The Horror of Buying on eBay

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I have bought and sold a lot of stuff on eBay. The vast majority of folk that I have met on eBay have been pleasant and generally good people to deal with. There are the occasional hiccoughs that happen. Most have been resolved amicably and without any need for recourse to the facilities eBay provides for resolving problems.

In fact, until the incident I am now recounting, there had been only one real problem that I had with an under age buyer who did not pay. eBay de-registered him and I got my fees back after a lot of messing about.

On the 12th of June 2005 I won an auction for a Motorcycle. I entered my bid for the bike against my better judgment.

My son, who is 15, is looking for a motorcycle to renovate and keep him going until he is old enough to go out on the road. He had been browsing eBay looking for things and had a good idea of the sort of thing he was after. He found one that he particularly liked the sound of. I told him that he should be very careful as firstly, the advert was in the wrong area (not the motors area), there was no photograph and that the description was very terse. Not only that, the seller had some negative and very dubious feedback. Here is a copy of the full text of the advert:

'this is a honda cm 125 custom bike. it needs a new set of exhausts and some tlc, the engine is in good condition allong with the bodywork although the timing needs setting up.'

I would not normally touch such an advert with a barge pole. However, after my son had badgered me about it for a couple of days, I used the eBay system to ask the seller a question. My question was quite detailed, asking a number of questions about the state of the bike but with special emphasis on asking whether there was a V5 registration document with it.

I received no reply to this. Come the day that the auction was due to end, I emailed the seller once more, using the eBay 'Ask the Seller a Question' facility with the following:

'Hi. A couple of days ago I asked you a question about this item. I have not yet received a reply. Maye it got lost somewhere. I would appreciate it if you could let me know whether this has a registration document with it, do you have a picture of the item? I would like to bid on the item but am reluctant to if I don't receive a reply.'

At 1447 (the auction was due to finish at 1938 and 21 seconds), I received the following reply:

'hi, im sorry but i dont have a digital camera so i cannot take any photo's, the v5 is arround we just have to dig it out. cheers'

I was all very dubious about this and not at all happy about bidding on the item. However, come the time the auction was due to end my son was there, nipping at my heels as it were. I sat there ready to click on 'confirm bid'. At 1938 and 19 seconds I placed the bid, 2 seconds before the end of the auction. I was in two minds right at the end. I was going to let it run over 'accidentally' and miss the bid. My son must have sensed this and said something, moments before the final seconds which, more or less emotionally blackmailed me. I am a bloody fool really, I should have known better. This will be borne out as I continue the tale of woe.

I won the auction. At 2029 the same evening I sent the following email to the seller (place and numbers removed):

'Hi. I have just won the Honda 125. Please let me know your address so that I can arrange collection. Please also let me know when you have found the V5 document (I received a reply from you to a question I asked about it, where you said that you had to find it). I live in ****** and will need to arrange the hire of a van to come and pick the bike up from you. I will pay cash when I pick the bike up. My telephone number is **** or mobile **** if you want to ring Thanks'

I then repeated a number the questions I had asked before the auction that had received no reply. This email was sent at 2115 on the evening the auction finished:

'Hi. I would appreciate it if you could answer the following questions. It will help me sort things out ready. Is the bike running? Is it actually rideable? If not, is it in one piece? What would it take to get it running? Does it have an MOT or road tax? Has it been declared off road? If it has no MOT, what do you reckon it will need to get it through its MOT? Is there anything (other than what you mentioned in the auction) that needs doing to it to make it serviceable? What year is it? What registration is it? I am considering the best way to pick the bike up you see. I am considering whether it would be possible to ride it back to ****** or whether as I mentioned before, I would need to hire a van to get it back Thanks in advance'

I received no reply to the above emails and no customary invoice through eBay. Nothing. In my experience, this is not a normal thing to happen, I am used to being contacted within hours of the end of the auction. So on 13th June at 1322 I sent this to the seller:

