How to deal with dodgy ‘Item Not Received’ buyers on eBay

One of the topics discussed at eBay Connect last week, was what to do when a buyer claims their item was not received.

Sellers are of course advised that it is best to send everything tracked. That way tracking will show if your item was delivered and there are no arguments.

Royal Mail should be helping us with tracking by affixing a 2D bar code to each and every parcel posted by a business. Sadly the implementation of the tracking side is delayed and Royal Mail aren’t yet publishing tracking details and we’re not likely to see support for 2D bar code tracking on eBay before 2017.

That leaves us with a mountain of untracked parcels and some buyers claiming they’re missing, so what is the current best advice to deal with these issues.

Fake tracking numbers are one option – a bar code which if scanned will take the buyer to a website telling them that their parcel has been delivered. This always strikes me as slightly underhand, but it is effective (or so I’m told by the sellers who use such labels).

On eBay, in the past sellers have done their utmost to avoid a buyer opening an Item Not Received case. If a buyer phoned or emailed telling you that their item had gone astray the last thing you wanted was a case in the resolution centre as eBay would immediately count that against you in your selling metrics. Too many resolution cases opened and you’d lose your selling privileges, and that’s even if you resolved them all by replacing or refunding the missing product.

That was before eBay’s latest update to selling standards. Today if a buyer claims an item is not received, tell them to open an Item Not Received Case so that eBay can track it. Tell them that you need the case so that eBay and Royal Mail can investigate (a slight exaggeration but not too far from the truth). It’s surprising, if you suggest the buyer checks with Royal Mail and their neighbours or even their husband or wife, how often a parcel will then turn up before they open a case on eBay.

Buyers have a reluctance to open resolution cases on eBay and repeat offenders will certainly be wary. Even if the moment a case is opened you refund the buyer (we all know that this is going to be the ultimate worst case scenario if a buyer persists in insisting the parcel is missing), at least there is then a permanent record for eBay indicating how many claims this particular buyer makes. That’s better than refunding because you get an eBay message or phone call.

Now that your seller metrics won’t be dinged by defects regardless of how many cases are opened against you (so long as you resolve them before they’re escalated to eBay), make sure that any buyer you refund has opened a case. You may be surprised how many go away and find their parcel and discover that cases aren’t opened in the first place.

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the above is all well and good but its ebay and that pillock with the glasses that are the big problem

tinker • 15th August 2016 •

Getting a customer to open a INR doesn't always work. The buyer goes to PayPal instead and opens a case and get their money back that way with no effect from ebay. Buyers are getting clever to work around these things. PayPal don't talk to ebay anymore so we get hit every way.

Zena • 15th August 2016 •

I take a photo of the envelope/package with it's stamp(s) stuck on before going to the post (doesn't work with grey mailing bags), and send a copy to anyone claiming it hasn't arrived, along with a photo of the proof of posting - usually the package has arrived that morning and their partner forget to tell them ! A friend sort of follows your advice, by explaining to the customer that Royal Mail will perhaps contact them after a claim has been submitted, in order to verify that the package has indeed not arrived, and they find that very often no more is heard about it. Sadly, according to many serial victims, ebay refuses to ban buyers who have repeatedly scammed multiple sellers, and until they begin to clamp down, we all have to expect the worst every time there's a new message in our inbox.

Sam O'levski • 15th August 2016 •

All of my INR cases in the last 12 months have been solved by requesting a redelivery on Royal Mail's website to the buyer's address. It seems the vast majority of problems with Royal Mail are caused by posties not leaving "Something for you" cards when the buyer is out.

John R • 15th August 2016 •

Yes, I heard this from Royal Mail themselves that it is one of their biggest bug bears, posties not leaving cards. It's like a milkman not picking up empties - why wouldn't you?? Unless you're an amateur, or rogue.

