Having Your Cake!

I, like many people, make frequent use of a well known online auction and buying website. My experience has generally been a good one. I’ve managed to obtain goods and services which would never have been possible in the past. Of course there are many precautions that we should all take whilst dealing with cash accounts online many of which have been widely publicised as the dangers of fraud or identity theft have become a stark reality to many an unwitting user of all kinds of different websites. But what of the websites own policing systems? Well, I recently had an experience which left me speechless, helpless and frustrated. I could have added anger to that list if it wasn’t for my fascination at my own stupidity at finding myself so manipulated. I’d found an item that appealed to me which I’d bid for and won. They were described as three quality copies of letters written by Margaret Thatcher. What actually arrived were three black and white photo copies and not nearly what I was expecting: colour perhaps. Anyway, I decided re-sell the items at an incredibly reduced price of 99p, which is actually more than they were worth. Imagine my surprise when the original seller bought them back even though he’d got the originals! Fine, I thought. It takes all sorts. I’d charge 50 for postage, but this wasn’t good enough for my buyer. He wanted them sent recorded delivery. For three photocopies? Well, as they say, the customer is always right. The total cost was just over £5. He’d paid and I’d sent recorded delivery. Then he reported that he hadn’t received the item, so I duly contacted the post office tracking system, again online. It showed that the item had been out for delivery, (see below)but could not be left because the buyer wasn’t at home and a signature was required, as he’d requested.

The post office then contacted him so that he may collect it personally. However, because he doesn’t drive, and the post office depot is some 16 miles from his home, he was able to extract a full refund, item and postage from me. He was then allowed to leave a negative report about me on the auction’s website which had also issued an ultimatum for a full refund. Thats not all. He then bombarded me with emails demanding I send jpeg pictures of the items. Why would he need these? He owns the originals!

Now, here’s my quandary. How can someone buy something on a website, specify a particular mode of delivery, have full knowledge of the items whereabouts and still manage to get a complete and full refund from a seller? This is just one illustration. Imagine if the item had been of a higher value. It means that the buyer gets to keep the item and get a complete refund, leaving the seller with absolutely nothing, apparently legally. Or is it?

 Mind you, I should have taken notice of some of his previous negative feedback, but surely I was safe selling something at such low value on such a reputable site! Can this genuinely be a way of getting something for nothing which leaves the seller without the goods or payment? Then, if all that wasn’t enough, he started selling the self same item again….I’d never heard of anything like it. Perhaps, in the underworld of the online auction, money is being lost all over the place, because in my experience, the site concerned showed little or no interest in my consumer rights. The seller loses: the carrier loses: the buyer is just having a laugh at his new found sourse of income and the website still gets all of its commisions. Perhaps this is a case of seller beware. Seller be warned. Now, where did I put that number for trading standards!

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