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Well, I suppose I was bound to have a transaction like this sooner or later.
Sejong fierce
I bought one of Ospirit's relatively recent outfits on eBay--closing price $175. She only offered regular airmail shipping in the eBay checkout options, though I would have gladly paid for EMS or at least registered airmail (and in hindsight, I should have asked her about those possibilities). I paid on February 1, Ospirit shipped the package on February 3, and by now it's pretty clearly vanished in transit. Here's the response I received from her:

Very unfortunately, I guess that the parcel was really lost because it has not been returned to me...and there is no way to track it and no insurance...

Honestly speaking, I could not return the money because of my financial condition and shipping policy...and all I can provide for you now is one free registered airmail shipping for next auction if you still bid on my auction.

I deeply appreciate your bidding on my auctions for many years and really feel sorry for being unable to provide you with full refund or making a same/similar outfit for free. After my financial condition improves a lot, I would like to consider some options for you surely such as special discount and etc (I will never forget this very unfortunate case...)

I appreciate your understanding.

We are not amused. Can I absorb the loss? In the grand scheme of things, sure I can. But is this an appropriate response to a loyal customer?

Actually, that isn't a rhetorical question. Tell me the truth, gang: am I being unreasonable when I think that this is an inadequate way for Ospirit to handle the bad-luck situation? There are some work-related things going on right now that I know are making me less patient and understanding than I would like to be, and it's entirely possible that I'm importing those feelings into non-work life.

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Honestly? You're not out of line IMHO. She offered one method of shipping and you took it as offered, with no issues in the past. You have a good history with her, and it seems to be within reason to expect some considerations.

Given her reply, however? You could have her over the proverbial barrel easily. Paypal will most likely side with you, should you wish to pursue it.

I do not understand why her 'financial situation' wouldn't allow her to make restitution or even to offer a discount or a replacement product. We're all in pinches, and yet we go to lengths to make sure our customers are happy and more likely to return even when things aren't necessarily financially comfortable.

Well, that's definitely the way I see it! But clearly she doesn't. And while her official eBay shipping & payment info (plus her eBay checkout options) only offered regular airmail, on looking back I see that she does mention registered airmail and EMS within the auction listing text. So it's possible to make the argument that I should have paused and asked her about safer shipping methods before using the eBay checkout--and, in hindsight, I would even make that argument myself. But hindsight is hindsight.

I think it's the whining about her 'financial situation' that really gripes me.

True, but that won't assist her in Paypal claims. Paypal is all or nothing. Proof of shipment with tracking number? Yes/No. No? Too bad, buyer wins.


I'd try explaining to her that you are also in a tight place financially and that you can't truly afford to be out the money yourself when you purchased an item in good faith and have been a customer for many years, and would like to continue the good relationship. Maybe an even split of the $175 might make things easier for both of you, with the promise to revisit when things are better settled financially. (Either you can send the money back for a new ensemble, or she can refund the remainder... or something akin to that.)

I'd use the Paypal claim as the very last resort, as it will likely destroy any goodwill generated, and given her reply she'll probably never let you bid on anything again, so I'd really try to talk it out before going the Paypal claim route.

The good relationship angle is not just savvy here, but genuine--because I do want to maintain a good relationship with her. But I don't feel that she's trying to do the same thing on her end, at least as a first response.

I'm definitely continuing to talk it out; I really don't have any desire to file a Paypal claim. But that half-baked BS about "special discount" someday in the future, maybe, if her financial situation improves . . . GRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Yes, I rather thought you had a good relationship with her, and wanted to keep it. The frustration is understandable however, as it does look a bit like she's trying to blow you off.

A more reasonable reply would have been to offer some sort of tangible restitution in addition to the sympathies for a lost parcel and efforts to make better on it in future.

Uh....wth? NO! You are not out of line and I would be fuming mad if I was sent such a condescending note. Pursue this, C. On DoA, on ebay, whatever you have to do to put the responsibility back where it belongs - on her!!!!

I AM fuming mad . . . but the thing is, that's exactly what makes me distrust my reactions here (if that makes any sense at all). GAH.

DoA isn't involved at all, just eBay, so there's no reason to launch any of DoA's processes (I don't think Ospirit is even a member). And I really don't want to escalate matters to a Paypal claim, for all the reasons that eveshka mentioned in her comment. I'm sure there's a lost-in-translation element to Ospirit's response--but yeah. It comes across as condescending and unyielding, dunnit?

Edited at 2010-03-08 04:14 pm (UTC)

Definitely anger can be blinding. But it sounds as though you've considered that.

