Archive | August, 2009

EBay Finally Addresses Recent Customer Service Woes Through E-Mail Contact

25 Aug

If any of you have had the misfortune of trying to contact eBay customer service by email over the last several weeks, you probably realized that you have not received a response.  Email support from eBay has been increasingly slow over the last year.  EBay fired most of their customer support staff located in the United States in October of 2008.  Over 1,600 people were terminated, largely because eBay’s stock at the time was trading at a six year low of just under $18 and they deperately needed to cut costs.  Of course, share prices deteriorated even further in 2009, bottoming out below $10, but who’s counting.  EBay customer service has always been atrocious.  Most any email to the company will return a canned response generated by a computer that scans the email for “keywords” and returns the response most likely to address at least one of the customer’s concerns.  Nonetheless, most emails receive at least some response within 48 hours.  Not so these past couple of weeks.

After the 2008 terminations, eBay outsourced to a firm in India to take care of customer’s basic problems.  If you call Paypal’s 1-800 number, eBay’s 1-800 number, or go through eBay’s “Live Chat,” India is their first line of defense.  The problem is that India can’t really do much for you and they have no authority to restore accounts, issue or remove violations, or go into any depth beyond what pops up onto their screen for them to read at you.  Nine times out of ten their answer will be “Contact the buyer/seller.”  The good news is that it’s so loud at the call center that you can hear seven or eight answers to other people’s problems which may lessen your need to ask follow-ups.  They also talk so fast you’ll probably be off the phone 30 seconds after you finally get connected to someone.  If you can convince India that your problem is significant enough they will tell you how to contact eBay’s “Trust and Safety” team or the relevant intermediate department.   If you’re on the phone with PayPal, India will forward you around an endless loop (India is a large country) until your call may finally find its way onto American soil where a real life, possibly American person, will give you the run around instead.  Unfortunately this is the nature of the beast in the 21st century.  EBay is in a particularly difficult position because they have literally hundreds of millions of “customers” around the world.  It would be impossible to hire enough staff to respond to emails and calls personally, so this broken system is what we’re stuck with.

About two weeks ago I received an email from a user threatening to burn my house down with me inside of it.  Whoever said eBay isn’t a dangerous place obviously did not have the joy of entering into a transaction with this sweetheart.  Such a threat might scare a normal person, but since I have the strongest and sexiest Australian I know as my personal bodyguard I was not the least bit worried.  About an hour later I baited our closet killer into replying through eBay with a profanity laced message so I knew I could forward the message to eBay and they would likely suspend the user.  I diligently filled out a report including the usual header information along with the body of text and expected the user to be suspended within 24 hours as usually happens.  I waited.  And waited.  Four days later I contacted Trust and Safety again with a follow-up email.  Still nothing.  I waited another three days and sent a third email and followed up through eBay Live Chat inquiring as to whether or not my email had been received.  They assured me it had and I would receive a response within 72 hours.  I received no response and gave up.  One might assume that eBay would be concerned about removing users threatening murder, but as we all know things change.  After all, there’s always secret fees to create or bogus promotions to start.

Today, after 15 days, I received the following apology email from  Luckily I’m still alive to read it:


You recently contacted eBay Customer Support.  A change in our email system, created internal challenges that negatively impacted our ability to answer your original email.

We have made some adjustments to our processes that will assist us in meeting our service level timeframes.  We are truly sorry for any inconvenience that this situation has caused you.

If you have been unable to resolve the question that you originally contacted us for, please visit us through our Contact Us page:

1. From our home page, click the “Contact us” link on the top, right hand side of the page. You’ll be asked to sign in.

2. Enter your question or your problem and click the “Ask” button or click the link that best describes your issue.

3. If you entered a problem, click the link that best describes your issue.

4. If you still need help, click any of the links on the right hand side of the page.  If available, we would strongly suggest using the “Chat with us” option, as this option may be the quickest method for you to address your question.


eBay Customer Support”

I agree that being murdered would have been inconvenient, but then again I wouldn’t have had to do anything but sleep, so inconvenient might not be the best word.  Told you these emails are never personal.  I copied and pasted my original email into the “ask” box, but couldn’t locate the “death threat” issue so I settled on “Report a User.”

