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How to Win at eBay:
Returns
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eBay's policy today (2016) is that if something isn't as described, the seller pays for return shipping, regardless of any policy claims by the seller in his listing.

If you bought it over eBay and it isn't right, it's the seller's problem — not yours.

If the item isn't as described, if it's damaged or was damaged in shipping, if it's just plain junk or never arrived, it goes back at the seller's expense and you get a full refund of the original price and your shipping charges. It costs you NOTHING!

Some times when I've received junk, I click the boxes in eBay's return pages, select Item Not As Described (broken), and I printed out a pre-paid return label. I stuck it on the box, and out it went to the seller the same day at zero expense to me. I had a full refund a few days later.

eBay's Money-Back Guarantee really works. One time out of a thousand I had one seller who was of zero help, so I clicked the buttons for eBay to help, and they asked the seller to refund me. The seller did not, so no problem, eBay customer service refunded me in full — including the shipping I had paid!

Guess what: when dealing with that completely unhelpful seller, he simply tried to disappear, get in the way, and ignore eBay's requests to refund me any way he could. He was dumb enough to think that he could hide and all would go away, but two weeks after eBay refunded me in full from eBay's customer service account, eBay recovered that money from the seller's PayPal account, and only then did that seller attempt to harass me to return it. Since the seller had never asked for it returned and never sent me a prepaid return label for it when he had the chance, I had already gotten rid of it by the time he asked for it back. The seller, by his arrogance, was out all the money, out what it cost him to ship it to me, and out the goods as well.

eBay isn't like it was several years ago. Today eBay polices itself and sellers very carefully to ensure that we all get top-notch service and can use the platform with the confidence that we're going to get what's described in the listing. eBay no longer has any tolerance for sloppy sellers of junk, shoddy, defective or counterfeit items. Of course if it's marked "not working" don't expect it to work, but if it has undisclosed defects or isn't as described, it's not your problem.

Especially if the seller doesn't pack it properly and it's damaged in shipping, it's his problem. It's the seller's responsibility to get it to you safely. You don't have to file any claims with the carrier; it's the seller's responsibility and if he won't take care of it, eBay will make him so long as you ask.

10% of what I get over eBay is defective. Face it; it's used gear from God knows where. I usually know when I'm at risk, because it's almost always from sellers with poor feedback (99.6% and below).

The good news is that 99% of the time, just mention it to the seller, and most likely it's something he didn't realize, and he'll cheerfully refund your money. You're done. Trust me; pro sellers won't catch everything that's wrong, but they will stand behind it if something slips through.

Be sure to ask the seller nicely first before you pester eBay. Only click the "defective" buttons if you have to; I think it dings the seller if he gets too many not-as-described hits. Smart sellers are very happy to make things right; save the Money-Back Guarantee for the dopey ones who aren't helping.

If you want to return something, simply go back to the listing and click "Ask seller a question." A text box opens, pre-filled with the item number. Politely explain what's wrong, and every good seller I've dealt with is usually quite embarrassed that they accidentally sent out something that's not right, and eagerly asks for you to return it.

Only if they don't help you, ask and eBay will.

 

Returning Non-Returnable (As-Is) Items

Lens Fungus

Lens choked by fungus.

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

I buy only from these approved sources. I can't vouch for ads below.

It's highly unlikely that you'll have any problems, especially if you only buy from well-rated sellers.

Here's how I returned some junk sold by a low-rated Dumpster-diver who had a listing describing it as "like new," but in fact, it was an item choked with fungus from being stored someplace very wet for 40 years. I should have known better; his feedback was only about 99.3%.

It also was marked, in invisibly small letters at the bottom of the listing: "As-is. Absolutely no returns, no way!"

The item shows up, and was filled with fungus. Even though the outsides were mostly unused, it had been stored for 40 years probably under a dripping hot water heater.

I figured I was stuck, but no big deal; I shipped it off to Nikon's service department for a cleaning. Except for rust around the screw heads, it was fine. I figured one cleaning and I was set.

It came back a week later with an invoice stamped BEYOND REPAIR. I often worry that I'm too picky about condition, but when I get it in writing from the manufacturer that the item is FUBAR, I figure that it really is.

The lens is useless, and since I had it in writing, i figured it's not my opinion; it's fact.

I was genuinely curious. The item wasn't as described, but the listing clearly said NO RETURNS. AS-IS. What's the right thing to do?

I contacted eBay's customer support, and eBay was very clear: if the seller delivered something Significantly Not As Described (SNAD), it was the seller's problem, not mine. I should go ahead and return it.

The Dumpster-diver thought I was making it up, and didn't want to refund my money.

I asked eBay, and I simply clicked to file some sort of dispute in PayPal. It went back and forth a few times, eBay/PayPal looked into it and talked to both of us (and looked at my BEYOND REPAIR ticket).

PayPal sucked the money straight out of the seller's personal bank account as soon as I clicked the dispute, which is sobering. PayPal didn't even ask; as soon as I raised the issue, they preemptively sucked it out of this guy's personal funds and held onto it awaiting resolution of the issue.

After the item was returned to the seller (the seller did all he could to avoid signing for it and being a crank), PayPal eventually refunded the money.

I was in luck. eBay/PayPal's Buyer Protection actually worked for me.

Be warned: when dealing with a cranky, reluctant seller, you have to be the sort of person who's comfortable with personal threats and pushing forward actual lawsuits. This was sort of the same thing, except it was adjudicated by PayPal, not the judicial system.

You should be comfortable dealing with difficult people before you try returning something to someone who doesn't want it, and of course if the item was correctly described as "has fungus," you'd have no reason to return it. In my case it was clear because the listing said it was almost new, and I had papers proving it was worthless.

If the guy was like most sellers, it would have been no problem in the first place. With a low-rated seller who, if you read his feedback, doesn't understand that the stuff he finds out by the curb isn't always as nice as he thinks, it will be a pain returning it.

I can't say it often enough: research the seller's feedback before bidding, and when you find red flags like fine print that says no returns, don't bid.

 

Now that you've got what you haven't returned, how do you keep track of what's supposed to show up?

 

Next: Record Keeping

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