No Return/refund policy on eBay doesn’t mean what you think

I’m sure I am not breaking ground here with this, but for me this is a first time. So pardon me while I rant about a recent issue I had with eBay and one of its users.

I’ve been a member of the eBay community for more than two decades. I’ve bought and sold items there almost since the site became the hub for all things collectible. The site has changed over the years, as have the practices of its users. And sadly, in our hobby of trading cards where the market for our goods is super volatile, buyers have created an environment where they almost always hold all the cards — pun intended.

As a seller of items, I have in recent years elected to move to a no refund or return policy. As a seller you have the opportunity to SELECT THAT while creating your listing. Additionally, I always spell this out in the description of my listings. And until recently, this had not been a problem.

This story begins several months ago when I posted for sale two Mookie Betts cards. They were a Bowman Chrome Purple Refractor and Topps Update Red Foil. I posted the items for sale around the same time the Red Sox won the World Series — I opted to sell these items in hopes of recouping some of the cost for my tickets to World Series Game 5. The items were posted and eight pictures were added to the listing. The photos showed that the Bowman Chrome Purple Refractor was damaged, and the listing also indicated this. I had three people “buy” the item with a Best Offer option, but none of them paid so I had to relist the items. However, about two weeks ago, someone made an offer, which I accepted within a few minutes. And just minutes after my accepting of the offer, the buyer paid. This was refreshing, given the nonsense I’d dealt with a few times already

But things wouldn’t go so smooth. In fact, about five minutes later I got a message from the buyer. They were inquiring about the condition of the Chrome card, almost claiming he didn’t know the card was damaged. I pointed out that the photos were included and the description stated the cards were damaged; I told him that the cards would go out ASAP.

I sent the cards with signature confirmation, half expecting there to be some sort of nefarious activity to come. The same day the cards were delivered, I received a message from the buyer. He wanted a partial refund to the tune of 25% of the total cost, citing that the cards were damaged and they were not worth what he paid for them.

I refused and instead offered 10% even though this goes against my SELECTED EBAY OPTION TO NOT ACCEPT RETURNS OR OFFER REFUNDS. The buyer shot back asking to meet him at 17.5%. I refused and held at 10%. That’s when this escalated because the buyer also didn’t want to budge.

The buyer decided to request a refund through proper eBay channels, citing that the item was not as described and in the process taking a picture of the damage to the Chrome card. His photo didn’t show as much damage as my photo in the listing did. We also went back and forth on the record about value, my belief that he was feeling “Buyer’s Remorse” and so on. This process locked up my PayPal account and put me as a seller in a precarious position.

Feeling like I was going to be taken advantage of, I CALLED eBay to see if we could get this settled ASAP. You know where this is going based on the title of my post here.

The first eBay representative told me that she understands that it is frustrating, and told me that I should accept the return, and eBay could/would step in if I’d like but I had to wait three days for the claim to escalate. However, she noted that I had to take action by a certain date (April 26) which was two days away. I wrestled with the idea and told her that I’d surly be calling back Friday (April 26) to have eBay step in and vindicate me as a seller seeing as how my posting showed the defects, and I had SELECTED THE NO REFUND/RETURN policy.

A day went by and I started thinking about the wording shown in the Refund Request and what the first representative said. It stated that I needed to take action BY April 26. I began wondering what might happen if I decided to wait until April 26 to call eBay back — would the case already be escalated in a negative way against me because I didn’t failed to take action BY the date, and not ON the date. So I decided to call.

I got a second representative on the phone and explained my position. This representative confirmed that I needed to take action BY the date listed above. Furthermore, this representative advised that I SHOULD accept the refund and that I could dispute it further if the item returned to me was not the same as I sold, or had been altered in anyway. We then went around and around about Buyer’s Remorse and what not. But I became fixated on this fact: I SELECTED THE OPTION AS A SELLER TO NOT ACCEPT REFUNDS/RETURNS?

“So, in a way, the option (to disallow returns/refunds) is pointless and I’m being forced to accept the return/refund anyway, right?” I asked of the representative.

She was hesitant to reply, but agreed with my assessment. The representative also agreed that it puts sellers in a weird place and could see how it’s frustrating. She also explained what would happen if I did not Take Action by the date as described. She added that not taking action would force eBay to step in and force the return, refund the money and could ultimately impact my ability to buy and sell on the site.

I laughed, explained that policy is ridiculous from a seller standpoint, but ultimately thanked her for her time in explaining things to me — we were on the phone for some 20 minutes. I understand that she was just doing her job, and my issue was not with her, but with the policy, as well as with the buyer.

After the conversation I shot another message over to the buyer adding that I was accepting the refund in protest because my hands were tied; I wanted all of that on the record should this need to be drawn out further.

There was no additional communication. And Monday afternoon, I received a package from the buyer. It was the two cards exactly as I had sent them.

Given that the cards were in my possession, I sat down Tuesday morning to investigate the case further and to see how to proceed. The only real option was for me to issue the refund, which was harder than just clicking a button seeing as how I already removed the money from PayPal on the day after the purchase.

There are some who would have said that I should have just accepted the return in the first place, or just given the buyer the 17.5% refund they were seeking after negotiation. And that opinion is valid — if I had, I would at least have most of the money that had been sent to me.

But I was taking a stand because I felt I was right. Because the sports card market is volatile and returns/refunds should not be accepted in our market. Also, I felt I had not only shown the cards accurately, but also felt that as a seller I had SELECTED THE OPTION OF NO RETURN/REFUND and by choosing that option, as well as stating it in the description, those words should mean something.

As it turns out, those words mean very little.

On the flip side, I can also see how frustrating this could be as a buyer. However, I also know it is my duty to ask questions before hand, and to accurately read descriptions before hitting a “Buy It Now” button, or even making an offer. There was ZERO urgency in this case for the buyer to pay for the item without doing their homework.

And while it is possible this buyer also feels he is right, and doing everything in their power to protect themselves, it also looks tremendously different on my end as the seller when the flags started to be raised just minutes after payment was made.

If you haven’t noticed, I have not shared this buyer’s name, even though at least a dozen of you have asked via Twitter for me to do so. It’s never been my style to run people’s names/accounts through the mud publicly over interactions like this. This could be one crappy scenario for both of us and and may not be indicative of their dealings going forward. For what it’s worth, I have a 100% rating with nearly 2,900 feedbacks, the buyer has less than 200 transactions.

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