Did it really take eBay two plus weeks to figure out they were having problems with their email system?  Did they fire whoever is supposed to be updating the system announcement board?  Maybe they thought, “Wow, we haven’t received a single complaint in over two weeks!!!!  Everyone gets a raise and let’s fire the rest of the U.S. customer service staff because we obviously have no need for them!”  It’s hard for me to guess.

I actually caught someone with an eBay IP address snooping around the site today.  They ran a variety of DNS and WHOIS lookups on me and my precious site as well.  Hopefully they aren’t onto us.  If anyone wants to know, my real name is Mike and I sell used pants, Affliction T-shirts, and comic books.

I’ll let you know if I get a response and our prospective serial killer gets the boot.

EBay Gallery Image Upload Errors Reported

24 Aug

Over the last week, reports have been pouring in from users complaining that eBay isn’t displaying their gallery pictures properly in search results.  When this happens, eBay dispatches an email with the subject “There’s an issue with your gallery picture” and the body of the email reads,


There was an issue generating the Gallery picture for your listing: Listing Title (#AuctionNumber)

Why it didn’t work:
We were unable to identify the exact problem with:!*

Here’s how to fix it:
Please contact customer support at for more information about your Gallery picture.
You can resubmit or change your Gallery picture by clicking the following eBay page link or by copying or typing the link text into the Address box in a browser window:

To fix the error with your picture,click “Resolve issue.”

This is an automatically generated email,so we won’t receive any replies sent to this address.”

As usual, I assumed this was a cleverly created phishing email hoping I would click one of the links and enter my login information.  I logged into eBay and the gallery image was correctly displayed in “My eBay,” but when I clicked on my feedback and “View Items for Sale,” the gallery pictures were missing as indicated by the email.  The odd thing is that I listed three items consecutively with the exact same gallery picture using the “sell similar” button and changed nothing but the size in the title and item specifics. The first and the third listings had missing gallery photos, but the second listing’s gallery picture displayed properly.  When I was listing the item there was no upload error or any indication there was a problem with the listing.

To fix the problem, I clicked into the listing and then to “revise item” and reuploaded the gallery picture.  I then went back to check to see if it was displaying properly and it was still missing in search results.  At this point, I didn’t want to waste any more listing revision credits because of the brand name in the title so I gave up and waited to see if it was some kind of glitch that would resolve itself.  I checked back several hours later and the gallery image was displayed correctly and the issue was resolved. The gallery picture on the item that I did not revise was still missing which meant that eBay had not fixed the problem automatically.

Alternately, you can safely click the link eBay sends you which will take you to this screen with the item number filled in:
eBay Gallery Picture Upload Problem

Clicking next will bring you to this screen:

eBay Gallery Picture Upload Issue Fixed

The image you uploaded should be visible on the top with a blank image under “Review new gallery picture.”  Click “Create” and it should then show the newly created gallery picture in the box that was previously blank.  Click “Done” and your image should now be properly displayed in search results.  The good news is that doing it this way immediately makes the gallery picture visible in search so there is no delay like there was doing it manually.  Also, this process can be completed even after there are bids on the item. It also appears that this does not count towards your brand name listing quota, but that isn’t guaranteed at this point.

There is currently no notice on eBay’s System Announcement Board about this problem. It is unclear exactly what the problem is, how prevalent it is, or how long it will last. In my five years on eBay I have never encountered an issue like this where there was a problem with a listing that eBay didn’t automatically catch before submission and then sent an email to correct afterwards. It is interesting that eBay has the image ready when the link in the email is clicked, but they do not automatically “create” the gallery picture for you and correct the problem themselves. It seems like the issue could be resolved automatically on their end since they are aware of the problem and an easy one button fix is available.

If eBay acknowledges the problem I will update this post with their explanation.

