Sunday, 27 November 2011

Diary of a Vintage Trader: When Online Buyers Misbehave

Image by Alex Drake Vintage
Happy weekend, my cupcakes!
I hope you've all  been well. I've spent a lot of time deliberating on what to do next with my new website. But because it's less than a month before Christmas, I am absolutely sure I will not be able to achieve what I'd like. Hence, I've been spending my spare time "working" as an eBay trader to earn some dosh. For the past month, I have encountered a range of buyers: a stalker buyer, friend-of-a-celebrity buyer, commendable buyer, fellow Soundclouder buyer , and a couple of tyre-kickers; i.e. time-wasters.

I thought I'd share some tips for other vintage retailers on eBay and if you happen to be a buyer, I hope you can understand why I wrote this post.

Image via

The Good Seller
1. Accurate description is the core of your trade.
Make sure every single fault is mentioned if there are any. Do not be frugal when it comes to photos. I know eBay charges sellers for this but the photos will be your ultimate evidence to further support the narrative in your description. There are other internet tools you can use like Photobucket, GaragaSale, etc which displays extra large images. This will save you a few pennies from being charged by eBay for super-sized photos.

Image via, Andy Warhol, Diamond Dust Shoes
2. Create a Fair Return Policy
I'm usually a trusting, Pollyanna kind of person. At first I thought this policy is only made by meticulous sellers. I was proved wrong!
Being an eBay Business Seller, at the start of trading, I've stated a "Returns Accepted within 7 Days" as per "Distance Selling Regulations". This entitles the buyer to return the item. But what do you do if the item was used within the said 7 days? If you're the seller, will you still accept returns? In the past when I had a retail shop, I've witnessed one girl trying to return a 1950s dress just because she changed her mind. On immediate inspection, the dress smelt of cigarette smoke and had a tiny lipstick smear. It was a Monday and she bought the dress on a Friday, just before closing time.  Very convenient as it was the weekend and the dress could have been worn at a party. Well, that was just my theory but one doesn't have to be a forensic expert to confirm that. Bottom line is that the dress was not in the original condition as when purchased. That incident made me think there really are people who live in a bubble, even online shoppers —that it's OK to buy and pay and return because "the customer is always right".

For eBay traders, have no fear. eBay will back you up if you decide not to accept returns even if you've stated "Returns Accepted". Their customer support is available via live chat and in the UK, you can call them now on 0800 358 6551. I say that's a great leap for eBay and I'm very grateful to find out that sellers are also protected.
Image via

3. Refund your buyer if you haven't described accurately and/or as per eBay's decision.
Life's going to be more complicated if you protest, especially if the buyer has blatantly won the case against you.
Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. Selling is a business and losses should be factored in. You can always relist the item or you can claim any loss against your tax. It's not the end of the world.

4. Be vigilant.
Report any suspicious emails or offers you get from other traders especially if they have special requests like splitting your job lots or asking to change your delivery service from a Recorded Signed For to No Signature required. What, one would think, is the buyer aiming for an unsecured, untrackable item? Scary, dodgy stuff, indeed! At the end of the day, trust your instincts. Sometimes odd requests you get can be from honest traders too.

Image from Alex Drake Vintage eBay Shop
The Good Buyer
I believe in humanity's intrinsic goodness but we're all different.
1. If you're the type who likes to hunt for sellers offering a "No Quibbles Return Policy" so that you can wear items for an event only to return them thereafter, please think again. This is a distilled form of theft. You simply have wasted a seller's precious trading hours. Do you know it takes a few hours to list items on eBay? Once an item is sold or ended, eBay takes off commission and listing fees, etc. Engaging in an activity like this is taking the concept of shopping experience to a new level: the crass level. Remember: this is a form of dishonesty and sooner or later Karma will catch up. Believe me.
Independent shops and sellers depend on every sale to make a living. What makes me livid is the notion that just because one has a shop means one is "well-off".