Steve Turner • 19th August 2016 •

. I haven’t been on here much of late, but like many this subject interests me. Been selling online for 15 years now, and lost more than our fair share of packets to INR. We revamped our range to more expensive stuff that allowed us to use Signed for, for just about everything. That was fine and losses still occurred sometimes, mainly when posties ‘forgot’ to get signatures & that gave buyers to ability to claim INR as RM (and us) could not prove otherwise. We realised after a year that we were losing out on smaller orders as people would simply not pay for this service. Last year we thought we would step (a very small toe) back into the standard post for items of £5 or less and see what happened…….. YEP the INR claims started again….. This year we have started putting a QR code on all packets sent. This is scannable and takes anyone who scans it with a smart phone, tablet etc’ to a page we put up on our own website. We do NOt claim it has been delivered, but state ‘IF you have arrived at this page, you have scanned a packet with our QR code on it. You cannot find out further information without first signing in with the special password you received, when you signed up to you the service, hence if you do not have this password contact your seller, who can then scan further… The first thing we do when someone claims INR is respond stating our packets have a scan-able QR code and please reconfirm non receipt INR. After this, the next response (if any) is to stall and we advise we will contact RM and QR scanning to clarify status……….It has worked in the main and most buyers claiming INR walk away……..!!

gerry007 • 16th August 2016 •

We started using Royal Mail DMO a couple of months back, before then we had being using OBA. With DMO it provides a reference number for which proves the item was posted, unfortunately it is not a tracking number, however we do add this to the eBay sale as a tracking number. By doing so, we have noticed a significant reduction in INR's... If we do get an INR we are able to going back into DMO, retrieve a proof of postage receipt and send it to the customer. We were getting around 5 to 10 INR'S every week, now only 1 or 2.

Damon W • 16th August 2016 •

we dont bugger about with the cloak and dagger stuff if it cant be sent tracked or signed for we dont sell it and even then sometimes buyers really dont receive their item, ? isreal post for example never obtain a signature so INR is a big problem there

tinker • 16th August 2016 •

Ebay may take action if buyer has made minimum of 14 inr claims in 60 days. Only if sellers kicks he'll. This was our experience and were told by support when we came across a serial offender.

Sam • 16th August 2016 •

its about time ebay offered some support and security or shoulder some of the cost of this problem offering an insurance scheme or a domestic shipping option similar to GSP

tinker • 16th August 2016 •

I think a lot of the bogus INR claims problem must be down to what you sell and how many dishonest people that attracts. From 1st June to today, I've had £20K sales spread over 1148 transactions on ebay. The vast majority goes Royal Mail 48. If the weight goes over 2kg, I send on courier if it's viable to do so. From that, I've had 3 INRs that I've had to refund. The cost of goods and postage, approx £15. Were the INRs genuine lost items? I think one guy was possibly lying, just from what he said about managing to get the item at his local market (unlikely because of what it was) but I've no reason to doubt the others. I can imagine 3 items per 1000 going missing en route with Royal Mail, whether that's theft, delivering to the wrong address, or the package getting eaten by a sorting machine. From my point of view, INRs aren't a significant issue and I don't need to add tracking or get signatures. If your INR figures work out a lot higher than this, then you may be getting dishonest INRs and probably do need to track if the losses are too high otherwise. For example, if I sold mobile phones, it'd be full tracking.

Gav • 16th August 2016 •

We always publicly apologise on the buyers feedback using follow up feedback left it an item is "lost" in the post. For some strange reason a few buyers don't seem to like their dirty washing in public view and then turn their feedback to private I wonder why?

Steve • 16th August 2016 •

we do the same thing , you can tell these rats , you post a item on monday and by thursday they send a message saying item not recieved can i have a refund as i have bought it somewhere else that really pi** me off

glenn • 16th August 2016 •

So what's the latest on Postmen to have cameras to prove delivery? Was it all really just a pile of bulldung?

Jon • 16th August 2016 •

Another weapon in the arsenal is to put a slip into each packet with a unique email address that isn't published anywhere else, asking them to email with any issues. Any 'buyer' who emails saying the item hasn't arrived is immediately proved a liar.

joe • 16th August 2016 •

I do something similar. I have a printed business card with the email address on. It all looks professional but the email is only used on ebay orders. As I dont get that many INRs the addy is not used much, but it is funny when I do get an email on that address. I go into ebay, get the customers phone and give them a ring and explain exactly what has happened. Never hear from them again.

Steve • 22nd August 2016 •

I spoke to my Royal Mail account manager the other day. She reckons October for the 2d barcode 'tracking', I'm not convinced but we shall see. It's only going to put off chancers anyway. Hardcore scammers will still claim regardless of the 2d barcode because I don't think it's going to classed as proof of delivery by the sales channels. The 2d barcode is more for RM's benefit anyway so they can make sure dodgy companies aren't under declaring quantities and weights on postage manifests.