How to Return an eBay Item Part 2 – Contact The Seller and Return Shipping

3 Aug

You may also be interested in these guides: How to Return an eBay Item to the Seller Part 1 – Am I Eligible? and How to Easily Contact eBay Live Help Chat

First, take a look at the item you received.  If you purchased a $500 pair of Dior earrings and received two old magazines, then there is a strong possibility that the seller is intentionally trying to rip you off.  Look up the seller on eBay and check their feedback for any recent negatives indicating problems similar to yours.  Check to see if the seller has any items currently listed for sale and whether or not their selling behavior is normal (if the seller has thousands of feedback then the seller should have some items for sale.  If the seller has 72 feedback and rarely sells then it shouldn’t be a surprise that there aren’t any items available).  If the seller does not have any items for sale or has recently received a number of negatives for problems like non-delivery and item not as described then you will want to skip straight to part three of this series – filing a PayPal dispute.  If a seller decides to give up on eBay or eBay has decided to give up on the seller, many times they will attempt to rip as many people off as possible and disappear.  This is one of the reasons why purchasing on eBay is so unsafe.  It’s impossible to know who you’re transacting with and past behavior isn’t necessarily an indication of what kind of service you will receive on any particular transaction.  If you’re returning an item because it doesn’t fit, it isn’t what you expected,or if it seems like it was an honest mistake by the seller then read on (if you want, I can’t force your hand).

Benefits of Working the Problem Out With the Seller Directly

On several occasions I have plugged the PayPal dispute as the consummate means to a refund.  Ideally, buyers should try to contact the seller for an amicable resolution first and use PayPal as a last resort.  First, smart communication with most sellers will result in a quicker resolution than a PayPal dispute.  Most PayPal disputes will take at least 15 days to resolve and can easily take more than 40.  Dealing with the seller directly can resolve all problems as quickly as you can get the returned item to the seller.  Your PayPal dispute may also take at least one phone call to PayPal which can mean an hour plus on hold.   A PayPal dispute can be a serious hassle that is ultimately unnecessary in most instances.  Second, opening PayPal disputes rub many sellers the wrong way.  If you open a dispute without contacting the seller about resolving the problem first, they may intentionally try to make it as difficult as possible to receive a refund.  I will go over the various tactics sellers can employ in part three.  Third, it is always possible that PayPal will deny your refund request when the seller would have gladly accepted a return had you simply asked.  This is also unlikely, but anything is possible when dealing with PayPal.

Making First Contact

Try to keep communication through eBay’s message forwarding system.  Although the messages between you and the seller ultimately are of little value, any emails you receive directly from the seller’s email account will have zero value as eBay and PayPal will tell you that they are unable to verify the authenticity of the emails or that emails are “personal correspondence” eBayisn’t interested in  (i.e. there is no proof the seller actually sent the email).  I say this correspondence is of little value because no one at eBay/PayPal is going to sit and wade through a bunch of emails full of threats and insults and try to figure out what was decided.  The only correspondence that will matter to PayPal/eBay is inside of the PayPal dispute, if it comes to that, but even PayPal disputes are generally decided by a computer system unless multiple phone calls are made.

Write your messages to the seller in a positive tone, especially the first few.  There is no reason to threaten the seller by saying you will be “contacting eBay and PayPal.”  When a buyer threatens to “contact eBay” right off the bat I know that they have no idea what they’re talking about or how the dispute/refund process works.  There is really no one at eBay to “contact” about a problem.  EBay Live chat is completely worthless in a situation like this because they have no authority to do anything other than link you to a form that will email Trust and Safety.   No one a buyer could get on the telephone at eBay’s 1-800 number would be able to offer any assistance other than eBay’s official line either.  A buyer dispute in eBay’s own dispute resolution console has historically been of little value as well.  As eBay becomes increasingly concerned with buyer dissatisfaction rates, that is beginning to change.  Beginning in August, PayPal will institute a policy update stating that if eBay decides the buyer is owed a refund then eBay will take the money out of the seller’s PayPal account in order to reimburse the buyer.  Sellers can still opt out of this requirement by dialing 1-866-643-3727, making eBay dispute resolution a poor choice unless the payment was made using a service other than PayPal.