'Hi Yesterday, I won the Honda CM 125 Custom that you had up on eBay and as yet have heard nothing from you regarding the further questions I asked you about it (the main ones being arranging pickup and the V5 registration document plus a couple of others regarding the bikes age and condition so that I can get some other irons in fires) Normally, I would be fairly easy going about it but this is for my youngest son who is just about bursting with excitement to get his hands on it. I hope you understand, I would appreciate it if we could expedite the process of payment for and pickup of the bike Thanks'

By 1923 on the same day, I had not received a reply so I requested contact details from eBay and rang the telephone number supplied. The person answering the telephone had no idea what I was talking about. It would seem I was talking to the seller's mother who is living at a different address. She told me that as far as she knew, he did not have a motorcycle to sell. The alarm bells started ringing. She gave me a telephone number to ring. I then ended up speaking with the seller. I asked him if he had found the V5 document. He said he had not but it was just a matter of searching for it. I asked him when it would be OK to contact him the next day so that I could arrange to hire a van, contact him before setting off to check he had located the document, and then come and pick the bike up. He said any time from 0500 to midnight.

The next morning I was up bright and early, getting myself organised ready for a busy day. I rang around and organised the hire of a suitable van and then rang the seller. This was around 0800. A little early maybe, but bearing in mind what he had said I thought it reasonable as I had a long drive ahead of me and a lot to fit in that day.

I was very disappointed (but not surprised come to think of it) when he told me that he had not found the V5 registration document. We had a discussion on what we could do about this. I calculated that if I could not set off before 1000, then I could not fit everything into the day, so I told the seller that he could get back to me around that time and let me know whether he had found the V5. At 0818 he rang me back to tell me he could not find the V5. He suggested I collect the bike and he would send it on if he found it. He then told me he would get a replacement V5 and send it on to me. When I told him that this was not acceptable and that I would only go and collect the bike when there was a V5 with it he became irate and unreasonable. He put the phone down on me saying 'you are a timewaster and I am going to ring eBay'

At this point I thought 'oh dear me'. I thought it best to put this into writing and sent it to the seller through the eBay system. This I did at 0818 immediately after the phone call:

'Hi I have just finished speaking to you on the telephone where you put the phone down on me before I had finished You said that I had been wasting your time I am disappointed that you think this is the case as I was doing my best to reach an amicable agreement with you. Before I bid on the motorcycle, I asked you by email if there was a V5 registration document with it. You replied (quoted below) that there was and you only had to 'dig it out'. I then bid on the bike and won it. You now tell me that you cannot find the registration document for it. I am not willing to buy the bike without the registration document. I only bid on it on the understanding that it had a registration document with it. Is there any chance that you could still find it? Please let me know if you do find it. I am still very happy to come and pick up the bike when you have found it Can I suggest that, if you think you will not find it, or if you prefer to, you could offer the bike to the next lowest bidder in the auction, not too long a period of time has passed, I am sure they will still be interested in a 'second chance' offer'

On the same day 14th June at 0919 I sent eBay the following email which in the title included the auction number and details:

'Hi. The listing for this item was not very descriptive. I asked the seller some questions through the ebay system a couple of days before the end of the auction. He did not reply. A couple of hours before the end of the auction I asked a further question to which he replied. I asked if the vehicle had a V5 registration document. He replied that it did have, he just had to 'dig it out'. This reply came through the eBay system, so hopefully you should be able to find it, if not, I have a copy I can provide. I bid on the motorcycle and won it. I only bid because the seller had informed me that there was a registration document with it. I have this morning spoken with the seller on the telephone. He tells me that he cannot find the document. I have told him that I am not prepared to pay for the bike unless it has a V5 registration document with it. I wanted to discuss options further but he put the telephone down on me saying that I was wasting his time and that he was going to contact eBay. I need to know whether I am within my rights to refuse to pay for this item as I think it is significantly different to as it was described to me. I am of the opinion that you should never buy a vehicle without a registration document. I would not have bid on the item if I had known there was no V5 with it Your advice and help would be very much appreciated Thank you'

Later on 14th June, I had cancelled the van that I had organised to rent and rang the DVLA for some help. They told me that if I lost a V5 and if I was the registered keeper, they could replace it for me within 5 days. With this heartening information, I rang the seller back who said he was going to get the required forms from the Post Office and get a replacement V5. I said. Great, please ring me back when you have the V5 and I will come and collect the bike then. He agreed.