Paul Moran • 16th August 2016 •

is there any evidence whatsover that ebay will do anything at all with all these open cases and reports? sure they SAY they do, but do they? i dont think so. they COULD monitor, ban, automatically track, proactively look out for the troublemakers, but it's patently clear they dont. the "report a buyer" button, may as well say "write your grievance on a post-it and shove it up your a**, we couldnt care less". (we cant write back to tell you about any action, because we never take any, we wont even look at your complaint).

james • 16th August 2016 •

Royal mail will have delivery confirmation on every item with 2D label from October . The question is that will that stop buyers from false claiming the item not as described or even break the item to put a claim. To be honest the problem is not with the buyers , the problem is with ebay. Most of the buyers on ebay think that it is part of their right to put a false claim and this is a normal practice and nothing wrong with that as this the rule on ebay MONEY BACK GRAUNTEE which means they can have the item the money and bullying the sellers as well. I'm afraid ebay is encouraging the buyers to behave this way, most of the buyers buy from ebay and amazon, they never behave this way on amazon.

Samy • 16th August 2016 •

Sorry Samy, didn't receive your post can you please send me a replacement.........

Noel • 16th August 2016 •

Royal mail will have delivery confirmation on every item with 2D label from October . The question is that will that stop buyers from false claiming the item not as described or even break the item to put a claim. To be honest the problem is not with the buyers , the problem is with ebay. Most of the buyers on ebay think that it is part of their right to put a false claim and this is a normal practice and nothing wrong with that as this the rule on ebay MONEY BACK GURANTEE which means they can have the item the money and bullying the sellers as well. I'm afraid ebay is encouraging the buyers to behave this way, most of the buyers buy from ebay and amazon, they never behave this way on amazon.

Samy • 16th August 2016 •

a good idea would be ebay give you warning the seller has a high level of INR cases , if the buyer buys from you there is a recomendation from prior to shipping the item to ship with tracking in the address section or use a ebay discounted postal label this would be a good idea as the buyer wouldnt know this status only the seller , at least it will give the seller a warning and option without ebay completeley blocking a buyers purchases if it was genuine i think this would be a good trial for ebay to roll out , if a buyer has more than 10% INR cases per month , put them on a watch list with ebay supplying a optional reduced tracking label , this will benefit buyers and sellers

glenn • 16th August 2016 •

ebay could use something like traffic signals only sellers can see and not disclose with a buyer green light good buyer (no problems) , amber light , a few INR cases but nothing to worry about but be aware high value items be shipped with tracking , or red light , ship with tracking only ebay needs to disclose the buyers a little to genuine sellers so we can make our own choices

glenn • 16th August 2016 •

Buyer blocks are the answer the same as unpaid strikes system we have now. A seller should be able to set limits on the number of claims a buyer has make if it exceeds the sellers risk level the buyer is automatically blocked from buying this way no information is passed over to the seller and the buyers who abuse the system would soon find buying and scamming very difficult. It should be the same with returns and SNAD cases let the sellers decide what risk they are willing to take. Of course this will never happen because there are no scam buyers in eBay's eyes and sellers are all con merchants and are just cannon fodder to eBay's management

Steve • 17th August 2016 •

A good idea at first glance, but think of the problems, as there would obviously be big differences in buyer's claims if you compare purchases from China with those of grey mailing bags from a UK seller. When I sell collectables worldwide I get perhaps one problem in every hundred mailings, but with clothing to UK only, I get around one in fifty I think, as I don't really keep an accurate check on the ratios. I also think that good and bad ratios will vary across categories, and as buyers don't always stick to only one category, it might cause a lot of problems for those who often buy high risk stuff and make an average amount of claims for that category, then try to buy something totally different and fall foul of a seller's blocks.

Sam O'levski • 17th August 2016 •

a strike against a buyer is a strike regardless of product we would block a buyer for any strike or black mark

TINKER • 20th August 2016 •


Derek Duval • 20th August 2016 •

INR the great never ending issue of eBay. Of the 10s of thousands of sold items sold in the last 8 years. Every single one of them that has been claimed INR has been eBay. Actually eBay UK is the worst of the lot. Mail Theft is what it is, and it should be treated as such. We have been hammered with these in the last month. All but one we think is just theft. We have really had to put out buyer preferences as high as possible. Some of this is organised in a major criminal way. The simple truth is we are selling more than ever tracked on ebay and charging for this. We are better priced on Amazon with FBA. RMG need to actually take more responsibility they are the people who are supposed to run a secure network. Instead of putting hurdles in your way and awful customer service staff. They should be looking at these address's. I have been guilty in the past of not always claiming and writing it off. Now I send them one claim a day with all supporting evidence. Including the cases that are opened or emails claiming these INR. There is always a paper trail. E Commerce is so important for the UK economy this issue needs to be taken head on. Theft and scamming is an epidemic on eBay and it is mainly an eBay issue. Claim on everything maybe it gets enough exposure something gets done. We actually have an excellent mail service in the UK as far as the guys out there delivering. I also think when evidence is obtained the Police should be involved. Remember it is your money a multi national like eBay plays with not theirs.