The point here is to try to be nice and not say anything that makes it sound like you don’t know what you’re doing.  Sellers are much more likely to be lenient and forthcoming with someone who is pleasant and appears to know what they’re talking about.  It’s difficult to give general advice about how to approach a return because every seller operates differently and every problem is different.  In general, for your first email, I suggest writing something like this:

The Message

“Hello, thank you for shipping the item in a timely manner.  Unfortunately ___________ (enter problem with item clearly.  Depending on the problem you can say something like “I’m sure you were unaware when you shipped the item, but…” or something similar).  I would like to return the item for a refund.  Please forward me the address I should ship the item to.   I will ship the item back to you with Delivery Confirmation as soon as I hear back.  Thanks so much, _____ (enter your name/eBay UserID).

Don’t assess blame or get overly dramatic.  Give the seller a chance to do the right thing and agree to an easy return.  If you receive a nice email from the seller, skip down to the “Return Shipping” section below.  If you do not receive a response after 48 hours or the seller refuses to accept the return you should take a more stern tone.  Keep it professional, don’t use foul language, and don’t say anything that you can’t follow through with.  I recommend an email similar to the following:

“Hello, this is my second email regarding the refund for ______ (insert item).  I would like to return it because _______ (insert reason).  If I do not hear back that I can return the item, I will be opening an Item Not Described dispute with PayPal and leave 1 star negative feedback stating my dissatisfaction with this transaction.  Please reply to this message with the address that the item should be shipped to.  If I receive a response that the refund will be easily processed I will not open the dispute and I will not leave feedback.  I will return the item with Delivery Confirmation as soon as I hear back.”

Most sellers that know what they’re doing will bend to the buyer’s will at this point.  As sellers, we are scared to death of negative feedback and most sellers are aware that a PayPal dispute will result in a refund for the buyer eventually anyway.  An email similar to this lets the seller know that you mean business and it will be much easier for them to accept the return outside of a PayPal dispute.  If you receive an email to your satisfaction indicating that a refund will occur, skip to the “Return shipping” section below.  If you still do not receive a response after 48 hours or the seller is still uncooperative, send an email similar to the following:

“Hello, this is my third and final message about the return of ________ (insert item).  If I do not hear back from you today that the return will be processed, I will be opening a PayPal dispute.  PayPal will decide the dispute in my favor and instruct me to return the item to you for a refund anyway.  It will be much easier for both of us if you accept the return and forward your address to me now.  I look forward to resolving this problem amicably without the need for a dispute and negative feedback.”

If you did not hear back after the second email it is unlikely you will receive a response to this email unless the seller hasn’t checked their email/messages.  Wait a few hours for a response anyway and skip to part three of this series, “How to Open and Win a PayPal Dispute.”

How To Ship the Item to the Seller

This is probably the most important part of the return process and the most often overlooked by buyers.  Luckily, it’s also one of the easiest to do properly.  If the total transaction price of the item/shipping was under $250 you need Delivery Confirmation or equivalent tracking showing delivery to the seller’s city/state or Zip Code.  If the price was $250 or more then you need Signature Confirmation or equivalent signature/tracking showing delivery to the seller’s exact address including house and street number.  The easiest/most cost efficient way to ship most items is usually USPS Priority Mail because the packaging is free from the Post Office, Delivery Confirmation is free when the label is printed online, and your regular Postal worker will pick the item up from your doorstep for free as well.  If the item is heavier or you want to be able to track the item more closely than USPS then FedEx or UPS may be a cheaper option.  I have plenty of shipping advice available at Guide Roundup – How to Ship on eBay and Paypal .

I can’t overemphasize the necessity of a Delivery Confirmation/equivalent tracking number.  If you don’t have this information it is as if you didn’t ship the item.  The seller can deny they received the item and if it goes to a PayPal dispute you will not have the tracking number that is required for PayPal to decide a claim in your favor.  Basically, if you don’t have a tracking number and the seller says they didn’t receive the item then you will not receive a refund from the seller and PayPal will side with the seller and not issue a refund either.  If you paid with a credit card you might win a chargeback case, but there really isn’t any reason to risk it.  Get tracking.

Getting A Little Shady

Although it may not seem obvious to the untrained eye, I struggle internally with exactly what I’m willing to make public as most of the information I write about isn’t necessarily in my best interest to publish.  Not that a lot of this stuff is earth shattering or anything, but I am not aware of another “blog” where someone with my experience is writing in-depth guides about how to list/ship on eBay for free.  Luckily we’re friends, so my knowledge is your knowledge.

