Smith." Richard ostensibly bought a Pentax camera with two lenses, but there is no Pentax camera and in reality, no "Richard Smith" ever corresponded with me on Ebay or anywhere else.

Ebay email starts things off. Had I logged into my Ebay account that day, it would have been a "message".
Subject: From Rick3456711 about your Pentax camera, two lenses #99988888777
Dear JustHondle,
Hello. On December 20, 2013, the post office left a notice at my door to pick up a package. I missed the delivery. When I got there they couldn't find the package you sent me. Did you send with a signature request ?
Sincerely, Richard Smith - Rick3456711
This means that I have to check my files, because I don't really remember much about this. Data in hand I write back:
Dear Richard,
Yes I sent the camera with a signature request. Attached are photos of the tracking info and the signature confirmation. Are you sure you didn't get the camera? I assumed you did since it has been six weeks, no word to the contrary. Most buyers would have complained by now!

Lee at - JustHondle 
Richard is very specific about this and is flipping the problem back to me in no uncertain terms. He doesn't have a systems grasp, that it takes two to tango.
Dear Lee at JustHondle,

I have not received the camera or the lenses, and I paid for them on PayPal. You have the money, but I have no goods. I checked at the Post Office and am told they tried to deliver it, but I wasn’t home and you required a signature. Attempts at Post Office to retrieve the package were negative and the people there suggested it may have been returned to you. Time has gone by! Now you say it was not returned to you. Please take care of this.
Here is the direct contact phone number to the Post Office in MadeUpTown, Iowa 555-999- 5555. I suggest calling early in the morning.
- Rick3456711
A hassle, for sure, but I call as he suggests and have a very good experience. I write him immediately.
Dear  Rick ,

Wow, they are nice over there in Iowa! A representative tells me said that the search is on, they are aware of the situation, and that she, personally, is invested in finding the package. If she does, she will deliver it directly to you. If she doesn't, I am supposed to complain to USPS and then they take it from there. I’m pretty sure I didn’t insure it, unfortunately. It wasn't worth much to me and I was confident it would arrive in one piece. I packed it very nicely. So maybe we’ll get a nice apology from the government.

I'll keep you in the loop,

 at - JustHondle 
He didn't see it quite that way, positive. 
Dear Lee at JustHondle,

Then you're not sending me my money? That's it?!
- Rick3456711 
Before I can reply, Ebay relays information to me that Rick has left negative feedback on my Ebay seller account for the world to see.  JustHondle has been dinged, which is never a good thing, even if a person doesn't make a living off of the sales. Negative feedback is not cool, a no-no in Ebay culture, especially while in the negotiations stage. Feedback is always supposed to be positive and informative. Sellers and buyers are supposed to work things out to make it so.

A quick look at PayPal and I learn that Rick's financial issue is beyond the time frame to make a formal complaint over there. The case is well past the 30 day resolution deadline. This is why he has probably taken to the dark side with negative feedback on Ebay. 

Being a people-pleaser, this turn of events has upset me very much, especially because I take the customer is always right very seriously. But he's got me going now with his cultural impropriety, has hurt my feelings. So I push back.
Dear Rick ,

I'm very disappointed that you would give me negative feedback without first trying to work this out with me. This isn’t how it is supposed to go, not until all efforts to rectify the situation have been tried and failed. Then, when all else fails, maybe. Maybe then, negative feedback.
I sent this camera and the extra lenses well over a month ago, and this is the first I'm hearing about a problem. I would gladly have discussed ways to negotiate a solution, probably would have offered to refund you the money, even if the post office search turned up nothing. But I'm not in that kind of mood anymore because of the aggressive nature of your response. 
In case you are new to Ebay, the fun is not only in the sale for all of us, it is in the relationships. One man’s silver is another man’s gold. We find value in what we have because others see value in it. The stories of how we acquire the merchandise, how it is appraised, etc., are rich, interesting, and the problem solving, even about lost or broken merchandise can be fun, too.We always seem to find ourselves chatting with one another about our lives at some point.
You make it sound as if I intentionally cheated you. (See Rick's feedback below). 

Just so you should know, negative feedback can go both ways.
-  JustHondle 
He is contrite, or at least reconsiders, and is no stranger to negative feedback.
Dear Lee at JustHondle,
You can request feedback revision on Ebay. You have to request it for me to change it.
Sincerely, Richard  - Rick3456711 
It did look as if he would revise his negative review. But then,
Dear JustHondle ,

I don’t want to revise the feedback until I am paid. It is really too bad that the camera means nothing to you. It means a lot to me, and so does the 25 dollars I paid for it. If you don’t have it, it is probably lost. This is a long saga with the Post Office. They searched for quite some time before you even called. So another search isn’t going to be productive.
What I want to know is when you will refund my money. Don’t you think you should? 
Sincerely, Richard Smith - Rick3456711 
Now I am thinking: Who has time for this? And, he is holding my Ebay name hostage. Wanting it to be over I write:
Dear Richard,

This is what I propose. I will call the post office again tomorrow and ask that they send the camera back to me, assuming they find it, that they not deliver it to you.
Then, after they assure me that it will be returned to me and not to you, assuming it is ever found, I'll refund your money whether they find it or not. Sound fair? I honestly don't care about this camera.

