Ebay is broken, and someone needs to fix it


I’m not a regular ebay user, either from the buying or selling side but I recently had cause to attempt to sell an item on ebay and the experience was such a calamitous combination of frustration and fraud that it takes almost no effort at all to confidently claim I will never use it again. It’s broken, and needs to be fixed.

So you have an item you want to sell.  You’re not a store so you don’t have a warehouse full of widgets, or you want to receive payment immediately in a context that is conducive to electronic payments so you don’t want to use craigslist. Ebay right? Well that’s what I thought and I happily posted my item for which I wanted a fixed price. Now not being a regular ebay user I just went through the “list new item” process step-by-step reading the instructions as I went. One of the questions innocently asks, “Do you want to accept “Best Offers” below your price”,


To which I responded, “sure” and dutifully checked the box. Big mistake.

Within minutes of listing the item it had sold!  W00T! This internet thing really works!

The buyer was then asking for an “invoice” which I thought was weird but the email from ebay had a big button entitled “Send Invoice” so I though maybe that was normal.


Then I started noticing some strange things in the email. The buyer was requesting delivery to the UK and I had specifically selected “Deliver only to the US” in the listing process and the language in the email seemed broken and had a particularly “auto generated” feel about it:


Realizing that this was clearly a fraudulent buyer I foolishly assumed I could simply cancel the transaction. Nope.  The only recourse you have in this situation is to “request a cancellation” which politely requests that the buyer cancel the transaction.  Not much use when the buyer is a robot.

OK no big deal, Ill just re-list the item without the “Best Offer” option checked.  My item was listed and at no point during the listing process, or in the confirmation email sent by ebay was there a mention of any fees payable.  In fact the final step of the listing process assured me there were no fees payable:


The buyer then dutifully paid the requested amount and the money was deposited into my paypal account, or so I thought. Paypal (presumably indepent of ebay) has decide to hold my money for up to 21 days (or longer if the buyer reports a problem) because of the risk assessment of my account. OK, this is not completely rediculous as I very rarely use paypal so may be an unknown quantity. They were however quite happy to charge me $72 for the transaction with a total value of $1199. WHAT?? $72??

OK well I guess that’s just what they charge. I checked on their website and the rate was so high because my paypal account was originally opened in Australia and although the payment is made in USD to a US account in USD they obviously still consider it to be an “International Transaction” which attracts a 3.4% transaction fee. Nice one Paypal.

Now this is not ebay’s fault necessairly, other than the fact that they don’t offer any other way to receive payment, or at least not to me:


The final straw comes when I then receive an invoice from ebay for $240.00. Yep, that’s right, $240. This is actually two charges of ~$120, one for each item I “sold”. Wait… I only sold one item! Yep, you guessed it, they charged me for the fraudulent purchase that I subsequently could not cancel and have no way of resolving:


This is such an absurd comedy of failure, deceit and misrepresentation that it is a complete mystery to me why anyone would use this service for anything other than material in a stand up comedy act. And yet thousands and thousands of people do.  This just has to change.

Ebay seems to have established a solid revenue model based on nothing more than misdirection and slight of hand.  Surely we can do better.

For thousands of years people have been trading goods and services, mostly in cumbersome, inefficient ways. Technology is supposed to improve this but somehow ebay have managed to establish a dominant position without really solving any problems and instead inserting a myriad of new problems in to the process.

All I can say is that if you value your sanity, and your money, don’t use ebay.  Ever.


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