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Local buyer using Paypal
July 24, 2012 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I am selling my old computer for almost $2,000. The buyer lives nearby and is coming to check it out in person. He's wondering if he can just pay with Paypal. Assuming this guy is on the up and up, what can I do to protect myself?

And avoid a Paypal fee? Do I make a receipt?
posted by Avenger50 to Work & Money (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
If he lives nearby, just don't give it to him until the transaction goes through. Easy-peasy.
posted by Madamina at 7:48 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Uh, it's very unusual for a computer to be worth $2000, especially an old one. Is your computer objectively worth that much? If not, then you need to be pretty suspicious of the buyer.

Does paypal have clearing time issues the way that money orders do? Or is the money yours when it hits the account? Can they take it back? I really don't remember.

I think you can transfer money between paypal users with no fee as long as they're funding from a bank account.

I would certainly want a receipt of some kind I suppose.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:49 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The PayPal fee will be kind of significant. If he doesn't want to pay cash, I would ask him to cover that fee. And yes, write up a bill of sale and have him sign and date it. Put something like "Received in good condition" on there, and if you have a return policy, write it out - even if the policy is 'no returns.' You should each keep a copy.
posted by spilon at 7:49 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


You can transfer with no fees via Paypal if you designate the money as a gift.
posted by something something at 7:51 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ask for cash or a cashier's check.
posted by valkyryn at 7:57 AM on July 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


I think the real question here is not "can I take PayPal and be protected", but "why should I take PayPal?"

There is no reason for you, as a seller, to take PayPal except for the fact that many buyers prefer it since their policies are heavily in favor of buyer satisfaction. The fact that you are selling a $2k computer suggests you are either selling a historically valuable/collectable computer or an extremely high performance workstation. For both of those, the buyer can be more motivated than the seller; in other words, there's no need to make a consession to the buyer as you would with a more commodity piece of hardware.

PayPal has significant fees and the chance of the buyer charging back the transaction (if done on a credit card), complaining about fraud, or complaining about the goods being "not as described". Even if you protect yourself with a bill of sale, PayPal is, at best, erratic about accepting proof from the seller that the transaction happened as described. In other words, should a dispute happen, you should expect at most complete loss of your money or at least a significant pain dealing with PayPal.

So, why bother? Demand cash or a cashier's check (and for the latter, if you have any doubt, cash it at the issuing bank while with the buyer). For high value sales like this, the buyer should not be surprised, especially as the transaction will be "as is/sales final" regardless of the method of payment.
posted by saeculorum at 8:09 AM on July 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


This seems a bit iffy to me, what used computer is worth $2000? who would be willing to pay for that? why would they insist on Paypal?

If you really have a special computer that is honestly worth $2000 then cash sounds like the perfect method for this sale.
posted by Cosine at 8:12 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are a hundred thousand stories on the internet of both buyers and sellers getting absolutely fucked over by Paypal. For 2K I would definitely ask for cash, or, if the buyer wants more security, go with him to his bank and have a money order drawn by a teller right in front of you. You can then give him the computer in the parking lot of the bank.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:12 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whether or not PayPal charges a fee has to do with how the transaction is done. The fee is charged for credit card transactions. You can avoid this by having the seller do an "e-Check", which is like an electronic funds transfer from his or her checking or savings account directly.

I would be fine with accepting PayPal for this transaction if everything else seemed to check out. You could ask for his/her driver's license and copy down the number and address "just in case anything goes wrong", that's what you'd usually do with a paper check transaction.

Safest, of course, is cash only but it can be hard to withdraw that much in cash on short notice.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:15 AM on July 24, 2012


I should add that credit card transactions are processed rapidly, while e-Check payments take several days to clear. So you would want to wait for that payment to clear to be sure you had the money before giving him the computer.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:16 AM on July 24, 2012


NO. NO. This raises all sorts of red flags. Especially given PayPal's favor the buyer always stance. Have the user transfer the money into his own checking account, and then withdraw cash. The transfer may take a couple of days.
DO NOT take a cashier's check. They are easily manipulated and forged.
posted by Gungho at 8:18 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


DO NOT take a cashier's check. They are easily manipulated and forged.

