Friday, May 4, 2012

There goes my lamp....to California?

I've been burned over the years by a few buyers. It's normally the usual complaint of either non-receipt or alleged damage. But given eBay's liberal refund policy, I've come to learn that trying to dispute a claim is hardly worth the effort. It's usually better to just bite the bullet and make the refund. (As consolation, you can always block the buyer from future bidding.)  But while making a refund can be frustrating, what really burns my biscuits is when I am forced to do so under completely false pretense!

I bring this up because recently I sold a vintage board game that looked like it had "refund" written all over it. Initially I was pretty happy. The game had stagnated in auctions for months and finally sold for a fixed price of $45 dollars. But shorty after it sold,  I received this vaguely familiar e-mail from the buyer:

"Hello, we just won a bid for the item and we have a favor to ask you. Can you please make sure the shipping package has the eBay item numbers on it?

For those of you who are going to separate an item into more than one box, it would be much appreciated if you numbered the packages. (e.g 1/2 2/2) Also, if we need to specify the size, color or any information for the item to be shipped out, please remind us to inform you.

Last but not least, please include all correct items that are shown in the picture and/or your description.

Thank you.

*This message was auto generated."

Not only was this e-mail "De ja vue" for me, but I also had the distinct impression I was communicating with "Hal" the computer. The auto-generated reference at the bottom of the e-mail confirmed my gut feeling. The buyer was listed as "Flight2lax." Remembering I had dealt with this kind of sale before by a company called Shop Airlines America, I Googled the buyer's name. Google is a wonderful thing. With a click of the mouse, I came up with an eye-opening article with reader's comments from eCommerceBytes. Turns out Shop Airlines America and/or Flight2lax are the same company.The excellent blog piece outlined problems a number of seller's shared in common when dealing with Shop Airlines America. According to the reader's comments, Shop Airlines America is actually a broker buying eBay items for mostly Asian buyers. Once the broker receives the eBay item at their California address, it's re-shipped overseas.

Nothing against overseas buyers-but most of my listings are domestic only. One reason is the odds of an item being "claimed" damaged or lost is greatly increased when shipped overseas. Like most sellers, I am in the business to make sales-not refunds! It's obvious that Shop Airlines America, aka; Flight 2lax, serve as a "ghost" bidder. They make purchases for overseas buyers in order to  circumvent the seller's "domestic only" shipping policy. Now normally, I wouldn't care a hoot about some secondary shipper...except for one outrageous fact. Apparently, if the item is damaged/lost/stolen on that second shipping, the original seller is still on the hook for any damage. This despite the fact that the seller had nothing to do with the overseas shipment! So even though the seller is completely out of the overseas loop, eBay/Paypal will still reach into his/her pocket and refund the buyer's money. Obviously just another misbegotten "The buyer is always right"  eBay policy! For further proof, check out all the seller's complaints in the reader's comments section of eCommerceBytes .

Like the others, I was burned by this re-shipper. About a year ago, I shipped a Coleman camping lamp to "Shop Airlines America." Judging from their name, I assumed they were was some kind of store or website specializing in unique merchandise. Sort of like those eclectic catalogs you see in the pockets of the airline seats. Thinking I made another great camping lamp sale, I carefully packaged the Coleman lantern for it's trip to California.The buyer had a California shipping address, so in my book they met my "domestic only" shipping requirement. All was quiet for nearly six weeks until I received a complaint out of the blue from the "California" buyer. They claimed the glass globe was broken. It was clear to me however that if the globe had been received broken, I would have been notified many weeks earlier. It didn't dawn on me at the time, but I later deduced the lamp probably broke deep inside the hull of a sea-tossed freighter heading towards Japan!  

