I am a Nigerian prince...who enjoys Danish Modern Furniture
July 1, 2013 2:35 PM   Subscribe

What is the downside to selling furniture on eBay to someone who will have it shipped from the US to Germany on her dime/Euro?

So I asked for some ideas on how to sell my Jens Quistgaard Danish Modern desk a couple of weeks ago. I contacted the shops suggested and nothing but crickets abound.

So after following up and getting nowhere with antique stores. I offered the desk for sale on eBay. Local pick up, the usual drill.

Today I got a response:

Dear ruthlessbunny,

If I organised the shipping to Germany would this be acceptable to you.
If yes, is there a certain deadline in which the desk has to be picked up.

Looking forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards from Hamburg, Germany

I replied back saying that if guys showed up and took the desk, once I had my money, it was fine with me.

I had Husbunny read the buyer's feedback (it's in German) and he said that it was pretty normal eBay feedback, "Great buyer...blah, blah, blah"

So he's suspicious, I figure as long as it's a regular eBay transaction, money in PayPal, shippers show up to remove desk, the worst off I can be is that I lose my desk.

Husbunny predicts bad things.

So, what am I not considering here? Clearly, I'm not taking a money order, cashing a check or anything like that. I get that there's a chance that I'd be out a desk, but if the person in Germany is arranging for shipping, I'm going to get a receipt and like that there.

It's not a disaster if the desk doesn't sell. I can keep it if I have to, I'd just prefer to have some dough.

Thoughts? Experiences? Words of caution?
posted by Ruthless Bunny to Shopping (24 answers total)
Be aware that the buyer protection from paypal means you can't count on having the money even if you have the money in your account. They will reverse transactions with little to no evidence whatsoever that you did anything wrong. As a seller you can be easily screwed.
posted by srboisvert at 2:45 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

If I organised the shipping to Germany would this be acceptable to you.

This sentence pings my scam-meter. Offering to pay for extra, international shipping is one thing. Offering to organize shipping is usually the first step in a paypal overpayment scam (here's another report).

It doesn't hurt to respond back and ask for clarifying details.
posted by muddgirl at 2:47 PM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

The really suspicious things to me are international buyers for things they could get in their own countries perfectly easily. When it's a very specific desk where hundreds of dollars to ship it could very well still make it quite affordable to the buyer, and there are almost certainly a lot of people in Europe who like that aesthetic and might want that one specifically--yeah, I could buy it. But definitely, I'd be making absolutely sure that they were paying the shipper directly, and unless you're selling this at a really bargain basement rate, I'd question using Paypal for something so big.

But it's totally possible it's legit, because the way I read this was they're concerned that you might not be okay with having to make an appointment with the shipper during business hours, etc, as opposed to just having a local swing buy your place after work.
posted by Sequence at 2:49 PM on July 1, 2013

I've read so much about ebay/paypal taking the buyer's side in disputes even when the buyer is a lying scammer that I felt entirely comfortable buying a $300 laptop from a seller who wasn't responsive to the questions I asked before buying. I was that certain that ebay/paypal would easily take my side if anything wasn't as described.

I would be very very cautious as a seller.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:51 PM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

This was nearly 10 years ago and it wasn't as big ticket/heavy an item as a desk, but I had a very confusing experience shipping a small piece of electronics that I sold on eBay to a buyer in Greece. I was sent a check, waited for it to clear and shipped it the best I could. A few months later, the package came back to me and the buyer's e-mail address that we had been corresponding at bounced back all my messages. The check had been good; I was up around $200 and had my item to sell again, which I did after a few additional months of attempted electronic and physical correspondence to no avail.

As for your situation, if you do nothing but receive money without laying out any of your own I don't see any way this could be a scam. Maybe you'll get to sell it twice if your buyer vanishes off the face of the earth like mine did!
posted by ltisz at 2:52 PM on July 1, 2013

Make sure that the shippers inspect the desk when they pick it up, any scratches etc are noted, and that you sign off on them (and that they do) - make sure all of those items are clearly in the description/communicated to the buyer. That way, any damage to the desk once it leaves your possession will be the shipping company's responsibility, not yours.

I agree with srboisvert - you will possibly be out a desk and funds, with paypal.
posted by needlegrrl at 2:53 PM on July 1, 2013

Is there any way at all that you could avoid PayPal for this transaction? Their "Buyer Protection" services are notoriously draconian (destroy the violin?) and not very friendly to the casual seller.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:53 PM on July 1, 2013

Best answer: Ask the buyer to do an international EFT for payment and do NOT take PayPal. If she's willing to do that, proceed. If she is not, it's a huge red flag to me because it's how all of us pay all of our bills and debts over here in Europe, so I would then pull out of the transaction without hesitating.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:57 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't do it. Nobody thinks it's a good idea, not even you.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:58 PM on July 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do an off-ebay wire transfer--as in, do not complete an Ebay sale, do not use paypal. Have them send the money directly to your bank.
posted by Slinga at 3:21 PM on July 1, 2013

I guess it is a gorgeous one-of-a-kind desk, but still. That's like, a train ride away or something, the whole nation of Denmark. Not continents and oceans like Atlanta is.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:32 PM on July 1, 2013

About eight years ago, I sold a mid-century modern lounge chair on ebay to a dealer in Northern Europe. They had an account with a local shipper; all I had to do was to drop it off. I charged them a $20 delivery fee, which I gave to my brother, who helped me move it with his van. I got a receipt of delivery from the shipper and saved all the emails I got from the buyer. It really wasn't a problem.

