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[Retitled] Tale of an Online Trasaction Gone Wrong

Jape

Member
Update For a detail of how I found myself making the OP in this thread see post 19.

Thread was originally titled -- Online transaction dispute - What would you do here?
___
Several posters here commented in a previous thread of mine regarding new to online selling and receiving feedback. Thanks again. I'm happy to report that with several transactions now under my belt, all have been extremely smooth with no issues as expected with most people being honest and rational. About 80% so far have been courteous enough to leave feedback without any prompting.

Unfortunately, I’ve already run in to my first dispute. I’m not looking to try or air the details of the dispute in public, so I’ll be vague on purpose. I wonder what you would do in this specific situation I currently find myself in.

From my view, there are several red flags coming from the buyer side including the opening claim which I’m pretty sure would get laughed out of any small claims court. I suspect scammer, but could just be some irrational nutjob.

Buyer escalated to online payment intermediary when I pushed back.

Online intermediary decided item gets returned and both sides are out shipping costs.

I receive shipment tracking information from online intermediary. Check the carrier’s web site and find that shipment has been voided. I alert the online intermediary and the case goes back to status of “under review” and remains that way.

I later receive an email not from the online intermediary, but from the carrier that a shipment is in route to me from the buyer. This is a different tracking number than the one that was voided.

As far as I can see, the case is still “under review” and all I get from the intermediary when reaching out is “we are currently reviewing your case….” since Thursday.

Would you accept or refuse this incoming shipment that is undocumented as far as you know within the case record and case status being “under review”? Having received no further instruction from the intermediary since it went back to that status?
 
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Rex

Legend!
You could ask the buyer to clarify the shipping situation, then relay that information to the intermediary.
 
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Jape

Member
I should have been more clear. I sent the new undocumented tracking information to the intermediary as soon as I received from carrier with the same question as here. I suspect the issue is just "in queue" at the intermediary since the status last changed.
I haven't had any communication with buyer outside of the intermediary's dispute system since the dispute was raised. I've read that emails outside of the system are not taken into consideration. Don't know if that is true.
Or, maybe if I understand what @Rex is saying, doesn't hurt to ask buyer same question and relay response, if any ,to intermediary.

Frustrating thing right now is all I get from the intermediary is the default, "we are reviewing..." and they give themselves a 30 day window. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't hesitate to accept a shipment from a buyer returning anything. There are so many other red flags here before the voided shipment nonsense, I'm just leery of a scam in play.
 

Rex

Legend!
I get that mails outside the system might not be considered by the intermediary. But I think the buyer’s response would be a valuable data point. I’d send the conversation to the intermediary to make sure they know that you’re not trying to hide anything from them.
 

notalemming

Fractal Fanatic
Can you tell from the tracking info if the size & weight of the shipment is consistent with what you sent him? Also, when the package arrives, I would video every step from brining the package in, getting a good shot of the shipping label & tracking number & then the whole unboxing process with no stops & starts from beginning to end so no one will try & claim the video was edited.
 

Jape

Member
Can you tell from the tracking info if the size & weight of the shipment is consistent with what you sent him? Also, when the package arrives, I would video every step from brining the package in, getting a good shot of the shipping label & tracking number & then the whole unboxing process with no stops & starts from beginning to end so no one will try & claim the video was edited.
Weight is right by label, but if your print your own label, you can state whatever weight you want. What I expect given the claim is that I will get an empty box or a switcheroo of the whole item or parts swapped from item.
I was thinking the same thing about the video if I end up receiving it. Was also wishing I had before shipping out unbroken video of demoing the item all the way through packing and dropping at carrier.

Crazy the lengths honest people have to go through to prove they are honest these days.
 

notalemming

Fractal Fanatic
I know FedEx will weigh it themselves & charge what they say the weight is, not what my label says when I ship. I think that is the weight that is displayed online as well but never had a reason to double check it. I would hope they would do this especially if the weight on the label is way less than the actual package. That should throw up a lot of red flags since no one would overstate the weight of a package & pay more unless they were up to something.
 
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dr bonkers

Fractal Fanatic
Vendor
I remember once, when having to reroute a shipment to a new address because the buyer moved and did not update his PayPal shipping address, UPS issued a different tracking number for the rerouted shipment.

The original tracking number referenced the new tracking number in notes.

Could that be what happened when the shipment made a u-turn back to you?
 