 - JustHondle 
He is pleased with this solution. 
 Dear Lee ,
Thank you.  I had really hoped the post office already returned it to you and that you would be sending it back to me. The worst part, though.You know what this means? There’s a thief at my Post Office!    -Rick
A day goes by. I forgot to call the post office. But I hear from Rick again.
Dear  JustHondle ,

I revised the feedback. Don’t refund my money or pursue this anymore. I’m really embarrassed, and with egg on my face, apologize for everything and the inconvenience I may have caused you.
I just found the camera. My memory is slipping lately. I'm really not so young anymore, is the truth. Again I apologize,
Sincerely, Richard Smith
 - Rick3456711 
Well, I'll be.  
Dear Rick,
Wow. Your apology brought tears to my eyes, naturally, everything does, but it is another crazy Ebay story! I'm not so young that I don’t forget things, too, misplace them, think someone broke in and stole the ring, the watch, whatever. Meanwhile, I hide it from myself.

I thought about what my late father would have done under the circumstances, since it was his camera. He sold coins on Ebay well into his late eighties. I wasn't sure if he would just refund your money or not, feeling badly for a fellow camera enthusiast who needed the $25. Or maybe he would want to refund only half the money. He might have returned negative feedback with more negative feedback, which, although I considered it, I probably wouldn't have done. It doesn't matter any more.
I always love a happy ending, don't you? Wipe off the egg and forget about it.
He's not finished. He wants a heads up before I sell anything else on Ebay.
But that's not happening. This conversation is over.
Dear JustHondle,
Rick3456711 has revised your Feedback for Pentax vintage camera, two lenses.
Original Feedback rating (2-February-2014):  Negative Original comment:  Mailed with signature needed, and I wasn't home when the mailman arrived. The post office hasn’t got it, but recorded 0 weight. Really!?  
Revised Feedback rating (4-February-2014):  Positive Revised comment:   Good sellers, honest, great deal. You can trust them!  

If you have an Ebay story, would you share it with me? Or leave it in the comments, that’s fine.



purplepineapple said...

There's this author that I love, and collect all his books in hardcover format (in addition to the e-reader format too). I was missing one of his books in hardcover, because it was incredibly difficult to find a copy of it in Canada.

I scoured Ebay and finally found a seller that was willing to ship to Canada (a lot of them don't) his hardcover copy of the missing title I needed to complete my collection (at the time). I didn't care that the book was used, because I trusted that the details in the description of the listing was accurate stating "gently used, no rips or folds or markings". Perfect. So I ordered it. 2 weeks later I got a brown envelope in my mailbox and immediately my heart sunk because I knew before even opening it, that what was inside was not a hardcover copy but a soft cover copy, of which I already owned (plus the e-copy too remember). I immediately contacted the seller, and attached a screen shot of his original listing (I often save screen shots of items I'm purchasing from the internet) where it clearly noted "hardcover". I didn't leave him any negative feedback, I left no feedback in fact, and decided not to until this was figured out. He never did reply back to me, but he did refund my $. I would have loved to return the book back to him, seeing as he already refunded my $$, but he never gave me the opportunity after about a year of not hearing from him, I figured he would not be contacting me to return his book, I donated it to my local library.

That was really my only experience with a wonky ebay transaction...all other have been great!

therapydoc said...

Aw and here I had hoped you would get one in the mail, a hardcover surprise out of nowhere. Not all endings happy :(

purplepineapple said...

It was though. I found a hardcover copy at a Barnes and Noble while vacationing in Florida a few years ago :)

Syd said...

Only good ebay stories for me. I bought a French knife, often used as a rigging knife on sailboats, and received a story about the knife and how it was bought in France as a gift for the man's father over 30 years ago. After his dad died, the fellow decided to sell the knife. He even told me the town where he bought it. Anyway, he was happy that it was going to be used on my boat. Great feedback!

Anna said...

Oh, I have a terrible story.
I bought some personal items from a seller, and I don't remember if I got no response at all, or if I got a tracking number that never shipped.
Either way, the seller just disappeared off the map. When I started the process, she never, ever communicated with me or ebay.
I got the impression that life got in the way, and she just couldn't produce the items or get them sent. I was refunded my money after the time period for arbitration ended.