Story updates

16th August 2020

eBayer selling fake autographs wants fake 'signed' print back!

Unbelievable! The eBayer who sold me the 'signed' Sunderland print, which was actually no more than a scan of the original print, wants it back and seems willing to pay the postage to get it back. I question why he would want it back when the postage is going to be more than the actual worth of the print and can only come up with two reasons. Either he wants to put it back on eBay and sell it to someone else (though why would he not simply print another copy off?) or he simply wants to retrieve the evidence. I suspect the latter.

I had decided to let sleeping dogs lie but if his intention is to carry on scamming innocent eBayers then I feel as though I have to do something. Unlike the Blondie poster saga where there was no proof put forward to substantiate the claims made by the buyer, this is a watertight fraud case.

Before he sent me the print, he told me that he had another two signed 73 prints and was going to put them on eBay. Assuming he is doing the same again, they will be prints of original hand signed prints. Again, before he sent the print out to me I told him that I had created the original (unsigned) prints and even sent him a pic of the other 5 images which I had got signed by various players, but he still sent the print out to me (see below).

safc 2 photobook spread.jpg

Here's the irrefutable proof that garamysunderland sent me a fake 'hand signed' print. Note the difference in size between an original A3 print and the reduced size of the one sent to me.

safc 3.jpg

His message from today...

And my reply.

I have been watching for him listing items on eBay and I will report him if I suspect any are fraudulent.

I did report what he had done to eBay and left the following feedback for him.

I hoped garamysunderland had learned the error of his ways but I suspect old (bad) habits die hard.

I look forward to receiving garamysunderland's address details...

31st July 2020

Problem with eBayer selling fake autographs

The last year or so has been relatively trouble free on eBay. I bought a few nice items and sold a few nice items, all without any problems...until today.

In 2004 I created six A3 prints of Sunderland's famous FA Cup win over Leeds in 1973 and sold them at Bobby Kerr's pub just outside Sunderland. The prints were sold for £5 each and all the money I made from selling the prints went to the Bob Stokoe Memorial Fund, a fund set up to raise money to buy a statue in memory of Stokoe and to go outside the Stadium of Light. I kept 5 of the prints and, through the years, managed to get them signed by various players. All of the prints carried the Heart of England branch logo, where I was a member. These prints were never sold anywhere else – this was me doing my bit to support the statue fund.

Fast forward to July 2020, and a print of Porterfield scoring the winning goal was put on eBay. This was the sixth print, the one I didn't keep a copy of, and had been signed by all 11 surviving players (it included unused substitute David Young, but not Ian Porterfield who died in 2007). I knew there was an element of 'coals to Sunderland' but I bid on it and won the auction. However, when the print turned up (30th July) all was not as it should have been. The print was exactly that...a print.

 

Although advertised as being original autographs, they are all printed. The print is 385mm wide when it should be A3 size (420mm wide).

I have asked the seller to do the right thing and send me the original hand signed print or to issue a full refund. He has until the end of Saturday (tomorrow night) to send me the tracking information for the original hand signed print or to give me a full refund. If I have neither, then I will consider my options...

Hopefully, he will do the right thing.

23rd March 2019 - FINAL UPDATE TO THIS STORY

Up until now I have kept my opinions about my recent problem with the buyer of the Blondie poster and eBay to a minimum, preferring the reader to view the facts and draw their own conclusions. I feel as though I should now offer my opinion on what has happened and explain how I believe the buyer has manipulated the eBay Buyer Protection Scheme to end up with a full refund of £529.00 and has been allowed to keep the very rare Blondie poster.

First of all, a little bit about myself. I am primarily a collector (not a dealer) and have bought and sold on eBay since January 2001. Up until this recent problem, I have been a great fan of eBay as it has allowed me to find and purchase many rare items. As a collector I appreciate the importance of accurate descriptions and honest photos. Items which are less than perfect need to be described accurately. A number of years ago I created an eBay buyers guide to music memorabilia in response to seeing so many fans buying items which were clearly fake. Through the years I have reported numerous sellers to eBay for selling either fake items or schilling (the practice of using a second eBay account to bid on your own items to force the price up). Nowadays I seldom report items to eBay as they hardly ever remove items for sale.

I purchased the Blondie poster via eBay in 2002 and, like most other posters I have, it stayed in the original poster tube. In October 2018, with the expense of Xmas coming up, I decided to sell the poster on eBay. At the time there were two other Blondie Private Stock posters on eBay priced at £300 and £377 (I later found out the £300 poster was a fake) – the copy I had was much better quality than both of them. Along with a couple of other Blondie items, I put the poster on eBay with a starting price of £150. The item had a very accurate description and I showed 6 large photos of the poster, including close ups. I expected the poster to sell for somewhere around the £250 / £350 mark and was pleasantly surprised when it sold for £510 to a guy in the USA.

The buyer, sarasota2010, paid for the item on the Saturday the auction ended and I posted the item to him on the Monday. Due to the value of the poster I paid extra for Royal Mail’s International Tracked and Signed For service with the added benefit of including insurance in the event of it getting damaged or lost in the post. The tracking information was sent to the buyer and I really thought that would be the end of the story. I was so wrong...

After sending the tracking information I got a reply from Gary Smith (aka sarasota2010) saying ‘More than I wanted to spend, I’ll have to tell you that. But, this one won’t get away from me (if, it arrives and looks like the ‘great’ photos that you provided)’. Perhaps this was a warning of what was to come.

Unfortunately the poster got stuck in US customs for around 20 days. In that period Gary accused me of duping him; asked me to cancel the transaction and accused me of selling the poster to someone in Peoria, Illinois. Perhaps worst of all, he threatened to refuse delivery of the poster. On the 8th November, in a message from Gary, he told me that he ships ‘packages daily worldwide and have never had a problem. I ship internationally, and include delivery confirmation’.

Finally, on the 20th November, USPS attempted to deliver the poster but there was no-one at home. Within 30 minutes Gary found out about the missed delivery and managed to retrieve the poster from the USPS guy. There was a sense of relief when I knew that the poster had been safely delivered and I half expected to get a message from Gary apologising for his unfounded accusations. But I was wrong again...

