Need advice with an Ebay auction gone badly

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ende73
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Need advice with an Ebay auction gone badly

Post by ende73 » Wed Feb 22, 2006 2:53 pm

Hello members, I'm unsure whether this is the right section but since Ebay is involved I'll post here.

I recently won this auction for a Beta Time Walk: http://cgi.ebay.it/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vie ... %3AIT&rd=1

As specified in the auction I paid $30 shipping for EMS and the seller promptly shipped me an envelope that way through USPS.

Only problem: the envelope was completely empty, and from what I can see badly sealed (looked opened and re-closed quickly).

I e-mailed the seller about this and am still waiting for his response, but I would like some advice on what to do in case any of you had a similar experience in the past.

Given the seller's reputation I consider it unlikely that he sent an empty envelope, and at the same time who has traded with me knows I'd never lie about finding nothing in the envelope. This means that it is most likely that the contents were stolen or maybe inspected and then lost at the customs office.

I paid for the item through Paypal and the seller is covered by the free Paypal protection, but I'm unsure how this could help me since the seller can obviously provide a tracking number and prove an envelope was delivered (not to me personally but to office staff).

For customs-related issues the envelope was not insured, but I believe EMS offers and automatic coverage for something in the $100-200 range. However I'm unsure how I could qualify for this too.

Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.
Thanks
Ende73

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misterpid
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Post by misterpid » Wed Feb 22, 2006 3:18 pm

Your best bet is to go to the trust and safety board on ebay. The people there have a lot of experience with this type of thing.

http://forums.ebay.com/db2/forum.jspa?forumID=107
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hammr7
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Post by hammr7 » Wed Feb 22, 2006 4:19 pm

My first question would be with the packaging. Was the card sent in a sealed Global Express Mail envelope, with the bubble envelope inside? If so then you can bet it was Italian Customs, since most US Post Offices won't take a badly sealed GEM envelope. If it was just in the bubble envelope, then I would question why the seller packaged it in such a precarious manner for an International destination.

The auction states that insurance is limited to $100, so this may be a problem. When I offer "worldwide" items on eBay, I am explicit in stating that I am not responsible unless the buyer purchases insurance. Many buyers don't want to insure items because they want to avoid import fees. The $100 basic insurance is a guarantee on Global Express Mail (at a cost of $24.25 to the seller).

The additional insurance would have cost $5.25 to purchase (to cover a total of $600.00). It might have required the seller to fill out an extra export form (2-3 minutes of his time). It would have possibly required you, as the buyer, to pay import fees. The problem with not going that route is that the auction clearly states $100 maximum insurance. You don't know whether the missing card was from the seller or customs, but the seller's liability might be very limited, and you have virtually no recourse with customs.

I think that most European buyers are worried about the duty and VAT too much. From what I remember, all the EU countries now have the same duties. There was always a personal exemption of ~350 Euros ($400) for almost anything brought in for personal use, and I thought that applied to individual shipments to an individual as well. As far as duties go, I thought that most paper goods (section 49 of the International Customs Journal) and toys (section 95) were duty free in any amount. Even playing cards only have a 2.7% duty on them.

The other consideration would be VAT. But as long as you are obtaining such items for personal use, I would think that VAT wouldn't apply, or would only apply above the 350 Euro exemption. You should check this out to confirm whether or not this is true. Even if you had to pay VAT, you could probably get VAT rebates on the amounts of items you sell out of the EU.

Good luck with your battle. If the seller only used a bubble envelope I would go after him. If the shipment was in standard GEM packaging, and that packaging was opened, then you might only get $100 back.

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ende73
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Post by ende73 » Wed Feb 22, 2006 5:27 pm

hammr7 wrote:My first question would be with the packaging. Was the card sent in a sealed Global Express Mail envelope, with the bubble envelope inside? If so then you can bet it was Italian Customs, since most US Post Offices won't take a badly sealed GEM envelope. If it was just in the bubble envelope, then I would question why the seller packaged it in such a precarious manner for an International destination.

The auction states that insurance is limited to $100, so this may be a problem. When I offer "worldwide" items on eBay, I am explicit in stating that I am not responsible unless the buyer purchases insurance. Many buyers don't want to insure items because they want to avoid import fees. The $100 basic insurance is a guarantee on Global Express Mail (at a cost of $24.25 to the seller).

The additional insurance would have cost $5.25 to purchase (to cover a total of $600.00). It might have required the seller to fill out an extra export form (2-3 minutes of his time). It would have possibly required you, as the buyer, to pay import fees. The problem with not going that route is that the auction clearly states $100 maximum insurance. You don't know whether the missing card was from the seller or customs, but the seller's liability might be very limited, and you have virtually no recourse with customs.

I think that most European buyers are worried about the duty and VAT too much. From what I remember, all the EU countries now have the same duties. There was always a personal exemption of ~350 Euros ($400) for almost anything brought in for personal use, and I thought that applied to individual shipments to an individual as well. As far as duties go, I thought that most paper goods (section 49 of the International Customs Journal) and toys (section 95) were duty free in any amount. Even playing cards only have a 2.7% duty on them.

The other consideration would be VAT. But as long as you are obtaining such items for personal use, I would think that VAT wouldn't apply, or would only apply above the 350 Euro exemption. You should check this out to confirm whether or not this is true. Even if you had to pay VAT, you could probably get VAT rebates on the amounts of items you sell out of the EU.

Good luck with your battle. If the seller only used a bubble envelope I would go after him. If the shipment was in standard GEM packaging, and that packaging was opened, then you might only get $100 back.
Hi Hank,

thanks for your complete reply.

