eBay, this is why you deserve to fail

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Having spent about a decade as a seller on eBay, it’s been pretty instructive for me to become solely a buyer in the last few months. I’ve wondered why buyers are so suspicious, so reluctant, so ready to believe I wanted to rip them off…. and now I’ve found out.

Here’s a thing. I need a posh frock, and I found the perfect one – I thought. But, being female, I was concerned about a listing that offered simply a bust and waist measurement on a dress, and had the astonishing and illegal returns policy: “We only accept return for exchange when the product you received is faulty”. It was a BIN listing and eBay had added their “your rights to return under this Distance Selling Regulations” bit to it.

I wanted to believe the returns policy was a mistake. So I asked the seller. The response I got was beyond belief: “No returns no good quality guarantee, please just do not buy”.

That’s it. That’s the whole of their response. So next time you wonder why your eBay sales are down, you might consider just what *other* sellers are doing to your business.

Of course, I know what I’m doing, so I can choose not to buy. But less experienced buyers might read eBay’s spiel on the DSRs and assume that the seller will honour them. Then they’ll find out that the seller doesn’t, and guess what – they’ll tar all sellers with the same brush.

Until eBay does something about these sellers, I’m done: I’ll be thinking long and hard before I buy off an eBay seller I don’t already know. Yes, this is me, editor of TameBay, saying that buying on eBay is something I don’t want to do anymore. That might count for something. But probably, it won’t, except for people in the comments slating me for damaging their businesses. Friends, it’s not me – it’s illegal T&Cs and just plain bad responses like that. If you want to be trusted, to be treated like the decent business you undoubtedly are, then please, ask eBay to enforce the law for your buyers. Otherwise, the whole site is just a farce.

115 Responses

  1. I’ve noticed a lot of sellers on eBay and sellers with their own websites have illegal returns policies. I’m just really glad search engines can crawl my website and set me apart from the illegal traders as my returns policy is above board and complies with the distant seller regulations.

  2. is the problem that sellers can sell by BIN or Auction (or indeed both simultaneously) yet the DSRs are different for either sales method?

  3. I buy 1.5 to 2 times what I sell, 60-day buying total nearly £4K.

    Lots of sellers are idiots. Not just the personal sellers, some of the business sellers have a deliberate policy of messing people about.

    Bad packaging, most badly packed items arrive OK, I estimate 60% badly packed, 3% failure rate. Packaging gets worse if seller is disappointed with price.

    Low priced items (low start one or two low bid auctions) simply don’t get sent. Seller does the charade of lost in post.

    Sellers substitute inferior items.

    No postage discounts for multiple buys even when sent together and invoice says sent together.

    Ignore sellers terms and conditions, transactions are governed by UK law and eBay rules.


    Recent updates to your order

    Your item(s) has been marked as dispatched.

    So I have the options of writing a rule to automatically delete these ‘updates to your order’ and risking something vaguely meaningful getting trashed or dealing with manually deleting another dozen or two messages per week.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that charity shops and eBay have decimated the traditional secondhand / preloved / antiques whatever you want to call it business(es) I wouldn’t use eBay. There are bad sellers on eBay but that’s the way eBay designed the system, biggest crooks on eBay are eBay.

    And yes so eBay is low prices, so I mostly sell junk on eBay, clearly and accurately described, it sells quite well. Good stock never reaches anything approaching the true value on eBay so that gets sold elsewhere.

    But as eBay prices go down my profit margin goes up 🙂

  4. Only last week I paid more for something to buy from a seller with legal terms than i could have paid from a “We do not accept returns” type retailer , which means more profit for ebay and more likelihood i was buying from a “legit” dealer.

    But we are in the minority , most of us on this site are business sellers , or have been , we know the rules. I doubt very few ebay buyers who aren’t sellers themselves have a clue about distance selling regulations.

  5. reverse this argument!
    what about all the the good sellers who care !who offer a great service at the right price,
    thats why ebay succeeds

  6. society to blame not ebay
    its impossible for ebay to change human nature,

  7. The other thing here is that Ebay could well use articles like this to continue beating the good sellers.

    They may of course miss the point that they do not enforce their policies on their “outlet” partners, but rather continue to ignore them and use a hammer to hit every small seller out there…

  8. Today’s Daily Deal Returns Policies:

    Daily Deal 1) “If you change your mind, you should inform us by e-mail within 5 days of receiving“…. That’s 2 days too short, the Distance Selling Regulations say that buyers have a minimum of a 7 day cooling off period.