On the 26th November, 6 days after delivery of the poster, I got a message from eBay saying that the buyer had ‘requested to return the item for a refund’ because the poster had arrived damaged. In the eBay comments section he said ‘Hello, Sorry, I don’t remember your name’ – I had previously sent Gary 12 messages, all of which were signed off with my name. He then said that he did not have ‘access to a camera at the moment, but I should be able to submit some photos tomorrow’ – he never did submit photos to show the alleged damage.

Once a refund request has been made by a buyer, eBay give the two parties a few days to come to some agreement. In this time I exchanged several messages with Gary.

Over the next few days I questioned why he had taken so long to report the poster as damaged and why he had accepted delivery of the item if the tube was damaged. Gary said ‘a message was left for me and that within 30 minutes I was able to track down my carrier and retrieve the poster tube you sent. There was nothing wrong with the hard tube you put it in, so there was no reason to reject it’. He also said ‘after 25 days in New York customs it must have been thrown around a lot’ – a strange thing for him to say when he has already said that there was no damage to the poster tube. He claimed that he ‘didn’t have a chance to open the poster tube until yesterday (26th November)’. Personally, if I had paid £510 for a poster and had spent 30 minutes to track down the delivery guy, I think I would have opened the poster tube straight away.

He claimed not to have a cell phone and that he had been on ‘disability for many years and saved for this special poster’.

Up until this point I think I had been very understanding and patient with this very difficult buyer. I know for a fact if it had been the other way around I would have been very unhappy at the delay, but I also know I would not have made the unfounded allegations that Gary made.

I know that the poster was in great condition when I posted it and Gary had already said that there was no external damage to the poster tube so I was baffled as to how the poster could have got damaged inside the tube. I waited to see photos of the alleged damage but, despite promises, he never sent any photos and I found his claim that he did not have a camera or cell phone with camera hard to believe. I became suspicious and decided to search for his digital footprint.

Searches based on his name and home town proved very difficult as it returned too many ‘possibles’ however the search for ‘dec60blue’ was a lot more rewarding. Someone had used the dec60blue seller name on iOffer (iOffer is a USA based online trading site, not too dissimilar to eBay). This person had a dec60blue store on iOffer selling 2,939 bootleg CDr recordings of top selling artists such as Bob Dylan, Sting, Queen, Adele, Fleetwood Mac and, of course, Blondie (75 different live and rare recordings!). This was not a fan selling a few dodgy CDs, this was a big-time bootlegger! Perhaps more importantly, and relevant to the Blondie poster, is that the seller showed photos of every CDr they had for sale.

If you remember earlier in the story, Gary accused me of selling the Blondie poster to someone in ‘Peoria, Illinois’. At the time he accused me I just thought he was a bit bonkers as we both knew that the poster was stuck in US Customs. In my research on Gary I found a link to Creve Ceour, Peoria. His mum had died there in 2009 and, at the time, Gary had 3 brothers, one of which lived in Peoria. I knew I had found the correct person as Gary shares his house with someone called ‘Shawn’ and he is listed as a ‘friend’ (the obituary also showed the surname so there was no doubt about the link). The Blondie poster in Peoria (described as ‘VG’ with pin holes and much inferior to mine) was listed around the 18th November – 4 weeks after Gary had purchased my poster, but before my poster had been delivered to him. It is not an unusual practice for collectors to ‘trade-up’ – you buy a less than mint rare item but hope to be able to find a better one in the future. I had never heard of Peoria so I looked it up on Wikipedia and found that it is the 153rd largest city in the USA with a population of less than 2% of the total USA population. I searched for something to link Gary to the seller of the poster but, despite much searching, I could not find any link. Without any evidence, this remains a strange coincidence.

 

Gary Smith items for sale LR.jpg

As you can see from the iOffer screenshot taken on the 27th November 2019, the seller had sold 4,556 CDr’s at an average cost of £18 each giving him total sales of around £82,000. At that point the seller had been trading for ‘almost 8 years’ giving him average sales of £10,250 per year. On the iOffer page, the seller states that ‘these are mostly live recordings that have never been officially released’ – or in other words, illegal bootleg recordings sold without the permission of the artists involved. The seller offered 9 different ways to pay for the illegal CDrs (though interestingly not Paypal) and had a ‘no refunds on recorded material’ policy (which in reality meant no refunds on any items as all he sold was recorded material).

In correspondence with Gary I questioned him about the iOffer page and on the 27th November he said ‘That iOffer account does not belong to me. I have only helped manage it from time to time, when I could. If you had ever bought there you would know that your payment goes to the owners Paypal account. And that’s not mine. The owner pays taxes on those sales to the government’. There is no mention of Paypal among the 9 different payment options and it is hard to believe that someone selling illegal bootleg recordings would then pay tax on them.

In the same email Gary said that ‘The Blondie poster was also paid with the same Paypal account that was paid on my behalf. That payment was made on a credit card that is not even in my name. I’ve had to pay them back since I saved for a mint copy. If you bother to look up where the payment came from, you would see that the Paypal account used, and/or credit card payment...that was not paid by me’. The claim by Gary that he does not own the Paypal account used to pay for the Blondie poster completely contradicts the evidence shown in the Paypal transaction which clearly states from Paypal ‘you have received a payment for £529.00 GBP from Gary Smith’ – there is no mention of a credit card. In a later email (19th December) he asked eBay ‘Should I file with my credit card company?’, is this the same credit card that is not in his name?

The screenshot below shows a number of references to ‘Gary’ in the iOffer feedback and just a few of the countries that he posts to.

Gary Smith ioffer references.jpg

 

On the 29th November I asked Gary to confirm if the Paypal account used to pay for the poster was his. He did not reply.

On the 3rd December eBay opened a case against me and in the comments section Gary said ‘I do not have a camera or cell phone and am trying to get a neighbor to come and help me out...Please tell me what you would like from me, other than photos’. With the buyer of the poster unable, or more likely ‘unwilling’, to show any evidence of damage I expected eBay to throw out his claim.

On the 4th December I got a message from eBay saying that the return request was approved and eBay asked for my ‘cooperation in sending a return label or money to pay for return shipping not later than December 8, 2018’. One of the options mentioned was ‘Send the buyer a PayPal payment to cover the return shipping’. eBay also said ‘If you are unable to comply, we will close the return in the buyer’s favor and issue them with a refund, even if they have not returned the item’ – the last bit becomes important a bit further on in the story.

Needless to say, I was very unhappy about having to send Gary money for him to send the poster back to me. Being a little bit cynical, I did wonder if he would actually send my poster back – there are stories on the web where unscrupulous eBay buyers send back empty packages or an unrelated item of the same weight, scary, but true!

