If you are searching for scams against online buyers on Google, you will see results related to eBay dominate the search results. It is not by chance that most of those links lead to articles on how to avoid getting scammed by eBay.
Honestly I loved shopping on eBay because everything is cheaper than other online retailers like Amazon, Walmart or Target. However, this is a hub for scammers and you are taking a big risk buying merchandise here. I’ve encountered a lot of scammers in the last 3 years and I managed to get my money back all the time. Unfortunately, this time I lost $370 and here is the story.
How I Lost Money to an eBay Seller
I bought a $370 pair of headphones from an eBay seller with more than 99% positive feedback from 2,000 buyers. I was quite confident at that time because this seems to be a legit seller and as the item was priced $60 less than the same one on Amazon, I thought this is a good deal. Everything went smoothly and I was not aware of the scam at all. The seller sent me a tracking number 2 days later and the package arrived after a week. I left the box in a corner for 10 days and when I unboxed it, I couldn’t be more surprised as this was the first time I received only the packaging of the product with no content inside. I contacted the seller named as9342 immediately and as I expected, he wouldn’t take any responsibility. Here is his response:
In between me and you, there were many people who handled it. UPS, and every employee that handled it during transit. Probably dozens. Next, the guy (presumably your employee) who received the item. Also, perhaps other people in your organization who had access to the package, while it was in storage for over two weeks. Any of these people could have taken the item out. My point is, that there were a lot of people involved in the chain of custody of the item. And yet, you single out one person – the shipper. The ultimate responsibility lies with you, to make a timely complaint and report if something is not right. And that report should have been made upon receipt to UPS, within their time frame. You received the item, you or your agent received it and did not report anything amiss to UPS, and you alone are responsible.
I contacted eBay and was told to open a case for items not as described. Notice that if you open a case for items not received, you will lose the case immediately when the seller provides tracking number. I asked eBay to step in and expected they could help get my money back because their eBay Money Back Guarantee program save me some times in the past.
A day later, I received a message from eBay that the case is placed on hold and I need to provide them some more documents, here are the details:
“I’m sorry to hear there was a problem with the item. I understand that the package arrived but it was empty. When a package arrives empty or with an entirely different item, it can be the result of theft, a shipping issue, or an oversight. We need your help to resolve this case. Please file an incident report with your local law enforcement agency (police department). Filing an incident report is generally free of charge and is easy to do. The report documents that there’s been a problem.
Here are the details that must be included in the report:
— Description of the item received
— Name of the officer filing the report
— Officer’s badge number
— Station location (city and state)
— Station phone number
We’ve placed this case on hold for 10 days to allow you to get an incident report.
Please fax the incident report to (303) 395-2829. Please include your user ID (techwalls) and case number (5….) and send the fax to the attention of eBay Money Back Guarantee Dept – Case ID: 5…..
After we receive and confirm the incident report, we’ll close the case in your favor. We’ll ask the seller to send you a refund in the amount of $365.90 that will be credited to your original payment account. You should receive the refund within 3-5 days of faxing the incident report.
If we don’t hear from you within 10 days, we’ll close the case and you won’t be able to get a refund. If you need more time, just let us know by replying to this message.”
I followed their instructions and brought the eBay email and proof of transaction to the police department. Unfortunately, the police officer told me that they couldn’t file an incident report in this case because I actually received the package. Therefore, they only kept a record that I reported an unusual case and of course, they didn’t provide the officer name or badge number. I sent the record to eBay and they had all the reasons to reject it. And after just a few hours, the case was closed in the seller’s favor.
Update: I felt hopeless and almost forgot about the case until I remember that the payment used my bank account as a funding source because I had no money in my Paypal account at that time. Therefore, I went ahead and filed a chargeback with my bank, I just needed to fill in a form to explain my situation. After just a couple of days, I received the refund directly my bank account and the payment in my Paypal account was also corrected. Unfortunately, my Paypal account was permanently limited.
How to Avoid the Empty Box Scam
What a shame that both eBay and Paypal couldn’t protect their users. After the incident, I’ve learned a few lessons that I want to share with you guys:
1. Try to ask for signature confirmation for your packages.
2. Don’t accept a package if it is significantly smaller or lighter than the product dimensions and shipping weight which could be found on Amazon. A luggage scale can be helpful when you pick up or receive the package.
3. Never leave your money in a Paypal account, withdraw all to your bank as soon as you receive any payment.
4. Avoid buying on eBay. If you have to buy something, make sure the seller has more than 10,000 feedback and the rating should be close to 100%.
5. Buy products on more reliable retailers like Target, Amazon or Walmart. The price could be a little more expensive but they have much better customer service. You can save some money on eBay for a few items but you will lose a lot more time and money if just one of them is a fraud.
Have you ever received an empty package when buying online? We’d love to know how you dealt with it.