    Daily Deal 2) “Please note that delivery charges will not be refunded unless goods are faulty or the wrong item has been shipped“…. Rubbish, original delivery charges have to be refunded even if the buyer simply changes their mind (and this from a major high street retailer who really should know better)

    Would be nice to think you could buy from Daily Deal sellers and get great service. Sadly on today’s Deals their returns policies say otherwise 🙁

  9. As a “real” seller (like many others) trying to do an honest and responsible job on line; offering value and ethical legal terms; we find it harder and harder to make any true net margin. eBay, Amazon exist only to make their profits grow, and we are merely the instruments of their success. When we are all paying 7 – 15% to site owners, and competing with each other to offer lower and lower prices to attract sales, frankly what do eBay etc care?

    (As an aside comment – we have all but closed down for a month or two. Profits are low, so we are not losing anything but workload and turnover!!! Up side is that we are enjoying a hassle free summer break. It also gives you time to sit back, and think about your business; all too often we are reactive, not proactive.)

  10. ” Friends, it’s not me – it’s illegal T&Cs and just plain bad responses like that. If you want to be trusted, to be treated like the decent business you undoubtedly are, then please, ask eBay to enforce the law for your buyers. Otherwise, the whole site is just a farce.”

    We used to, time much better spent now building new sites and finding new partners, in the time it takes to report an item which then in turn gets completely ignored by eBay we could have created a fresh product listing on another site, which is exactly what we do.

  11. Well said Sue.

    I had to leave my first neg in 9 years and open my first dispute the other month on principle of exercising my rights on Distance selling regulations on an phone case worth £2.35 totally not as picture and didn’t fit my phone. I was asked to return at MY cost of £1.40 for refund without refunding my return postage.

    This was a Top Rated Seller with 650,000 feedback. I got my free return label eventually and they refunded me but then a few weeks later I got an email saying if I changed my neg they would refund me. They had obviously been working through the negs for this reason. They had over 1000 negs revised, probably by buyers wanting their money back which they were entitled to by law.

    This subject as many of you know has always made my blood boil. I want to direct my buyers towards using the eBay resolution process without it having a detrimental affect on my seller performance. The resolution centre should have details of the distance selling regulations for buyers according to the type of sale BIN/auctions etc

    Sellers who do not deal with returns/unhappy buyers etc should be penalised not those who do.

    Much of it is to do with sellers not knowing what the law is. Another reason for some sort of seller seminar event (sorry repeating myself I know).

  12. eBay should not allow ANY seller to show T&C’s or have their own t&c’s, eBay should have their own, applicable to each seller type, one set of T&C’s for non business, another for business sellers

  13. Now I have little or nothing to do with Dresses(pretty or otherwise) but I find myself wondering if the Seller in the instance quoted has had a serious problem and thinks that this is the way to deal with it. Over the years there have been many reports of women buying clothes for a specific purposes such as going to a Party or Wedding. Then after the event with the dress now used and possibly soiled with such as drinks spilt down them they decide that they do not want them anymore and decide to return them. Obviously in a shop if a dress comes back with drinks or other stains the assistant/manager can argue the point and refuse to give a refund. But if the dress has come back through the post after they have agreed to give a full refund it is a bit more difficult. They possibly have refused a refund after getting the dress back and then find the customer complaining to ebay and having ebay back the customer. So to try to get round it they say No Returns. It is Illegal but they have suffered losses and think it might stop future losses of this type. Now I sell Books. To date I have been lucky. One customer received a damaged item(damaged in the post) and wanted to send it back. I didn’t want it back so I told them to keep it and I sent them another which they received in perfect condition. As the item was only £6-95 it was not worth the hassle to argue. Apart from that my record it clear. But If I sold Womens Clothes or indeed clothes in general I would expect to receive numerous returns that had been worn and soiled by the customer.

  14. Sadly your never going to win and never going to stop this on a marketplace, ebay have tried with DSR’s and to be honest it’s just cocked up the system for everyone.

    I believe if your a good, honest seller this will shin through the crap and customers when they find you will come back again and again.

    I often use the same seller on ebay again and again as I know if there is an issue they will sort it, they might not be the cheapest but they offer good service!

    I would suggest this is the big difference you can make from other sellers and push the fact in the listing, we know offer 30days return on all items and highlight the fact big and bold!

  15. I think a major part of the problem is that eBay fail to police their ‘exemplary’ sellers such as the DOTD types and the Outlet sellers, so a lot of sellers think it’s OK to have illegal returns policies because they see the big sellers saying the same thing.