Very reluctantly, and with the thought that if I did not send Gary a payment for him to return the poster I could end up losing the poster and having to give a full refund, I tried to send him some money. First of all I tried sending a Paypal payment to his email address but got an automated reply from Paypal saying that ‘This recipient accepts Paypal payments only through their website. To complete this payment, please go to their website and follow their instructions, or email the recipient for instructions’. I then sent Gary an email (and copied in eBay) saying:

For me to send you the money for postage you will need to either:
Send me the website where I can make payment or
Send me an alternative Paypal account or
Send me a request for $20 via Paypal and I will pay that way

I received a reply from Gary saying:

‘If you sent money, I wasn’t informed as I don’t have a PayPal account. Also, I never said I wanted to return the poster. I only said it is damaged and not in the condition as when I purchased/paid for it. Most importantly, your eBay store clearly states: “Returns: Seller does not accept returns”.

So he claims not to have a Paypal account and he doesn’t want to return the poster – though he did put in a request to eBay for a refund. This is getting strange!

In addition to the attempted Paypal payment, I also tried to purchase a USPS shipping label but was unable to as I am not a resident in the USA.

After several failed attempts to send a Paypal payment directly to Gary’s email address I then managed to send him money (or so I thought) by using the original Paypal transaction to send £20 back to him to enable him to post the item back to me. Following eBay’s instructions I then sent them a screenshot of the transaction. On the 7th December I received a message from Rafique T. at eBay saying:

‘I would like to thank you for sharing us the screenshot of the PayPal transaction. I confirm the receipt of the two images, we have validated the screenshots and your case is currently under investigation.

Regarding the case, we have informed the buyer to purchase shipping label with the cost provided by you and send the item back within the timeline. I understand that you have done everything right and you do not need to worry. Rest assured; if the buyer fails to return the item within the timeline then we will close the case in your favor’.

With this assurance from Rafique T at eBay I thought I had fulfilled my obligation to send Gary the money to enable him to send the poster back to me. Yet again, I was wrong...

The next stage of the story takes me from having a problem with the buyer, to having a problem with eBay.

On the 10th December eBay changed the status of the case to ‘resolved’, however I was not notified of HOW it had been resolved and in WHO’S favour. Surely when eBay ‘resolved’ the case they should have told me the outcome!

On the 20th December I checked the status of the case to find that it was now ‘resolved’. As Gary had not returned the poster, I assumed the case had been closed in my favour. The payment I had made to Gary remained ‘Pending’ on my Paypal account – he had neither accepted it or rejected it. There were no messages exchanged between myself and eBay after the Rafique T message of the 7th December and my message to eBay on the 20th December. However, when I contacted eBay I was told that they had closed the case in the buyer’s favour.

A few days later, on the 23rd December, I received an email from Gary and he said ‘I have received no money from you. Who decided I should mail the damaged poster back to you for that amount? I never agreed to that and your policy clearly states “no returns”’. Possibly by accident, he also pasted in some of the correspondence he had sent to eBay which stated ‘I’m not asking for the entire amount as a refund. I only want what is fair’ and ‘I’ve been looking for years for a nice, clean one. I’m going to keep it, but want some type of compensation’. This is the first time that he had mentioned that he was looking for ‘compensation’ – given everything that had gone on before, I would not have agreed to this without him providing satisfactory evidence to back up his claim. Regarding the second statement, as a collector myself, I know I would not settle for a damaged poster. By this time I had already reached the conclusion that he was ‘trying it on’ and he had no intention of returning the poster – with the most likely reason being that the poster had arrived in the condition that it had left me.

Again on the 23rd December, I received an email from eBay stating ‘when the buyer open(ed) the case, we have asked you to facilitate the return by sending them funds to cover the return shipping cost. The refund should not be from the original payment’. Why did eBay not tell me that when I sent them the screenshots of the Paypal payment I had made to Gary? Why did it take eBay 13 days to tell me that I had not sent the payment in the correct way? I have subsequently looked through the eBay T&Cs and I cannot find any mention of how a refund for postage should be sent, so how was I to know that I had sent it in the wrong way?

I found the whole episode with Gary very difficult and frustrating and then I found out that he had been issued with a full refund of £529 and was allowed to keep the poster – I was not a happy bunny! By contrast, I had paid eBay £52.88 in seller fees and Paypal £23.48 for the transaction and I also had the cost of postage which was £15.45. In total I had paid out £91.81 to ‘give’ my very rare Blondie poster to Gary. eBay, were now chasing me to pay them the £509.00 (£20 had already been sent to Gary for postage) and the way they went about it was to take the money from my Paypal account. Fortunately, with the expense of Christmas approaching, I had already taken the money out of my Paypal account. However, eBay’s claim for £509.00 meant that my Paypal balance went to -£492.30, and guess what, I now had Paypal chasing me for money. Because of the way eBay had requested the money they could not take money directly from my bank account or debit card. As a precautionary measure I notified my bank of the problem I was having with eBay (and now Paypal) and asked them to block any further payments to them and, at the same time, I cancelled my debit card.

On the 24th December I appealed the outcome of the case and, on the 24th December, the appeal was closed. I don’t think the case received much in the way of consideration! eBay sent me notification that the appeal was unsuccessful on the 25th December...at least they didn’t add ‘Merry Christmas’ to the email!

Although separate to the case, on the 26th December I sent in a formal complaint to eBay about Gary for violating their policies by misusing the Buyer Protection Scheme and described him as an ‘untrustworthy eBayer’.

On the 1st January I received clarification of why eBay had closed in the buyer’s favour. They said ‘I reviewed the case details and found that you issued partial refund to cover return shipping cost. Upon further review, I found out that this is a partial refund from the original transaction. In our previous email, we asked you to send the buyer funds to cover the return shipping cost this should not be in a form of partial refund from the original transaction.’ At no previous point did eBay tell me that the money for postage should not be from the original Paypal transaction. I spoke to someone at eBay and they said that by sending money to the buyer to enable him to send the poster back to me using the same transaction, I had in effect used his money to fund the postage cost. Something which eBay failed to explain to me is at what point does the money paid to me by the buyer become MY money. I would have thought that once I had received the money and posted the item then it was my money.

