ebay buyer scams and sending items internationally

Es­ti­mated reading time is 13 minutes.

EBAY IS THE PLACE TO SELL and has been for years and years! But sellers quickly learn that eBay goes out of its way to pro­tect and even pla­cate buyers—regardless of the patent ab­sur­dity of some of their claims against the seller! Every­thing from eBay’s flawed feed­back system to the al­most open-ended re­turn policy fa­vors the buyer. And then there are the eBay buyer scams that no one wants to talk about.

If you have friends or family that sell on eBay, you have prob­ably heard tales of woe and out­right anger about the crap that sellers go through!

The system some­times seems to have been de­signed with the as­sump­tion that many sellers are ei­ther cor­rupt or stupid—and while many may, in fact, be the latter, only a small per­centage are the former.


As this ar­ticle touches on in­ter­ests on all three of my web­sites, I have posted it on each site. If you sub­scribe to my other sites, you won’t have to read it there.


Cer­tainly, safe­guards need to be in place to pro­tect buyers, but if you sell on eBay, more than a few people are going to try to rip you off via a fraud­u­lent buyer claim. And that can be dif­fi­cult to deal with on eBay.

There is little done to pro­tect the seller from a buy­er’s scam. Ex­cept for Ebay’s reps learning to rec­og­nize cer­tain ‘traits’ or pat­terns among scam­mers, per­haps there is little that can be done.

Re­cent changes have PayPal han­dling the claims is­sues, and that may be some­thing better be­gin­ning. At least it was in my BIG al­ter­ca­tion, but first things first . . .


Most people see “eBay” and “scam” to­gether (“eBay buyer scams”) and as­sume the worst about the sellers using the site’s ser­vices. Few stop to think about the buyers who are run­ning scams every day on eBay. This ar­ticle ad­dresses one such scam and sev­eral buyers using it!

Shipping a record internationally

I am going to ad­dress this issue as one aimed at the in­ter­na­tional market, for rea­sons that will be readily ap­parent. There have been stag­gering in­creases in over­seas postal rates over the years; sending items by even the least ex­pen­sive means is costly. That plays into the play.

First, a prop­erly packed LP in a stan­dard card­board box with pro­tec­tive pads is 13″ x 13″ x ¾” and weighs ap­prox­i­mately 1 pound 4 ounces.

•  To ship a single long-playing LP record album via USPS Media Mail any­where in the US (in­cluding Alaska and Hawaii) costs $3.80 (up from $3.22 in 2016.). 1

•  To send that same record to Canada via USPS First-Class Package In­ter­na­tional Service—which is in­ter­na­tional but not over­seas and used to be rel­a­tively inexpensive—costs a min­imum of $20.75 (up from 15.50 since 2016)

•  To send that same record to Eng­land via USPS First-Class Package In­ter­na­tional Service—which is cur­rently the least expensive—would cost $24.50 (up from $22.50 since 2016).

•  To send that same record to Eng­land via USPS Pri­ority Mail In­ter­na­tional would cost an out­ra­geous $61.15 (up from $33.95 since 2016).

Ship­ping to other coun­tries car­ries rates sim­ilar to those of ship­ping to England.



Slip an LP with at least one mailing pad into a box like this, tape it up ap­pro­pri­ately (I use about 100 inches of tape per box), and you have a package that weighs in at about 1¼ pounds. 2

Do not return to sender

Of course, eBay en­sures that cus­tomers can re­turn items for al­most any reason and the seller pays the re­turn ship­ping. Which is fair—provide the reason is fair. But eBay al­lows re­turns for no reason at all!

So, if I sell a $50 record to someone in Penn­syl­vania and that person has a problem with the record, I can tell him to re­turn to sender, I re­fund him $58, and I am out $4 for the whole af­fair. 3

But if I ship that record to someone in Eu­rope and they com­plain, if they re­turn the record, it could cost me up­wards of $25 to pay for the re­turn shipping!

So it is in my in­terest to find an­other op­tion to pla­cate that for­eign buyer—and that op­tion is usu­ally a par­tial re­fund, and it’s a common de­vice for set­tling such disputes.


The par­tial re­fund is a common de­vice for set­tling dis­putes be­tween buyer and seller—often over sup­posed over­grading by the seller.


That’s right: the cus­tomer com­plains that I slightly over-graded the record or the jacket and com­plains. But rather than re­turn the record, he’ll be sat­is­fied if I give him a $10 par­tial re­fund or a $15 par­tial re­fund or a $25 par­tial refund!

You get the idea: the system al­most dares the buyer not to cheat the seller! And it’s even easier to pull this stunt off when the album shipped is a pre­re­corded reel-to-reel tape . . .



As late as 1968, RCA Victor and other major com­pa­nies were still pushing reel-to-reel tapes, a seen in this two-page mag­a­zine spread. But the 8-track car­tridge tape was the new thing and was selling better every year! Yet it would soon be sup­planted by the cas­sette car­tridge tape in the mid-’70s, which would be the medium of choice for about ten years.

I don’t play the tapes I sell

The first time that this hap­pened to me only ap­peared to me to have been a scam in hind­sight. I sold a pre­re­corded reel-to-reel tape and shipped it to Eu­rope. And then I re­ceived the com­plaint. But first, a little bit on the tapes that I was selling.

