To be clear, most small start up companies in online retail have little choice but to rely on marketplaces such as eBay. They offer low cost platforms to high visibility trade places in the market, and when they work they work very well. Nobody doubts this, and frankly it’s unlikely that our company would be where it is now without the revenue generated by eBay in particular over this past year.
We use a range of different platforms to sell our products from Facebook to Instagram, Etsy, a few London based companies, our own website and finally also eBay. Really we have not experienced any negative aspects to working with any of these with the exception of one...
eBay says that it believes ‘all customers are good’ and this is perhaps where the first issue lies with using their marketplace as a seller. In our instance for example we have lost in excess of £1,000 In this past 8 months on being forced to refund purchases of damaged goods where we have evidence that the eBay customer did not receive the item in the reported state, or did not follow protocol in returning the item. The downfall here is that regardless the evidence the seller submits, eBay will always side with the buyer to honour their money back guarantee. Even if this means the buyer ends up keeping the product and getting a full refund as was the case on two occasions for us.
In December of last year we dealt with a customer through eBay who wanted to return an item that they felt was not quite right for them. As a seller you die a little bit inside when emails like this hit your inbox because you know the sheer volume of paperwork involved in the process you are about to enter. Coupled with this is a very fine line between profit and loss on stock, and that constantly looming concern that you may not be financially viable as a business. However, for us as a company the number one priority is that our customers are happy regardless the platform we sell to them from and so we followed all protocol set out to initiate the return of the item.
Nearly a month later, and two weeks after eBay had automatically refunded the customer in full despite our intervention, this arrived on our doorstep.
Cue many hours of phone calls to the Philippine based eBay customer care call centre. After being asked to launch an ‘appeal’ we received an email to explain that as the customer had selected the ‘parts missing’ option on the returns form, potentially in order to avoid paying the returns fees, eBay would be were siding with the customer and would not take further action. Ebay were not interested in considering the evidence that the item was delivered as described, nor were they interested in the unsellable condition of the returned item.
At times like this, you breathe, then you count to ten, then you consider jacking it all in and getting a nice safe predictable permanent job in a random company somewhere. Following this you have a quick pray, then you die a little inside and you call the Philippines. It’s important to note at this stage that on every occasion that you make contact with the call centre you have to explain the full situation again, and allow for language barriers to be overcome. Perhaps eBay should consider generating a set of scripts for us sellers that would compliment the ones their staff use? Maybe we could guide them better through the processes that way.
So after all this, what became of the crumpled box on our doorstep? Nothing, much like the three other appeals made by us. The contents were destroyed as you would imagine, and eBay did nothing to support our company through the financial loss we incurred. In fact, we still ended up paying a final value fee for the piece and so in effect actually paid eBay for the disservice that we experienced. It’s tempting at times like these to get on to the complaints department isn’t it? You’d have a hard job doing that with eBay who don’t have one. Don't worry though because you call always pick up the phone to their customer care call centre! Perhaps you may consider contacting the appropriate Ombudsman at this stage? Not possible as they have not signed up to one. They have, basically sewn the package they offer so tightly that they are beyond reproach or as I like to say they are Teflon - nothing sticks to them.
All things considered, we are grateful to eBay for the platform they gave us through our early incubation period as a company. Perhaps as grateful as they may be for the thousands of pounds we generated for them. However much like most dysfunctional relationships, our time is going to have to come to an end. It’s not that we don’t love you eBay, well in fact we don’t so maybe it is that. But listen, eBay don’t blame yourself, it’s not anything you did. In fact it’s what you didn’t do. You didn’t put your sellers first. Everyone knows the first rule of any company; happy workers are more productive.