Capt Nasty

Experienced
Think of it this way: the “intermediary” as you put it knows neither party in this transaction. They have no context. Yet they have to decide who to believe. They use the information at their disposal to make a judgement call.

In other words, you are playing an optics games. Whoever looks reasonable, calm, and like they are trying to do the right thing in this tough situation will probably prevail.

Do not get desperate or excited. Avoid statements that you cannot prove are factual. Be transparent and open in your communication. If you are being vague with the intermediary like you are here, you are setting yourself up for problems.

You have given so little information that it is hard to give much more input. There is nothing wrong with discussing your dispute publicly so long as you keep to the facts, do not embellish, and stay away from ad hominem attacks (e.g. calling the buyer a scammer or irrational nutjob). The only way the guy is a scammer is if you suffer “injury” through an unscrupulous action and are not whole when the dust settles (e.g. you do not receive the item back but you are charged for a refund). You do not know if you are whole yet as this situation has not played out.

What is his reason for the return?
 

Jape

Member
@Capt Nasty Completely agree with all you said. I am being vague here purposely because I've seen similar threads that come off as plea for sympathy or an attempt to try the case in public. Will report back once this is settled. Just unclear what to do in this specific situation. I am not being at all vague with intermediary and reporting all facts at my disposal to intermediary in a civil manner.

...
What is his reason for the return?
In essence, the first thing I get via the dispute claim long after delivery confirmation--"What you sent was broken before you shipped it. I had to send it off for repair at my expense. You owe me $."
 

Capt Nasty

Experienced
@Capt Nasty Completely agree with all you said. I am being vague here purposely because I've seen similar threads that come off as plea for sympathy or an attempt to try the case in public. Will report back once this is settled. Just unclear what to do in this specific situation. I am not being at all vague with intermediary and reporting all facts at my disposal to intermediary in a civil manner.


In essence, the first thing I get via the dispute claim long after delivery confirmation--"What you sent was broken before you shipped it. I had to send it off for repair at my expense. You owe me $."
So the item has been altered? It is not eligible for return then. Returns require original item, in original condition, with original packaging. In other words he can keep it and fix it, or return it as received. That would be my response: “The seller states the item was broken upon receipt, the item was in working condition at the time of shipping. According to the seller, he has had someone do work on this item after he received it. I am concerned that any damage claimed by the buyer is the result of work that the buyer has had done after receipt of the item. My return policy requires all returns to be the original item, in original condition. If the seller desired a return he should not have had work performed on the item”.

Does this item have a serial #? Could it have been damaged in shipping? Do you have picks of the item during packing and shipping? Did you request pictures of the broken item from the buyer?

You have to be careful with refusing shipments. You could end up with no money and no item.
 
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Mark-B

Inspired
If all else fails - even if you are in the right - give them their money back and chalk it up to loss...

Is that fair? Hell no it's not fair. But, if you value your business (and your health), bite the bullet and make peace with occasionally issuing undeserved refunds.

I don't know where, or how you are selling.. But, in business, invariably, you will always run into a dishonest person every-now and again.. It's like shoplifters and burglaries more associated with brick and mortar-type stores - no different really.

If you are in business, and you are going to take that business seriously, you'll learn not to take dishonesty too personally, as it's just another unavoidable thing that adds stress to an already stressful job.

Do your part. Be honest and realistic in your advertising. Many people online tend to over-sell, and when the products arrive, disappointment ensues.. You don't want that. At all.. If you sell an item, don't overstate - just try to compete on price and presentation and just advertise it.

People returning stuff because "it's not what they thought it was going to be", is one thing. And online sellers can avoid practically all those types of returns and disputes by toning the sales-pitch down a bit.

But then there's the scumbags. :confused:

We have something within our terms of sale which state - basically - at our discretion we we'll refund or reship - quickly, and happily, for the usual: damage in transit, receiving the wrong item, manufacturing defects etc., ..but also total order amount+shipping if we deem a refund warranted even if undeserved (basically to handle the lying scumbag dishonest type people who will libel you and fuck you with your CC processor online)

..the catch being that we also refuse to do further business with that person receiving a discretionary refund.

Like you pointed out: dishonest people, you'll only run across them once in a great while .. Take my word for this, if you are in this business - then you are up-to your neck in it. So you will run across dishonesty.

So, treat it as a business expense which you price into your products.

