Ebay item broken in shipping, who is responsible?
February 12, 2007 7:00 AM   Subscribe

I bought a stereo component off ebay, and it arrived broken. Thankfully, when I made the purchase, in the shipping options, I opted to include shipping insurance (vis USPS).

I've already opened a dispute with PayPal, but we're at an impass: I say, "I'm not accepting broken merchandise, with the hope that the Post Office will pay me back at some point in the future." The seller says, "It was working when I sent it to you, and you wanted shipping insurance, so now it's your problem."

My issue is that shipping insurance isn't a guarantee of repayment. He packed the item, he shipped the item, but should I be the one to file the claim? I purchased a stereo component, not a bureaucratic errand. And I'm giving the seller the benefit of the doubt, but for all I know, he sold an already broken piece of equipment.

Has anyone had any experience with this kind of situation? Which party is responsible for filing the insurance claim when an item is damaged in shipping?
posted by Gamblor to Shopping (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: USPS insurance gives you the option to as the buyer to return the item in its packaging to the PO. They will ship it back to the seller at their expense so don't pay for any return postage. Paypal will most definitely protect you on this as well. Take pictures of the damage and the packaging and open a dispute. They are very pro-buyer. I am an ebay "power seller" so I have had items arrive to buyers with shipping damage. I never argued with a buyer in these cases but paypal wouldn't even hear of it if I had tried to. Hopefully your seller will be cooperative once the claim is put in. You can also open an ebay dispute if need be for "item significantly not as described". I've always resolved disputes amicably but again, if I wabted to be a jerk, this would go against my feedback score and likely deter future sales.

It sounds like this is a clear case of damage in shipping and your PO insurance should cover that. Whether or not the seller packaged it properly, is the only issue they take into consideration. Stick with the paypal dispute and escalate it into a claim, they will stand by you.
posted by jtoth at 7:20 AM on February 12, 2007

According to this FAQ at USPS's site, either you (the recipient) or the sender may file the insurance claim. If the seller's being difficult, it might be the path of least resistance to file the claim yourself and be done with it (I've only had to do it once, but it was pretty easy and they sent out the check quickly). Not very satisfying, but perhaps the most practical resolution.
posted by AV at 7:30 AM on February 12, 2007

As far as your concerned, the seller has failed to supply you with an intact item, and deserve a refund. The circumstances of how it happened are irrelevant. As someone said on a previous thread here, insurance is there to cover the shipper's ass, not yours.
posted by cillit bang at 8:07 AM on February 12, 2007

When I've been in this situation as a seller, I always issued a refund (ideally on return of the item, but usually I let that slide). I however am tyrannical about maintaining my spotless feedback (451! with nary even a neutral).

One piece of advice I would give you, at least with regards to feedback, is that if you leave negative feedback for them, they will most likely leave it for you. As such, don't scream your head off in their feedback, just give them a negative with "item received damaged, didn't offer to make amends." This way, you will seem like a sane ebayer, and someone whom I still wouldn't mind dealing with (plus, over time, if others do it, it could reveal that the seller has been shipping damaged merch, or at least needs to work on their packing abilities).
posted by drezdn at 10:19 AM on February 12, 2007

I disagree with some of the others. The liablity of the seller ended when he handed the package over for shipment to the common carrier, in this case, the USPS. Essentially, he was providing the goods to you FOB Origin (although that's not the technically correct term, since it refers to a ship's rails, really it's FCA Origin, but most people are familiar with FOB).

Unless it was specifically stated otherwise, he didn't promise to deliver a good specifically to you, he only promised to deliver it to the common carrier. This is generally the assumed terms of online transactions, although he should have noted it in writing somewhere (on the eBay auction page, etc.).

You could try to argue with him over whether the goods were in working order when he shipped them, but basically it's going to be your word against his. He's going to claim that it was working when it went to the Post Office, and you really don't have much evidence to claim otherwise.

Luckily, you bought shipping insurance, so I think you should head down to the Post Office, file a claim, and wait for your check.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:54 PM on February 12, 2007

Response by poster: And if in 30 days from now the Post Office says the package was improperly packed and refuses to pay on the claim? The seller's still not responsible?
posted by Gamblor at 1:23 PM on February 12, 2007

Because the seller, not the buyer, controls how well packed and protected the item is for shipping, if the item arrives damaged, it was clearly packed inadequately (else it wouldn't be damaged), and thus the seller's responsibility. IMO, as both a seller and buyer. I see it as similar to rear-ending a car, where the seller is the rear car, and the post office the front car - you can whine that the car ahead hit the brakes in an unexpected and unnecessary manner, but the fact remains that it was you that failed to keep far enough behind them to stop in time no-matter what crazy stuff they might unexpectedly do.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:40 PM on February 12, 2007

Response by poster: Two months later and PayPal ruled in my favor. An all around bad buying experience, but at least it's over.
posted by Gamblor at 8:41 PM on April 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

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