Sooner or later, almost everyone that buys or sells regularly on any ecommerce site will have a bad experience. Unfortunately, the structure of eBay's trading platformthe unusual customer service model, the fact that buyers buy not from eBay but always from a third party, the amount of "play" in the transaction time for shipping, handling, and so ontends to make frustration on eBay that much more...frustrating.
If you want to come out the other end of the frustrating experience with the best possible resolution, however, you need to keep your head on straight and take a few simple steps. Here they are:
- Take a step back and a deep breath. There are a few things that almost everyone wants to do in a moment of frustration that help even less on eBay than they do on other ecommerce platforms. Yelling and screaming is one. Sending nasty email messages or posting angry rants on internet forums is another. Getting "revenge" by somehow trying to manipulate your trading partner or the selling marketplace is another. Everyone knows that these kinds of impulses never lead to satisfaction, but even when you know it can be difficult to resist. But resist you must. Take a step back. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk. Put everything away in a drawer or shut down your computer and come back to this issue tomorrow, or next week. Become calm before you try to take any further steps. That way, you'll be in the best position to make good things happen for yourself.
- Make contact. Do your best to contact both your trading partner (if applicable) and eBay. You're likely to have better luck actually reaching and interacting with a trading partner, since eBay and PayPal are notoriously difficult to get ahold of, but if you can actually get ahold of eBay and/or PayPal and get the right representative on the right day, you could be made whole again with a few quick keystrokes on the other end. It's worth a shot. In the meantime, if there's a trading partner involved, tell them in clear, brief language exactly what you're upset about, what you'd like done about it, and notify them that you're also pursuing the matter with eBay and/or PayPal.
- Be patient. Making contact and having interactions can take timehours at least, and days more than likely. Give those on the other end(s) of your interactions time to respond to you. Your surest chance for a happy resolution to any dispute is to handle things through this kind of negotiation. Remember, there are other steps that you'll pursue if contact and negotiation don't work out, but it's not time to pursue them until it's clear that there's no point talking any longer, or until the time that has passed begins to be measured in weeks, rather than days.
- Look for tools and non-human forms of action. Much of the help available to eBay buyers and sellers and to PayPal transactants is automated, on their websites. Have you used the customer support system to address your problem? Have you used the dispute/buyer protection system, the VeRO system, the unpaid item system, the problem bidder or specific bidder blocking systems, or other tools that may be applicable? Once it's clear that the humans aren't talking, your next step is to use the automated tools that eBay and PayPal have made available to you. Even if you're the sort of person that hates automated tools, the fact is that these tools are there to be used, and to ignore them is to reduce your chances of coming out satisfied.
- Search forums and discussion boards. Visit the groups and discussion boards in the eBay community and search for others that have experienced the same thing that you have experienced. Post your story in an appropriate forum or discussion and ask for help. Look for forums outside of eBay where similar problems are being discussed as well, keeping your eyes open for strategies that might help you to create the kind of outcome you're seeking.
- Look for third-party help. If eBay and any involved trading partner are ignoring you or haven't left you satisfied, you're not finding any system or form on eBay or PayPal to address your concerns, or any strategies in the eBay community for confronting your problem, it's time to look to third parties for help. Do you need to dispute a credit card transaction? Do you need to contact police, the postmaster general (for cases of mail fraud), or some other authority that handles this kind of problem? If you suspect that you have become the victim of a crime, the local police department will often be able to offer suggestions to you, even if they don't have jurisdiction over the incident in question.
- Share your experiences. If you've come this far without being satisfied, whether things work out in the end or not is now probably beside the point. You want (and probably deserve) to be heard. Leave negative feedback and/or poor detailed seller ratings if this is an occasion to do so. More importantly, post about your experiences on discussion forums, both on eBay and off of eBay, and on social media via Facebook and Twitter, amongst others. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper or of an online ecommerce news site or find another way to get the press involved if you think it will help. Contact the better business bureau and leave a report, whether it is about eBay themselves or (probably more helpfully) about a particular business, if applicable. Even if you're past the point of being made whole again or having your frustration addressed, sharing your experiences helps you to feel better and helps others to be wise to the problem that you've experienced.
- Move on if necessary / don't limit yourself to eBay. If you've come this far, it's probably weeks later and you're still probably angry. If that's the case, maybe it's time to move and buy or sell on a different platform. There's no law that says that either buyers or sellers have to limit themselves to eBay. If you're going to be frustrated or dubious and worried every time you visit the site, or if you're likely to experience the same problem again based on the kinds of transactions and/or trading partners in your business, it may be counterproductive to cling to eBay. Instead, try some alternatives, whether small ones or much larger ones like Amazon.
You Are Not Alone, But You Can Be Eventually
As you can see, there's no guarantee that you'll be made whole in any of this, and the nature of eBay and choices that eBay has made about their business model mean that there's no one point of contact (like a 1-800 number that handles all cases) or standard process for all complaints to rely on for satisfaction. There are a lot of people that have been frustrated by eBay and eBay buyers and/or sellers over the years, and a lot of people that are sure that their experience is evidence of eBay's biases or taking side or a cavalier attitude toward crime; you're in very good company.
But things on eBay tend to happen on a case-by-case basis, and if nothing else, keep in mind that what you're experiencing is one case. Of course, it's also your case, so at the end of the day, if you find that you're no longer enamoured with eBay, remember that the internet is a big place and there's something out there for everybody, even if that something isn't eBay for you. Wherever else you go, you'll probably be in good company.
Remember, too, that if you've been through all of the alternatives, there's no longer any use crying over spilled milk. Don't give yourself high blood pressure over one transaction or allow a faceless (if primary-colored) corporation to ruin your month, your year, your business, or your holidays (whatever holiday may be at issue). One way to end up being alone is to stew in your hatred of eBay or of one eBay trading partner indefinitely; having heard from a number of people that remain upset months or even years later, it's clear that they have an "it's me against the world feeling" left over from the experience that can't be pleasant and that is often out of all proportion, given the time and energy involved, to the losses or frustrations that they've experienced. Don't let this be you! Certainly spending a good deal of time on a grudge once all options have been exhausted leaves that time unavailable for any other pursuits to compensate for your loss or frustration or lead you to a better situation in the future.
When you've been frustrated on eBay (or anywhere else), know what you can do, do what you can, then, if things aren't better, turn the page and do whatever needs to come nextwithout focusing any longer on what's already gone by the wayside or that can't be changed.