SAM • 17th August 2016 •

Todays scam messages From Italy translated "Item has not arrived I would like a refund, I had to buy it in the local store" There are 10 of this item world wide on eBay and manufacturing ended 15 years ago how lucky to buy one locally for this buyer Next one sent a message saying the item had not arrived so I replied with I will post a replacement out ASAP then got this "Good morning, the item arrived some weeks ago but I found the envelope only today. Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your quick answer! Regards!" Do these scammer think we were born yesterday we have seen all the scams before

Steve • 18th August 2016 •

we are idiots, for continuing to sell on ebay and subject ourselves to this abuse. my latest bundle of joy: "hey this desk arrived damaged" ( was delivered 4 weeks ago) - I'm sorry to hear that, if you can please provide the part number from the instructions, we'll be happy to send out brand new replacements. "there are no instructions" - yes the instructions are printed on the outside of the manufacturer box for this product. "there are no instructions on the box". - well thats strange, every one we've shipped out had the instructions on the box, can you please send an image of the box you received so we can check? "there are definitely no instruction on the box". - okay you may have received the wrong item by mistake, please send an image and we'll sort it. "fine, i threw the box out a month ago when i built it, and now i'm leaving negative feedback" - for damaging it yourself a month after (and then lying about it)? negative feedback sticks.

james • 19th August 2016 •

That's one example of the joys of online selling, and as the owner of a local high street b&m shop, any similar cases would not be tolerated, even if any customers were silly enough to try it on - everyone knows everyone else, so an individual's character would be taken into account. Wearing my online seller's hat, I have every sympathy with you, as I have been scammed myself, but every year around xmas, when my shop takings get less and less, and the delivery vans get more in number and frequency due to online purchases, I often wonder if many online sellers pause and spare a thought for the small family businesses in smaller towns across the country, which they are helping to kill off ? There is an old saying that you cannot have your cake and eat it, and I think it applies quite well in this sort of scenario.

Sam O'levski • 19th August 2016 •

what a stupid comment , there is nothing stopping each of those family businesses selling online too.......most online sellers have are or have been in retail too!

billy • 21st August 2016 •

Have you ever had a retail shop, or thought of all the possibilities before you decided to post your 'stupid comment' ? Not every retail shopkeeper has easy access to a computer, even in this day and age many older people wouldn't have a clue how to list something online - I know that, as I talk to the people who come in my door, and many of them tell me they have not got a computer. If my comment is stupid, then perhaps all of those people are liars ? As for your assertion that most online sellers have been in retail..... what do you base that on ? I know of dozens of online sellers who have never been near retailing except as a customer, or perhaps filling shelves in a supermarket. If you mean larger business sellers, then it is more likely, but you should have qualified your remarks. Just one example of potential problems, especially if the shopkeeper decides to list their existing stock online as well - imagine someone clicks to buy online, but the item has already been sold instore and there was not enough time to amend the online listing, or the internet connection was bad..... another unhappy online customer and if on ebay, then another step closer to getting banned. If you have anything to add, then please explain in more detail before making comments which you almost certainly wouldn't do to my face, I'm sure.

Sam O'levski • 21st August 2016 •

We always look the person up on Facebook. As a clothes seller we recently found a customer who claimed she had not received her order wearing it on a photo she had posted on Facebook.

Sue • 19th August 2016 •

Another scam customer coming up with an excuse that they cannot open an ebay case for a refund. Customer: "your duty to cancel and refund i am on an app so cant open a case im afraid refund asap" My reply, basically advising that if your phone supports apps then you can use the phone's internet browser to visit the full site to open a case, alternatively if you cannot for any reason open a case you can all ebay and they will be happy to open on for you. Really does frustrate me that i am dealing with scams over £2.49, it is not like i was expensive or earning a fortune on this transaction, and now it is costing me labour to deal with the emails they are sending to rip me off. A sad world we live in.

Kieran • 20th August 2016 •