In the same message from eBay, they said ‘To receive your item back, I recommend arranging a return shipping solution to your buyer. I am positive that your buyer will cooperate in returning the item now the refund has been received'. Yet again I tried to send Gary a Paypal payment but was not allowed to because I now had a negative balance on my Paypal account. I contacted Paypal and I was told that I could not send a Paypal payment and that I should request the buyer’s bank details and do a bank-to-bank transfer. I did as requested and got a short reply from Gary saying ‘Oh, My!!!’.

Around this time I spoke to someone in the Appeals Dept at eBay who confirmed to me that the buyer does not have to provide evidence to support their claim and that they do not consider photos to be ‘proof’. I was dumbstruck!

My problems had now moved from the buyer to eBay AND Paypal.

Over the following two months I received numerous calls from Paypal asking when I was going to put money into my Paypal account. Most of the calls were polite, but several of them threatened me with debt collectors. I felt as though I was between the rock of eBay and the hard place of Paypal. I was resigned to thinking that the case would end up in court – which I thought would give me an opportunity to prove my case – however, Paypal never mentioned court action, only debt collectors. I did feel as though I was being bullied by both eBay and Paypal.

To keep an accurate record of what was said between myself and eBay and Paypal I recorded the conversations. These are direct quotes from a Paypal representative:

‘There wasn’t even a case open on eBay. They’ve just taken the money’

‘It makes no sense that he gets to keep the item and gets a full refund for it’

‘With an item over £500 in value we (Paypal) would require damage documents from a third party’

(eBay) ‘like to hide behind us for certain things’

A couple of people at Paypal said I should use social media and/or the financial ombudsman to try and get eBay to look at the case. With that in mind, I set up a Facebook page...but Facebook closed it within a matter of days, so I created this website to fully explain the story.

I also took some time to further investigate Gary Smith (‘The Sarasota Bootlegger’, as I now dubbed him!).

First of all, his feedback as a seller on eBay was interesting. One of the feedback comments said ‘Just as pictured’...so he has got a camera (though I don’t think that was ever in doubt).

His last feedback as a eBay seller, which was ‘more than a year ago’, is a negative feedback and has the comment ‘Item was returned, refund was not full, my post payment was not returned’. It does make me wonder if he was a lot more savvy about eBay’s returns procedure than I was, even to the point of making it difficult/impossible for me to action a return that satisfied eBay.

It was also interesting to see that his feedback was mainly for sales of standard issue CDs with a ‘bonus’ live recording CD(r). For a while, some sellers got around eBay’s ‘no bootlegs’ rule by offering a ‘free’ CD with a standard CD. Obviously collectors were buying these just for the bootleg recording. I think eBay outlawed these a while back as I haven’t seen any on eBay for a long time.

Gary’s claim that he is not the seller behind the dec60blue iOffer account is very unlkely as one of his two eBay reviews is for the purchase of ‘White Inkjet Hub Printable CD-Rs’, which he describes as the ‘Best on the market’ (and he would know!). Like eBay, iOffer also allow buyers to leave feedback and there are numerous references to ‘Gary’ in the feedback section – no other name is mentioned.

Gary claims to have saved for the Blondie poster and that he was on disability allowance. Based on him having sales of around £850 per month I really don’t think he took long to ‘save’ for it and his admission that he was on disability, if true, may have been foolish if he was claiming disability allowance at the same time as he was selling on iOffer. I don’t know about the USA, but in this country that would be a serious fraud offence and one that would likely be investigated by the authorities.

Not so long ago, and much to my surprise, I found out from Paypal that Gary does not have a Paypal account but instead used a ‘Guest Account’ (something I didn’t know existed). The person at Paypal also told me that he had had the guest account for over a year, which was unusual. For the record, Gary has had his eBay account since since July 2010 (he has 75 feedbacks as a seller and 582 feedbacks as a buyer), so why did he not have a registered Paypal account?

I contacted a number of the artists who had been bootlegged and, although it took some effort, I finally got the dec60blue account removed from iOffer. Interestingly, the iOffer site recently closed down for a couple of weeks and when it re-appeared, no-one was selling bootleg CDs. That wasn’t my intention, but I ‘might’ have contributed towards it.

I went to my local Citizens Advice centre and spoke to a lady about the case. Her best advice was to contact the Ask Tony page at the Daily Mail. I did think that this was a ‘long shot’, but it was worth a try. I sent an email to the Daily Mail and waited for a response. After a week or so I got a reply from Amelia Murray at the Daily Mail who took up my case. Although it took some time, she finally managed to get me a £529 full refund and a £100 eBay voucher. I honestly don’t think I would have got a refund without her help as eBay have never actually said that they were wrong to issue a refund to the buyer of the poster.

I have recently started buying from eBay again and will no doubt start selling again in the future.

Gary continues to purchase low value items on eBay such as pins (badges), records, photos and recently a woman’s Blondie jacket.


My conclusion...

Gary could afford to bid ‘high’ on the Blondie poster in the knowledge that he would not have to pay for it. Although he won the auction at £510.00, just 1 second before the close of the auction he placed an even higher bid. I don’t know what the amount was for, but it shows how keen he was to get the poster.

He said he posted international items on a daily basis and claims to have been on disability. I suspect the international items he referred to are the 50 or so CDrs per month he has been posting around the world. He may, or may not, have been on disability, but there is no doubt that he spent a lot his time burning illegal CDrs.

Gary used a Guest Paypal account to pay for the poster. Because of the method he used to pay for he poster it made it impossible for me to send him a payment to return the poster. He probably knew that I would not be able to purchase a USPS shipping label.

Before the poster was delivered, Gary made unfounded allegations about me, asked for the sale to be cancelled and even said that he might not accept delivery of the poster. Six days after delivery of the poster he requested a refund and failed to provide any evidence to support his claim of damage...and eBay allowed it! That was wrong!.

Gary and eBay put me in a position where I could not claim compensation from Royal Mail as I had neither the poster or any evidence to support a claim.

I think it is wrong that eBay allow buyers to claim a refund without showing any evidence. The way eBay and Paypal handled this case was like a kangaroo court (defined as ‘an unofficial court held by a group of people in order to try someone regarded, especially without good evidence, as guilty of a crime’).

eBay gave the buyer a full refund; passed the debt (and the problem) onto Paypal who then threatened me with debt collectors. That really is not the way to do business.