Huh? What's your evidence for this? All you need do is call the bank. They'll verify the check instantly.
posted by valkyryn at 8:19 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Sorry, I don't have a PayPal account."

Showing up in person and wanting to pay via PayPal seems a little dodgy. Yes, some people don't have bank accounts, and I can see the intersection of those people and people who have use for a used $2k computer being high, but why risk it? Again, if he's the kind of person who is looking for a high-end used computer, he'll find a way to make it work.
posted by mkultra at 8:29 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If your computer has a fair market value of $2000 then you will be able to find someone else to buy it who will pay cash. One of the reasons to deal locally is so that you don't have to deal with PayPal.

If your computer isn't really worth that much, then this is some sort of scam. Overpayment is one of the best red flags of scams.
posted by grouse at 8:35 AM on July 24, 2012


DO NOT take a cashier's check. They are easily manipulated and forged.

Huh? What's your evidence for this? All you need do is call the bank. They'll verify the check instantly.


Nope, it happens all the time. Banks will take any paper, deposit it, make the funds available and then when it all goes pear-shaped, suck all the money out of your account.

Here's some of the info on Snopes.

Usually a scam would be to have the check be for more than the selling amount, but there was a scam with used vehicles awhile back and fraudulent cashiers checks were used.

Cash is good, and as others have suggested, a trip to the bank to get the cash, and you might as well have their notary sign a bill of sale, with the words, AS IS, All Sales Final on it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:35 AM on July 24, 2012


This is a recently purchased, fully-loaded 2011 iMac with 16gb of RAM and almost 3 years of Apple Care.

Thanks for all the great answers. I'm still totally unsure what to do, though!
posted by Avenger50 at 8:36 AM on July 24, 2012


Ask him to pay in cash or with a cashier's check. You don't even have a dilemma until he refuses.
posted by grouse at 8:40 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Perhaps an alternate approach would just be to say no to the buyer and see what they do.

You are selling a fairly specialized piece of hardware. In my mind, any buyer interested in something like you're selling is not going to completely walk away just for you initially saying cash only. Now, they may come back saying they'll only do it with PayPal. You can then evaluate the risk at that point, but I really doubt the person is going to stop talking to you solely due to you hesitating to use PayPal.
posted by saeculorum at 8:43 AM on July 24, 2012


I've asked him to pay with cash or cashier's check and he told me he can only do a personal check as he uses Bank of America and there are no branches in our state.
posted by Avenger50 at 8:43 AM on July 24, 2012


Yeah, that sounds a little sketchy. Having no local branches shouldn't prevent him from paying you cash, although it would prevent him from using a cashier's check.

Maybe a postal money order would work. After all, there's post offices everywhere, and they'll let you fund the money order with your debit card.
posted by duien at 8:47 AM on July 24, 2012


There is no state in the United States that has no branches of Bank of America. Your buyer is now acting quite weird and I would be even more suspicious of them then I was before. I think there is no reason whatsoever to accept PayPal and would definitely revert to cash-only or cashier's check (again, with caveat to cash check at the bank that issues it in front of the buyer).
posted by saeculorum at 8:48 AM on July 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


There is also a scam where the item is paid for with Paypal, then the person who picks up the item claims nondelivery. Check out the seller protection requirements before going through with this sale. NO seller protection for in-person delivery, section 11.5: "Items that you deliver in person, including at a retail point of sale."


I would not accept a personal check for an item like this, either, unless it was a local bank... even then, I would be skeptical.
posted by cass at 8:51 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Banks will take any paper, deposit it, make the funds available and then when it all goes pear-shaped, suck all the money out of your account.

Right, that's why you call the issuing bank to confirm the check before you deposit it or part with your goods.