    About 2 years ago I compiled a very detailed report on all the Outlet sellers at the request of a senior eBay person, highlighting where all the illegal terms were and why there were illegal, along with a promise from that senior eBay person to get it actioned.

    Nothing was ever done, even though it was all handed to them on a plate. I can only conclude that eBay aren’t really interested in having sellers with legal policies.

  16. I dont like the way many drive , though I still drive because its the easiest most conveniant and cost effective way of moving around,and nothing better is available,
    ebay is the motorway of buying and selling and will be used because there is nothing better available

  17. I no longer sell on ebay either. I do still buy quite a bit, mainly packaging & low priced personal items.

    I’m reasonably choosy about who I buy from but I was burned a few months back when I bought a faulty electrical item from what appeared to be a legitimate business seller. They wanted to send me a credit note when I returned it. Of course I got my money back via ebay / PayPal, but wasn’t impressed to be over £8 out of pocket (return cost).

    I’d be very reluctant to buy anything like that again from ebay (unless I knew & trusted the seller). I would rather pay a bit more and buy from a reputable company website or from Amazon.

  18. Am I missing something here? Surely if you bought the frock and decided to send it back, you could get your money returned via Paypal, as the DSRs entitle you to do so. In the end, it doesn’t matter what any seller puts in their T & Cs – that doesn’t make it legal! (Interestingly, the same thing applies to eBay’s user agreement. However, challenging anything in there would mean a lengthy and costly court case – eBay know darn well most of us little people are not gong to try that, so they can put what they like in their T & C, claiming it is legal even if it isn’t…. Please – don’t even get me started on this!)

    As a buyer, I have lost count of the number of times I have had to ‘push’ to get my original postage back after returning an item. Sellers refer me to their T & C, claiming I have agreed to them. But that is just not true, because illegal T & C DON’T COUNT and therefore you are NOT bound by them! I went through all this with Very Clearance recently, who really ought to know better. (And they haven’t changed their T & C as far as I know.) Needless to say, I got my money back in the end because I was legally entitled to it, though they actually had the temerity to claim they weren’t aware they had to refund postage unless the item was faulty. (Yeah, right.)

    The bottom line is that many sellers (including the big boys) will try to get out of their legal obligations by putting stuff in their T & C – and hey get away with it simply because buyers don’t know their rights, but when push comes to shove, the DSRs are what count, and Paypal/eBay have to enforce them when necessary.

    As a seller, I hate returns because I sell lingerie. A previous poster mentioned customers who buy a frock, wear it and then return it, so you can imagine what a nightmare this is in my business! (And yes, people have actually sent back knickers that have clearly been worn….yeuchhh.) But I have no choice. If you dig deeper into the DSRs, you’ll find that even stipulating that packaging, tags etc must be in place on returned items is NOT something you can insist on. The regs state that if it is reasonable for a buyer to remove these when trying an item, then it is also ok for them to return something minus its tags.

    And as eBay sellers know to their cost, if you refuse a return, even on an auction item, you will get negative feedback – simple as that. I recently accepted an auction item back, gave a full refund and STILL got neutral FB left for me! Sigh…

    These days, when it comes to buying something I may want to return, I just stick to business sellers, then I know that I can return the item, whatever their T & Cs say. And if they complain, I get Paypal on the case. My attitude is that if I have to do returns, then everyone else has to do them too!

  19. Good post, Sue.

    Illegal T&Cs do put off even experienced ebayers from ebay as a whole. There’s no fun in trawling through sellers’ listings to double-check that you won’t have a load of hassle later. in the ‘wild west’ days of the internet this might have been ok, but not anymore.

    eBay might not be to blame – this issue must vex them, too – but they sure need to do more about it. eBay can choose to be ‘only a venue’ and issue a ‘buyer beware’ style disclaimer. Or they can take a proactive role and responsibility for seller compliance. Trouble is, currently they talk like the latter but their actions don’t back it up. They just can’t, or won’t, commit the required determination and resources to eradicate illegal T&Cs from sellers’ listings.

    This is one of the reasons I took my business way from eBay. I wanted to grow my own brand, and it’s so much easier to build a trusted reputation when you control your own site.

    It’s true that some independent websites (and even big retailiers) have illegal T&Cs, but the story is much worse on ebay by it’s very open nature.

    eBay is falling short of buyer expectation on this issue.

  20. to be honest I never read anyones returns policy.

    I pay by paypal, if anything is wrong with the item I get my money back, regardless of the sellers “attitude”

    What sellers say is pretty irrelevant.

