The title pretty much says it. Paypal Buyer Protection will not help you if you have a problem and need to dispute a purchase on EBay. Simple as that.
I was looking to buy a copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student Edition. I looked at my favorite places: Tiger Direct, Amazon, BestBuy and decided to have a look at EBay, though I’m always a little leery of EBay. It had what looked like a legitimate copy from a legitimate seller. It was a UK seller, with almost 500 sales and over a 98% positive rating. The description said the item was a retail copy, not OEM, which was important to me because the retail version can be legally installed on three machines, but the OEM version is only for one machine. Everything looked good, but I was still skeptical. Finally, one thing tipped the balance: it was guaranteed by Paypal Buyer Protection. I’m a fan of Paypal, so it seemed like a good bet.
A day later, I got notification that my software had shipped. The email was funny — several characters that wouldn’t render. Uh oh. So I clicked the tracking info and it was shipping from Shanghai! Okay, could be a drop shipper, but it wasn’t looking good. I logged into my EBay account and all trace of the purchase had been wiped clean. The seller account was gone. All information about my purchase was gone. Double uh oh.
So I call EBay. They can’t help because the seller has been kicked out and they won’t arbitrate at this point. They tell me I will have to wait until the item arrives and then take it up with Paypal if there’s a problem.
The item arrives and it’s a recordable DVD with a handwritten product code on it. I call Paypal and they will not cover it until I return it. I’m livid. This person is an obvious criminal without a let to stand on. If I had put it on my credit card, I would cancel my charge and end of story. With Paypal, not only do I need to return the item, I need to return it with tracking. As it turns out, the cheapest way of tracking the item will only track it out of the US, but not to the seller’s door. To do that, I would need to spend more than the cost of a the software at Amazon.
Alas, it’s a sunk costs question. No way to recoup my money. So I went back to Amazon and bought it there. Brand new, retail version, three licesnes that validated with Microsoft. Only about $5 more than the Chinese ripoff artist.
- Never buy software on EBay. There’s just no way to tell unless it’s a merchant you know.
- Avoid Paypal for online purchases and use a real credit card with reasonable dispute policies
- Scammers are making brands more powerful and making it hard for small merchants to make a living on the web.