ebay advice for buyers - avoid ebay scams
Avoid eBay scams like this ! (Lumia 1020 1/103.5–f/2.2 )

Can you see that stuff on the lens glass? Click on the photo to make it larger. There. Can you see it now? What do you think it is? I’ll tell you. It’s fungus!

For those that don’t know, camera lenses are subject to fungal growth if they’re stored in dark and damp places, and/or make their home in humid and tropical climates. Fungal spores are all around us actually, but conditions are often not right for growth. When conditions are right, they grow on the lens glass coatings and form a web of filaments, typically with a thick and visible centre. In some cases it can be cleaned, but in the worst cases it etches the glass and the lens is considered junk.

I bought this fungus ridden specimen from an Australian seller on ebay. In the end, I had to lodge a dispute to gain a partial refund; and even then, the seller denied responsibility for selling me junk. So, I thought I’d post some useful advice for buying on ebay so that you have a better chance of avoiding the junk sellers.

The Nondescript

In their haste to sell, this seller forgets to describe the thing they’re trying to sell! Sometimes, language barriers will account for a very lean item description, but beware the seller that thinks writing “…item ok, paypal accepted…” is in any way informative. You’ll often only see one or two photos with this type of seller.

The Bad Photog

Likewise, be very careful when buying items with poor or blurry photos. It could mean that the seller has no idea how to use a camera phone, but it could also mean that the item is junk and they’re not showing you the flaws. A good seller will offer up as many photos as possible and take care when making the photos so they’re actually informative.

The Lazy Photog

Related to the two sellers above, this type will usually provide a very brief description, but will upload a lot of photos of the item and say “refer to photos for description”, or “photos form part of description”. This seller can’t be bothered to describe the item in words, and instead thinks that a load of photos that vary in quality will suffice. In some cases, the photos might even look good; you won’t see any flaws at all, and you’ll be convinced that you’re getting a bargain.

In the case I outlined earlier, the seller was very careful not to show the fungus on the glass in any photo. When I argued for some money back, it was on the basis that because the seller had said “…photos form part of description…”, they were taking it upon themselves to have the photos form an accurate description of the item in the absence of any other description. Their counter-argument was that I should have asked questions before buying; I bluntly stated that one cannot know to ask questions unless one knows that something is amiss.

The Tyrant

You’ll find a lot of Tyrants out there. They’re the sellers who often say: “Sold as is. No refunds. No returns accepted”. Even if you’re actually entitled to a refund in your country, the Tyrant will make up their own rules. Usually, they’re offloading junk, and item descriptions are lean. I’m not saying you can’t pick up a bargain this way, because occasionally the Tyrant will sell something they don’t know the value of. Regardless, be careful with this type.

The Regretful Seller

Quite honestly, this one can be very difficult to spot, as they regularly have a decent track record of feedback. Items are often well described, and the photos are good, but for some reason they’ve decided to keep the item in question or to sell it to someone else at a higher price. Obviously, this means they’ve not sent you the item at all, even though they’ve taken your hard earned shells!

Wondering why you received that tracking number and mail notification for the item? That’s because eBay records a mail-out once the seller prints out an address label for you. It doesn’t mean they’ve put the parcel in the post!

The best way to deal with this type of seller is to be vigilant. Check the date range for parcel delivery. If the day after the final day of estimated delivery arrives and you still haven’t received the package, message the seller to check on the tracking number and when it was mailed out. If they don’t get back within the week, raise a dispute immediately. If they do get back and seem to want to help, give them the benefit of the doubt and give the item another few weeks. If it has still not arrived, don’t wait to raise a dispute. Do it immediately.

There are times when a bad seller will string you along with excuses, hoping that you won’t raise a dispute. The issue here is that ebay only gives you a limited number of days from the date of purchase to raise a dispute. Once that time has elapsed, the bad seller wins and you can’t leave bad feedback for them or get a refund. I know all about this because I’ve been burned a few times this way. I wasn’t vigilant enough and the seller won out. After the expiry date has passed, you’ll only receive sympathy from ebay support and a suggestion to log the seller’s name with an ecommerce crime website in North America.

The Serial Offender

One of the easiest sellers to spot, the Serial Offender features a dodgy track record of feedback. The rule of thumb has always been to avoid sellers with feedback ratings of 99.6 and below, but I tend to bend that rule a little because I will risk assess each seller based on a few criteria.

I’ll often come across sellers with ratings of between 99.2 and 99.6, but in many of these cases the sellers have sold so much stuff that they’re bound to accumulate negative or neutral feedback in fair proportion to the total amount of goods sold. A proportion of this is also likely to be vengeance feedback where the buyer has received the goods but is extremely picky about quality.

Look at all the goods being sent from Hong Kong, for example. There are plenty of sellers there with feedback ratings of around 99.2, and I’ve bought from them without an issue. In cases like this, it’s wise to take into account language barriers, the ratio of feedback to total goods sold, and the quality of goods being sold; like cheap Chinese made stuff with a proportionately  higher risk of being received poorly by buyers.

Regardless, it’s a good idea to check the detailed feedback of every single seller you want to deal with. What kind of feedback do they have? If they have negative feedback, have they offered a refund or tried to fix the issue, which is evident in the feedback comments? Do items often go missing? Are goods packed well? Are they rude when dealing with issues that buyers raise?

It’s important to take all of these factors into account when assessing sellers. But once you spot a Serial Offender, it’s best to move on! Receiving a flawed item, rasing a dispute and packing it off to be sent back is not a fun experience. I’ve done it myself because I decided to take the risk.