But whatever happened, my so-called "domestic" buyer was now requesting a refund via another computer generated e-mail. Thinking at the time I was dealing with an actual person rather then a computer, I suggested it would be a waste of everyone's time to ship the entire lamp back just because the globe was broken. I countered instead with the common sense offer to refund the cost of the broken globe. But "Hal" the computer didn't respond to my human logic. I received another computer generated e-mail ignoring my suggestion and demanding a full refund. Knowing eBay/PayPal would force the refund anyway, I agreed and several weeks later my camp lantern was back on my doorstep-only this time there was a noisy, shattered glass globe inside!

Which brings us back full circle to the vintage board game I sold. Like the previous sale, I received the above computer generated e-mail requesting the eBay listing number be scrawled on the outside of the parcel, along with several other mind-numbing demands. You could tell from the tone of the e-mail, the company handles parcels of mass quantities and doesn't bother to inspect the stuff when it arrives. It's all consolidated onto pallets or containers and shipped overseas for someone else to deal with. In their big shipping operation-who cares when or if it's broken? Either way, the seller will cover the cost!

Well this time around, I would have none of it! As the old saying goes, Fool me once-shame on you. But fool me twice-shame on me! So guess what happened to that board game? It was the weirdest thing...I didn't have it in stock any longer. I regrettably had to cancel the transaction!  What a shame...guess I won't be making a refund in about six weeks when the real buyer in Japan claims it arrived all busted up!

So learn from my bad experience and others. Be on the lookout for these re-shippers who are out to circumvent your shipping policies. When you uncover them-block them from bidding! You'll find some of their name variations listed in the comment section of the eCommerceBytes.

Have you ever been burnt by a re-shipper? 

Pin It now!

29 comments:

  1. thanks for the heads up. I had heard of these buyers but never came across them. You would think after a certain time frame, they should not be able to ask for a refund

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  2. beckyp-You would think so, but given eBay refund policy now-anything goes.....Dude!

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  3. Hey Dude! Thanks for the heads up. I did sell something to what I thought was one of these companies. I have heard rumors of this before. I can't remember what I sold, but I guess I didn't have any problems or I would remember. Do you think it would be safe to sell an item that isn't fragile to these types of companies or do you think it is best to cancel any orders by these guys? Since you researched it I would be interested in your opinion! Thanks for a great blog!

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    1. Hey Andrea- A "soft" item like clothes would be a lot safer going overseas, so you should be ok. But I really don't trust those guys 100 percent. Plus it's the principal of the thing-they are holding the original seller responsible for a secondary shipment. A shipment that the seller had nothing to do with-it's unfair. Basically once I get the package to California intact, my obligation should be over. Only in the crazy world of eBay am I on the hook for it's second journey!

      That's why I canceled their order, I'd rather sell it stateside or on Craigslist then take a chance and be forced to make a refund for something that was not my fault. Us sellers take enough abuse!

      Thanks for enjoying the blog....Dude!

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  4. Deeda In SeattleMay 4, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    Hmm. I've sold stuff to these people multiple times before, and I haven't had any problems, but they were collectible (and unbreakable) Xmas ornaments (elfish vintage things) and Plush toys. But I sell and ship things Internationally, so...why would anyone use these reshippers? I guess I always thought they were bought to be sold on the equivalent 'eBay' store online over in Asia, or something like that. It might be worth it to bring up to eBay customer service one day...but how could we ever 'prove' that they were shipped again--and why should we as sellers be responsible for that?? As always, it seems unfair to us resellers!

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    1. Deeda-I hear ya. I think if these re-shippers were upfront with us sellers, I'd be less concerned-but they're not. The problem is sellers really can't prove to eBAy that our item broke on the re-ship. Plus, the re-shipper don't inspect the item upon arrival-they don't want to know if it's intact. I think in legal world they call that "guilty knowledge".

      It is definitely unfair, but par for the course with eBay's changing rules...

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  5. I had a sale to them and everything went fine. I was worried after reading about them, but it went fine. But it wasn't a breakable item, so maybe that makes a difference?