The point of having a cashier's check isn't that they're impossible to forge, but that they're very easy to verify. All it takes is a phone call. Just make sure you get it from the phone book rather than the guy who gives you the check and you should be fine.

he can only do a personal check as he uses Bank of America and there are no branches in our state.

Nuh uh. There is a BoA branch in your state. And even if there weren't most bank websites will let you cut a check that way. Not a cashier's check as such, but still fully funded when cut.

But the refusal to work with a cashier's check should be a huge red flag. You would still want to verify if he did use one, but if he won't, I'd say send him packing. Smells fishy.
posted by valkyryn at 8:56 AM on July 24, 2012


Now he's saying he can get cash after all. He's coming here in 30 minutes. Now I'm wondering if it's safe to have people come to your house off the internet.

Oh the perils of human relations in 2012. Thanks Mefi, and I will keep you posted.
posted by Avenger50 at 8:59 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW, There ARE states without Bank of America branches. Ohio is one of them. All you need do is check the Locator.

Sometimes there are Bank of America Home Loans offices or other types of offices that confuse the picture. Sometimes there are also ATMs without branches. But you can't get a cashier's check at an ATM, and the daily withdrawal limit makes getting $2K out of an ATM difficult, especially if you have to drive far on multiple days to get to one.
posted by rocketpup at 9:07 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nuh uh. There is a BoA branch in your state. And even if there weren't most bank websites will let you cut a check that way. Not a cashier's check as such, but still fully funded when cut.

I do not know where Avenger50 is located, but it is not a given that there is a consumer banking branch of Bank of America in his state. If there is a way to cut a "fully funded" check on the Bank of America website it has escaped my notice for many years.

I am not saying your buyer is on the up and up, but what he is telling you is plausible depending on your verification that there are really no Bank of America branches in your state.
posted by rocketpup at 9:15 AM on July 24, 2012


rocketpup: You are correct about there not being any branches in some states. I did actually look at their locator tool and didn't notice the locator automatically selects ATMs and branches as well. I'm still not sure this is a reason to trust the buyer; at the very least, it is quite odd not to have access to a local bank if you've lived in an area for more than a few months. Yes, I understand there are valid reasons not to have such access (I didn't for a year or so), but it's not the norm.

To provide something useful to the thread, you can make funded checks by using the Bill Pay service of most banks. In all banks except for my current one (BECU), the checks are debited from your account before sending to the recipient.
posted by saeculorum at 9:21 AM on July 24, 2012


Hope this turns out okay for both of you. But yeah, Paypal is in the business of screwing sellers. Avoid completely in the future as well.
posted by xedrik at 9:22 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, this person is buying in person, so he is physically in your state, but he does not have an account with a bank in your state? That alone is super sketchy. Why does he only bank with Bank of America if there are no local branches? There are reasons to bank with an out of state bank, but all of them that I can think of off the top of my head favor smaller banks, not B of A.

So is this guy visiting from another state? If so, that's weird, too.
posted by The World Famous at 9:59 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


What’s wrong with making a detailed receipt and having you both sign it?
posted by bongo_x at 10:21 AM on July 24, 2012


The primary reason to bank with an out of state bank is that you recently moved from a state where that bank is one of the primary in-state banks. Switching banks can be a pain in the ass, especially when you are dealing with the logistics of an inter-state move. In any case, the sale is theoretically in progress as we type. Hopefully Avenger50 will provide an update.
posted by rocketpup at 10:25 AM on July 24, 2012


So the buyer gave me a call and wasn't able to secure enough cash today. We're trying again tomorrow. Thanks for your help, folks!
posted by Avenger50 at 10:36 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cash only and change the location of the transfer to the lobby of your nearest court. The lobby after you get metal detected.
posted by couchdive at 10:47 AM on July 24, 2012


couchdive: "Cash only and change the location of the transfer to the lobby of your nearest court. The lobby after you get metal detected."