Utilities, Insurance, Materials, Labor, Loss, Shipping, CC Processing fees, .. these are all unavoidable business expenses - allow for these expenses.. Because if you let the dishonesty type of thing get to you, it'll eventually drive your blood pressure through the roof. It's just not worth getting too upset about these types of things. because running across dishonesty is unavoidable.

Yeah, Obviously, Use your words to begin with when dealing with all disputes. But do what you need to do to preserve your reputation. Because online, your reputation is everything, and it is very-easy to lose. And to lose it over a little-bit of money? ...in the scheme of things? Losing a little-bit of money, in business? ..ain't the end of the world.
 

Jape

Member
I honestly can't say with certainty at this point whether I'm dealing with a scam or a buyer who either made irrational choices of their own accord or made outlandish claims for unknown reasons. I was never given any documentation to support the claims when I pushed. No idea what the intermediary received since escalation.

Without instruction from the intermediary, I see my current options as:
A. Attempt to delay delivery hoping intermediary will respond.
B. Video of delivery all the way through testing.

I'm leaning towards B currently. At least I'll know where I stand.
 

Jape

Member
Thanks for all the replies and advice.
I received my gear back videoing the whole unpacking process. Looks like I am only out shipping. No idea why the buyer opened claim the way they did, but have no reason to call him a scammer considering I'm only out shipping. I will type up a detail of how this went down including mistakes that are on my own shoulders as I think others could learn from this. I think paranoia about being scammed only escalates issues on both sides unnecessarily.

Attaching screenshots to give you an idea of my optics before and after accepting delivery. STILL no response at all from the intermediary.
 

Attachments

Rex

Legend!
Thanks for all the replies and advice.
I received my gear back videoing the whole unpacking process. Looks like I am only out shipping. No idea why the buyer opened claim the way they did, but have no reason to call him a scammer considering I'm only out shipping. I will type up a detail of how this went down including mistakes that are on my own shoulders as I think others could learn from this. I think paranoia about being scammed only escalates issues on both sides unnecessarily.

Attaching screenshots to give you an idea of my optics before and after accepting delivery. STILL no response at all from the intermediary.
It's always nice when it ends without an explosion. :)
 

rushfan

Experienced
I once had an overseas buyer purchase a late 70's MXR Micro flanger from me. I think he was in Italy. Everything was tested and packed securely before I shipped it. 3 weeks after he received it, he said it didn't work, so I immediately offered a refund. Then he said he took it somewhere to get it fixed, and now it's working, and wanted me to pay him $40 for the repair of an item for which he paid $75.
I contacted eBay, and they told me if he didn't return it to me within 30 days of receiving it, he keeps it and that closes the case. He never shipped it back, so that ended the dispute.
 

Jape

Member
Tale of an Online Transaction Gone Wrong
Part 1


I expect most reading my OP on this thread could be wondering WTF? Why wouldn’t you accept a shipment? This is the story of how I got there.

I am not looking for sympathy, trying to excuse or justify my own actions, or discredit anyone. Probably should be a blog post somewhere because it will be long, but I’m no writer to begin with, much less a blogger. Hell, I hardly post on the forum.

Obviously, I have the benefit of hindsight in writing this. In hopes that others may learn from my mistakes and what I view as mistakes on the buyer side, this will be an attempted walk through of this entire transaction gone wrong. I hold firm to my stance that the buyer’s approach to resolving the dispute would not line up with what most people would expect. However, I am writing this giving the buyer the benefit of the doubt that all claims made were true or maybe spoke prematurely of what they intended to be true. I am not without fault in this. As you will see, the story begins with a very poor choice in judgement by me, and boy, did karma stick a pitchfork up my dumbass for that with a week of stress and anxiety. Any quotations “” of myself or buyer are fictional but are also an honest attempt to convey the true gist of how either side may have perceived the comments.

I believe each side’s mindset plays a role to how they react, so I’ll set up with some context of mine. How you react plays a big role in how the third party intermediary will decide outcomes.

I have bought used items online over the years but never sold anything until a couple months ago. I recently took in a disabled elderly relative which eliminated my mancave and brought some unplanned for expenses. I decided selling off a bunch a gear that had no place to reside and didn’t see much use could help offset. I’m not in to selling online as a side business as I usually tend to keep gear forever. My comfort level is low but rising. I have about 10 transactions under my belt using Reverb.com with no disputes or issues at all.

Finally, to the walk through—

Mesa MKIV listed on Reverb.com in good condition. One minor non-functional LED defect is noted. Also notes that I obtained the item used. Listed “as described” and non-returnable. In all my listings, I try to understate rather than overstate the condition so as not to create unrealistic expectations and use a description that simply states what is being sold. Aside from the one minor defect, I expect many would rate this item as “Very Good” to “Excellent.”

