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.
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.
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.
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?