How to Avoid Problem Buyers and Bad Situations on eBay

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One of the challenges of selling on eBay is getting paid and avoiding problem buyers who file chargebacks or unwarranted claims to try to game the system. As a seller, there are a few ways to protect yourself against unscrupulous buyers and buyer scams. Take the time now to adjust your settings so that your interaction with dishonest buyers is limited.

Require Immediate Payment

After many years of sellers having to tolerate non-paying bidders, eBay introduced the Immediate Payment feature. This setting allows the listing to stay active until the buyer actually pays. When enabled, Immediate Payment will allow the buyer to click "Buy Now" but does not remove the listing from eBay until the Paypal payment has been completed. 

The downside of Immediate Payment is that it doesn't work when a Best Offer is accepted, it doesn't work on auctions, or on second chance offers. So, unfortunately, this feature is limited in scope but still worth using if most of your listings are fixed price or good til canceled. There is no cost to use the Immediate Payment feature. If you aren't using it now, you can add it to all of your eligible listings by using the bulk editor.

Clearly State Your Return Policy

Returns are a part of doing business in any business that sells a physical product. eBay is no different, While there are ways to minimize returns, sellers can't refuse returns because of eBay's Guarantee. So basically, you have a return policy whether you want one or not. The best defense in any business is a good offense. Clearly state your return policy and all the details including:

  • Method of refund - money back, exchange, or other
  • Who pays return shipping
  • How many days the buyer has to return the item (14, 30, or 60)
  • If you charge a restocking fee
  • If the item must be in original condition

Also, protect yourself against the old switcheroo. In this scam, a buyer will purchase an item on eBay, let's say a new Coach handbag. After receiving the item, she will claim she wants to return it and send back a different Coach handbag - maybe an older one, or a fake. When selling expensive items, always post photos of serial numbers, RN numbers, part numbers, or other identifying information. With fragrances, always photograph the amount of liquid in the bottle. Be careful when selling these types of items:

Some sellers have restored to using Tyvek paper event wristbands on clothing, in a prominent place, and stating the item must be returned with the bracelet intact. They place the bracelet in such a manner so that if the garment is worn, the bracelet will be visible (and look really tacky). Tyvek wristbands only cost a few pennies each when purchased in bulk. 

Authenticate Designer, Autographed, or Collectible Items

Buyers can claim expensive items are fake and ask for a refund. You can prevent this from happening by providing COAs (Certificates of Authenticity). Designer items including handbags, sunglasses, some clothing, shoes, and blue jeans are good candidates for an authenticity check. You can use a service like Authenticate First. Simply email photos of the item to the service and their experts can examine the photos to see if the item is real or fake. eBay also provides a list of authentication services for these specialty items:

  • Autographs
  • Beanie Babies
  • Coins
  • Comics
  • Jewelry
  • Political Memorabilia
  • Stamps
  • Trading Cards

Visit eBay to use their recommended authentication services before listing any of the above-mentioned items. Buyer fraud can be a problem on eBay, but don't let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch for the rest of us.

Sellers must do their due diligence to prevent problems from buyers down the road. Require Immediate Payment when applicable, clearly state your return policy, and authenticate autographed, designer, or collectible items before listing. A little extra effort prior to listing can save you a lot of headaches after the sale. 

Revised by Suzanne A. Wells