Friday, January 6, 2012

A recent post on the Regretsy blog - ("Where DIY Meets WTF"), which I read about in one of Ina Steiner's EcommerceBytes posts (, has generated a lot of discussion. It shows an email from a seller who was devastated that PayPal ordered her buyer to destroy an antique violin, due to the buyer's questions about its authenticity:

This prompted a flood of comments, both on the Regretsy blog itself, the EcommerceBytes blog (, and other places including the eBay Clothing Discussion Board.

It raises questions in my mind, and those of other sellers, especially those who sell high-end goods where questions of authenticity arise. Who is to decide the issue of whether or not an item is authentic or not? Especially in esoteric niches such as antique violins. It seems to me in these situations where there is doubt, there needs to be a careful evaluation of the item...I'm not sure what that would be, but one idea would be for the item to be seen by an expert evaluator, or photos could even be uploaded to an online appraisal/authentication service such as

Quoting the violin seller from the Regretsy blog:


"I sold an old French violin to a buyer in Canada, and the buyer disputed the label.

"This is not uncommon. In the violin market, labels often mean little and there is often disagreement over them. Some of the most expensive violins in the world have disputed labels, but they are works of art nonetheless.

"Rather than have the violin returned to me, PayPal made the buyer DESTROY the violin in order to get his money back. They somehow deemed the violin as “counterfeit” even though there is no such thing in the violin world."


I had a similar nerve-wracking experience of an eBay buyer questioning the authenticity of a high-end handbag I sold her. I was totally confident of its being genuine; had bought it from an expert in that brand, and also checked all the marks and construction against a detailed authenticity guide.

However, I was sweating bullets because as a buyer, she seemed to have all the power, and I was in jeopardy of having my 100% positive feedback rating destroyed. I assured her of all the points to check that would allay her fears about its being a fake, and suggested she take it to a local boutique for this brand where they could confirm the authenticity.

It worked out OK; she ended up keeping the bag, and not questioning it further, but in my mind it highlighted a problem.

Some of the comments about the situation that are going through the online selling forums world:

- From the Regretsy Blog comments:

- "I have never really used F***(you)Pal, so I have a question about the “buyer potection” thing. Is this something that you’re “enrolled” in automatically? Or is it something you have to “agree” to? Because, FyP is a third party, and has no way of authenticationg ANYTHING, nor, does it seems to me, that they have the right to demand that someone destroy property that they have not paid for,and that the seller can’t replace, especially if they aren’t given any options.

- "I have also been ripped off by paypal in this manner. I sold some Frank Miller books and the buyer sent me some her random books back and claimed I ripped her off. So she kept the nice books and got her money back. I told Paypal she sent me back crap books but nada.

- "Bull***. Quick straw poll – how many paypal users have waded through their mystifying terms of service from beginning to end? I know I haven’t. I haven’t lived long enough yet.
"Besides you’re missing the point.
"a) She states that she has had the item authenticated
"b) Even if it was not as described, it still wasn’t counterfeit. It’s still a bloody antique violin. Every violin you see online is described as ‘labeled as xxx make’ not ‘this is a xxx make’ because mislabelling was so common. Any buyer would KNOW that. Apart from Douchey Doucherson here, apparently."

"Even worse, this scheme of PayPal’s makes a great way to perpetuate fraud. Want to swap the fake Vuitton bag you bought on Canal Street for a real one? Just buy that real one on eBay, pay through PayPal and report the ‘fake’!"

Some sellers said they no longer sell valuable items on eBay due to this hazard.

But not everyone agrees that PayPal is always the problem: this one comment from Regretsy said they were burned as a buyer:
"Like everyone else I have been F&*ked over by PayPal several times but I was the buyer.
My items were fake and one very expensive item ($850)was broken costing me over $300 to fix before it could be used.
I have receipts and a detailed receipt showing that I wasn’t at fault for the broken bits and I had the other items authenticated at considerable cost and time wastage to me but PayPal still didn’t find in my favour.
I am an honest shopper unlike the scum some of you have dealt with yet it’s these same idiots that get away with the crap that you guys have described..."

For PayPal's part, it has a long list of steps taken when disputes arise, and this one paragraph seems to have been applied to the violin situation:

Under "Dispute Resolution":
"...How is the Claim resolved?

"Once a Dispute has been escalated to a Claim, PayPal will make a final decision in favor of the buyer or the seller. You may be asked to provide receipts, third party evaluations, police reports, or any other information or documents reasonably required by PayPal to investigate the Claim. PayPal retains full discretion to make a final decision in favor of the buyer or the seller based on any criteria PayPal deems appropriate. In the event that PayPal makes a final decision in favor of the buyer or seller, each party must comply with PayPal's decision. PayPal will generally require the buyer to ship an item that the buyer claims is Significantly Not as Described back to the seller (at the buyer's expense), and PayPal will generally require a seller to accept the item back and refund the buyer the full purchase price plus original shipping costs. If a seller refuses to accept the item, PayPal may award the Claim in favour of the buyer, provided the buyer has provided satisfactory evidence to PayPal that the item was sent to the seller. In the event a seller loses a Claim, the seller will not receive a refund on his or her PayPal or eBay fees associated with the transaction. If you lose a Significantly Not as Described Claim because the item you sold is counterfeit, you will be required to provide a full refund to the buyer and you will not receive the item back (it may be destroyed)."

This seems vague to me in its terms, and leaves a lot of wiggle room. Anyone out there, including any PayPal reps, eBay sellers, or eBay buyers, have other perspectives on this or better ways this type of thing could be handled?


  1. I was just cruising around the net and ran into this article about the violin. I am shocked @ peoples stupidity and ignorance. First that ASSW%$#!!!!, Canada should be whipped like a dog, be castrated(male or female)and then have their fingernails ripped out. FY Pal seems to have a lot of wiggle worm to wheedle their way out of anything with that extremely legal B.S. jargon if that violin had cost a lot more I think I would be seeking legal counsel. I can't believe that condones this action. I just opened a Pay Pal account because I wanted to buy something online non-eBay and the seller would only make transactions thru FY Pal. I don't understand why my check card is not as good. FY Pal has gotten to big for there pants. And that moron up in Canada sending a picture to you of their infantile behavior makes me glad to be an introvert. The more I hear of these things the angrier I get. People are mean, stupid and pathetic. I was taught to say please, Thank You, Excuse me, Pardon me, I'm sorry!!! People do not know these common graces and they sure as hell don't teach there stupid bratty critter kids. We are a numb society. It's all take, take take and, who can I screw over today because I don't care mentality!!! Well there I'm sorry that's the soap box of the day. I just can't imagine destroying a beautiful piece of art......unbelievable!!!!

  2. I realize is I meant to spell the word room not worm...hey it's late @ night. 12AM EST