All I got was an empty Global Express Mail cardboard envelope (the usual white - and - blue one) which was closed on top but "loosely" (i.e. it opened very easily as if it had been in fact opened and re-closed using the same original glue). I have no idea whether the envelope contained a further bubble envelope or simply the card in a toploader (which would have been precarious packaging in my opinion).

I am aware of the limited insurance offered in the auction, but I believe this is limited to the cases of:

1) Seller being able to provide a tracking number to prove he sent something to Rome - Italy - and nothing arriving (i.e. item lost)
2) Envelope coming with a damaged Beta Time Walk inside (due to water or other factors) - i.e. item damaged

In this particular case it's theoretically possible the seller deliberately sent an empty envelope to profit from his limited liability... though I want to assume that's not the case :'-(

Regarding the insurance point, I agree it would be wonderful to benefit from full insurance in these cases since overall costs are pretty small. However this does have an obvious impact on the customs and VAT factor as you pointed out, the insured value being the value used as a basis for customs purposes.

In Italy we do have a small duty around 3% (the 2.7% figure you mention is probably accurate), while I'm not aware of a 350 euro threshold for VAT. I have, on the contrary, been taxed for VAT on items as low as $60 worth sent by FedEx. VAT is a full 20% and I have no possibility to compensate it with sales since I operate as a private collector and not a business.

Given that the most likely thing that happened is a theft at the Italian Customs Office, I am investigating the possibility to report it to the police as such. Not that this will help me recover my money, but I'm sure that should the police receive many reports like this things might change in the future.

It is the first time I experience something this nasty, but certainly not the first time I hear about it in third-class postal systems like Italy's.

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Post by Plastered_Dragon » Wed Feb 22, 2006 6:51 pm

You poor guy! I feel so bad for you. I hope you are able to recoup your losses somehow. That's just awful!
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hammr7
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Post by hammr7 » Wed Feb 22, 2006 7:22 pm

It won't help for this auction, but in the future you might want to try the following. If you are receiving one of these sealable envelopes, you might want to ask the seller to do a little extra. One option is to put your purchase in a sealed inner envelope. You can also reinforce both the inner and outer envelopes with packing tape (the fiber reinforced type is particularly good). If you use this type of tape, it is readily apparant if the package has been tampered with.

Also, while the problem might be with Customs Officials, it might also be a problem with your local postal official. If he knows that you get expensive cards, then he could be the problem. An old friend of mine in Milan had a similar situation. It turned out his postal carrier was tampering with registered letters containing checks from customers. Apparantly the mail carrier had some sort of connection with organized crime. One way to counter this is to pick up "expensive" purchases at the local post office. That way you can open the package in their presence as you receive it.

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Post by Gryfalia » Wed Feb 22, 2006 9:07 pm

Ya know, what is it with the Italian postal service anyway?

I mean, in the US we rarely have mailmen/women who decide to augment their mail with some extra, but it's relatively rare, and the punishment is severe.

But I always feel itchy when I mail to Italy (and to a lesser extent Greece). Plus MANY people won't sell to there at all. Is the mail just seen as that casual?

Gryfalia

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ende73
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Post by ende73 » Wed Feb 22, 2006 10:44 pm

Gryfalia wrote:Ya know, what is it with the Italian postal service anyway?

I mean, in the US we rarely have mailmen/women who decide to augment their mail with some extra, but it's relatively rare, and the punishment is severe.

But I always feel itchy when I mail to Italy (and to a lesser extent Greece). Plus MANY people won't sell to there at all. Is the mail just seen as that casual?

Gryfalia
I am italian and like living in this country for many reasons, but I have no problem in admitting honesty is a very scarce virtue around here.

It's painful but it's the sad truth.

As you can see from my Ebay feedback I recently auctioned some small items on www.ebay.it. You'd be surprised at the huge percentage of bid retractions and non paying winners I have :-||

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ende73
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Post by ende73 » Thu Feb 23, 2006 8:51 am

Just a small update.

The seller was VERY understanding and helpful (well look at his feedback) and immediately sent me some detailed e-mails explaining how he had packaged the card. This was inside a toploader which was inside a bubble mailer sealed with lots of tape which was inside a cardboard envelope which was inside the final envelope which I got empty... What surprises him is that the final envelope, provided by USPS, was also sealed very thoroughly by USPS itself in front of his eyes.

USPS representatives said I will have to report this to the Italian Postal system to attempt recovery of the item (no chance I'm afraid). Since I know that Italian Posts will provide their standard answer: "only senders of any items can file a claim, and if the sender's abroad he can't file the claim with us" (what an intelligent system, uh?), I will go to the police stating I am 100% sure the item was stolen by the mail handlers.

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ende73
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Post by ende73 » Mon Jul 10, 2006 12:28 pm

Ok, following Sk1's post on the Ebay Reports section, regarding his auction that went badly, and since several weeks have elapsed so that I can be relatively sure about the final outcome, I'd like to update on how my problem ended:

I got a full refund through Paypal.

What I did is file a detailed police report (total of 12 pages) in Italy and fax it to Paypal where I had opened a claim in the resolution center.
Obviously the seller contacted Paypal himself and appealed to the refund granted to me but lost.

I didn't want to believe it in the first place, but I now came to conclude that my seller *might* have sent an empty envelope deliberately, as in Sk1's case, trying to make an easy extra profit using his high-feedback account.
Something similar also happened with Italian seller Mtgcompany (who incidentally offered some very high value deals to members here: watch out). If you check his feedback you'll see a US buyer posting negative feedback due to receiving an empty envelope instead of a Beta Set.

It's a very nasty situation to deal with since postal records show regular delivery of "the" item.

My best advice is to actually get some proof (videotape, witnesses) while you open the package of any valuable items in the future :-(

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