The tape came from a col­lec­tion of 3¾ ips and 7½ ips tapes that I had pur­chased years ago. I knew the man who owned them and I knew he han­dled his tapes with care and would not have know­ingly sold a dam­aged one to me.

I state that here be­cause I don’t have a reel-to-reel deck, so I don’t play the tapes that I sell. Ex­cept for the first few feet of the tape on the reel—which is ei­ther flat or wrinkled—I say nothing about the tape.


Un­like a vinyl record, it is not easy to vi­su­ally grade a pre­re­corded tape, and so I don’t play the tapes that I sell.


Un­like a vinyl record, it is not easy to vi­su­ally grade a pre­re­corded tape. I sup­pose that I could un­reel the whole thing and look for scratches with a mag­ni­fying glass, but need­less to say, I don’t.

Nor does anyone else.

I would also have to double or treble the Buy It Now price to cover the ad­di­tional time and effort—and then I wouldn’t be able to sell a single tape be­cause my prices would be too fur­sh­lug­giner high!

What I do in my ads is state that the tape is “com­plete and has no vis­ible damage” and plays all the way through—to the best of my knowl­edge.

I guar­antee com­plete sat­is­fac­tion or the tape can be re­turned for a com­plete refund—including re­turn postage.

Of course.



In 1968, Jose Fe­li­ciano had his fif­teen min­utes of fame when his ver­sion of Light My Fire reached the Top 10 in the US and the UK and sev­eral other coun­tries. His album FE­LI­CIANO! was a best-seller, and he has been an in­ter­na­tional star ever since.

Light my fire light my fire light my fire

The tape was José Fe­li­ciano’s EN­CORE! The price was $40. I shipped the package to the buyer in Eu­rope at a cost of $20 (rates were lower last year). 4

Then came the buyer’s com­plaint: in the middle of a track, the cor­rect Fe­li­ciano music dropped out for sixty sec­onds and music by an­other artist was heard instead.

In this case, the buyer claimed that in the middle of Light My Fire, Fe­li­ciano dropped out and Peter, Paul & Mary’s Blowin’ In The Wind could be heard instead!

For that to have hap­pened, the orig­inal owner of the tape would have to have been playing Fe­li­ciano on his tape-deck and had a Peter, Paul & Mary LP on his turntable playing simultaneously!

He would then have had to ac­ci­den­tally or in­ten­tion­ally push the ‘Record’ button on his deck, thereby trans­fer­ring PP&M to the Fe­li­ciano tape!

He would then have had to quickly re­alize his mis­take and push the ‘Record’ button off.

Imagine that . . .

It’s un­likely.

Yet it’s possible.



This is how a new pre­re­corded reel-to-reel tape looks just out of the box: the tape is per­fectly flat and wound tightly around the hub. The leading edge (on the right side above) was often af­fixed to the plastic reel with a piece of heavy ad­he­sive tape. If an opened reel tape is found in this con­di­tion with the end of the tape still af­fixed to the reel with ad­he­sive tape, it is safe to as­sume that it might be unplayed.

Which I thought kinda strange

The buyer asked if I would do a par­tial re­fund and re­turn half the pur­chase price ($20) to him. As I had just started to sell on eBay after a ten-year hiatus, I wanted to es­tab­lish a good reputation.

There­fore I replied ‘No’ to the par­tial re­fund and re­quested that he send the tape back to me. I would re­fund him the full $40 for the tape plus the full $20 ship­ping fee plus $20 to cover the cost of ship­ping the tape back to me.

As he had al­ready sent me $60, I would be out $20 on the transaction—but I would have a good name for having done the right thing!



In­stead, he re­sponded by re­ducing his re­quest for a par­tial re­fund to $10!

Which I thought kinda strange.

But I stuck to my guns and in­sisted that he re­turn the tape for a full refund.

But he didn’t re­turn the tape.

Which I thought kinda strange.

He also didn’t send any more re­quests for a par­tial re­fund.

Which I thought kinda strange.

He also didn’t leave me neg­a­tive feedback.

Which I thought kinda strange.

I never heard from him again . . .



This is how a used pre­re­corded reel-to-reel tape looks: the tape is usu­ally (mostly) flat and still wound rea­son­ably tightly around the hub. But sev­eral inches of the leading edge (on the right side above) is often dan­gling about. This ex­posed tape can be flat—as the one in the photo above—or it can be wrin­kled or even rather man­gled looking. As most of the first few feet of pre­re­corded reels are blank, it al­most never af­fects play.

I’m not your stepping stone

Months went by. I sold more tapes, all to do­mestic buyers, all without any prob­lems or com­plaints. There were no dropouts in the tapes I sold stateside.

And then the same sce­nario played it­self out: I sold a copy of a reel-to-reel tape of the first two Mon­kees al­bums (THE MON­KEES and MORE OF THE MON­KEES) for $50 plus $20 for ship­ping. Again to a buyer in Eu­rope and again the same damn story:

The buyer claimed that in the middle of a track, the cor­rect music dropped out for sixty sec­onds and music by an­other artist was heard instead.