If eBay continue to enforce their Buyer Protection Scheme in this way then they should at least inform the seller in advance that they cannot send money for return postage back using the same Paypal transaction.

It cannot have helped matters that the first 20 messages I had from eBay came from 18 different people.

 

I very much doubt I would have got a refund without the intervention of a national daily newspaper.

I believe the buyer should be protected but when problems arise eBay should deal with the problems fairly and honestly, look at the individual merits of each case, apply a degree of common sense and not just act as judge; jury and, through Paypal, executioner. I think some people may have succumbed at the bully-boy tactics and the threat of debt collectors. I had a conversation with my wife about how far to let this saga go and, with her agreement, I decided I would, if required, defend my position in court and put faith in an independent judge viewing the actual evidence presented (remember, the buyer had shown no evidence to support his claim).

This experience has been a painful one for me. I would really like eBay to look at their T&Cs and take a more ‘humane’ approach to the way they handle problems. I still believe eBay is a great site, I just want it to be safe for all users.

In the end, Gary got a ‘free’ Blondie poster, but at a cost. His iOffer account was in effect closed and he may have a visit from the IRS and various other government officials over the coming months. He may have got a free rare poster, but he may find the real cost of ebay to be much higher.

He picked the wrong person to try and rip-off...

16th March

I received an email from eBay saying that they were unable to determine whether it was an eBay or a Paypal glitch that had caused the problem with the repayment, however, eBay have said that they will give me a £100 voucher in the next 3-5 days for the inconvenience. It has taken over three months to sort this problem out – a problem which should never have happened.

8th March

I have been checking my Paypal balance on a daily basis and it has been going up and down with the Euro to £ exchange rate, however it now appears to have stopped fluctuating leaving me with a small positive balance (the vast majority of the £529.00 returned to me by eBay went towards clearing the negative Paypal balance that eBay created when they took the money from my account).

1st March

I checked my Paypal balance today to find that eBay UK Limited had put a payment of £529.00 into my Paypal account.

After 2 months of numerous phone calls and email correspondence eBay have put back the money they took out of my Paypal account. I would like to think that eBay have looked at the facts of the case and the evidence provided by me (and lack of evidence provided by the buyer) and come to the conclusion that they had been wrong to issue a refund to the buyer in the first place and wrong to take money from my account, however, I think the truth is more likely that it took the intervention of Amelia Murray at the Daily Mail to get me the refund (many thanks Amelia!). Without the help of a national newspaper, I really don't think eBay would have budged.

Over the past few months I have looked online for articles about the abuse of the eBay Buyer Protection Scheme and it would appear that this is not as uncommon as I first thought. eBay are obviously aware of this problem but choose to do nothing to rectify it and prefer to stand behind the line 'You signed up to our terms and conditions'. Well, perhaps the eBay terms and conditions have now been weighted so heavily in favour of the buyer that each and every seller on eBay (and there are millions of sellers on eBay) is now a potential 'victim' of an unscrupulous buyer. I am under no illusion that eBay will change their T&Cs because of this incident, but I am confident that in a few months time I will read another article by a seller who has fallen victim to this scam. I also believe that for every victim you read about either online; on social media or in the newspapers, there will be many more who will simply swallow the loss and either put it down to experience or stop using eBay as a selling platform. It is only right that all eBay buyers are protected, but when their system allows scams like this to take place then eBay should take steps to improve their system.

 

True to form, although eBay have given me a full refund they have not sent me any messages to tell me that they had put the money into my Paypal account or an explanation as to why. I really should not be surprised by this because they did not tell me in December when they took the money out of my Paypal account.

Finally, I still have a fluctuating Paypal balance due to two large amounts of money in my account which relate to 'currency conversion'. Hopefully this can be sorted out and I can return to the murky waters of eBay with a lot more knowledge of how to avoid potential problems.

27th February

Received an email from eBay thanking me for giving them permission to speak to Paypal and saying 'We will handle the situation with them directly'.

26th February

Today I had an email from eBay asking me to give them permission to be able to speak to Paypal 'so a specialist in eBay Money Back Guarantee programme can reach out to Paypal directly and discuss this claim'. Hopefully someone at eBay and/or Paypal can sort this mess out. BTW, today's Paypal balance is -£465.99.

24th February

I've just checked my Paypal balance and it now shows a Paypal balance of -£472.24.

 

The Daily Mail journalist who is looking into this for me has told me that eBay and Paypal both claim that it is the other's problem. My suspicion is that eBay have given me a refund in such a peculiar way that it will not result in a full refund. I very much doubt if anyone at eBay sees the irony of them not giving me a full refund.

To spell it out...the refund from eBay should be £529.00 (without me then incurring any fees from Paypal). A few weeks ago, someone at Paypal did tell me that eBay sometimes 'hide behind Paypal'. I think this may be one of those cases. My request to eBay is simple...put back what you took.

 

21st February

I sent eBay a message asking them to confirm if they will be putting £529.00 back into my Paypal account. this is the reply I got from eBay:

'I understand you are concerned that you PayPal account is showing a negative balance as you were expecting to receive a payment of £529.00 to be placed into your account by eBay.

I have reviewed this issue and can confirm as advised by Jane, eBay have released the hold that was placed on the funds on 7 February. When the created a return request for item number 253932497752, the funds for this transaction were held by PayPal. This amount was deducted from the balance of your PayPal account at that time. As the case was initially decided in the buyer’s favour, eBay issued a refund on your behalf and sent a recoupment request to you. This was due to there being insufficient funds in your account.

We cancelled the recoupment request as advised by Jane, therefore, eBay have not taken the amount from your PayPal account.

If the funds for the transaction are withdrawn or used towards other transaction before the return request was opened, PayPal place the account into a negative balance based on the amount of the hold and overall balance at that time. If you view the transaction, you will see the balance of your account at the time the hold was placed, then when the hold is released, you will see that the funds showing as returned, however this will not create a positive balance for that amount on your account.

As eBay and PayPal are separate companies, I do not have access to your PayPal account so cannot confirm the balance at the time the funds were held. Although eBay request the hold be placed on funds, PayPal is responsible for all holds, releases or movement of funds. I would advise you contact PayPal directly asking that they go through the details of this transaction with you and explain the fluctuation in your current balance.

I trust the above information is useful to you and hope your future transitions run more smoothly.'

Once again they cannot answer a simple question. I'm afraid the above uses lots of words but tells me nothing.

