I wasn't sure whether to write this post, but after some debate with myself, decided to go ahead, as its my blog and this is something that's really pissed me off...
I've been an avid buyer and seller on eBay since 2003, I have 1667 feedback, 100% positive, which is an average of 150 transactions per year although this year alone I've had over 230 transactions, to majority of them as a seller. It's fair to say I'm not their biggest customer but I'm big enough, and I can honestly say that up until now I've had no issues with the site and would have fully recommended it. Most buyers and sellers have proved to be honest - only once did I not receive an item, and there has been a handful of bidders that didn't pay but this was always solved in my favour.
They've started to get on my nerves in recent years, although I still stuck by them. I hate the fact that sellers can't leave negative feedback for buyers. The Final Value Fee plus the Paypal fee is extortionate, and now they've started to charge fees on P&P, which is an absolute joke. But I persevered, albeit putting up my P&P to compensate, as many other sellers have done.
Anyway, that aside, everything has been fine. Some of my auctions finished on Saturday, and when the first buyer paid, there was a small line below the transaction saying, 'estimated funds availability: 12/10/13'. I thought nothing of it, assumed the buyer had paid by echeque, and I would post the item once it cleared. But when all other sales had the same note under it, I realised the problem was not the buyer, it was me.
On checking eBay and Paypal regs, it appeared funds can be held for a few reasons but none that affected me, surely. I wasn't a new seller, and I didn't meet any of the other criteria. There must be a mistake, so I opened up an online 'chat' with an advisor.
The advisor confirmed that the payments were indeed in my Paypal account, but were on hold. I asked why, and how they could be released from hold. I would need to post the items first, he said, then mark them as dispatched and payment would be released within 7 days. Uhh....No. I told him I wanted payment before posting anything (a) because I had no guarantee I would then get it, and (b) I needed the funds to pay for postage. Not to worry, he said. Add a tracking number, or print off a postage label, and my items could be released within three days instead! Again, No. I wanted my money right now. I wasn't sending tracked as I hadn't charged the buyers for tracked, and I don't own a printer. Again, I asked him why they were on hold.
He said my seller performance was 'below standard' as I 'failed to meet the requirements for postage and packaging charges.'
After much debate and questioning, I went on to my seller 'dashboard' which showed my performance was indeed (apparently) below standard. So how did this come about, despite my 100% feedback record?
If you're on eBay you'll be familiar with the stars that you can leave sellers? Well, my average star rating for P&P had fallen to 4.62 out of 5, so eBay/Paypal/whoever had taken it upon themselves to hold my payments.
Let's get a few things straight here:
1. I was never notified that my payments were going to be held
2. If my P&P charges are so shocking, why is holding my payments a logical answer?
3. Paypal is not a bank, what right does it have to hold my money?
4. Am I seriously going to post items without payment? No!!!!
To say I am livid about the whole thing is an understatement. I cancelled all my remaining auctions, and have contacted the buyers to tell them that although I've marked their item as sent, it will not be posted until funds are released (which, according to eBay, will now be 5th October). This means I will probably get negative feedback and even more low stars. I tried to cancel the transactions, but guess what? I can't, because the money is on hold! I mean, seriously - who in their right mind would post items without having payment? And who's to say the buyer won't tell eBay they never got the item, and I end up not getting paid?
I also feel slightly patronised - like I'm being told off for 'being bad.' And the fact I had no warning really gets to me. The one advantage I have, is that I have other money to live off, but many folk don't. Selling stuff on eBay is often a last resort for folk who urgently need money. What sort of predicament does this put them into?
So my advice to you, as an eBay buyer is, never, ever use the star ratings when giving a seller feedback. Unless of course you're giving them all 5 stars, or unless they really are dire. I have no way of knowing which buyers chose to rate me low, nor do I know why as the feedback doesn't reflect it. They've innocently thought, hmm, the postage was a couple of quid too high, I'll give them 4 stars, with no idea of the consequences. If you have a minor issue, contact the seller and try to resolve it. And if you're a seller, be aware! Keep an eye on your dashboard, and don't send items unless your payments are cleared. Email your buyers after you've sent the item, asking them to contact you before leaving feedback if they're not happy, this might divert them from selecting a low star rating based on a minor problem.
I searched online forums about this issues. The British forums tended to have responses like don't worry, just post the item. They will pay you, it happened to me once and it was fine. Whereas the American forums had responses like, don't post the items, tell eBay and Paypal to go fuck themselves.
Yup, I'm with the Americans on that one.
I still want to sell stuff online, but I will never sell on eBay again. Even after they've decided I'm 'above standard', I am not taking that risk.
Do you use eBay? Has this ever happened to you?