eBay: The Buyer from Hell

When pickiness goes too far.

Macworld Expo ProgramI recently put a bunch of Macworld Expo programs and guides up for auction on eBay. These items, which have been sitting in various boxes and drawers for over 10 years were in very good — or even mint — condition, perfect for a collector.

I got immediate interest from a Twitter user who wanted to buy the lot of them at a fixed price. I’d already listed a few of them on eBay and I thought I might do better at auction.

Apparently, he wasn’t interested in bidding on them. No one was. Except the buyer from hell.

The buyer from hell bought one program for 99¢ and another for $1.99. Although I’d listed each with Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope shipping at $6.95 (to cover shipping, handling, eBay listing, and PayPal costs), I figured I’d cut him a deal and send the two programs together in the same envelope. So I invoiced him a total of $8.95 for shipping — a savings of $4.95. I figured he’d be happy that I’d just saved him some money without him even asking.

What I got, however, was a long-winded request to package the two programs in a large box with a lot of padding around them. I was to ship this box by parcel post to save him even more money.

So here’s a guy who spent less than $3 on two items that he wants me to treat as if they’re worth thousands.

I tweeted about this on Twitter. I got a few responses that confirmed I wasn’t crazy to be thinking that this guy was asking too much.

I was not prepared to find an appropriately sized box and lightweight padding to ship $3 worth of paper. I reminded him that the auction specified Flat Rate Envelope as the shipping method. (I personally think this is the best way to ship a document like this as it holds it flat and it can’t shift around in the envelope.)

He wrote back with another long-winded, whining message to say that I could use a flat rate box. The post office provides them for free. I can then use newspaper to pad around the programs.

So now he was suggesting an extra trip to the post office — unless he supposed that I’d go to the post office with all my packing material and prepare the package there.

For $3 worth of paper.

Like I didn’t have better things to do with my time.

I ignored his message until after the holiday. He wrote again and copied the message to me. I wrote back to say that I wasn’t going to do any special packaging. That it would be either flat rate envelope as specified in the auction description or we’d cancel the sale. I also reminded him that he had not contacted me before the auction close to ask if I’d do special handling for these items. I told him we could have prevented this misunderstanding if he’d communicated with me in advance.

He wrote back, now indignantly, to say that he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t do this for him, that many other people have, and that he didn’t want the programs damaged in shipping. I didn’t say what I was thinking: that putting two programs in a box with a bunch of dirty newspaper was far more likely to destroy them than shipping them in a nice, tight cardboard envelope. Instead, I wrote what I was beginning to think:

Is this some kind of joke? Did someone put you up to this? I’ve spoken to several experienced eBay sellers and they all think you’re over the top with your shipping concerns. I’ve sold quite a few things on eBay — ALL of them more valuable than this — and NO ONE has ever bothered me about shipping like you have.

I am not completing this sale. I don’t want to deal with you any longer. You are wasting my time.

My advice is to forget this auction and get on with your life. That’s what I plan to do.

He wrote back with some more of the same whining crap, finishing up to say that he’d never bid on any of my auctions again. Well, that’s a relief.

I went online at eBay and reported the auction as unpaid because of a disagreement over terms.

If he gives me negative feedback, I’ll hit him with some of the same, marring his perfect record.

Maybe there are people out there who have nothing better to do than cater to the requests of cheap collectors. I have much better things to do with my time.

As for the programs — they all go back on ice for another 5 to 10 years.

8 thoughts on “eBay: The Buyer from Hell

  1. Guys like this go around spreading sunshine and leave lots of folks feeling like dealing with the public is a big pain. Then I show up and sometimes they pass it along to me. I am not saying you would do it. But I am saying I would like to get my hands on the Human Virus who spreads all these feelings around.

  2. I’m not quite sure what you’re saying here. Who’s spreading the bad feelings? Is it me? Or the whiner with the unreasonable demands?

    I should say here that I’ve completed at least 50 eBay transactions in the past few years. That’s not a lot, but it’s something. I’ve only had a problem with a buyer twice before, and both time it was because they didn’t read the entire listing before bidding on and winning the item up for auction. In one case, the guy read “free local pickup” for a 80-lb monitor and thought it meant free shipping to his home on the other side of the country. In the other case, I clearly stated my limited success using the device (a hub) and he complained that it didn’t work perfectly.

    I guess the point here is that most transactions go smoothly with both sides happy. But every once in a while, a buyer reads what he wants to read into a listing and then expects the seller to give him what he wants. I’m not going to jump through hoops for a $3 sale — especially when he didn’t even bother to ask me if I would before the sale was completed.

  3. I said “I’m not saying you would do it” in my original post. Some folks do pass stuff like that on to others. It’s unfair but it happens. But once again I am not saying you would do it.

  4. Barbara, no, he couldn’t. When the auction was mutually canceled, he could not leave feedback at all. Neither could I, for that matter. Which is just as well because I’m sure we would have blasted each other.

What do you think?