19th February

My Paypal balance is now standing at -£475.91 and appears to be fluctuating with the changes in the Euro to GBP exchange rate. I couldn't make this up!

18th February

I got this reply from eBay to my message of the 16th February:

'I can confirm the request for payment was cancelled on the 7th February.

Once a buyer opens a return request on site, the funds relating to the transaction will go on hold. The amount on hold will usually be slightly lower than the transaction amount because PayPal fees are immediately deducted. When this case was escalated and closed in the buyer’s favour, eBay issued a refund to the buyer on your behalf as the full amount was not available in PayPal. At this point, we requested reimbursement for this refund. Now that this request has been cancelled, the original funds have been released in PayPal.'

Once again, eBay failed to answer a simple question about whether or not they were going to put back £529.00 into my Paypal account. For the record, I have never been sent a message from either eBay or Paypal to say that 'the request for payment was cancelled on the 7th February' (The last message I had from eBay was on the 21st January). 

My Paypal account now shows a '+£492.30' in my account, but does not mention eBay but does reference a 'EUR to GBP Currency conversion'. I assume that this money is from eBay but, for some unknown reason, it is not the correct amount and it does not change my -£475.35 Paypal balance.

Paypal account 16-2-19.jpg
Paypal account 16-2-19 a.jpg

16th February

Things have been quiet for a while and then today I got a email from eBay saying:

'My name is Béatrice and I am following-up on a complaint you raised with a journalist from the Daily Telegraph. Our PR department contacted us and made us aware of your situation.

I am contacting you in order to inform you that the recoupment for the transaction involving the Blondie Poster (253932497752) has been cancelled. This means that we will not be looking for any money from you regarding this transaction.'

I must admit I had to look up 'recoupment', perhaps not surprising as it came up as a typo when I typed it into Google. The definition is 'recoupment - Legal Definition. n. A recovery of expenses; a reduction or withholding for legitimate reasons, of part or all of an owed amount'. On a different note, the journalist they refer to is from the Daily Mail, not the Daily Telegraph.

I sent eBay a reply asking them to confirm if, and when, they would be putting £529.00 back into my Paypal account – it seemed like a simple question.

6th February

This website is now available using the web address www.therealcostofebay.co.uk

Today I had a photographer come out to take some photos of me for an article in a leading UK daily newspaper. Once I have a date for publication I will post it here. I finally feel as though I am breaking out of the endless loop of talking to eBay and Paypal. 

5th February

On the suggestion of a friend, today I sent an email to Rob Hattrell, the UK Vice President of eBay requesting that they put back the money they have taken from my Paypal account and look at the issues relating to my dispute with eBay. I await a response from him.

 

 

3rd February

The Facebook page I created to air my case has never been put back online so I had a look for other FB pages which highlight problems with eBay. I found a page titled eBay Sucks - Sellers Forum. I posted a short item there which links to this website. The page shows the many different issues encountered by eBay sellers. Here's a link to the page:

 

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2206750369390077&id=221941351204332

3rd February

I put a post on a eBay discussion board on Friday titled 'Sellers beware of unscrupulous buyers!' which described my recent experience with the buyer of the Blondie poster and my subsequent dealings with eBay and Paypal.

Much has been made of the way that I sent the money to the buyer to fund the return of the poster. I now know that the funds to enable the return of the poster should have been sent to the buyer in a separate transaction. However, eBay have not taken into consideration the various attempts I made to send money to the buyer and the messages I exchanged with them and the buyer about issuing a sum of money to pay for the postage. They have not considered the assurance that they sent me telling me that I had done everything right and that they (supposedly) had already asked the buyer to buy a shipping label and return the poster. Could I have simply opened a new Paypal transaction and sent him the money to return the poster? The answer to that is NO.

I have not hidden the fact that I was unhappy that eBay were going to allow him to return the poster to me without showing any proof of damage. My original listing went to great lengths to fully describe the condition of the poster; I showed a large overall photo of the poster and then close ups including showing the back where a very small repair had been made (which was barely visible from the front). I even went as far as to say that there were two other posters on eBay (both on Buy it Now and both much more expensive than the starting price for my poster) and even pointed out that 'This one has ‘On Private Stock Records AND GRT TAPES’. The other version has a small Private Stock logo in place of the tapes reference. Despite web research, I cannot find out which version was printed first, though I suspect the second version (whichever one it is) was printed soon after while Blondie were still on Private Stock'. The buyer later told me that the poster with the Private Stock logo on was a 'fake'. I could not have been more honest or open with the description of the poster. Needless to say, when I sent the poster I packaged it very carefully and sent it in the same strong tube that I had received it in.

The Paypal issue is complicated...

The buyer paid for the poster on the 20th October using Paypal (see below, click to enlarge). The buyer has a 'confirmed' address and there is nothing on the Paypal payment to me to suggest that this is anything other than a straightforward Paypal transaction. His name is clearly visible as was his address details (obviously removed from screenshot to protect his privacy).

WEB_Blondie_12.png

Skipping over the bit where it took him 6 days to open the poster tube and request a refund (though this is later contradicted in his messages to both me and eBay) and his claim that he has neither a camera or cell phone to be able to send any proof of damage, I received a message on the 27th November from Gary which said:

'If you bother to look up where the payment came from, you would see that the Paypal account used, and/or credit payment...that was not paid by me'

I beg to differ. Have another look at the Paypal transaction above...is there anything on it to suggest that the payment came from anyone other than Gary Smith? I think not.

On the 29th November I sent Gary a message via eBay saying:

 

‘Hi Gary Please confirm, you paid for the poster via Paypal using the XXXXXXXXX email address, is this your Paypal account or someone else’s Paypal account? Please confirm asap. I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards Michael’.

He did not reply to this message

On 4th December I received an email from eBay asking me to send the buyer the funds to send the poster back to me. eBay said:

'we are asking for your cooperation in sending a return label or money to pay for return shipping not later than December 8, 2018 to provide a resolution to the buyer. If you are unable to comply, we will close the return in the buyer’s favor and issue them with a refund, even if they have not returned the item.'

They then said:

3. Send a payment to the buyer by logging in to your PayPal account, and then clicking Send & Request at the top of the page.
4. Follow the onscreen instructions.
5. Once the payment is complete, reply to this email with the transaction ID and a screenshot of the payment.

