Completely unfair - Why does Paypal's SNAD policy punish the buyer?
April 6, 2014 9:09 AM   Subscribe

About 3 weeks ago, I purchased a watch from a seller located in Japan. I made my purchase through Rakuten's Global Marketplace, which sells to foreign, overseas buyers (I live in Canada). I used Paypal to pay. The watch cost CAN$283, and it was shipped using Japan Post EMS.

About a week later, I receive the parcel in the mail, but lo and behold, when I opened it I found that I had received a completely different item -- it was another completely different watch with a different model number (the model numbers were similar, so I'm guessing that's why the shipping distributor got confused).

I emailed the seller about the issue, and he agreed that it was completely in his error, and that I should proceed to return the parcel to him. And once he receives it, he will then send me the correct item. Fair enough, of course.

However, when I checked in with my local Canada Post office, I was quoted CAN$85 for insured and tracked shipping to Japan with delivery confirmation. This is an incredibly expensive price for shipping, especially to a uni student where that watch was supposed to be a graduation present.

When I researched the issue on "Who pays the return shipping" on Google, Paypal's policy is apparently that the "buyer is responsible for return shipping no matter what the reason". Now, I don't know about you, but this policy is patently unfair. It fails to distinguish cases of "buyer's remorse" (where the buyer should rightfully pay the return shipping) and "Significantly Not As Described (SNAD)" cases (where it is the seller's mistake and thus should be the one footing the bill for return shipping).
Apparently, further research into Paypal's SNAD policy finds that sellers in SNAD cases are under no obligation to pay for return shipping, and if they do, it will have been merely out of their goodwill.

I have since sent several more emails to this Japanese seller inquiring about the possibility of him footing the bill for the return shipping, since it was his error, but have only received either no response or vague responses trying to avoid the question. (This seller uses translation software in email exchanges because he and his staff cannot speak/read English -- I'm willing to accede that maybe inaccurate translations are behind some of the "vague" responses.)

The problem is that if this seller ends up refusing to pay for the return shipping, I will be out CAN$85 solely because of his mistake. If the shipping price was only, say, $10, I wouldn't mind it. But we're talking about $85 here, and to me that's a good chunk of money. How on earth is there no Paypal policy specifying that the seller at fault in SNAD cases must pay the return shipping? The absence of such regulation is a legal loop-hole that must be fixed.

Are there any alternatives available to me in this situation? Would I able able to request a return shipping label on Paypal's behalf?
posted by vanizorc to Shopping (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you find you have no legal recourse, this site contains a number of contact points that might help you: File Complaints against PayPal: Who to Contact in Canada
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:15 AM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Did you pay via credit card instead of a PayPal balance/direct debit? If yes, call your card issuer and request a chargeback.

It is a long-standing crap policy.
posted by kmennie at 9:28 AM on April 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

What is the watch you received worth? It may make more sense to sell it yourself.

Did you contact Rakuten to ask for their intervention?
posted by payoto at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

(It looks like you were maybe quoted a rate for "Xpresspost - International." But surface mail is significantly cheaper and can go out insured)
posted by kmennie at 9:34 AM on April 6, 2014

@BlazecockPileon: Thanks for the link. It directs me to a "screw Paypal" site that seems kind of...tabloid-ish...but I'm sure I can dig around for some important contacts.

@kmennie: Unfortunately I paid using my debit account which was linked to my Paypal account. But even if I had used my credit card, I would still be at square one having to return the watch back to the seller. A chargeback would only refund the initial price I paid, and not the return shipping.
Yes, the quoted rate is for XpressPost - International, but this is pretty much my only option because the parcel needs to be 1) insured, 2) have online tracking, and 3) have signature confirmation delivery in regards to the price of the contents being above $250.
I cannot risk sending the parcel uninsured or without confirmation delivery, because I have been duped by scam sellers before who kept the returned parcel but claimed they "never received it". And I have had two envelops get lost in the mail by CanadaPost before as well. So I have to ship out this parcel using the safest methods available, which happens to be insanely expensive.

@payoto: The watch I received is of similar pricing -- only slightly a bit lower than the watch I paid for and expected to get. However, it would not be possible to try to sell this watch to recover my original funds, because selling a second-hand watch will mean taking a big depreciation hit from its original price. So if I paid $250 for a brand-new watch, it would probably end up selling for only ~$150. (I have a lot of experience selling second-hand watches.) Also, I cannot wear the watch either, since its size is much bigger than the watch I originally ordered.
posted by vanizorc at 9:49 AM on April 6, 2014

even if I had used my credit card, I would still be at square one having to return the watch back to the seller

I went through this once and when I got to that point of explaining it with the card issuer, they covered the cost of the return. It seemed like a made-up-on-the-spot solution, but, yeah, well done on my bank's part. Consider taking it up with your bank even though it wasn't on a CC, in the hopes that enough PayPal-related complaints to banks will result in pressure on PayPal.
posted by kmennie at 9:52 AM on April 6, 2014

Are you sure you're not looking around at other methods, such as UPS or EMS? $80 seems really high to me - I've received / sent insured and tracked larger packages to that general region for much lower.
posted by suedehead at 10:11 AM on April 6, 2014

I received a fake cosmetic item once-- it was a $15 dollar item. I knew the product's smell and texture intimately, and I knew it was a fake. I contacted the seller asking for a refund; the seller offered me '$4 off the item' -- I filed a claim and explained the ways the item was defective in the claim, escalated it-- and paypal ruled in my favor without me having to send anything back.