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    1. melissa-I think if your selling something that is nearly impossible to break in shipping, you should be ok. But I just don't trust those guys....

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  6. Gee, I thought I was the only one won't ship int'l. I've had these buyers before and they were no problem except for all those instructions they give you. Regardless of the 14 day return policy, I think a buyer has up to 45 days to make a claim. Or is it 60? Anyway, I don't bank on anything until #1 They leave pos FB or #2 it drops off the "awaiting feedback" list.

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    1. Miss Clamco- I've had more problems going international, I mentioned previously that a guy tried to scam me out of my son's Ipad, but I fought off his complaints successfully.

      Yep, its 45 days from the time the seller paid which is like forever, right?

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  7. I sold something to them once or twice before and had no problems. I had NO idea though that they could still file a claim due to *their* shipping. That's just crazy!! Is this allowance limited to them or is it open for anyone to do this?

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    1. Jennifer-With eBay's pro-buyer policies, if the buyer wants the refund, eBay is pretty much going to give it to them. The timeline is 45 days starting from the time the buyer paid, or six weeks.

      Ebay doesn't seem to discern the second shipment from the first. To them, the seller sold it and the buyer is now complaining. It's messed up for sure....

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  8. I'm another one that doesn't sell internationally. I've heard of these flight people before but haven't dealt with them. I have sold several items to others - with non 'flight' ebay ids - that are buyers for people in Japan. They always very politely request that the transaction # be written on the pkg label and the shipping addy is in CA. Don't let the 'flight' people scare you away from all of them. The other ones are very nice to work with!

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  9. One last thing, here is a list straight from their ebay About Me page:
    Our eBay IDs:
    flight2nrt / flight2sfo / flight2lax / flight2bos / flight2nyc /
    flight2ord / flight2hnd / flight2cts / flight2fuk / flight2kix /
    flight2iad / flight2syd / flight2lhr / flight2sin / flight2icn /
    flight2pvg / flight2ams / flight2cdg

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    1. Thanks GreenJeans for the above names. Makes you wonder why they need so many different eBay Ids? If thy are all the same shipper are the trying to hide something?!

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  10. These are all three-letter airport codes so my guess is they use an id based on the outgoing airport they use for a particular order.

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    1. Lisa C- Makes sense, thanks for writing in....Dude!

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  11. Thank you for the heads up. As an eBay newbie I was not aware of this situation. What will you do with the game that is no longer available? Do you have a good way of selling it at a decent price?

    In the past week I received two different eBay messages asking for my e-mail address so that the messager can send me a photo of what they want to make sure that my item matches their desire. In both cases the buyer is in China and has zero feedback. In the first case they wanted the item sent to CA, in the second to NY. I ignored the first request, I didn't see it until after the auction had ended anyway. I responded through eBay to the second request that eBay does not allow communicating through e-mail and that I ship to PayPal addresses only. I have not heard back. Not to be skeptical but I did not get a good feeling from either message so pretty much blew them off.

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  12. Hey there dude.. never sold anything to these guys in my 11 years on ebay (thank goodness). I would have to say that I do allow for international buyers though. 25% of my buyers are international. Knock on wood -- It's been good so far (except for less than a handful of "didn't get the item"). I used to even ship via first class international (no proof via PP), and still no issues. But, I just recently changed my policy to where I will sell to international buyers but only with priority international mail. That way I can upload to PP that I actually shipped it. Most of my international customers come from: #1: Canada, then: UK, Japan, Australia, Netherlands, etc etc. Had one from Africa once! That was fun! and he liked the sweater (of all things) too! Had a couple to Israel too. My bad experiences came from S. America mostly. But, I am still willing to sell international. I tell you, it makes up 25% of my sales, so it really helps. In fact, I have had more problems with US buyers claiming a "flaw," and international buyers almost never complain of a "flaw." Go figure! Thanks for the info :)

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  13. PS: your title and image crack me up!

