Q&A: Ebay ethics

I'm getting a ton of questions about sleep, so next week is going to be Sleep Week here.

I'm answering the questions in the order I got them. I'm not sure I'm really qualified to answer this one. Let's hope Randy Cohen doesn't come after me in a turf war.

Lee asks:

Hi Moxie…I know you’re an ebayer and I’d like your advice.

I just bought a used cell phone from a relatively new ebay seller (rating of 50 or so, 100% positive).  The listing mentioned that the phone had a chip in the hinge that did not hurt the phone’s performance at all.

The phone makes and receives calls just fine, but the chip in the hinge makes it hard to close the phone and occasionally it goes off-track.  I sent a gentle email to the seller asking what she thought would be the best course of action and I received a lengthy reply basically telling me ‘too bad for you, I never had that problem, all sales are final, blah blah blah.’

I haven’t left feedback yet (she left me positive feedback immediately) and I’m tempted to go negative, but also wonder if I should dangle that possibility in front of her to see if I get a more positive reaction.  Is that just playing dirty? I know sellers are protective of their 100% positive rating…

Of course I'm an Ebayer--isn't everyone? As such, I've had my share of disappointing transactions. I think I'd go at this one by looking at intent, and trying to figure out whether the seller intended to deceive you or not. Go back into the original listing and see if the seller used nebulous language to try to claim that she warned you, or if she seemed straightforward with the flaw. Was this item new to her, or used only by her, or purchased by her in used condition? That kind of thing.

If you get the feeling that she was trying to be honest and report the flaws accurately, then you have to just chalk this one up to "sometimes you bite Ebay, but sometimes Ebay bites you." But if there's evidence that she was trying to bend the truth, then I'd pursue it with her and make sure she knows you won't leave feedback until the issue is resolved. If she gets nasty with you after that, then she's pretty much begging for negative feedback.