In: Information23 Mar 2009
Not all auctions go smoothly. Maybe the item arrived damaged. Maybe it didn’t arrive at all. Maybe it wasn’t exactly what the buyer thought he was getting. Maybe the buyer is a loud, complaining, major-league son of a rutabaga.
There are really no hard and fast rules for handling post-auction problems. You have to play it by ear and resolve each complaint to the best of your ability. Most eBay users are easy to deal with and just want to be treated fairly. Others won’t be satisfied no matter what you offer them. You have to use your own best judgment on how to handle individual situations.
In any case, if you have a complaining customer, you need to do something about it. Here are some of your options:
Ignore them. If you specified “all sales are final” in your item listing, you don’t technically have to do anything else at this point. Of course, complaining customers tend to leave negative feedback, and might even complain to eBay about you; this is not the option I’d recommend.
If the item was insured, you can initiate a claim for the lost or damaged item.
Negotiate a lower price for a damaged or disappointing item, and refund the difference to the buyer.
Offer to refund the purchase price if the item is returned to you.
Offer a full refund on the item, no questions asked, no further action necessary. (With this option, the buyer doesn’t have to bother with shipping it back to you; this is the way Nordstrom would take care of it.)
Most important are those complaints that escalate to the eBay level, via eBay’s Item Not Received or Significantly Not as Described process. Under this process, a buyer can file a complaint if he doesn’t receive his merchandise within ten days of the end of the auction. The problem here is that many transactions will fall outside this arbitrary waiting period.
For example, if a buyer pays by personal check and you hold the check for 10 business days before shipping, the buyer hasn’t received his merchandise in 10 days and can technically file a complaint.
Fortunately, nothing major happens if the buyer files a claim at the 10-day mark. Once the buyer files a claim, eBay notifies you (the seller) of the claim and asks for a response; no formal action is taken until 30 days after the end of the listing. If, at that time, the buyer hasn’t received the item (or the two of you haven’t communicated and worked something out), the buyer has the option of escalating the complaint into eBay’s Standard Purchase Protection Program.
At that point eBay can get involved and refund the buyer’s money (up to $200) and take action against you as a seller. That action could result in a formal warning, a temporary suspension, or an indefinite suspension. Of course, it’s also possible that eBay could evaluate the situation and take no action against you. The outcome depends on the situation.
Obviously, if you’re doing your job right, no complaint should escalate into the Standard Purchase Protection Program. If you do get an Item Not Received complaint, make sure you respond and inform the buyer why he or she hasn’t received the item yet. The key here is communicationespecially when you’re dealing with inexperienced buyers.
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