“Though we do our best to inspect every item we sell, we cannot test every item thoroughly and all sales should therefore be considered final and AS-IS, no returns or further claims accepted.”
“This item is guaranteed to be exactly what is pictured and described here, but it is otherwise sold AS-IS, no refunds or exchanges.”
“All sales are AS-IS, no returns. Check our feedback and bid with confidence!”
These statements and others like them are particularly frustrating for shoppers that are new to eBay, who justifiably have no idea what to make of them. How does an item that is “guaranteed” at the beginning of a sentence become an “AS-IS, no refunds or exchanges” item by the very same sentence’s end? Why would you “bid with confidence” on an “AS-IS” item that can’t be returned?
From the Seller’s PerspectiveIn fact, many sellers using such will happily refund or exchange AS-IS items under certain circumstances, though they’ll never publicly admit it. What’s really going on here is that the seller is protecting themselves in case of any dispute—they’re making sure to start from a position in which they have little legal responsibility. While this may seem to be a nefarious selling practice, it’s often a very sane thing for a seller to do, for a number of reasons:
- Diversity of eBay goods. The goods that appear for sale on eBay are of an almost infinite variety and range of conditions and values, and this means that for some categories of goods, especially one-of-a-kind or esoteric items, it can be very tough to explain to a buyer just what it is they’re getting.
- Diversity of eBay buyers. Different buyers can have wildly different expectations. A single “antique wristwatch” auction might draw aficionados accustomed to yard sales and flea markets, collectors accustomed to high-end jewelers, and college kids that just want to look cool and keep time. Each group might have a different understanding of what “excellent condition” means and entails, and what the item is for.
- Difficult or unreasonable buyers. One thing that makes an eBay business very different from a regular business is that a relatively small quantity of dissatisfied buyers (in some cases, a number countable on one hand) can shut down your entire business if eBay decides you’ve been unfair in your dealings. The easiest way to overcome this problem is to use the “all goods are AS-IS” mega-disclaimer in all of your auctions.
- Realities of some eBay businesses. eBay is one of the world’s centers of used goods redistribution, and many sellers’ goods were acquired as parts of massive wholesale lots of used items, off-lease items, abandoned goods, new old stock, or other large and varied assortments of stock. Sellers may not have the time to test each of the 4,000 mobile phones that recently arrived, and they may not know how to test the truckload of x-ray machines sitting in their warehouse. When recycling of this kind is a business model, sellers have no realistic choice but to sell on an AS-IS basis. Many such sellers simply use their eyeballs to “inspect” items and post things like “appears to be in good condition” in their descriptions.
- Impossibility of stating clear conditions. For some types of items, supplying a clear condition is next to impossible. This is the case with many one-of-a-kind, work/worn out, “non-working for parts only,” antique, and other similarly unusual auction listings. In such cases, sellers assume that buyers realize they're buying a completely unknown quantity, and that this is the very nature of the type of items in question.
At the end of the day, the important thing to note is that sellers don’t sell AS-IS things with their eyes closed, nor do they always necessarily list goods for sale on an AS-IS basis simply because they’re crooks. Sellers know that the words “AS-IS” in an auction mean fewer bids and thus lower sale prices. It’s a conscious calculation that they’ve made about how they want to run their business and what kinds of revenue (vs. customer service costs) they want to sustain.
Knowing how to make the most of AS-IS auctions, however, is a little more complicated than understanding why sellers might use them. Read on to learn more about how to shop AS-IS on eBay.