  21. My understanding of Distant Seller Regulations is that the seller is responsable for all postage costs (out going and return) if the buyer changes their mind. The DSR are in place because the buyer is not buying from a traditional shop and is unable to handle goods before they are sold. They have to notice you of a return within 7 working days of delivery and also return items in the same condition they were recieved. For example, if a sealed CD was sent and an unsealed CD was returned, the buyer is not protected by DSR because the returned item is not in the same sealed condition it was sent.

    You can google DSR for more details. A search engine will not list your items highly if they crawl your website and find sub-standard terms and conditions, as the search results they are giving are for the search engines own customers. As you are also a customer of the search engines its in your own interest to have a good working relationship with them by trading legally.

    The only way to clean the internet up is for Trading Standards to get involved with disagreements with buyers and sellers (even if the seller ends up getting fined for illegal pracitices)

    Then again most traditional shops don’t know the legals rights of the buyer, so its not just an internet thing.

  22. eBay just stings, They have an active policy of eliminating the “small” sellers of unique , vintage, items and embraced large scale “vendors” of commonplace “junk”. There are loads of “vendors” selling directly from China, bypassing all import, safety, copyright laws.
    No longer a “community” of “trading partners”, now a “war zone” of ripoff sellers and scamming buyers ! Avoid ebay, do your shopping at some of the up and coming sites, etsy, bonanza, ebid, even Amazon.

  23. The main issue here is that eBay originally had a brilliant plan of an
    “Online trading trading Community” composed of individuals. That plan worked fine, with eBay sitting back and making 3-5% on the sales, while the buyers and sellers made their deals.
    There was a workable feedback system to discourage “bad” behavior by both buyers and sellers.
    Fast forward to today… eBay now has a one sided Feedback and DSR system , where a seller can be canned for unfounded accusations or opinions. There are fees on everything, including the shipping cost. There is a one-sided return system. All this opens the doors to “scammer” buyers. eBay is now focusing on large scale “mercahnts”. many of them Chinese sellers skirting all customs, product safety, and patent laws. eBay is trying to be the next Amazon, but is looking like an on-line dollar tree !!!!

  24. Completely agree with you Sue and i do hope ebay take note of you and the other people who agree with you.
    I reported a seller for breaching T&C’s ages ago and
    1 it was hard to find how to do this.
    2 the seller still states that ‘once posted sales are no longer there responsiblity. Also, No refunds or returns and they sell as trade on BIN.
    I am slowly leaving ebay for amazon where the grown up people seem to be but its expensive to sell on there compared to ebay.
    Though the trust buyers have with amazon marketplace make it worth the move.
    Tell anyone you sell on ebay and they look at you as if you are slightly iffy but say you sell on amazon and the same people say how great the internet is for small and micro biz!

    Totally sick of ebay not enforcing these rules becuase they do not really care
    Hope you keep us informed

  25. I dont blame ebay if I make a bad sale/purchase, I blame myself or the Seller/buyer same as I
    I dont blame Boris or London because some pikey in portobello ripped me off,
    if you piddle against the wind you get wet

  26. ebay does not protect SELLERS, a buyer is able to file a SNAD claim for any reason , imagined or otherwise, there is no arbitration, no review of case, eBay / Paypal “forces” return… Im not talking about truly dishonest seller behavior here (that could easily be proven and handled) but frivolous SNADs filed by buyers who dont use description, didnt research product before buying, buyers remorse, or who broke the product in use, also “renters”, those who use product and then return. eBay has become toxic for both buyers and sellers.

  27. It’s not unusual that blog posts that slag eBay off are always the most commented on, maybe eBay will take the hint.

    I may also wake up on Mars.

  28. It is very clear that distance selling is challenged from both the buyers’ and sellers’ perspectives. EBay and it’s PayPal subsidiary have both contributed to the expansion of eCommerce from its infancy in quite dramatic ways.

    But from its humble beginnings, eBay (and PayPal) have grown faster than their principles. I have no doubt that both companies are now driven purely by economics. The ‘business decision’ is ruled by the beancounters.

    Above, Joe said: “About 2 years ago I compiled a very detailed report on all the Outlet sellers at the request of a senior eBay person, highlighting where all the illegal terms were and why there were illegal, along with a promise from that senior eBay person to get it actioned.”

    I would suggest to you, Joe, that this report DID indeed get actioned – by passing it onto a legal team to assess eBay’s potential liability and recommend steps to minimise it.

    As a result of this ‘head in the sand’ way of thinking, shonky buyers and shonky sellers will both have the chance to take up the opportunities presented.