Meanwhile! On the 17th June at 1530 I received the following reply from eBay. They say they reply in 24 to 48 hours but as you can see, this reply took 3 days and 6ish hours to get to me:

'Hello Chris, I have received your email and apologise for the delay in our response to your inquiry. It is not possible to retract your winning bid once the listing has ended. The information below explains the possible steps that you could take to solve this situation. Contact the seller In order to sort this situation out please get in touch with the seller and let them know what has happened. You can request a trader's name, address and phone number, by following the steps below: 1. Click on the "Site Map" link at the top of most eBay pages. 2. When the Site Map opens, click on "Search for Members" under "Search." 3. Complete the information in the Contact Info box and click on submit. When you contact the seller please ask them to take one of the following courses of action: Second chance offer: The seller can complete the sale with the next highest or subsequent bidder by making a Second Chance Offer. Second Chance Offers are a feature that allows a seller to offer an item to an under bidder at the bidder's maximum bid amount, if the winning bidder is unable to complete a purchase. The seller can contact us for more information on the following page: http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/sell/personal_offer.html Mutual agreement not to proceed: Usually the Seller will wish to reclaim their Final Value Fees for this listing and will therefore file an Unpaid Item against you. They can instead however file a "Mutual Agreement Not to Proceed", which once the buyer has agreed and confirmed means that eBay will issue a Final Value Fee credit to the seller. As long as the buyer replies to the seller within 7 days, indicating that they have both agreed not to complete the transaction, no negative mark will be left on any account. The seller will otherwise receive a Final Value Fee credit if the buyer fails to respond in 7 days (and the buyer will receive a strike). The seller may request a credit for the Final Value Fee by following the instructions at: http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/tp/unpaid-item-process.html We are committed to your online trading success. Regards '

This told me nothing that I didn't already know and had me tearing my hair out in desperation. I replied with this on 17th June at 1600:

'Hi Thanks for your delayed reply. I really could have done with an answer a little more rapidly. It also seems to me that you did not read my original question properly as I stated that I have already spoken with the seller on the telephone. I had requested his details from the eBay system as you spent the first part of your reply to me saying. Are you telling me that, even though, before I bid on the item, the seller had told me by email through the eBay message system that there was a V5 registration document with the motorcycle and then later, when I had won the auction, he tells me he has not got the document, I still have to pay him for what may be a stolen vehicle? I have not found anyone that recommends buying a vehicle without V5 registration document. This is why I asked him when it was not mentioned in his auction. The eBay advice is to do exactly this. I had in fact suggested a second chance offer to the seller as you mention. He has replied to no emails whatsoever. On the telephone (since I emailed you) he tells me that he is going to apply for a replacement V5 document, in which case, if he gets it, I will go ahead with the purchase. Otherwise, surely I do not have to pay for a possibly stolen machine? Remember, the seller told me there was a V5 before I bid, after winning the item he told me he could not find it. He now says he is getting a replacement V5, if he gets it, I will buy, if not, I will assume he cannot get one and this would indicate to me that there is something fishy about the bike I am becoming quite disillusioned with the eBay service over the last few days'

On 18th June 0606 I received an email from eBay asking for a handling opinion for the above question that I had asked, as if my above reply was not enough! At the time of writing this (25/6/05) I have not responded

On 21st June 2005 at 1320 I received this response to my email to them:

'Hello, I have received your email and apologise for the delay in our response to your inquiry. eBay is a venue for buyers and sellers to meet. This means that we provide a market place for traders to interact but have limited legal powers and responsibilities. We provide the bidding system, but we do not authenticate users, verify items, or guarantee that you will receive payment or the item. You can find more information by looking at our User Agreement: http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/community/png-user.html We are however extremely concerned about our community and your safety within our community. We therefore provide substantial advice and information explaining how to trade safely on eBay. Please visit our Safety Centre for more information: http://pages.ebay.co.uk/safetycentre/index.html I trust that the above information answers your query to your satisfaction'

Blood hell! No it does not help! I am not flaming satisfied at all! I just wasted half an hour of my life typing letters to you! I had already read all the flaming crap help on eBay before resorting to asking the question. I am so infuriated by eBay's non-help. I really am! I cannot emphasise it enough. What a great pile of useless twaddle

The above rant was only to this page. As yet I have not vented my spleen at eBay. I will do when the matter comes to an end

On 24th June I had heard nothing from the seller so I sent this email via the eBay message system to the seller:

'Hi How is it going regarding the V5 for the motorcycle? Chris'

He replied on 24th at 1228:

'i have the V5 here to be filled in but i think it would be pointless if i fill it out and send it off just so that you can fill it out and send it off yourself. I am willing to take 15 less for the bike if you send the form yourself. It would cost that 15 for the form.'

I did not find this until the next morning and replied as follows through the eBay system. I had to reply in 2 messages at it would not all fit into one. Sent 0636 on 25/06/05:

'Hi I don't understand what you mean Do you mean that you have the application form for a replacement V5 there? The form you were collecting from the Post Office to post off to get a replacement V5? The DVLA told me it was a relatively quick process, I would have expected this to have been completed by now. Or do you mean that you have the V5 registration document there and the change of owner needs completing? Please understand that, as I explained before, it is very important the bike has a V5 registration document with it before I come to collect it Please get straight back to me as soon as possible with the following 3 things: The bike's registration number The frame number The engine number Did you receive my previous emails asking questions about the bike so that we could start looking for parts for it? I have a young son here who is keen to get his hands on it. I would appreciate it if we could could conclude this quickly. Thanks. Chris'

'Hi There was not enough room for me to finish fully what I wanted to ask in the previous mail. Alternatively, if you want to do it this way, you could file a 'Mutual agreement not to proceed' with the sale with ebay. That way you can get your selling fees back and then give a second chance offer to another bidder on the bike, or put it back up for auction. I am only mentioning this so that you are aware I am willing to do this if you want. In fact I think I would prefer this if you are willing Chris'

At 0729 on 25th I received the following detailed (hah!) reply from the seller:

'when are you going to pick it up if you still want it that is'

At 0915 on 25/06/2005, I replied with the following through the eBay message system:

'I will come to pick the bike up when you tell me that you have the V5 registration document there. Can you please tell me the registration number of the bike, its frame and engine number. If you are not willing to supply the registration document or the above bike details, I suggest that you contact ebay and file a mutual agreement not to proceed. I would be happy to agree with it. You will then get your ebay fees back quickly and be able to make a second chance offer to another bidder or to start a new auction. Chris'

19/07/2005 Having watched the seller for a while now, I have noticed that he seems to have created a couple of IDs and is using them to bid against his own items to increase their price. Not only that, in one auction, rather than put a reserve on the item, he actually stated that he would remove the item from the auction if it did not go high enough. This is against ebay policy according to their help. Will they be interested if I point it out to them? Well, let's see.... I have reported him to them

01/08/2005 eBay did not reply to me but I notice today that the user is no longer registered so it looks like they booted him out. Quite right too. The time had expired so he could not reclaim his sellers fee for the bike which was a bit odd he didn't do that as his fees would be about £4 I think. Now there is nothing that he can do other than come around here and beat me up I suppose :-(

tom_homewood01 item 7979090663


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