It was via ebay though, perhaps protection is better, or perhaps its changed since then. (It was over a year ago). I'd still go for it though. Once refunded, you could mail the item back the cheapest way if you're feeling kind, and then buy what you intended off someone else.

Did you pay using a debit card number or through the actual bank account? If you used Visa/Mastercard's network, you can still get a chargeback, even with a debit account.

I think you only need proof you mailed it; not proof of delivery (I could be wrong) -- so perhaps there is cheaper with only tracking?
posted by Dimes at 10:43 AM on April 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Canadian online seller here -- the quote for tracked shipping to Japan seems accurate. Canada Post is a completely different beast to USPS and in most cases international tracking is WAY more expensive, if it is even available (you don't know how lucky you are in the US!) Last year Canada Post introduced a tracked packet service to select countries but it looks like Japan isn't one of the destinations.

Have you tried calling Paypal Canada? I find that they can be very helpful over the phone. I'd start with that and if you don't get anywhere with Paypal, I'd raise hell with the seller/venue. Write to the CEO, start complaining on their social media pages, get your story out.

The general rule of thumb for online shopping is: seller pays return shipping for their errors. If it was a matter of you didn't like the colour or you changed your mind, you would pay. I think you are absolutely entitled to them making up for this error.

Try to act as soon as possible too, because you have a 45 day window for your Paypal claim.

Good luck! Let us know how it works out.
posted by Pademelon at 11:08 AM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Payoto asked what I want to ask:

"Did you contact Rakuten to ask for their intervention?"

Rakuten has a vested interest in their marketplace being fair and reputable, and you have a very strong case for insisting that the shipper pay for the return shipping cost.
posted by Dansaman at 11:25 AM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

@BlazecockPileon: Thanks for the link. It directs me to a "screw Paypal" site that seems kind of...tabloid-ish...but I'm sure I can dig around for some important contacts.

You might need to scroll down the page, but there are several contacts listed to government consumer agencies etc.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:34 AM on April 6, 2014

Rakuten has a vested interest in their marketplace being fair and reputable,


Not to derail too much here, but if you search around there is a ton of bad will for that site out there... for stuff like this. They do not give a fuck.

Call paypal. People have disputed non-ebay payments with me for less than this, and paypal held the funds. Paypal also can and will refund you before you return something in particularly egregious cases. You might have to try a few times though, as they have some truly worthless and even at times actually assholey phone support reps.

If they're truly unhelpful, i would figure out what the smallest thing i could mail back that wasn't the watch was for cheapest and just mail something completely bullshit with tracking and try and get my money back, then sell the watch. Obviously completely dishonest, but i'm so incredibly done with situations like this in which after so many times i'm just unwilling to accept it was an "accident" and not a scam. I really doubt you'll ever see any money back from this, and especially not the shipping(and yes, paypal will not budge on that "you pay the shipping lol" thing)
posted by emptythought at 3:52 PM on April 6, 2014

@Dimes: I paid using my debit account through Paypal, not a Visa network, so a chargeback will not be as easy to obtain. And Paypal does require me to use a shipping service with online tracking and proof of delivery.

@Pademelon: I will contact Paypal Canada for their advice. Fortunately, I am nowhere close to the 45-day window limit, so I still have a bit of time to sort out this mess.

@Dansaman: I will attempt to contact Global Rakuten. I hope they understand English.

@emptythought: Thanks for your discussion contribution, but that indeed would be dishonest and will undoubtedly run against my conscience. I do not get the "scammer" impression with this particular Japanese seller, so I will do my best to be fair with them in light of their presumably honest mistake. There are enough bad buyers out there that I don't need to add myself to the pool.

Currently, I'm thinking about talking with my bank about getting some sort of full refund/chargeback for my debit account. If this is successful, I will hold onto the parcel and tell the seller that if he wants his watch back, he'll have to foot the bill for the return shipping. I think this is reasonable.
posted by vanizorc at 4:04 PM on April 6, 2014

Any chance you or someone you know is heading to Buffalo soon and could send it from the US? The savings wouldn't be worth a special trip but if you or someone you trusted was going anyway...
posted by saucysault at 4:16 PM on April 6, 2014

I bought something on Rakuten's marketplace months ago. There was a picture of the item (it was a print), and when the item arrived, it was nothing like the picture of the print! It was washed out and terrible quality.

I emailed the seller and asked them to allow me to return the item. The seller got pissy and told me that I could leave them 5 stars feedback and my money would be returned. Rakuten just gave me all my money back. (YMMV, of course, I'm talking about $20)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:14 AM on April 8, 2014

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