Anyway, if you returned the original item to the seller without tracking and the seller denies they received it you can send an additional envelope to the seller with Delivery Confirmation that will confirm delivery.  PayPal has no way of verifying that the tracking number you provide to PayPal for the package actually had the item in it.  I don’t necessarily advocate doing this, but if you’re certain the seller received the return and is purposefully trying to keep the returned item and the payment then it is a viable option.  The seller may report you to PayPal for returning an empty envelope, but it’s unlikely there will be any negative repercussions for one complaint.

This is one of the fundamental flaws of eBay and PayPal in general and one that there really is no answer.  As a seller, if a buyer returns an empty box or an item of much less value in place of the item that was originally shipped, it takes at least six calls to PayPal for any chance of a positive resolution.  It’s the same scenario if the buyer receives an empty box in place of the item purchased.  PayPal usually requires the buyer/seller to ship whatever item they claim they received to PayPal for one reason or another.  I assume PayPal wants something to show for the refund they may be forced issue and it makes their Christmas gift exchange more exciting with all the counterfeits and beat up items they’ve revived during the year.

Requesting a Refund for Return Shipping

At the moment, PayPal requires the buyer to pay for return shipping unless the buyer can work something out with the seller.  At some point, the eBay Resolution Center is going to take over the dispute process for all eBay transactions, even when PayPal is the payment processor.  EBay’s new “Purchase Protection Policy” for buyers promises to refund the buyer’s return shipping costs in certain instances.  Since this hasn’t happened yet, it’s impossible to know how these new policies will actually be implemented and which transactions buyers will be refunded out of eBay’s own pocket.

The best way to receive a refund for return shipping costs is to ask.  You might expect a refund if the wrong item was shipped, the item was broken on arrival, or another problem that is entirely the seller’s fault.  If you are returning an item because it doesn’t fit or for some other reason that isn’t the seller’s fault then the buyer should expect to pay return shipping.  I would recommend asking if you will be reimbursed for return shipping after the seller agrees to accept the return, in the second or third email to the seller.  If you start out making demands in the first email then the seller will be less likely to want to work with you.  As sellers, one of our least favorite things to do is pay for return shipping because it’s a substantial loss for us, so getting a seller to happily agree to refund can be tricky.

If the seller refuses to refund return shipping initially, and you believe you are due a refund because the problem is completely the seller’s fault, I recommend waiting until you receive a refund for the initial payment before playing hardball on the return shipping refund.  If the item cost $100, then it is a lot more important to get that initial $100 back quickly and easily than argue and fight over an additional $7 refund.  After you receive the refund for the initial payment, tell the seller again that you believe you are owed a refund for return shipping because the problem was the seller’s fault.  If the seller still ignores or refuses, say something like:

“Hello, I had to pay ___ (insert amount) for shipping to return an item to you because _____ (state defect that is seller’s fault).  This has left me dissatisfied with this transaction and I will be leaving negative feedback explaining the problem to future buyers.  Please refund my return shipping cost to my PayPal account (insert payment address) and I will not leave feedback for this transaction.  Thank you, (insert UserID)

You have to word this message carefully so it’s not considered “feedback extortion” which is against eBay policy.  It might be best to send this kind of email directly to the seller’s email account so eBay won’t take action.   If you don’t hear back or receive a refund in 48 hours go ahead and leave negative feedback.  Some sellers will refund your shipping cost if you agree to a feedback revisionat this point.  If you still are refused a refund then there is little you can do.  The seller may wise up in the future or send an angry email at which point you can link them to feedback revision and tell them you will revise your feedback to a 5 star positive if the seller agrees to refund return shipping costs.


Returning items on eBay can be super simple or excruciatingly difficult depending on how the return is approached and the nature of the seller.  Most transactions on eBay are completed without incident, but when there is a problem it usually has to do with the buyer returning the item improperly or the seller not refunding promptly, if at all.  This is a long “guide,” but if I can save you $100 now and $1000 in the future then reading it is time well spent.)

If you have a specific question regarding returns or anything else you’re welcome to email me using my email in the “About Me” above or leave a comment. When I’m not depressed about the lack of visitors to this site I check it.