Sunday, November 29, 2009

Screaming With Frustration

I feel like I'm in the middle of an old fifties television sitcom. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball are playing their usual Cuban American bandleader and ditzy-wife roles. Desi is upset with something Lucy has done and comes home boiling mad, sputtering a string of invective in Spanish. After the laughter of the live studio audience dies down, he remarks "Looosie... you've got some 'splainin' to do!" Let's zip forward fifty-five years. I've got some explaining to do.

I've been a buyer on ebay since 2003. In that time I was a participant in several thousand transactions that went off, virtually, without a hitch. You can view my feedback rating and see, that at 1879 received it is one hundred percent positive. So when something does go wrong on ebay, I am disconcerted. Usually, it is just a package arriving late, but recently it was the wrong item. I had to exchange several emails and return the item. Let's say I was disgruntled.

The seller had sent my things to another buyer, and I had his item. After the other buyer had returned his item to the seller, and I returned mine, they were sent correctly to their respective bidders. A hassle that well might have been avoided if more care had been taken at the time of their original mailings. But mistakes can happen. Especially if you're elderly, new to ebay, and your short term memory is clouded by confusion. That's the essence of an email I received.

Another time I purchased an expensive Rado watch. I had just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Europe the previous summer. While there, I had spent a short while in the Inner Courtyard of the Doge's Palace
window-shopping in the many niches that are filled with vendors. I had spotted a black mirrored-finish watch I admired, but didn't want to pay the VAT. Sidenote to follow.

While there, Venice was encountering the worst stormfront in decades. We didn't get to go on a gondola ride. The Doge's Palace was closed to visitation due to pools of water beginning to puddle inside. And the courtyard? The one that was the scene, a few years ago, where a husband gives his wife a ring to commemorate their anniverary? And then she, with a flock of pigeons taking wing wistfully cries "I love you." That courtyard was awash in at least 8"of water.

Anyway, I returned from Italy with the memory of that watch egging me on. The little voice in my brain was insistent "I want it, I want it," and just would not be silenced. So when I saw that purportedly new $1500 watch on ebay with the bid currently at $600, I jumped in. I won it for something like $1050, but I was pleased by my bargain. Once I received it, though, my glee turned to dismay. The serial numbers had been buffed off. Not good. This posed a dilemma.

The watch had been stolen, it was obvious. Although with the serial number removed there was no way to prove it. The seller stated she got it back from the jeweler's that way after having it cleaned. Yeah, right. I tried to go into arbitration but the seller refused to cooperate. She didn't offer a refund, and I was afraid to ship it back. I would be totally empty-handed then. At least this way I had a watch with a colorful history. Ebay said there was nothing they could do, so I posted negative feedback and that was that.

While still in watch-collector mode I had another unfortunate episode. A seller in Australia listed an expensive watch that I was lucky enough to win at a significantly discounted price. After paying for it, for some reason I searched ebay. Maybe to compare prices with similar products to see how good a deal I had gotten? The same seller had the identical watch, with the same serial number, listed for sale again, with an auction expiration date of twenty-nine days!

I contacted other bidders whom I had bid against. Three of the seven confirmed that they had bid on a similar watch offered by the same seller in earlier listings. The guy was selling the same watch to bidder after bidder, and not delivering. What a scam. So I immediately began emailing, demanding a refund in full. No answer. I became threatening. No answer. I had several of the other people I had written to contact ebay, as did I. The guy got delisted.

Yet still no refund. I had to call the American Consulate in Sydney, Australia and send letters detailing what had happened to them and the police constabulatory in the town where he lived. After that, I did get a swift Paypal refund. Sometimes you have to turn up the heat to cook your goose. But likely, the guy just changed his identity on ebay and is still defrauding others. So I guess I could say,"I got mine Jack, but sorry Dude, you're on your own."

One final story as preamble. I once bought a Mexican 1.2057 ounce gold Centanario coin. Inspecting it while it was on ebay, I couldn't detect anything wrong. But once I got it into my covetous little mitts it was apparent it was a fake. The thing didn't even look like gold. It was the wrong color, too light, and it sounded different when dropped. The damned thing was brass. You think maybe I was pissed? You'd be right.

By this time I was getting good at squeezing juice out of the lemon, so I exerted pressure again. At first the seller didn't want to refund my money, but I threatened to contact the FBI, and their fraud division that deals with Internet Crime. I wasn't about to send the fake back to the seller until I got my money back. I emailed him and told him I wouldn't turn him in, and that he could sell the damned thing to some other idiot, I just wanted my money back. I got it.

So, this is the mindframe I was subconsciously nursing when my latest mishap befell me. As related in an earlier post which has been removed from this site, I received an empty box from a seller. It wasn't his fault, he had mailed the contents as promised, and the package was insured. The weight indicated on the sticker and his receipts show that he faithfully fulfilled any obligations as the seller. Yet, on the other hand, I hadn't received what I paid for.

In transit, the contents were lost. How did this happen? Who knows? Were they stolen by postal employees? His pending lawsuit may allege that. This seller, through no fault of his own, is out the price paid for the contents of that box. Because the USPS refuses to reimburse him more than $15 for contents that had a value of $363! He was gracious enough to cover the loss himself, and paid out-of-pocket a debt which rightfully belongs to the postal system.

Have you ever wanted to scream in frustration? Have you ever uttered words, in the heat of anger, that you later wished you could retract? This is an instance in which that occurred. By means of venting, I posted what I thought would remain personal, a diatribe on this site detailing what had transpired, and the coersive measures I was employing to get my money back. It would have been easy to imagine the worst, spurred to nightmares by my prior history.

I made the mistake of mentioning the seller's name in my rant. I did not intend to slander the individual, and was careful to mention only my displeasure with the system. But I did include contact information. Because I did so, even though I immediately modified the post when the seller refunded the money in full, a Google search engine was able to pull a cached version of the original post. My sentiments, which I thought I had posted in private, may have caused him public embarassment.

I never meant to impugn his reputation. But that's no excuse. If a speeding semi-truck overturns on a freeway, it's rear doors opening and spilling forth cartons of confetti which obscure the vision of motorists resulting in an accident, it doesn't matter if it was inadvertent or intentional. There are still casualties. So, Seller, you know who you are. Please accept this apology and feel free to offer this post in explanation if any doubt your sincerity. You are a man of honor and integrity, and in retrospect it has been a pleasure doing business with you.

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