eBay has recently changed dramatically. Many sellers (in particular) are unhappy with the changes. Basically, the environment on eBay has changed from that of mutual trust - the buyers trust that the sellers will do the right thing by them - to one of mutual distrust - eBay does not trust that the sellers will look after the buyers and has stepped in to force sellers to look after buyers. We don't quite agree that the changes are for the better, but this guide is not about our opinion of the changes. Rather, it is about using eBay as a buyer and a seller to optimize your protection from fraudulent transactions and to avoid unexpected surprises.
We still think eBay is a fun and safe place to buy and sell goods, and we still believe the vast majority of buyers and sellers are honest people, but it pays to be prepared for when things go unexpectedly wrong.
- Before you even consider bidding on a seller's item, check their feedback closely. In particular, pay attention to their neutral and negative feedback and their star ratings. Sellers reveal their true colours in their responses to transactions that go wrong and buyers express their true feelings about a transaction in their star ratings. You can filter sellers' feedback to only show their negative or neutral feedback by looking at their feedback profile and choosing the appropriate Period from a drop down menu on the far right of the screen (round about the middle) - this seems to be in a particularly difficult to find place on screen for some reason. Don't necessarily avoid sellers with less than perfect feedback, but do pay attention to sellers who leave abusive responses or sellers with unusually low star ratings in a given category such as delivery time - if others have had problems, you'll probably have problems too.
- Look at the item photo carefully - if it looks like a stock photo rather than a photo taken of the actual item for sale, be extra cautious.
- Carefully check the amount of PayPal protection available to you and never bid over this amount for an item. If the seller only has $400 PayPal protection and you buy and pay for a $2000 item, if the transaction goes wrong you will only get back $400. Don't put yourself in this position.
- Always fund a PayPal payment with a credit card. Don't even consider registering a bank account as a buyer with PayPal. If you fund with a credit card, you have the very robust additional protection available to you of a credit card chargeback if a transaction goes wrong and PayPal does not help. There's only one reason PayPal wants you to register a bank account with them - for PayPal's protection against chargebacks, not yours. Funding with a credit card also means your seller will get your funds instantly, avoiding the often lengthy delays caused by eCheques.
- If you sense a problem with a transaction, communicate with your seller, but also open a dispute with PayPal as soon as possible. Do not allow your seller to string you along with excuses until the time available to you to put in a PayPal claim has passed. Escalate to a claim as soon as possible. Good sellers will either not get to this point in the first place, or will clearly work within PayPal's time limits to resolve your issue.
- For sellers that previously transacted through Bank Deposit, you must now accept the fact that your rate of fraudulent transactions will increase, and funds that PayPal have accepted on your behalf are at risk for 90 days or so following a transaction. This has nothing to do with PayPal - if a credit card fraudster pays you for an item, you WILL have the amount charged back when the real cardholder notices the fraud. The same applies if you were to accept credit cards directly - it's a cost of doing business. Don't take it personally.
- If you offer Payment on Pickup, only accept CASH for such transactions. If someone pays you by PayPal, picks the item up and then later lodges an Item Not Received dispute, you WILL lose as you have no proof of dispatch that PayPal will accept. Sure you could do things like sight a driver's licence, get someone to sign for an item, take down their car registration number, take photos, and so forth, but NONE of this will help you get your money back from PayPal. At best, this will assist the police when you lodge a crime report with them. If your buyer does pay with PayPal, you will need to refund their payment and insist on cash on pick-up.
- Verify that your buyers' PayPal registered address is the same as their eBay registered address, and clarify any anomalies. If you want to avail yourself of PayPal Seller Protection, you MUST post to the buyer's registered address in PayPal. If you do not, you WILL lose an Item Not Received claim.
- You should automatically use registered post for any items that sell for more than $50, and registered post/extra insurance for any items that sell for more than $100. Build these costs into your pricing structure - it is irrelevant whether or not your buyer opts to pay for these extra services as you are using them for YOUR protection, not theirs. For items less than $50 in value, you are able to lodge a claim with Australia Post if the buyer claims the item was not received, so long as you have some form of proof of postage. This can include a receipt from the post office with the buyer's postcode on it, or can even be a receipt showing you purchased (eg) 10 postage satchels. For items above $50 in value, PayPal will accept the registered post receipt as proof of postage to defend an Item Not Received claim against you. Additionally, if your account is in good standing, this will qualify you for Seller Protection. Some sellers may choose to use Registered Post for all their sales, but we believe it is unnecessary for sales under $50 in value because of the protection available to you from Australia Post.
- Buying patterns have changed since Buyer identities were hidden. We have always offered Buy It Now prices as well as auction prices. More buyers are choosing to accept our Buy It Now prices than ever before. For auctions that proceed, sniping at the very last minute is now far more common, so it is crucial that you set your minimum price to a price that you are willing to accept - bidding wars may now be a thing of the past. It is also crucial to let your auctions run their full course and not be disheartened by the fact that no bids have been made, as otherwise you will miss out on a large proportion of your sales.
- COMMUNICATE with your buyers. The "new" eBay begins at a point of mutual distrust. Prompt, courteous and frequent communication with your buyers will help them to trust you. We personally send out emails when an auction is first won (with the buyer's delivery address included in case it is wrong), when payment has been received and when we have dispatched our buyers' goods.
- ACCURATELY describe your items and take GOOD photos of them. There's no surer way to buyer dissatisfaction than poorly describing an item as "excellent" when it is far from excellent. You are better off describing an item as worse than it actually is and having your buyer be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the item when it arrives than the other way around.
- Carefully pack your item. Allow for proper packaging when quoting postage. Never, ever scrimp on postage or packing. If the item arrives broken, it is YOUR FAULT and you will need to refund your buyer (and if you don't agree, PayPal will when the buyer opens a Significantly Not As Described claim).
- ALWAYS TREAT YOUR BUYERS AS YOU YOURSELF WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED AS A BUYER.