Dodgy eBay and Online Customers – How to get free stuff

Dodgy eBay and Online customers – How to get free stuff

In my experience, eBay is not a very stable marketplace for sellers. Majority of sellers do not make a healthy margin. The ones that do, tolerate abuse and blackmail from customers.

When eBay first came out, it was a fair marketplace with no restrictions. For example, the seller could leave a negative feedback for the buyer, if the buyer turned out to be abusive, however, sellers can now only leave a positive feedback for buyers, which had led to increase abuse from buyers. As a seller, you had the option to refuse a refund, but now, even if you state clearly on your product page, that you will not accept a return once item has been used, the buyer can still get their money back after 90 days!

The following are a few things you need to consider before starting to sell on eBay

  • Money Back Guarantee Abuse
  • PayPal / Bank Chargebacks
  • Swapping Stuff / Item Not As Described / Faulty
  • Paying via PayPal and Collecting Item, Then Later Claiming Item Not Received

eBay money back guarantee and PayPal chargeback scams

There is a eBay 30 day Money Back guarantee, for the buyer, which means, they can open a case within 30 days of placing an order, demand a refund and a return label, then they could potentially keep the item for another 30 days while they are packing/posting the item.

The way they do this, is to open an “Item not as described” on the 29th day, then they will wait for the sellers respond, potentially buying extra time while “communicating” with the buyer, later they will demand for a pre-paid return label to ship the item back. The buyer then enters the tracking number just a few days before the deadline given by eBay for shipping the item, now the buyer is buying extra time while the parcel is “in transport”

Some scenarios where a buyer may use the above method

  • Need an item while on holiday and don’t need it upon return. (iPod battery bank)
  • Office item, like a scanner, or printer, which is needed only for a short period while carrying out a project.
  • Incubating chicken eggs (I used to get this A LOT while I had my chicken business), chicken eggs need 21 days to hatch, and most farmers only do incubation once a year, thus they will not need the machine after 21 days. Some buyers were not even cleaning the incubator upon return, which left a revolting stench. 100% of these buyers got their money back, while my company had to literally dispose these incubators, as they were not re-sellable anymore due to hygiene reasons.
  • Need item for a gig or party. At my DJ company, for example, we sold a complete DJ system to a buyer, which cost over 4,500 pounds, (Pioneer DJM-900N + CDJ-2000Ns + Headphones + flight case) and the buyer opened a return case the next day stating they are not as described. Buyer returned it back within 7 days, but all equipment were clearly used with scratches. We had to sell them back as second hand, however the buyer received a full refund. Same thing happened to us on Amazon.

PayPal chargeback scam – Buyer can keep your item for 6 months!

The following are based on the assumption that you respond to all your emails and you provide good customer service.

This can be done in two ways, direct via PayPal or via customer’s bank account.

Direct via PayPal:

Customer can now bypass eBay and open a dispute for any online transaction, directly through PayPal for up to 180 days after the initial purchase. Once the dispute is opened, the buyer will get an additional 20 days “to work with the seller to sort out the problem”

There are 3 type of customers who generally file such disputes.

  • Use the item and no longer need it, thus lies item not working
  • Item has stopped working, due incorrect usage, customer not following instructions or accident / damage caused by user. They will not admit they are at fault, however you will realise this upon receiving your item.
  • Open an Item Not Received dispute, hoping you no longer have the tracking info (Usually individual / small sellers are targeted in this manner)
  • Genuine reason, e.g. item stopped working due to inadequate quality, however customer doesn’t understand “you get what you pay for”

UK law states “You must repair or replace an item if a customer returns it within 6 months – unless you can prove it wasn’t faulty when they bought it”, user can also file a claim up to 6 YEARS after making a purchase, however this cannot be done through PayPal.

PayPal will usually only issue a refund after the buyer has provided them a return tracking number (Usually buyer needs to pay for postage when filing outside eBay)

However, I have had many instances where eBay / PayPal have issues a refund immediately after the buyer provides tracking detail. This is the most unfair system, in some instances the tracking number was not even valid. I have realised some buyers phone call centres and somehow talk them into getting an immediate refund.

Even when you do get your “item” back, in majority of cases, it is not resalable anymore.