Would you do business with a guy who asked you to pass through a metal detector to purchase a used computer in the lobby of a courthouse?
posted by mkultra at 11:23 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have to say the Mefites are paranoid today! I've sold to people through Paypal all the time in person, just because they didn't have cash on them and Paypal allows them to pay credit card. (I do make them eat the fees.)

At some point you just have to trust folks a bit. If he's coming in person, and is local, give him the benefit of the doubt. You've got to take a little bit of a leap!
posted by mtstover at 11:34 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


At some point you just have to trust folks a bit.

Not at this point I don't. Sounds like the buyer is planning on getting the cash some other way anyway.
posted by grouse at 11:39 AM on July 24, 2012


Courthouse is a weird idea. Have them meet you in a police station lobby. No metal detector, still extremely safe.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 12:14 PM on July 24, 2012


Unless you have absolutely no reason to be suspicious and/or you have bigger guns than they might, it is not a good idea to do a high value transaction like this at your home. I'm not poor but $2k is more than I'd risk losing so would take extra precautions. That is just me. I don't think you have to go to bizarre precautions (courthouse/police station???) but any place in public with many witnesses is fine. I would expect the same if the tables were turned.
posted by JJ86 at 12:28 PM on July 24, 2012


I agree with JJ86. You don't necessarily need to go to a courthouse or a police station, but you should do the transaction someplace that offers a reasonable level of public exposure and safety from being mugged or robbed. To identify such a place, fill in the blank of the following sentence:

"Almost nobody ever gets mugged in a _______________."

That limits things pretty reasonably, and means you won't make the mistake of doing the transaction in a Wal-Mart parking lot, for example. I've done in-person craigslist transactions in the parking lot of a police station, parked right in front of the station where the security cameras could catch the whole thing. I've done them inside public establishments like restaurants, as well. And yes, I've been dumb and done them in my home. So far, I have never been mugged as part of a craigslist transaction.
posted by The World Famous at 12:33 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


mkultra-

Yes. I would actually insist on it or something comparable (police lobby, inside a bank, ETC.)

Courthouse has the bonus of a metal detector. Yeah, the parking sucks.

As a seller. the same.

I cant tell how this person found the buyer. If it was the internet, i would be insisting on all safety protocols. Robbing marks in regards to apple products - is about as hot as it can be right now.
posted by couchdive at 3:49 PM on July 24, 2012


Avenger, please have a couple friends with you when you meet the buyer. Please keep us updated.

PS: I'm also vote for "cash only", anything else is too easy to be gamed.
posted by deborah at 4:02 PM on July 24, 2012


Postal money order.

Meet at the post office for the transaction, he buys it right there, you can cash it right there.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:25 PM on July 24, 2012


Insist on cash, meet IN YOUR BANK, and deposit the money immediately. Voila. All problems solved.

Paypal is risky because the buyer can file a claim and win pretty much no matter what. Paypal will not care about receipts or whatever. The only way you can safely do paypal is if you do a non-credit card gift payment. This will avoid fees and cannot be contested by the sender. However, Paypal may flag your account if you get that size of a gift payment, and it's still possible that the buyer could have a hacked account or something and you could get screwed.

Cash in your bank is the easiest, safest way to do this. The end.
posted by Slinga at 5:25 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


And if you're taking cash, get a counterfeit bill-detecting pen from an office supply store.
posted by homodachi at 12:19 AM on July 25, 2012


Somebody paid me for computer via Paypal and the transaction cleared. They contacted me via craigslist. I lost the money and the equipment.

A day later it was revealed that they had hacked into someone's account and used the person's credit card to send me the $500 payment fraudulently. Because we had exchanged the goods in person, rather than through the mail, I had no protection. The charges were reversed! There was no proof of a transaction; I was just asked to help identify the suspect. I lost both the money and the computer. Don't take paypal through craigslist.
posted by sweltering at 5:22 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


buyer came with cash, i gave him a receipt, and all went well. thanks mefi!
posted by Avenger50 at 1:20 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Glad everything went smooth!
posted by couchdive at 5:19 PM on July 25, 2012


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