It sounds like the buyer is going to send their agent to pick it up, which isn't that different from any buyer picking it up. And you're getting a receipt.

As a seller you can be paypal-screwed in so many ways, but this way is no riskier than any other transaction. Make sure you communicate with the buyer that you aren't responsible for selling fees and what your return policy is.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:33 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

A lot of the "don't do this!!" stuff here makes very little sense. If you can be "paypal screwed" by someone in German arranging pick-up for the desk you can be "paypal screwed" by someone who drops by for local pickup. If you're worried specifically about the possibility of paypal taking the money back from you, ask for some non-reversible form of payment, but apart from that this sounds entirely kosher on the face of it. If I saw someone selling something in another country who hadn't listed international shipping as an option I would assume that they didn't want the hassle of arranging it and would certainly think of offering to arrange it myself. Why on earth not?
posted by yoink at 3:53 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is riskier because Paypal won't take a signed receipt as proof of delivery. You can be as careful as you want but if you don't meet the terms of Paypal's Seller Protection Plan you won't be covered if the buyer claims damage or non-receipt. (The big ones are the item must be tangible and shipped with confirmation and the address you ship to must be confirmed with Paypal (on the buyers end)).

Ebay doesn't allow cheques or money orders but it does allow cash when the buyer does a local pickup.

I would only sell to this buyer if they have provable history of buying furniture from overseas, they would agree to have a representative inspect and pay cash when you hand over the desk, or you can afford to lose the desk, the money and a fee for the indignity.

If it helps I was a large seller on ebay for several years and I think this could go either way, its a nice piece and I could see a collector wanting it enough to pay shipping, but with the nature of the piece and the price I personally would not sell it to this person unless cash on pickup could be arranged.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 4:01 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: An update, now someone from Israel wants it. I may just de-list it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:54 PM on July 1, 2013

The only serious issue anyone has raised is the possibility of a successful challenge to the PayPal payment. Why not just say "sure, if you can arrange for cash in hand on pick up"?
posted by yoink at 5:07 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Because the desk is 30 years old, I don't want hassles with rejection for condition. I'm going to sell locally. Thank you EVERYONE!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:22 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

A lot of the "don't do this!!" stuff here makes very little sense. If you can be "paypal screwed" by someone in German arranging pick-up for the desk you can be "paypal screwed" by someone who drops by for local pickup.

A local pickup is easily subject to local laws. International deals not so much.
posted by srboisvert at 5:51 PM on July 1, 2013

A local pickup is easily subject to local laws. International deals not so much.

Well, all I can say is that I've bought a lot of stuff over the years from international sellers and never either had problems or caused any for them. In many of those cases they had originally listed the items as available domestically only until I made inquiries. I'm glad--and I imagine they are too--that they weren't similarly persuaded by well-intentioned friends that international=scam.
posted by yoink at 6:01 PM on July 1, 2013

If you're really keen to sell it to someone from Germany - do what the scammers do! Get the buyer to send you the funds via Western Union. Let the buyer organise shipping - they pay and then arrange for the shippers to arrive at your house (that way you don't need to take time out to arrange shipping yourself). Take some detailed pics and make sure that any damage is recorded in these pics. You have the cash, you have the shipping - voila! The buyer now has a desk.
It certainly sounds like a classic scam but the way the scam works is via the money transfer angle - Western Union deals in cash only so there is no comeback on checks, paypal, incorrect telegraphic transfers, stupidly high transfer fees, etc. This is what Western Union is for.
posted by humpy at 9:00 PM on July 1, 2013

Best answer: Shipping internationally is a giant pain. It's not just a case of someone picking it up, it needs to be packaged, valued, and documented correctly then there's the fun of rearranging your schedule around the movers (rather than that other way around). Most people are clueless about how difficult this is so you can be sure you're going to be the one dealing with a good portion of all this.

But then the real fun part is someone in the EU will have to pay VAT and customs and import charges. These are high. Like, adding 25-50% more of the cost high. Payment of these is generally requested immediately before delivery (sometimes in cash), and if the other person decides not to pay them the item will be shipped right back to you at your cost. Then they'll ask for a refund and you're out money, time, effort, and any shipping damage to the desk.

So you've made the right choice by selling locally because this will all end up being your problem unless they are a dealer or similar who has systems in place to handle all this. I'd add a big note at the bottom and possibly another at the top of the listing saying "No international buyers accepted. Local pick up only." to try and cut down on people wasting your time.
posted by shelleycat at 1:38 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Personally, I was taking first-hand experience with internet "I'm in a foreign country I will arrange shipping" scammers and applying it to this situation. I get quite a few of these emails every time I list something over $500 or so that will require expensive shipping. They often sound quite reasonable at first. Again, I don't think it hurts to ask for more info to make a better determination as to whether it's a scam, as long as one's eyes are open.
posted by muddgirl at 8:13 AM on July 2, 2013

Maybe you could sell it to a furniture dealer at a flea market? My girlfriends dad makes an ok buck doing this as a middleman with estate sale furniture.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:50 AM on July 2, 2013

Response by poster: I let both buyers know that I was looking for a local buyer both sent me emails back saying thanks.

Not that this desk is all that common, but it's not all that UNCOMMON either.

Just didn't feel right to me.

I've resent the pictures to a local MCM antique place. Maybe this time they'll respond.

And if push comes to shove, it will move with me to my new place.

Thank you ALL for your responses.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:09 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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