Claiming an “Unauthorised Transaction” through bank

You are still not safe after the 180 days are over. Some customers will try to calling up their bank and filing a chargeback, stating to the bank, the specific PayPal transaction is not recognised / unauthorised. In this case, PayPal will refund the money to the bank, no questions asked, and your account will get deducted, and it is possible to incur “Chargeback charges” too!

Worse part, you won’t even receive your item back!

You do have the customer detail and could potentially take legal action if you have all the tracking info and can prove item was delivered to the account holder’s address, however, as they have claimed a chargeback so late, it is very difficult proving anything, even if you can, court costs will probably make it not worth chasing. I have previously been successful in court battles, and have also lost a few, however had few customers that never paid the court order and I eventually received a letter from the court stating that they could not recover the money owed to me and case was dismissed. Great justice system! I am glad I had a law firm doing all the chasing otherwise the time / stress / money involved would had made it extremely unpleasant

The Swap Buyers – Buyers swapping items for used / faulty or totally different items

This has happened to me several times, usually happens from abroad, as it is very difficult to chase.

For example, I had a customer from Poland, who purchased a Pioneer DJM-800 from me, and I had sent the parcel via DHL (DHL records weight of parcel etc), the day after the parcel was delivered to the customer, he sent me an angry email saying something along the line, I have sent him an incorrect second hand item with some second hand microphone, and he wants a refund and does not trust me anymore to get a replacement. He also told me he is contacting eBay to report me, and also reporting me to police and he will open a dispute once eBay waiting time is over (You need to wait a few days before you can open a dispute)

I asked him for photos, and he sent me a photo of a cheap toy like soundcard / mixers with some cheap rusty microphones and some random screws in the package.

Clearly that was not what we sent out, and our company had used a 24 hour DHL Euro air service, which the probability of the DHL staff having time to open the package, then replace it with another mixer, pack it again, ship it, was pretty slim.

I knew straightaway that I’m being scammed. I refused to accept s return once he opened a case, and I explained to eBay that this was not possible and I am being scammed. Didn’t matter what I said or did. eBay told me I can “report the buyer” and he will get a flag on his account, and if he gets reported several times by different sellers, his account may get suspended. I was also given a URL to report him to the police if I want. You can just imagine how frustrated we felt at the company!

Buyer sent back the item, and before I even received it, eBay / PayPal had already given him a refund.  Upon receiving the item, I weighed the item, and it was almost the same weight as what my original DHL label had stated, upon opening, it was obvious the buyer had made an effort to make it seem as legit as possible by placing random objects in the box to get it around the original weight.

There was nothing I could do, and I lost over £1200 from my pocket.

Pay via PayPal and Collect Scam

Some buyers will pay via PayPal and tell you they are local and can collect the item as they need it ASAP and will save you some time and money too, as you won’t need to go to post office!

Stay clear! If someone is collecting, make sure it is Cash On Collection ONLY!

We have had buyers collecting stuff they paid via PayPal and a month or two down the line, claiming item was not delivered! When eBay ask us for a tracking number, we don’t have any to hand it! As customer collected the item! Beware of this scam if your item is of high value.


The above are from my personal experiences and I know many other people who have had similar experiences. I have been trading through my company with employees and a decent initial capital / investment, so the scams we had didn’t made me go bankrupt or out of business. They did however reduce the profit margins significantly and made us change our business strategies, moving away from eBay and Amazon, and only selling products on eBay that give us minimum 60% profit margins.

For an individual, or a business that makes tiny margins, a £1200 loss could put a massive dent in their operations.

Only sell on eBay if losing your item / money of a specific sale, won’t make you go bankrupt or cry for days.

If you are an individual selling a high value item, try selling cash on collection only. (You still need to “accept PayPal” in your listing, but mention it’s cash on collection in your listing)

If buyer asks too many questions, block them.

If your gut feeling tells your there is something dodgy, block the buyer.


Side note

I have written this information for eBay sellers, and I know some buyers will probably read this article and try to scam sellers by methods mentioned above. But these are facts that people need to know about, as eBay / Amazon has become a one way street only and sellers have no or little protection.

Happy trading



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