eBay Buyer Protection no help with foreign purchases

I bought a battery charger/exerciser from a Chinese seller on eBay, and it arrived non-functional. I.e., it lit up but it wouldn’t charge anything, it merely complained about the battery connection (which worked fine on other chargers, my older one and the one I later bought from an American vendor to replace this dead one). So, it was DOA even though it didn’t look like it at first glance. It probably passed a superficial test at the factory, which wouldn’t have taken time to actually try charging something.

I tried for a long time to negotiate with the seller, and she went as far as offering me another one for half price. Finally, when I repeated that I felt since I’d bought and paid for a working one, that’s what I should receive–I shouldn’t have to buy it again, even with a discount, she said OK 😉

But nothing ever arrived, and she never responded again to my emails. Her listings still appear on non-US eBay sites, though she seems to have withdrawn from the US sales for the time being.

So, it seemed clearly like a case where I should invoke the Buyer Protection Plan. (Product does not match description (it doesn’t work, but description implies it does)).

All seemed fine until the end, where eBay gave me 3 days notice (while I was away on a trip) to prove that I had returned the product, using a traceable shipping method. Miss the sudden deadline, and the complaint is void!

Even though the product had been mailed to me from China for less than $20, the shipper had a special deal. The price for me to ship it back traceably using UPS was more than the initial price of the product!

So, the Buyer Protection plan was actually worse for me than doing nothing and just eating my loss, which of course I did. As far as I can tell, eBay does not provide any way to tell them this–every complaint pathway is fully automated so that there is no way to tell the story to a human, and the system does not want to discuss my type of complaint.

So, people need to realize: buying from eBay may not be safe, despite their claims of Buyer Protection. You will be out the return-shipping costs, even if the product is dead on arrival, and those costs can easily exceed the price of the merchandise, especially when you’re buying from a remote seller, like Hong Kong or China.

Of course, some sellers care about their reputation and will do the right thing, but buying through eBay is at your own risk in some cases, and partially so in other situations.

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