Confusion over eBay selling
March 30, 2012 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Help me not get scammed on Ebay, please? I did some Spring cleaning and put a bunch of things on eBay. Everything was sold and delivered without a problem, except for one item that someone's claiming was already opened and probably used.

The item is antivirus software. I never opened it, and it was purchased directly from a physical store like Office Depot. Before sending the package, I took a picture of the box, which shows its new condition and obvious seal. I do this with everything I sell (usually clothing), just in case, but I'm not sure it'll help.

I just got a message saying the seal was cut open. He implies that it's likely the product is already activated, and that he'll be asking for a refund or exchange shortly. Unless a postal worker decided to screw him over, this isn't possible. What's worse is that he paid very little for this software, so if he's lying, he's lying over $12.

Obviously, I won't be selling software on eBay again. But how am I supposed to respond to this? This may be paranoid, but I feel like he's testing me. There was no reason to send me an email before trying to install the software.
posted by plaintiff6r to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
eBay is just a scammers' paradise these days. There's no oversight, there's no protection for the sellers, and purchasers with dubious ethics set the baseline. Basically, this dude does not want to pay twelve dollars and he knows that there is no way you can make him pay the twelve dollars, as eBay really doesn't do much policing anymore.
posted by griphus at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can't you tell him you will refund the money if the item is returned to you? He's not going to spend money on returning it if he's trying to scam you.
posted by torticat at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

People on eBay will sometimes screw you. I can think of a number of possible solutions (ask the buyer to try to install the software first, ask the buyer to return the software) but they all presume that the buyer is acting in good faith. I suppose it's worth trying these on the off-chance that there's just something bizarre going on like the USPS decided they needed to open the package to inspect it for drugs or something, but I think that your assumption that this buyer is trying to cheat you is likely correct. Happens all the time on eBay, not a lot you can do.

I'd just ask the buyer if they'd be willing to try installing the software before asking for a refund, or if they'd be willing to ship it back to you in exchange for the refund, but beyond that I don't know that you have a lot of recourse. At least it's only $12. I'd just chalk it up to cost of doing business on eBay.
posted by Scientist at 8:47 AM on March 30, 2012

Asking for the buyer to return it for a refund doesn't protect plaintiff6r from a scammer, who will install the software, activate it, and then return the useless disk for a refund. But it doesn't hurt to try I suppose.

Unfortunately this is the cost of doing business on eBay.
posted by muddgirl at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Write back and mention the photos you took, and tell him the product was not activated. The photos prove nothing, of course; you could have opened the box immediately after taking the pictures. But they suggest you're more together and that you'll fight the buyer.

I sold on eBay home minidisc player that was in perfect working condition; the buyer reported that it arrived "dented." There is literally NO way to dent a home stereo component, and really no way to damage the case without heavily damaging the box.

I pointed this out to the buyer and told him his recourse was with UPS and I never heard from him again. It was just a shakedown, pure and simple, and it wasn't worth his time to press an obviously fraudulent claim. Your case is a little more difficult, but I'd just push back, and they may go away.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Say to him, "of course I'll refund you, after I receive the box shipped back to me."

He isn't going to want to ship it and will get over it.
posted by k8t at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2012

Yep, welcome to Ebay 2012. I'm a loooongtime seller/buyer who has recently given up because these things were happening to me over and over. You will not get any help from Ebay or PayPal. Your best bet is to push back with the photo evidence and see if he goes away. If not, then yes, you're stuck. The best I've been able to achieve with people like that is to force them to send the item back at their own cost, which feels like a teeny, tiny victory.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:57 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think Admiral Haddock may have the right of it, actually. If you put up a bit of resistance, the buyer will probably eventually go away. It's not like they have any recourse either, beyond leaving negative feedback. It's a question of who wants the $12 more, and probably the scammer won't fight very hard over it because they know they're in the wrong. Set up a few hoops for them to jump through (such as sending you pictures of the box, and returning the software before issuing the refund) and they'll give up soon enough unless they are in fact dealing with you in good faith here.
posted by Scientist at 8:58 AM on March 30, 2012

Just ask for it to be returned for a refund and then cut your losses. Ebay can be drama central. I have had it happen over a $3 item. Just not worth it.
posted by Vaike at 9:01 AM on March 30, 2012

Response by poster: I offered him a refund if the product is activated, but he must return it. I said that I have pictures of the unbroken seal, and that I'm sure it was damaged in shipping, since it's only been owned and handled by me. He replied that none of his computers have expired software yet, so he's not going to install it anytime soon. In addition, he's sure it was cut by a knife, not damaged in shipping.

I'm probably not going to reply to that email. If he wants a refund, I've very clearly offered it. I'm not going to send it without getting back the software, though, even if it's been used.
posted by plaintiff6r at 10:22 AM on March 30, 2012

If the activation code has been used, would the antivirus company be able to trace it? Perhaps you could tell the buyer that you would like to start an investigation, since tampering with the mail is a federal crime. You'd be happy to contact the company and have them trace the person who used the activation code. Perhaps after all of that, he might remember that it wasn't damaged after all.
posted by Original 1928 Flavor at 11:45 AM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

Absolutely do not refund until he sends the software back, if he ever does. You've done the right thing and with buyers like this, your course of action typically sends them on their way unless they're just a whole different class of jerk...

Look, I know everyone here is disparaging the ebay but honestly, I sell (as part of my employment with a non-profit) on ebay daily and throughout 4 years and thousands of sold items, I've encountered this just once or twice. If you've got more to sell, I'd stick with it if you have no other outlet of letting go of these things for profit.

And on the other outlet front, I'd most certainly suggest Amazon for things like software. The seller protection on Amazon is far greater than at ebay and beyond that, I'd think the market would be better there for a new, unopened item like this.
posted by youandiandaflame at 11:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make sure you offer the refund through Ebay's message system and it's better to keep all communication there. They do look at it when settling claims.
posted by lee at 3:51 PM on March 30, 2012

If this were me, I'd send him his money back if he wants it, tell him to keep the software, and be done with it. I've done hundreds of sales on eBay and probably half that in purchases and had only two or three go bad. If the guy is scamming you, great. It's $12. You can fight for the principle of the whole thing or just more on. My time is worth more than that.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:20 PM on March 30, 2012

Twice I've bought obviously pirated things off eBay, and when I complained to the vendors, they said they'd refund the purchase price, if I returned the items - which I refused outright to do, because why should I pay two lots of postage for a thing someone shouldn't have sold me in the first place (I made PayPal refund me). Of course, I wasn't trying to scam them, but I did want to note that a legit complainer won't immediately give in, either.

You could note in your response to the buyer that you stand by your assertion that the software was unused when you sent it to them, but I think for the sake of $12, it might be more sensible to refund it, and write it off as just how things pan out sometimes.
posted by thylacinthine at 8:26 PM on March 30, 2012

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