I think eBay is one of the greatest Internet-era inventions in history – it leverages the power of a world-wide market of sellers with an equally large pool of buyers, connecting in ways that no previous market ever could. When eBay works, it works very well – but when it works poorly, boy can it get ugly. eBay relies on the individual integrity of buyers and sellers, but when the integrity of a buyer collides with that of an ethically bereft seller, it’s usually the buyer that gets burned if he’s not expecting it – which unfortunately is what happened to me. Allow me an early morning rant…
My wife Ashley was looking for a new flat iron – I’m mostly ignorant about such things (my hair takes 30 seconds to “do” in the mornings), but apparently there are flat irons that get hot, and flat irons that get really hot. She had the former, but wanted the latter to tame her unruly hair. Local sources for the type of extra-hot flat iron that she wanted were charging over $250 CAD (about $240 USD) so naturally I turned to the greatest marketplace on earth to find a better deal: eBay. I found a seller, Majeeda Haaq (who sellers under the name wickedly-whimsical with a store called Wickedly Whimsical Witches and Cats), who was selling a Paul Brown Hawaii Ceramic Flat Iron for $100 USD. The shipping charges were steep at $25.68 USD, but I assumed this was because the box was fairly big and I’m always willing to pay what it costs to ship to Canada. It was still a good deal overall, so I used the Buy It Now feature and paid $125.68 USD for it on August the 2nd. I received an automated response to my message stating my payment had been received. I never heard back from the seller, but I assumed the package would be on its way soon enough, and I’d see it within two weeks – that’s on the long side of how long it normally takes to get a package from the US to Canada.
I hadn’t heard anything from the seller by August 18th after already sending one message a few day earlier, nor had I seen the product. My wife was wondering what was going on, and I didn’t have an answer for her – when you pay for something and you don’t hear from the person you paid after two weeks, you start to think you’ve been scammed. I emailed the seller again:
“You would have had a payment from *****@*****.com. I’ve emailed about this item before, asking the status of it and when it was shipped, but you haven’t responded. It’s now been over two weeks without any response from you, or confirmation that it has shipped. It’s also very strange that this item isn’t listed on my eBay profile as being purchased – I’m not sure why that happened. Please respond ASAP.”
Majeeda Haaq responded later that day:
“Hello, my deepest apologies. I was in bed with Acute Tonsilitis. I am now in the process of packing my items and I have a lot to pack. I will get this item in the mail on monday. I will include a FREE GIFT for the delay. I am not sure why this item is showing up as unpaid on your end, I see it as a paid item. Thanks so much.”
I responded back that I hoped she felt better and that I was looking forward to seeing the product, but I was surprised that an eBay Power Seller would list products while sick and not have anyone helping getting them shipped. If you get sick, stop selling on eBay until you’re better; don’t take someone’s money without shipping them their product. Maybe that’s not fair of me to expect that, but I’ve been selling on eBay since 1999 and I feel when you take someone’s money you have an ethical obligation to give them what they paid for as quickly as possible, sick or not. In the back of my mind I also wasn’t sure if I believed her – I try to take people at their word, but I wasn’t sure she was being honest with me – maybe she had no inventory and was using my money to buy product she didn’t already have ready to sell.
I was hoping at this point that she would ship it using a faster method to make up for the delay. Instead, the product didn’t ship for another three days, leaving on the 21st of August – that’s 19 days after I paid for it. It eventually arrived on the 5th of September, 34 days after I paid for it, but what made me livid was the fact that it was a small, slender box that only cost $11.86 USD to ship – and she charged me $25.68 USD, a 116% up-charge. The product itself was fine, but taking my money, not shipping for 19 days, then charging me over twice as much for shipping as she paid, is ridiculous. Giving me a dirty bottle of hair gel (that was the “free gift”) doesn’t make up for it. I suspect this another example of eBay sellers padding the shipping charge to cover their cost of listing the product with eBay, and a little extra profit on the side. It’s a technicality, but I’d much rather have paid $113 for the product and $12 for shipping – that would have been an honest listing.
I contacted her, asking for an explanation on the inflated shipping charges, because I wanted to give her a chance to explain. This certainly wasn’t a positive eBay experience, but the product was fine so I was leaning toward neutral rather than negative feedback. Her response was that I should have asked about the shipping prior to bidding – would she, or anyone else, be honest if I emailed asking if the shipping charge was padded and not actually a real shipping charge? I doubt it, but perhaps I should have.
I ended up leaving what I thought was fair feedback: “Great product, but it was 19 days after I paid before she put it in the mail” and neutral feedback. I expected positive feedback in return because I paid for the item immediately, or at worst neutral feedback if she was one of those vengeful types. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised given her previous behaviour, but her response to my feedback was “NOT TRUE! Canada may be connected, but not in this country. Shipping takes time”, which makes me look like I was lying about her taking 19 days to ship the product. I don’t like being called a liar. She also hadn’t left any feedback for me, a classic eBay abuse of power where the seller withholds feedback until they see how the buyer rates them, then responds accordingly or not at all. Ethical sellers leave feedback based on how quickly the buyer pays, and don’t wait for feedback in return.
I wrote to her privately, reminding her of the date I paid, the date she shipped, and stated that my feedback was 100% truthful, while her response to my feedback was not. I stated that I expected more integrity from an eBay Power Seller, and that a seller who delays shipping for 19 days should use some of that inflated shipping money to get the product to the customer faster. Her response to this? Negative feedback on my account:
“He negotiates shipping charges after the item is received! SELLERS BEWARE”
Obviously my email challenging her pissed her off, and she went over the top by leaving negative feedback when I only left neutral. I certainly wasn’t “negotiating” shipping – I never asked for a refund. My “crime” seems to have been not wanting to let her get away with shipping late, overcharging, and not leaving feedback for me. eBay’s feedback system is based on reciprocal feedback, and unfortunately they don’t moderate the sticky topic of “fairness” (I can’t really blame them for that) – the only time they’ll take down negative feedback is when it contains private information or swearing. So I’m now stuck with another unwarranted negative feedback point on my account…but writing about it makes me feel a bit better. 😉
If you’ve read this far: have you been burned by your own unethical eBay seller? Leave your story here in the comments and you’ll have the last laugh as Google happily indexes this post and it becomes the #1 result for their name (like it will for Majeeda Haaq, a.k.a its-auction-time). I may have lost some money when I got ripped off buying a digital camera years ago, but anyone that looks for information about the seller, Patrick Clouet, will get my digital camera fraud page as the number #1 result in Google (with apologies to all the honest people named Patrick Clouet).