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    1. GSA-These re-shippers and the buyers they represent seem to like unique, exotic type items. Since you deal in mostly clothes you've probably haven't attracted their interest. So you've been lucky to avoid them.

      Thanks for liking the picture-funny right?!

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  14. I've never sold to one of these before. But I have read about them. I sell so much internationally that I wouldn't want to stop that. But I always make sure to insure anything international just in case.

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  15. Veronica-I hear ya, it's a risk though. Just had a buyer from Brazil e-mail me to tell me I must, must, ship his item Priority mail parcel, not envelope because in his words it's "dangerous" over there. He was even requesting special shipping numbers, I had no clue what he was talking about. But that was all I needed to hear, since he wasn't suppose to bid anyway because I am domestic only, I backed out of the deal and he agreed.

    Shipped it domestic to the second place bidder with no problems and no refund worries.

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  16. Hey Dude,

    Your great stories always help me make a couple of bucks, but in this one I think you saved me some cash! I sold a mug to one of these guys and received the inevitable "not as described" email claiming it was broken. Luckily I insured with ShipSavers and wrote them back with the info. They immediately cancelled the claim saying they wanted to keep the mug and all was good. Today I get a bid from another one of their flt2 names and i remembered your article and my mug. Bid canceled & bidder blocked! Thanks again and keep up the great flips!

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  17. Elizabeth-Glad I can help! Yup, I just don't trust those guys, I'll take a little less from a domestic buyer then roll the dice with one of those operators. Thanks for writing in and enjoying the blog....Dude!

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  18. Just mailed out two vintage pink refrigerator dishes to this same guy in california. He paid 19.25 plus 11 something to ship. Can't wait to hear that this was broken and he wants his money back. Thanks for your post. I will beware next time.

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    1. Denise-Hope your stuff gets there without an incident and you get keep the $19.25....Thanks for writing in....Dude!

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  19. I am so happy to have found this blog and have learned so much from all of you. I've been selling on eBay for only a few months and so far have had only pleasant transactions.

    I recently had my first experience with proxy buying service Shop Airlines America, who purchased an expensive collectible book from me at my "buy now" price. The buyer paid my PayPal account immediately.

    So far, so good. But then I noticed this buyer's extremely high buying volume and received a very strange form letter containing shipping instructions unlike anything I've ever seen. Clearly this buyer was not the type of individual with whom I typically do business.

    As I was preparing the package for shipment, I decided to google the buyer in the hopes of putting my suspicions at ease. When I read this blog and the comments at eCommerceBytes, I decided to cancel the transaction and refund the buyer's payment.

    I am just not interested in doing business with a proxy buying service, as the potential for time-consuming hassles is just too great. I also do not accept bids from buyers outside the U.S. for the same reason.

    Until I read your blog, I had no idea that such buying services existed to easily circumvent domestic-only eBay seller policies. I was even more stunned to learn about eBay's complicity in this scam and their generally poor support of the seller community. Silly me, I had previously assumed that eBay would make it a priority to support its seller community since we are the folks who pay the fees to list and finalize sales on our auctions.

    The good news is that I immediately opened a case with eBay and within an hour it was closed without incident. Shop Airlines America did not contest my decision to cancel the transaction.

    Of course, I will be monitoring my statement to ensure that I receive a refund of my eBay fees as promised. And in the future, I will definitely be blocking any eBay username that I suspect may be affiliated with a proxy buying service.

    Once again, thank you for allowing me to "dodge a bullet" by sharing your stories. I literally was within hours of mailing my package off to the buyer, and I'm glad that I listened to my gut and decided to consult Professor Google, who referred me to this site.

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    1. llamastalker - Glad this piece helped you. I didn't know these guys existed either until they burned me on the camping lamp. So I am happy I can help other sellers from suffering the same fate.

      Thanks for liking the blog. (Don't forget to "follow"me) Hope you have lots of excellent eBay flips in the future!

      .........Dude! : )

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