When I say DoA, C, I mean using the Company Feedback process in the Buying/Shipping subforum.

Ah, gotcha! I'm blinded by my definition of "company" as "maker of multiples" . . . ;-)

Umm. No.
Being a customer for "many years" should grant you more than simply free shipping.

I'd feel like this was a slap in the face. At least she could offer a similar outfit, or let you know what was coming up in her future auctions, and let you pick from those.

I was fully prepared for her to say "I have no more of that particular fabric, but I could make a similar outfit." Or to offer a partial refund. But yeah--this really does feel like a slap in the face. I'm glad I'm not being TOO rigid in my reactions here!

Okay, like Ospirit, I produce and sell clothing. Typically I don't explicitly offer different shipping methods, but I'm willing to accommodate the requests of customers, especially in international shipping situations.

The USPS has been iffy lately, as have several other international postal systems. Yes, packages do get lost from time to time, even expensive ones. Covering these losses are the price of doing business, IMHO. If you want to stay in business, you do the right thing and either refund the purchase price or replace the item with something identical or at least comparable.

Maybe you should suggest that if she's not in a position to refund you, she replace the item and that you will pay for EMS shipping, because her offer of free registered shipping on your next purchase was ridiculous, particularly when she added that semi-snippy 'if you still bid on my auction' bit.

I never have understood this BS that some sellers place in their sales conditions that shipping risk is all on the customer's side. If you take money from a buyer, you owe them something and the burden of loss is on YOUR side, not your customer's.

Crap like this really ticks me off. Reputations are ruined on this kind of bad behavior and, once ruined, very difficult to repair.

See, this is EXACTLY what I think. I am irritated with myself for not requesting safer shipping, but I would never stiff a buyer this way--no matter how little I wanted to offer a replacement or refund, I would.

I'm still hoping that we'll reach some more rational resolution over time, but sheesh. Of all the things I don't have time to waste dealing with . . .

I hope so too. It's difficult to understand why an artist of her standing would be so stubborn about making a generous and regular customer feel good about a transaction.

The economic climate is difficult and there is a lot of competition for few dollars. No vendor can afford to disappoint a loyal customer (or ANY customer, really). While I can appreciate that this may not be her fault, she's still a businesswoman with an unhappy customer and a business she apparently needs to maintain. She's making a serious mistake.

And in case I wasn't clear - I think Ospirit owes you an outfit at no charge. She has $175 of yours - not a measly sum for ANYone. She owes you what you paid for. And not a discount on future shipping or future purchases.

Regardless of what her financial situation is, and honestly her financial situation is neither your concern nor your business, she hasn't held up her end of the sale.

I really think she owes me an outfit, too--and I think it should be as similar to the one I bought and paid for as she can make it. But she's done ruled that out, hasn't she? :-(

Urge her to do so and ask her what she feels would be fair if she were in your circumstances. I might further suggest to her that you'd prefer not to take this to paypal, but that she's leaving you few other fair options.

Ospirit should know better than to send such an expensive item with no insurance or tracking. As Rachel said below, a smart seller confirms shipping method on such a costly item.

She really needs to accept some responsibility here and you're not being unreasonable asking her to.

I would be pretty darn pissed. I mean I have had some airmail packages take an inordinate amount of time to reach me (so I would not completely give up hope of it doing so) But I think that response is just really not acceptable, you bought a $175 outfit from her and have given her lots of your business before. At the very least she should be offering you a substantial discount on your next purchase not just shipping.

And like was previously said, if you want to, you can make a claim via PayPal and they will find in your favor. (so long as you make the claim within the proscribed time limit) I know personally as a sometimes seller I would have contacted you to make sure you were willing to forgo any tracking and to urge you to reconsider since it is my neck and reputation on the line too.

I feel just a tad baited-and-switched, given the absence of any shipping option at checkout except basic airmail. But that may be unfair, since she did mention EMS and registered in the auction text--I don't want to put too much stress on the single option at checkout. I did suggest to her that she revise that checkout information, though, to prevent similar problems in the future . . . we'll see what kind of answer I get (if any).

Yeah but as a seller you need to take responsibility as well, especially when PayPal is going to hold you fully responsible if that person does not get an item and places a claim.

I admit I would not be willing to send out a $100+ item to someone without any sort of tracking and I would consider springing for registered rather than risk a possible claim. The only time I've sent a package Internationally without any tracking that was worth more than $50 I several times made sure the buyer knew the risks they were taking and was only willing to take that risk myself because I knew it was way past the claim date for their share of the group order.