I receive an offer and then counter. That is followed by a message “email me at …”. I’m weary, but decide I’ll create a new email address and see what this about. I make it clear in the first email that I’m not comfortable with this and don’t want to take any chances. The buyer appears familiar with the gear and mentions he’s buying this as backup to one already owned. I google and find my way to a not great looking, but somewhat convincing gear related website. It is someone into this type of gear. Like me, buyer has few reviews on Reverb, but all positive. Buyer wants to use PayPal because of savings on sales tax. I mention my shipping will be higher this way. Buyer offers to use his shipping label. I see that as a red flag, but since he didn’t mention until I did, don’t think much of it and just decline. I make the choice to send him a PayPal invoice with exact description as Reverb listing. It is noted on the invoice as described and non-returnable. Buyer pays. I ship and email buyer tracking info., notes about packing, and request confirmation of safe arrival. This is my first sale of merchandise through my personal PayPal. I’ve accepted payments through PayPal for a business for years so I’m somewhat comfortable with that.

*Note- Not only did I just do something stupid, I also lowered my already low comfort level.

I receive UPS confirmation of delivery. About two weeks go by with no further communication. My previous experience on Reverb is that most will confirm and leave feedback in the two to three week time frame without prompting. I’m thinking all is well.

BOOM!

I get a dispute claim via PayPal. “This wasn’t damaged by shipping. It was broken when it was sent. I had to ship it to Mesa for repair. You owe me $300.” I check the email used for initial conversation. “I checked it when it came in. The heaters on socket X were not getting up to temp and … I had to send it off to Mesa Boogie for repair. Looks like you scammed me.”

I am assuming the worst—that I am being scammed. Who would receive something and then send it off for repair without first notifying the seller? I log in to PayPal to respond. Instead of just asking “Why didn’t you contact me? And, “do you have any documentation to support this? “, I basically “nothing for two weeks, then come to the table with a demand for money and nothing to support it. Amp was working fine when I packed it. I’ll refund with a return in condition I shipped minus shipping costs.” That was a dumb response fueled by anxiety, but I am also thinking somewhat rationally that if claims are true of actions and expenses without notifying me, that’s on the buyer or he can send it back.

Buyer responds “How dare you.. My reputation, angry ranting” And then doubles down that ”the amp is at the manufacturer and there will be a bill…” Does not include any supporting information.

Now, realizing I wouldn’t take kindly to the tone of my own initial response either, I pause. I bought the amp off Ebay years ago and have never had another in my possession to compare. It is a complex amp that can be run in different configurations. It is plausible that the amp has some non-obvious defect that I was ignorant of. This is a weekend so I can’t call Mesa, but I review repair policies on their web site.

I respond in PayPal again, toning it down a little, but not as much as I should. Smart move here would have been to apologize for my earlier tone. I’m still letting my “scam anxiety” fuel my response. Why the email about heater temps? If he did send it off, why didn’t he just provide shipping information or an RMA# to prove I’m being an ass? Is he tinkering inside the amp? Why did he offer to provide a shipping label in the presale discussion? This MUST be a scam of some sort. My response amounts to “Try to see it my way. You sell something and then the buyer comes back two weeks later claiming you owe money. It doesn’t work that way. You should be able to provide RMA#, tracking info., or repair estimate. I was never given a chance to resolve the situation. I’m now concerned about tampering due to comments in the email I received.”

Buyer responds with angry chest beating and no facts as I see it, repeats the amp is at the manufacturer, and escalates claim.

First time at this rodeo, but I’m thinking I’ve got all pictures and documentation I need. I’ve done no wrong here. Buyer has provided no proof of his claims when asked and, even if they are true, he is responsible for his own actions if he didn’t contact me first. Once it escalates, you get a chance to state your case and attach supporting files. I calmly state that the item was as described to my knowledge and that I had no contact or chance to resolve the dispute other than an arbitrary demand for money with no supporting documentation. I quickly realize that it won’t even let me attach all the pictures from the original listing, much less any emails or screen shots that would show the entire transaction. I note this in the text claim and ask for instructions on attaching more information. I want everything I have on the record so PayPal has all the facts I am aware of. Time goes by. I send a request stating I would like to provide all the documents that the dispute form wouldn’t allow me to attach. “We are currently reviewing your case. We will let you know if we need anything. I am so happy to assist you today.”