Importantly, eBay DID NOT MENTION that the transaction should have been separate to the original transaction.

 

I sent a return message to eBay stating that I believed that they had put me in a no-win situation but reluctantly agreed to send the buyer a sum of money to cover the cost of postage.

I tried several times to send Gary Smith a sum of money via Paypal to cover the cost of return postage. This attempt was directly to Gary’s XXXXXXXXX@XXX.XXX account, not via the original Paypal transaction, but this failed and I got a message from Paypal saying ‘This recipient accepts Paypal payments only through their website. To complete this payment, please go to their website and follow their instructions, or email the recipient for instructions’.

WEB_Blondie_36.png
WEB_Blondie_35.png
WEB_Blondie_37.png

On the 5th December, I once again tried to send Gary Smith money via Paypal to enable a return of the poster. Again, the Paypal transaction failed so, as stated on the alert from Paypal, I emailed Gary and copied in eBay customer service:

For me to send you the money for postage you will need to either:
Send me the website where I can make payment or
Send me an alternative Paypal account or
Send me a request for $20 via Paypal and I will pay that way
Let me know what you wish to do as soon as possible.

I received a email from Gary shortly afterwards saying:

If you sent money, I wasn’t informed as I don’t have a PayPal account.
Also, I never said I wanted to return the poster. I only said it is damaged and not in the condition as when I purchased/paid for it. Most importantly, your eBay store clearly states: “Returns: Seller does not accept returns”.

WEB_Blondie_38.png
WEB_Blondie_39.png

Again, Gary repeated that he doesn't have a Paypal account and says 'If you sent money, I wasn't informed as I don't have a Paypal account'. Then how does he know about the the $20?

On the 6th December I received another email from eBay stating:

‘...you can either purchase a shipping label and send it to your buyer or issue the amount to their PayPal account. Please let the buyer know the option you chose. Once you have issued an amount to your buyer through PayPal, please don’t forget to provide us proof of refund with screenshot of the details like the PayPal transaction ID.

Please take note Michael that you have only 5 days to this process. After 5 days, we will decide an close this case based only on the available information we have. As explained from our previous emails, if you don’t provide a resolution to the buyer within 5 days, we’ll close the return in the buyer’s favor and issue them with a refund, even if they haven’t returned the item’.

EBay again failed to mention that the payment should have been in a separate transaction to the original payment.

On the same day, I signed up with USPS website in the USA and tried to purchase a shipping label but USPS would not allow me to purchase a shipping label as I am not resident in the USA.

WEB_Blondie_41.png

As I could not send Gary Smith a sum of money via Paypal direct to his email address and I could not purchase a shipping label then the only option left was for me to attempt to send him the money to send the poster back via the original transaction.

 

I sent Gary Smith the sum of £20 (reduced to £19.12 after Paypal fees) via Paypal using the original transaction. I sent a message to eBay informing them that I had transferred money to Gary Smith to pay for the return of the poster. The money sent to Gary Smith remained ‘Pending’, unclaimed by Gary. I received the following message from eBay:

 

‘I understand that you have already sent funds to the buyer to cover the return shipping cost for this item.Please send us a screenshot of the PayPal transfer by simply replying to this email using your registered email address.The screenshot must include the following information:

- Paypal transaction ID

- Exact amount of the refund and the currency used

- Date refund was issued

- PayPal account refund was issued to

- Status of the refund

Once we have verified that the PayPal transaction has been completed, the buyer would have 10 days to ship this item back to you. If the buyer fails to ship it back within the required timeframe the case will be closed.

 

In compliance with eBay’s request, I forwarded them a screenshot of the Paypal transaction ID 456112200K0823119.

WEB_Blondie_42.png

On the 7th December I received a message from Rafique T at eBay Customer Support saying:

‘I would like to thank you for sharing us the screenshot of the PayPal transaction. I confirm the receipt of the two images, we have validated the screenshots and your case is currently under investigation.


Regarding the case, we have informed the buyer to purchase shipping label with the cost provided by you and send the item back within the timeline. I understand that you have done everything right and you do not need to worry. Rest assured; if the buyer fails to return the item within the timeline then we will close the case in your favor’.

I felt satisfied that I had done EVERYTHING asked of me by eBay and had a confirmation from them to that effect...and here's the proof:

WEB_Blondie_44.png

However, on the 10th December, and without letting me know about it, eBay closed the case in favour of the buyer.

On the 20th December I checked the status of the case on the eBay website and found that the case was ‘resolved’. As I had not been told otherwise, and based on the message from eBay on the 7th December from Rafique T, I assumed that the case had been closed in my favour as I had not had the poster returned to me. I even asked eBay if the buyer had any right of appeal and if I could now cancel the £19.12 sent to Gary Smith as this was for postage.

I got the following reply from eBay (extract):


‘After a thorough review on the case, we learned that on December 9, 2018 the case was closed with a refund to the buyer.  On the 13th of December the buyer appealed the case because they claimed that they did not receive the refund but the appeal was denied and it was forwarded to a case specialist for  further review.

Regarding the unclaimed money you sent to the buyer, if the buyer has not claimed it and in your PayPal account it still shows as “PENDING” you can go ahead and cancel the transaction in your PayPal account’.

On the 23rd December I received an email from Gary saying:

‘I have received no money from you. Who decided I should mail the damaged poster back to you for that amount? I never agreed to that and your policy clearly states “no returns”’.

Also on the 23rd December I received an email from eBay:

‘Michael, when the buyer open the case, we have asked you to facilitate the return by sending them funds to cover the return shipping cost. The refund should not be from the original payment. I know you are upset why we need to ask more funds from you, however the return shipping cost will not be taken from that payment.

Once you facilitate the return, we can then ask buyer to ship item back. As part of your Seller protection, you are required to inspect the item after you received it. If the item returned was not the same condition as what you have initially sent, you may provide us with photos. Furthermore, if you think the buyer is suspicious on their claim, you can file a report on eBay and we will monitor their buying activities.’

Going back to the Rafique T message, supposedly eBay have already instructed the buyer to purchase a shipping label to send the poster back to me. Despite me sending eBay a screenshot of the Paypal transaction to the buyer on the 6th December, and then eBay confirming that I had done 'everything right', this is the FIRST TIME that eBay have mentioned that I should have sent the Paypal payment in a different transaction to the original transaction.

