It’s not just the selling of Transformers toys within the community or on eBay that brings complications. Although these days, with eBay and PayPal invariably siding with buyers, there are still plenty of pitfalls when it comes to purchasing Transformers online that can catch even seasoned collectors out. Sometimes the collector in question has little that they can do, if circumstances are specific enough.
I recently bought a Takara E-Hobby G1 reissue exclusive off eBay that was listed as new. In Transformers speak, that equates to mint in sealed box, often referred to as MISB. When the toy arrived, it was with an open box and applied stickers. Not only were the stickers applied, but they were also peeling from use. All three missiles were removed from the sprue, which in itself implies fair use because for display, a G1 figure like that needs just one missile. Anyway, ‘new’ was far from accurate, so I contacted the seller and asked for a refund, either partial or full (with return).
The seller offered me a 10% partial refund as I had “gotten the toy at well below market value” in his opinion. At $110+ shipped, I begged to differ. I opted for a full refund upon return of the item. The seller was most put out, admitting reluctantly and tersely they had made a mistake and that a simple clicking error in the listing resulting in a refund was inconvenient for him but he would fulfil the return anyway. Let’s not get into the details of how part of the auction description was about his other item for sale.
I returned the item the very next day using tracked shipping from Iceland to the United States, having once already been screwed by a seller who said they never received the return. My fault on that occasion for not sending it tracked. So I thought I had it covered this time, tracking number and all, with screen captures of the toy’s wear and use as well as the seller’s message giving me a ‘new’ address not registered with eBay. The seller responded to the official return channel on eBay with the same address, so I had no reason to be suspicious. Back the toy went on 14 March, returned with expensive shipping option paid for by me, out of my own pocket. At this point I was out almost $140.
On April 17, eBay wrote to me to ask if I had received a refund. I had not, but why? Before this date I had checked on the tracking a few times, and it seemed as though USPS had placed a delay on it. On 28 March, the tracking history showed that it was “out for delivery” where the seller’s address was given, but a day later it said “Your Package Delivery Has Been Delayed. As of March 29, 2018 at 12:49 am, your package is still on its way. We apologize that it will arrive later than expected.” I initiated a mail search from my end in Iceland, because if you’ve ever tried to do anything on USPS as a non-US resident, forget about it. There is no email address, no live chat, just a form that only works for those with a US address. Fair enough, did it through Iceland post and they contacted USPS. USPS needed the seller’s telephone number, so I did a contact detail request through eBay and got it that way. I am still waiting to hear back from USPS and Iceland post about the result of contacting the seller and searching for the mail. I also emailed the seller directly to ask for their phone number for this purpose and got no response, hence going the eBay contact info request route.
By April 17th when eBay got in touch, I had grown quite suspicious and wondered whether the seller had refused delivery, the address was invalid or he had simply not been bothered to pick it up when prompted by the post office. I asked eBay to step in, as was one of their options had I not received a refund. I outlined all of the above concerns and opened a case. Cue an immediate, aggressive and outraged email from the seller. The highlights included asking me what the heck I was doing with lies and false accusations, that I was being slanderous, that they had not refused anything and had basically forgotten about the return and this item. He went on to rant about never ripping anyone off, especially for a measly amount like $100. He also wanted to make sure that I was freaking serious and that I knew he sold over $145,000 worth of product a year, as well as demanding an apology.
I didn’t actually respond, as the process was now in eBay’s hands, I did not feel a war of words would solve anything or help my case. I also had not directly accused the seller of the above, but I had expressed my concerns to eBay that they were a possibility and that’s why I wanted them to step in and investigate. As the item had gone out for delivery in his location, I felt those possibilities were valid. Normally, eBay and PayPal side with the buyer in cases which are less clear cut than this, but within 24 hours – and after another angry email from the seller (claiming slander and false statements, not appreciating perceived dishonesty, but saying they’d still make an effort to resolve) where they said they’d go and inquire about the package at their end, eBay closed the case and decided in his favour, with no refund forthcoming.
This was a major surprise to me, so I called eBay and asked why they had decided in his favour. I learned a few interesting things. First of all, I could have demanded that the seller purchase and send me a shipping label to return the item, thereby not paying for the return shipping out of my own pocket. Secondly, they could not see from the USPS or Icelandic tracking that the seller had had any contact with the package. Upon directing them to the tracking history, they said the “Out for delivery” meant nothing and did not imply any refusal or avoidance of collection on the seller’s behalf. So, while they were sympathetic that I was out almost $140 and had no item to show for it, they could not authorise a refund due to lack of proof that the seller was doing anything untoward.
They also said that I had 30 days from the decision to appeal, but if nothing changes with the tracking status, the appeal will also be unsuccessful. So, what if the tracking does update after the 30 day grace period? Then, I have a total of 180 days from the purchase date to take it up with PayPal, if there is any evidence that the seller has received the item or been notified of its arrival, pending collection.
I think the only certainties I can take away from this situation are that the seller misrepresented the item but took partial responsibility for that; I should have requested a shipping label for the return to at least not have lost out on that cash; even tracked shipping does not come without the possibility of loss and complication and that eBay will not automatically side with the buyer. That in itself is probably a good thing because on occasions where sellers are being deliberately played by buyers, they can provide proof and be heard. On this occasion, it may transpire after the USPS/Iceland post investigation that neither the seller nor I are at fault for the undelivered parcel, at which point I guess I would have to chase compensation from the postal companies. I do regret that the seller feels so aggrieved at perceived slander – especially if they are without fault where the delivery of the return is concerned – but I stand by the suspicions I had, given how unhappy he was originally when accepting a return, that he’d misrepresented the item, and the fact that the item did go out for delivery to his residence. His surly-turned-furious emails were also never going to foster trust in me.
A highly unfortunate situation, but let’s see what happens next, eh?
All the best