The next morning, I get notice from PayPal that they have decided that the item gets returned. I’m fine with that. It is essentially the same thing I offered in my initial response. I also realize at this point that PayPal is going decide based only on the text within the dispute log. It is essentially your word against theirs. I have never been inside a court room other than as a juror, but I expected a chance to present my entire case. PayPal disputes apparently don’t work that way.

The following day, I get notice that they have received tracking information from the buyer and that will be used to confirm the return. I check the tracking for weight, to and from cities and it looks good with a status of label created. Fine. I’m still worried though. Why would they return if claims were true? If the claims weren’t true? Why did they make them?

(continued in next post)
 

Jape

Member
Tale of an Online Transaction Gone Wrong
Part 2


BOOM!

I check back on the tracking to see expected delivery date only to find the shipment has been voided. I immediately notify PayPal and get the same “We are currently…”, but I also see the status later changes back to “under review.” I presume they are reviewing again with the same skepticism I am. By now, I’ve been able to contact Mesa with my serial number. No record of my amp ever being in for service. This clearly is a scam of some sort and PayPal is working on it.

The next day, I get an email from the carrier tracking a shipment from the buyer to me. I notify PayPal and get the repeated “We are currently….So happy to assist you today.” I try different contact methods to get information from PayPal with no useful answer. By now, I’ve found and read every PayPal scam horror story I could, including empty box, switching bad for good items, or swapping parts. I speculate that PayPal is simply working the issue behind the scenes, but in my mind, if I accept delivery while the case is under review, I’ve taken action outside of PayPal’s review process and potentially put myself at further risk. The shipment is scheduled for delivery on a Friday with signature required. I elect to take the family to dinner knowing the carrier will get “no one available” and attempt again later. I message PayPal that I am doing this in hopes they will provide me their expected course of action.

Sunday rolls around. Still nothing from PayPal but the “Blah Blah we are happy.” This is where I found myself asking the question in the OP of this thread. Accept or refuse delivery? I’m certain I’m being scammed, and the scammer knows PayPal’s process and is somehow using it against me. I start verifying I have documentation of everything including my visibility into the status of the case at PayPal. It is looking to me like I could be out gear and money with no recourse but small claims court.

Monday, I prep to record unbroken video of shipment drop off, unboxing, and testing. I even print pictures of the original listing with a closeup of the serial number to verify on the video what I expect in the box before opening. With no response from PayPal, I’ve decided any further attempt to delay delivery will just look suspicious on my part. UPS comes early this day while I’m out on business. I return to find my wife standing at the front door videoing a box on the porch. We anxiously proceed to carefully video every action while unboxing.

Low and behold, I have my amp back and it appears to function exactly as it did the day I originally received it. There is some slight cosmetic damage, but I’m relieved. This isn’t the nightmare I was expecting it to be and I’m only out my transaction and shipping costs. I message PayPal that I received the item, still having received no instruction or status change from them.

Any comments I could make about motives behind buyer's claims or actions in this would be pure speculation. I have my amp back and will keep it for now. If I do decide to list it again, I have no choice but to have it inspected by Mesa and document it’s condition. In fairness to PayPal, I realize now the tone of my initial responses probably hurt me more than it helped me. Still, I don’t think I will ever forgive them for the five days of uncertainty caused by refusing to answer a simple question, “is this shipment on the record?” I feel like I dodged a bullet.

I’ve been self-employed for decades and never would have handled a dispute in the same manner as here. No way I would still be in business. In fairness, I’ve never had a client come to me with claims like this either. For some reason, the whole fear of “I’m being scammed on the internet” changed MY behavior and that anxiety only escalated every time something “outside of norms” occurred.

If the buyer had first come to me with “I think we have a problem,” I’m sure this would have gone down differently. Likewise, if I had responded with only a cordial attempt to gather information, it also may have gone down differently. If a buyer had come to me with the same claim, but I had context of some sort, like say a member of this forum, I may have thought “That’s BS. But, why does he think he’s been wronged?” and approached it that way.

Speaking for myself, it is far harder to blindly trust a stranger on the internet with a significant monetary risk than I expected. If you do go outside your “comfort zone” and something goes wrong--Don’t panic. Don’t speculate. Ask questions. State facts. Document. Document. Document.

I wouldn’t wish this scenario on anyone.

Thanks for reading.
 
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