    … and they do.

    I’ve mentioned this example a while ago – but it is quite relevant to the title of this article: Paypal’s “Mission Impossible” – A Duty of Care. Find it here: https://www.ozroundtable.com/index.php?topic=1754.0

    I will concede that right and proper conduct for eBay and PayPal will not be trivial – but they are both non-trivial players. It’s not as if they don’t have the resources to do it right.

    But you might get an argument on that from their shareholders……

    Will eBay fail?

    Well, Yes and No.

    Yes – for the eBay that was. I feel it’s only a matter of time before even the most ardent believers concede that.
    No – for the company and the name. I can see further cycles of ‘reinventing’ the brand with ‘innovative disruption’. Some might describe these as ‘death rolls’, but I think they will be ‘rolling’ for some years yet.

    These two companies are, at best, amoral. Many would protest strongly that ‘immoral’ is the correct word – and I would be hard pressed to debate them.

    They need to grow some principles … but I’m not holding my breath.

  29. 12 years now ebays this, ebay that, ebay should do this and that and the other ,

    thousands like me are still selling with them
    business is business

  30. Honestly ive totally had enough of ebay i used to buy all my school uniform, sports kids pe outfits and then got threwn off as seller after seller just left and now the goods lack quality. Ive honestly moved on from ebay to new online stores and do my kids online shopping with a new site http://www.plsmum.com and the quality is fab and service is flawless. I think we all need to boycott ebay for them to realise and let the good sellers back on!! but who will listen seriously?

  31. Chris, I think you will find that as the majority of people live in towns and cities, they would by your defenition be called “townies”. These so called townies also make up the majority of buyers and sellers on ebay, so as the editor/owner of this site which deals mainly with ebay sellers, perhaps your prejudices should be kept within the confines of your own village.
    The reality in this very small and over populated country is that many people have a working relationship with both rural and urban environments and this type of factionalising into townies and yokels (lets say) is tiresome.

  32. Ebay can’t possibly enforce DSRs unless they stock everything themselves, that is prior to a sale. It is gamble but on the other hand barriers to entry are low and there are sellers that can provide scarce items.

  33. While thinking about something else I suddenly thought that I had not seen anything about a Free Listing Weekend for a while. So I checked. Weekend 21/22 May; 4/5 June and 18/19 June. Nothing since. So if policy was every 2 weeks has ebay changed its policy? Remembering that FLD’s are often blamed for causing all sorts of problems has there been a general improvement(or even because the Private Sellers are not refilling their Paypal Accounts a drop in Sales) decline in Trade Sales.

  34. “Economic activity from a continually occupied house is clearly much greater than from a periodically occupied house”

    this would depend very much on the occupant
    if it were a plus or a minus

  35. You know what, I have a private account on ebay which I sell my unwanted purchases on and I occasionally ask for help in the forums. I find it extremely annoying and arrogant when a business seller completely disregards my query in the forum and instead takes it upon themselves to rant about how I have a no returns policy (while hiding behind a mule account themselves with 0 feedback I might add). Im not even a sodding business and I am completely within my rights to refuse returns because I do not have time to faff about with people changing their mind. I want the stuff away and gone and dont want to have to look at it again. Just because you are a business doesnt mean you can have a hissy fit and try and stomp all over the innocent private sellers for not having to offer the same policies as you. You CHOSE to become a business so deal with the sodding DSRegs already. This by no means goes for ALL business, or even most of them. I’m sure a lot of you would never just presume, you’d have to have good reason for believing a private seller was breaking the rules. It Just goes for the ones who troll around the forum (and there seem to be an increasing number of them) ranting and raving at private individuals insisting that we are ALL businesses because we sodding well arent. Ebay started out as a place for private individuals to auction off their old crap, and there are still a hefty number of these private individuals. Not everyones a sodding factory just because theve got more than 4 active listings. Just wanted to stick up a bit for the little men out there.

  36. “this would depend very much on the occupant”

    You can always find outliers but for 99% of case generalisations are true, average, bell curve etc. Hope that’s clear now.

    “Its not only the economic activity.” Absolutely. We could get eco about it too, more unoccupied homes means more green fields being built on.

    I advocate 20% VAT on second homes, would remove some of the unfairness from the system and keep prices more affordable for locals without restricting rights of people to one more than one property. Or they could even it up by making a few weeks holiday accomodation VAT free for everyone!

  37. so who is going to buy these houses that sell as second homes
    even at knock down prices many locals cant afford them because they have no jobs or earn a poor salary


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