by Meinard on October 6, 2014
Right now, in eBay land, they’re lurking, patiently waiting until, with just a few strokes on the keyboard, they spring into action and they start to wreak havoc on our eBay business, and our sanity as well.
Make no mistake about it, bad buyers and scammers are all over eBay. To be fair, I’m certain that they’ve always been there but I’m sure the numbers have swelled since the adoption of a number of policies that makes the eBay marketplace -especially their sellers – such an easy target.
I’m not here to rant about the policies. At this point, we all know how they tilt the balance of power towards buyers and I’m almost resigned to the fact that it’s going to be that way moving forward.
Our power as sellers have become less and less over the years but it doesn’t mean that we’re powerless. I don’t know about you, but I’m still doing everything that I can to ward off scammers from my auction. Ebay has started to implement policies to help protect our auctions but, for the most part, the responsibility lies with us.
The following are just some of the practices that I use to protect myself. While they’re not 100% foolproof, I believe they’ve helped me tremendously against bad buyers.
Communicate Strictly Through eBay Messaging
I don’t agree to buyer’s request to talk over the phone, chat through email, or through text messaging. Ever.
Not that I’m anti-social or anything, but the main reason why I don’t communicate via these mediums is simple: eBay can’t verify these conversations.
In the event that a dispute arises and customer-service becomes involved, they have the ability to read through all the eBay message between you and the buyer. These messages have protected me on several occasions, but this option isn’t available if you decide to communicate with your buyers over the phone, text messaging, or otherwise.
I remember this one buyer who, despite me mentioning it in the description and providing the corresponding pictures, was upset that he received a pair of boots with a broken zipper. Obviously upset, he wanted me to send him a partial refund to cover the cost of repair.
In the eBay message, he stated that the was upset that I “hid” the pictures amongst the other pictures and that I mentioned the defect in the middle of my description. He goes on to say that he didn’t read the entire auction but that I was still liable as a seller.
I called eBay, they combed through our messages, and they read the message where he mentioned that he didn’t read the entire auction; suffice to say, he’s going to have to pay for those repairs himself.
So the eBay messages and the pictures were really useful. Which leads me to my next point…
Be Thorough and Accurate with Your Description
When it comes to auction descriptions, I would rather provide too much information than too little.
I learned this the hard way early in my eBay career when a buyer actually had an issue with one of my items because it had a few loose threads along the seams. It wasn’t anything major – it was just normal signs of wear and there weren’t any holes or rips – but I learned quickly that you can’t take anything for granted when it comes to descriptions.
(On a side note, I still actually write “minor loose threads” on most of my clothing auctions because of this incident.”)
It’s also a good idea to remind buyers that your item is used so I would include something like this in your auction:
“This item is in used condition so please read the entire the description and look through all the pictures before placing a bid.”
Here are just some of the things I make sure to include in my auctions:
- Rips, holes, or tears
- Missing buttons
- Broken zippers
- Loose threads
- Measurements (mainly for jeans)
Bottom line: If you find something worth noting, make sure you include in the auction. Not only will it prevent unwanted surprises when the buyer receives your item, but it will also protect you should you receive one of those terrible “Item Not as Described” emails.
Add Tons of Pictures
You can save yourself a lot of returns, partial-refund requests, and not to mention migraine headaches by including good, quality pictures of your item.
You can now add up to 12 free pictures per auction and I definitely take advantage of it. Regardless if it’s shoes or clothing, I try to include a picture of every angle so the buyer knows exactly what he or she is buying. Also, be sure to include a picture of any defects that you mentioned in your description.
I know it takes extra time to take these pictures and to upload them to your auction, but I think it’s worth the extra effort. Not only does it show buyers that you’re not hiding anything but it also prevents (some of) them from claiming that you misrepresented an item.
When combined with an accurate description, a set of quality pictures will go a long way to protecting your auctions from bad buyers.
Ship Only to the Address Provided by Paypal
I make no exceptions to this policy for all my auctions. ZERO. To the point where I have even refunded payments – as terrible as it was – because the buyer refused to update their shipping information. And I suggest you do the same. In addition to protecting you against fraudulent buyers, this policy adds another layer of seller protection from Paypal.
The following excepts are taken word-for-word from Paypal’s FAQ page:
“Why am I required to ship to the buyer’s address shown on the PayPal ‘Transaction Details’ page?
This requirement is for your safety. The address on the PayPal ‘Transaction Details’ page is registered with and checked by PayPal. When the buyer asks you to send merchandise to a different address, it may indicate fraud.”
“What if the buyer asks me to ship to an address other than the address on the ‘Transaction Details’ page?
If you ship to a different address, you will not be eligible for coverage. If the buyer wants you to ship to a different address, we recommend that you ask the buyer to resubmit the payment with the new shipping address.”
You’re going to hear every story in the book but it doesn’t take much effort to update an address on Paypal; in fact, you can do it in three easy steps. So don’t be afraid to ask your buyer.
Put Scammers on Notice
Have you ever wondered why establishments like Wal-Mart Buy place greeters at the entrance and exit of every store?
Obviously, they’re there to create a friendly and inviting environment for their shoppers, but they’re also there for security reasons as well.
These establishments want would-be shoplifters and thieves to know that, should they decide to steal, that someone will be there to potentially catch them or, at the very least, see their faces. It’s a good preventative measure and it’s become a popular practice in my retails stores.
Now obviously we don’t have anyone monitoring all the potential buyers who visit our auctions, but I found that a few well-phrased sentences work just as well as greeters in putting potential scammers on notice.
Again, these aren’t going to prevent ALL fraudulent buyers from targeting your auctions but, at the very least, it will let them know that you’re aware of their tactics.
Here are some of the my favorites:
To protect you against buyers who go around asking for partial refunds:
“No partial refunds allowed. Returns are allowed for a FULL refund only. Buyer pays the cost of return shipping.”
To protect you against buyers who use your items and then return and/or buyers who buy your items and then return a totally different item (usually one that’s in worse condition or broken):
“The item MUST be returned in the same condition as it was shipped. I inspect the item for any rips, tears, or defects prior to listing AND shipping. Also, pictures are provided of all sides/angles of the item and will be used during any dispute regarding the condition of the item.”
“Only the Paranoid Survive”
I’m not sure where I heard that phrase but it’s one that has stuck with me. I may be paranoid about this stuff but I’ve read enough forums and seen enough YouTube videos to know that the potential for all these scams exist. For me, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Although eBay has measures in place to protect sellers, we still have to do our part to ensure that our auctions are protected. I know it’s a big responsibility and sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, but I’m never going to let my guard down and I hope you never let yours down either.
How about you? Do you have any security measures in place to protect your auctions? Any scams or bad buyer behaviors that you want to share?
I’d love to hear about them and I’m sure we can all benefit.
Thanks and have a great week!