The Know Nothing

This kind of seller is interesting because you can either pick up a real bargain, or you can pick up real junk! You’ll know them when you see their slender item descriptions and read things like this: “Untested. Sold as is. I have no way of testing this item”.

In cases like this, I carefully comb through their feedback. Do they have a good track record? Have they sold anything like this before? Does feedback indicate they they’re communicative and happy to try to resolve problems with unhappy buyers?

Sometimes, a seller just wants to turnover stock and has no time for testing. Other times, they’re offloading junk and don’t want to take responsibility for selling you that junk.

And Finally…

I hope I’ve outlined some useful ebay advice for buyers! Just make sure that you assess every seller carefully. Check and check again. Do you really need that item or can you find it for only a little more money being sold by a more reputable seller?

Do you have an ebay story to tell?

ebay advice for buyers: avoid the junk !
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7 thoughts on “ebay advice for buyers: avoid the junk !

  • June 10, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    Yes, when I see a fb rating of 99.something I always look at the turnover of the seller and usually it’s very high, which puts a 99% rating in a different perspective and after deeper analysis they turn out to be sellers that are simply serial offenders of flogging junk! racking up more than one neg per day!!
    They then try to justify themselves by replying with ‘please contact us before leaving neg – we are here to help’ or ‘refund offered’, but that’s simply not good enough, the damage has already been done – regardless.
    The buyer receives the junk, then has to repack the item, send it back, wait for refund before looking for what they want elsewhere………the damage has already been done!!
    I simply won’t buy from serial offenders.

    But, I would like to relate a positive story, it concerns a Tektronixs TM506 power frame for 500 series plug-in modules.
    The frame worked ok, but someone at their end must have tried to clean the case with something that had eaten into and soften the paint on the case.
    I wrote to the seller describing the problem to them and also saying ‘look, I try to think of every question I need to ask before buying anything of ebay, I never in my wildest dreams thought that ‘sticky paint’ should be one of them. Sorry for the rant, I’m just frustrated beyond belief!’

    Their reply just blew me out of the water!! They said ‘Please don’t apologise for venting. We understand your frustration. I would like to offer you a full refund [didn’t want the item back – too heavy, to expensive to return] including your postage paid to us’
    Well, I was dumbfounded, what could I say. They made good on their offer and I left the seller the most glowing positive feedback I could think of – ‘Simply exceptional customer service, 5 stars every day of the week’

    I mean, such was their offer, that it made me feel like I was the bad guy! 🙂 lol
    I would dearly love to find a way to make the paint cure up again, so that I could write to the seller and offer them some of their money back – please!! haha
    Ebay has some gems on it who do their best and who deserve our highest praises!!

    Wonderful thread Steve and yes, I’m also a keen photographer [developed my own b/w negs and prints at school] and know all about the lens nightmare you described here.

    • June 11, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Thank you for relating your positive ebay story Rob. What a great seller you found!!! A rarity it would seem. I think some sellers just don’t know a whole lot about what they are selling. So, do you think that remaining paint can be carefully stripped and the substrate repainted? I guess it really depends on what kind of paint it is and what the surface is underneath.

      • June 12, 2016 at 5:28 am

        Hi Steve, I had looked into respraying, I have all the gear having resprayed cars over the years [yep, I’m a petrol head as well :)] but the top and bottom covers are the only parts that come off easy, the rest of it is a complete nightmare.
        Being a power frame, it has a built-in transformer and power supply plus stand-alone npn/pnp power transistors for each slot that various modules make use of and a whole heap of wiring to go with them.
        I would have to unsolder all this wiring to get the case apart, certainly not worth the effort.
        Besides, the worst offending paint is a creamy white that is sprayed onto the front opening framework where you slip the modules in and it also has the logos etc. overprinted onto it – tricky to duplicate that.

        All the blue paint on the [textured metal]covers is still there and in fact seems to have toughened up a bit all on its own, the creamy white parts though, still have a tacky feel to them and some of that paint is missing. For now, I just handle the frame with care.

        The whole experience highlights another aspect to buying on ebay.
        As Steve says in this blog, do your research on what you are buying and who’s selling it.
        If you do get something that doesn’t meet your expectations, yes, it’s annoying, but don’t just blindly leave neg feedback – that should always be your last resort. Message the seller first – calmly and respectfully explain your concerns – you never know – you might be pleasantly surprised by what they offer back, as I was.

        Also, before buying from a seller you’ve never bought from before, another useful thing is to ‘ask the seller a question’. It needs to be something relative to the item, but can be any mundane question.
        Doing this, establishes a line of communication and you can gauge their response in timeliness and/or knowledge of the item they are selling.

        Once again Steve, many thanks for making this blog and allowing us mere mortals to engage in the conversation! 🙂

  • April 10, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Got sent a lens that was clogged up with sand once, it certainly looked nothing like what was shown in the pics. Fortunately the seller was good and I did not even need to raise a dispute, item was posted back and full refund given. It does however make me think they were trying to offload junk to somebody that wouldn’t know the difference between a good and bad condition lens

    • April 11, 2016 at 5:49 am

      Sounds like they were definitely trying their luck on offloading junk!! No doubt just hoping you wouldn’t raise a dispute or wouldn’t know too much about lenses. I’m deinitely more careful these days when it comes to buying stuff, unles I expect it to be cheaply made plastic anyway.

  • February 16, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    I’m not an eBay user, however these are sound practices that apply to almost any kind of online business encounter!

    • February 17, 2015 at 2:08 am

      Indeed they do! Thank you 🙂 I’ll be back posting photos soon enough!


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