On the 28th December I checked my Paypal account and found that eBay had put in a request to Paypal for £509 and that my Paypal account now showed a negative balance of -£492.30, with a note saying ‘Add money to resolve your balance’.
When I clicked on the item I went to a page that said it was for a ‘Paypal Balance Adjustment’. The same page also said ‘There is an open dispute associated with this transaction. Visit the Resolution Centre to view status’. When I followed the link to visit the Paypal Resolution Centre I found no mention of any case, either ‘Open’ or ‘Closed’.

On the 1st January I received an email from eBay saying:

‘To receive your item back, I recommend arranging a return shipping solution to your buyer. I am positive that your buyer will cooperate in returning the item now the a refund has been received.’

Once again, I tried to make a payment to the buyer using Paypal however this time I was prevented from doing this because my Paypal account was frozen due to the money that eBay had taken out of my account. I phoned Paypal and spoke to someone who said that I could not send money to the buyer until my 'debt' to eBay had been cleared and the person at Paypal suggested that I request the bank details from the buyer and that I should do a bank-to-bank transfer. I never thought the buyer would do this but, nevertheless, I sent him an email requesting his bank details to send him the money to return the poster and his short reply was 'Oh, My!!!'. I took that to mean he was not going to co-operate. I forwarded a screenshot of the email to eBay.

In recent phone calls with Paypal I have been told that Gary does not have a Paypal account but uses a 'Guest Account' and that the money I sent him was as an 'e-check'. The person at Paypal checked his account and did say that he had been using the Guest Account for 'over a year', which she found strange. Regarding the e-check, there was no reference prior to, or after, I had sent the money to Gary that this was an e-check (have a look at the screenshot, there is no mention of an e-check). The person at Paypal was very helpful and had sympathy for my plight and in the same conversation she said (I have a recording of the conversation so these are direct quotes):

‘There wasn’t even a case open on eBay. They’ve just taken the money’

‘It makes no sense that he gets to keep the item and gets a full refund for it’

‘With an item over £500 in value we (Paypal) would require damage documents from a third party’

Despite numerous conversations with eBay they stand by the line that I sent the money for postage in the wrong way and conveniently overlook all the attempts I made to make a payment in other ways, which in one way or another, were blocked. They disregard the message of assurance that Rafique T at eBay sent me and I have a strong feeling that they have not looked at any of the evidence I have sent them.

I can no longer sell items on eBay as any money made from selling goes automatically to eBay while there is a negative balance in my Paypal account and Paypal threaten debt collectors. EBay have allowed this situation to spiral. Had eBay shown due diligence and investigated the case, looking at the evidence provided (or not provided in the buyer's case), then this fiasco may well have been avoided. This, as I have found, is The Real Cost of eBay.

2nd February

Once again eBay have excelled themselves. I sold an item for £16.70 on eBay on the 28th December and not only have eBay taken the money for that sale straight out of my Paypal account they have now sent me an invoice for £1.75. The invoice cannot be paid because any money I put into my Paypal account goes straight to paying off the disputed invoice from eBay. I have already had to cancel my debit card and get a new one for fear that they would simply dip into my account. Had eBay not taken the £16.70 out of my account then the money would have been in my Paypal account to have paid the invoice. Me thinks eBay are not very good at joining dots together!

Ebay invoice.jpg
eBay invoice reply.jpg

1st February

I looked at sarasota2010's feedback on eBay and the last item showing on his feedback as a seller states 'Item was returned, refund was not full, my post payment was not returned'. It does make me wonder if he was a lot more savvy about eBay's returns procedure than I was, even to the point of making it difficult/impossible for me to action a return that satisfied eBay. Here is a link to the feedback:

sarasota2010 feedback on eBay

The buyer also claimed not to have a camera – though his feedback suggests otherwise. See 'Just as pictured' reference in feedback:

sarasota2010 appears to have a camera feedback

28th January

 

I had a call from Paypal today and ended up speaking with Lee in the Paypal Claims Department. During the conversation he said that eBay have 'no standard procedure' and that they 'like to hide behind us for certain things' (these are direct quotes from Paypal). The saga continues...

26th January

 

Thanks to those who have emailed me messages of support. It's much appreciated!

As you will probably know, the Facebook page is currently 'down'. I don't know why, hopefully it will be up again shortly.

 

 

24th January

 

Following the advice of a lady at Paypal to use social media to alert people to the problem, I have created a dedicated Facebook page in the hope that people will share the posts and learn of just how easy it is to sell an item on eBay and for it to cost you money. Here is the link to the Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/therealcostofebay

Please take a look at the Facebook page and share with your friends, especially those who use eBay.

23rd January

 

The website is ready to launch!

I hope that this website will act as a cautionary note to people selling on eBay and to demonstrate just how easy it is to sell an item on eBay and for it to cost you money. This is my story, from my personal experience, of the real cost of selling on eBay.

I will update this page on a regular basis as the story continues.
 

Please feel free to contact me with you advice or to share a story therealcost@outlook.com

 

22nd January 2018

 

Today I spoke to a person at Paypal who listened to the problems I have encountered with eBay and she concluded with 'You do have a valid case and I can see that they are 100% wrong'. Her recommendation was that I should use social media and/or the Ombudsman to try and sort out this problem. However, she also said that I should contact eBay one last time to try and speak to someone higher up in the appeals department to try and resolve this case once and for all.

I phoned eBay and (once more) explained the problem to the person in customer support who then tried to transfer me to the appeals department but, after 16 minutes, I ended up being cut off. I called back and spoke to someone else, explained the situation (again!) and he said he would put me through to a 'higher department' and then he transferred me to Paypal. I was then stuck on the automated system and after a few minutes got a message to say that all lines were busy and they would call me back – the call had taken 18 minutes. A few minutes later 'Josh' from Paypal called me back and I explained the case (again!!!) and he said I should try social media or the Ombudsman. The total time of these calls came to 40 minutes however that is the tip of a very large iceberg as I have exchanged many, many messages and had a number of phone calls with eBay.

I feel as though I am between the 'rock' of eBay and the 'hard place' of Paypal at the moment so I decided the only possible way out of this mess is to seek the advice and support of people outside of the two large companies. With that in mind, I created a website to show the screenshot trail and to let anyone interested in the case view the way the sale of the Blondie poster on eBay has evolved and to demonstrate just how easy it is for any seller on eBay to fall into this trap. The next few weeks could be interesting.

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