Resolving Disputes With Sellers

What to do when a purchase turns sour

Though eBay is a safe place to trade under most circumstances and hundreds of thousands or millions of transactions go off without a hitch every day, sometimes things just don't go as planned. As a buyer, this happens most often when you either don't receive an item at all or when the item that you receive is not quite as described. Here are the things you can or should do as a buyer as you attempt to resolve the disagreement with your seller.

  • Re-read the item listing carefully. Go over the listing for your item carefully in case you missed something when you bid or bought. Common missed items in descriptions include:

    • Cases in which the seller requires that the buyer complete an online checkout form on an auction management site like Andale, and the buyer hasn't yet done so
    • Cases in which the seller indicates that there will be a delay in shipment, for example because he or she will be on vacation when the auction ends
    • Cases in which the words "AS-IS" or statements about item condition were missed by the buyer
    • Disclaimers about responsibility for shipping or customs problems when shipping internationally
    • Lists of included and not included accessories that may differ from those of the original manufacturer
    • Statements about delays imposed by the seller to wait for the buyer's payment to clear before shipping

    eBay is unlikely to take action against a seller or rule in favor of a buyer if the seller has clearly fulfilled his or her obligations according to the terms set forth in the item listing. If you find that you've failed to notice an important detail in a seller's listing, your best bet as a buyer is to contact the seller directly and ask for a compromise.

  • Contact the seller directly. Before seeking to have eBay take action against a seller, always contact the seller directly to attempt to resolve the issue. A phone call can often clear up misunderstandings or disagreements without having to involve yourself, the seller, or eBay in the tedium of online dispute resolution.

    Though ideally these steps will be enough to bring the dispute to a satisfactory resolution, sometimes more drastic steps are required. eBay doesn't like poor sellers any better than buyers do—after all, eBay's business model depends on happy customers—so if you're not satisfied and can't get a seller to work with you toward a compromise or resolution, you should feel free to take additional steps. Read on to find out how.