2. If you discover your eBay purchase is not right, damaged, etc, take a few Zen breaths. I've been on that side and it's generally upsetting to receive something different from what you've paid for. Next, photograph and document the item, and promptly send your seller a calm eBay message informing them of the situation. Do not wait another day as the sooner you do this, the better the chances are that you'll be refunded. You do not want your seller to concoct some theory against your favour as to why it's taken you a few days to report the problem.
If you don't hear from the seller within 24 hours (unless they've specifically indicated they're on holidays/vacation), by all means contact customer support through a live chat or in the UK call 0800 358 6551 for advice. If it makes you feel better, open a case in the Resolution Centre but be sure to message your seller and state that you're opening a case against him/her. This is one thing that eBay customer support looks at. Possibly something to do with point system if they have to decide on who should win the case.
Image via
3. If you think your seller deserves a negative/neutral feedback, then do so. Do not be surprised though if eBay customer support remove your feedback. This is only for proven cases of Feedback Extortion. eBay now investigates negative/neutral feedback threats. If you've been telling your seller you will leave negative feedback unless seller gives you what you want, e.g. a refund, full/partial, you may find yourself in an utterly disappointing and confusing place.
There are of course dishonest sellers and it's very distressing to come across them. Try and be calm at all times and when you open a case against them, make sure your messages are quite intelligible, polite, and at all costs do not be hysterical. Again, eBay customer support has evolved immensely and if you have the correct evidence (photos and narrative) and you've kept it together, they will turn the case in your favour and a refund will be given.

I can't stress enough that earning a living through internet selling is truly challenging. Unlike being in a physical store where people can touch and feel and smell your items, your online buyers will need to be able to trust that what they're buying are exactly what they have in mind. A seller must be able to provide accurate information for buyers to purchase in your online shop.

Will I stop doing it? At this point, I'm still thinking of giving up nursing practice for good. I've only just started selling regularly on eBay and already have a 'tick list' on improvement for customer-satisfaction experience. There have been teething problems but nothing that a passionate vintage trader like myself can't sort out.

Best thing to remember is that no matter how careful you are in trading, there will always be negative people who will always find something wrong with everything. If you get a negative feedback and you've done everything right, do not despair. It's just the way it goes. Tomorrow is another day.

What are your experiences on eBay? Is Etsy a good site for vintage traders? Do you think it's right to return goods bought after a few days, with or without faults? Do you support independent traders?

Until then my dear friends.
Special thanks to my eBay buyers who are now my readers. Your custom has kept me off the streets :)

Ciao! Ciao!
Joy x



  1. Brilliant and very useful post, darling! I think you can actually upload posts somewhere on ebay in a forum or something like this - I suggest you do, because many people will be grateful for it. x

  2. awesome blog post! very helpful!! definitely following your blog! hopefully you can follow mine back :)

  3. These are great tips..I love buying on Ebay..I have a seller account, though I never use it..too busy buying ;) This will help people lots,a s even as a buyer I've run into problems. It's good to be informed. I hope you will have much success as the time goes by!! And I do love when people say 'dosh' haha. It was one of the first words I learned when I came to the UK from America, that and 'Quid' hehe ;) I hope you have been doing well & wish you a fabulous week!! xx

  4. nice tips, thank you :)

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  5. Thanks, guys! Glad to help :)
    Joy xx

  6. Great ideas for fashion and style.

  7. I´ve bookmarked this post. I would refer to it once I start my own online shop. Thanks a lot for sharing. :)

  8. Brilliant and very useful post,definitely following
    your blog! hopefully you can
    follow mine back :) anytym like twitter


  9. brilliant post, as always:) love the last picture, is so colorful and optimistic ..:) have a nice week my dear:) xoxo

  10. pretty optimist!and it ;)

  11. Great tips for both buyers and sellers of really any personal Internet shopping site! Best of luck to you and your shop! :)

  12. Excellent tips...wishing you much luck on your new site!

  13. Hello! I just found your blog and I think it's AMAZING! The pics are great and I can see that You really like what you do here! I love people with great ideas, like you!
    Your blog is inspiring! I will follow you!

  14. Always interested on how this all works. I am slowly becoming an Ebay buyer and maybe a trader one day. Great tips dear.



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