As a seller they have the right to set up their auctions however they want, if I knew my items consistently sold well, I would make EMS flat rate the default vs. regular airmail. I think it is a bit disingenuous of them to not be more willing to share the loss and claim tough economic times, they just got $175. And honestly, how do you even know the item was truly sent?? Just because they were a good a reliable seller in the past does not mean they could have flaked.

Technically, she's suppose to provide insurance for all packages on eBay no matter what, it's not up to the buyer to decide. It's why they are getting rid of shipping options for buyers such as having the buyer decide if they want insurance or not. If the seller doesn't get insurance it's on their head.

I think also there were too many cases where buyers chose to get the insurance and the seller never paid for it. Happened to me and the seller was horrible about refunding the money. Which was sad because once in a while as a seller I'd forget to put the insurance on and I always refunded the buyer's insurance money without being asked.

If you do file a claim, it takes a long time for PayPal to make a determination, so that gives more time for the package to show-up, if that is a concern for you.

Good luck with getting this resolved, it has to be annoying.

Hah. I have the feeling that she reread eBay's seller policies . . . the situation has changed materially since yesterday morning! Followup post on the way--

Ugh. That really, really sucks.
The fact that she recognizes you as a loyal customer that has made many purchases over the years makes me feel she has sort of an obligation to you and that she should provide you with a new outfit. I understand that a refund is not possible, but a new outfit would be a really wonderful gesture to a loyal costumer.

Good luck.

I do believe she thought better of her original response overnight . . . followup post on the way! *yays* This just proves something I learned a long time ago: never, ever, ever send an electronic message in the heat of passion. ;-) Maybe Ospirit has figured that out by now.

Let's be clear about this, and I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but if you'd bought something from say, Amazon, and the item was shipped but lost in transit, Amazon would replace or refund without a whimper. It shouldn't matter whether you're a big box retailer or a small business owner. You have a responsibility to the customer. Paypal and the major credit card companies understand this, which is why they 'insure' purchases, for lack of a better word. The burden of loss should never, ever be with the purchaser.

Lost in translation or not, worry about damaging a long term relationship or not (and apparently Ospirit isn't too worried about doing so), if Ospirit isn't willing to make good on her end of the deal, there are mechanisms in place to protect you and it's not at all unreasonable for you to use them.

You are absolutely right--and it's the way I handle my own sales. (Sheesh, I once gave two people full refunds plus an extra set of shipping costs on both sides even though they DID receive their items, because I mixed up the packages and it took me a few days to get the right things to the right people.) The good news is that Ospirit did rethink her position, and offered what I really wanted in the first place--a 50% refund. Would I rather have a replacement outfit? Sure. But she wasn't going to do that, so I'll rest reasonably content with this.

I hope it decides to show up for you.

Oh, man, so do I! But if it got caught and shredded by some sorting machine . . . *glurk*.

I know you don't want to file a PayPal claim, but man, I totally would. You are a loyal customer, and she handled it so poorly. Seriously, everyone's financial situation isn't WONDERFUL where they can throw around $100+ down the toilet.

I had made up my mind that I would do that, if she didn't come to a more reasonable resolution soon . . . but yay, I didn't have to go that far! *whew*

Funny, if the shoe was on her foot I'd think she wouldn't be so understanding. Special discount...

Legally all sellers are responsible for items till the buyer receives them. EBay's latest thing is sellers should be paying for insurance for everything and NOT making buyers pay extra for it as a separate item. In other words, it's no longer an option that a buyer can chose or not chose. A seller can charge more for shipping to include it (which I do) but it's the responsibility of the seller not the buyer.

You are not being unreasonable. She has been selling on-line for how long? That brush-off from her is totally wrong. Either she makes a new outfit just like the old one and sends it free of charge or she refunds your money. She is trying to get away with this and also trying to get you to give her more money on another auction. The nerve.

Seriously, it's a big problem and the reason why sellers need to be held accountable is because there are way too many that never send anything out. Not saying she did this but she did take your money and you didn't get anything and now she is trying to play the I'm in bad shape financially card.

I hate stuff like this, always makes it harder for us responsible sellers. I hope you can get to the point of filing a claim if she is going to pull this.

(Deleted comment)
I do believe she took another look at eBay and Paypal rules overnight . . . without any more prompting from me, she stumped up with the offer of a 50% refund. That's good enough for me to go away from this feeling satisfied; sharing the loss seems fair enough on both sides.

I still have vague and forlorn hopes that MAYBE the package will arrive after all (though it will probably be mangled beyond recognition, if it does). Poo on USPS!

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