Again pos­sible.

Again un­likely.

Again, I thought this is kinda strange.

Again this buyer made the same re­quest: send him a par­tial re­fund of half the cost of the tape ($25) and all would be well.

Again I re­fused and re­quested that in­stead he ship the tape back and I would make a full refund.

Again this buyer low­ered his request.

Again I in­sisted that he re­turn the tape for a full refund.

Again this buyer didn’t re­turn the tape.

Again this buyer didn’t send any more re­quests for a refund.

Again this buyer didn’t leave me neg­a­tive feedback.

Again I never heard from him again.

And now I’m thinking, “What a co­in­ci­dence, huh? Same exact problem, same exact re­quests for re­funds, same of­fers from me, same exact outcome.”

And you know I thought that kinda strange . . .



The Mon­kees go in and outta style with var­ious gen­er­a­tions, al­though I don’t ex­pect the hip-hoppers to ever pay at­ten­tion to any­thing with a melody. For those who dis­miss the group as so much bub­blegum, there’s enough strong ma­te­rial on these two al­bums to make one strong album. And I’m A Be­liever re­mains a classic!

Here to there and then another there

The third time was the most in­ter­esting: this time the Eu­ro­pean buyer wisely had me ship the tape to a cousin in North Car­olina. By having a US ad­dress, the buy­er’s ship­ping fee was $4, an enor­mous dif­fer­ence from the $20 he would have to pay for ship­ping di­rectly to his country.

For­tu­nately, this cousin made fre­quent trips from the New World back to the Old and brought the buy­er’s eBay ac­qui­si­tions with him.

That made sense to me: it prob­ably saved the Eu­ro­pean col­lector a lot of money over time!

So I sold him a reel-to-reel tape of Elvis Presley’s FROM MEM­PHIS TO VEGAS / FROM VEGAS TO MEMPHIS for $60 and charged him $4 for do­mestic Media Mail and sent the tape off to North Carolina.

And all was well this time . . .

Hah! Three months later I re­ceived an email in­forming me of . . . well, you want to guess?

Yep, there was a dropout in the sound and the buyer would like a par­tial re­fund.

No, I said.

And the whole cha­rade started over again, ex­cept this time the buyer ar­gued with me over many emails that I should send him some money!

No, I said each time. I ar­gued, “My re­spon­si­bility to you ended when the package was safely de­liv­ered to your cousin’s ad­dress in North Car­olina. What hap­pened to the item after that is your re­spon­si­bility and your problem.”



For the 1969 Christmas market, the powers-that-be de­cided that Elvis should have a double-album like other artists and so two album projects that should have re­mained sep­a­rate were joined and is­sued with the gaw­dawful title FROM MEM­PHIS TO VEGAS / FROM VEGAS TO MEMPHIS.

This time PayPal handled the complaint

This time, the Eu­ro­pean buyer lodged a com­plaint with eBay, who al­most al­ways sides with the buyer. Ex­cept that the split be­tween eBay and PayPal in 2015 placed the buyer’s com­plaint in the hands of PayPal, not eBay.

So I re­ceived a phone call from a PayPal rep­re­sen­ta­tive lo­cated here in the United States. She ad­dressed the issue to me. I ex­plained my side.

“My re­spon­si­bility to the buyer ended when the package was safely de­liv­ered to the buyer’s re­quested des­ti­na­tion in North Car­olina. What hap­pened to the item after that was the buyer’s re­spon­si­bility and the buyer’s problem.”

The rep said that she had all the emails that the buyer and I had ex­changed and that she would re­view them and get back to me.



While this is both funny and true, it’s also true for many major cor­po­ra­tions who farm out their cus­tomer re­la­tions to other companies—often to com­pa­nies where Eng­lish is a second lan­guage. There­fore, the “rep­re­sen­ta­tives” DO NOT un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion when you speak with them. They hear a few key words or phrases and then read pre­pared “an­swers” from a script! Such is the con­tempt that these com­pa­nies hold for their customers.

A fair and balanced decision

A few hours later she called again. She said the emails de­scribed the trans­ac­tion ex­actly as I had told her. She also agreed with me that sending the package to the ad­dress re­quested by the buyer was the only op­tion I had and that once it ar­rived there my oblig­a­tion as a seller had been met.

She said, “I am finding in your favor. You owe the buyer nothing more. I will con­tact him and tell him of my decision.”

She po­litely thanked me for my coöper­a­tion and that was that!

I had stood up to my third scammer and prevailed—even through the com­plaint process!

I felt like an eBay superhero!!!

Which is not why I am writing this article

I am writing this ar­ticle to alert sellers that they should also con­sider de­fying the scammers—that per­haps PayPal is going to have a more ra­tional take on the af­fairs of sellers and buyers on eBay.

Per­haps the tide has turned!


Since re­turning to selling on eBay last year, I have sold hun­dreds of records to buyers here in the States without a single com­plaint about grading or damage.

At the same time, I sold ten records to buyers in coun­tries over­seas. I have had five complaints.

I as­sume that the three men­tioned above were scams. It’s pos­sible the others were, also. But they came ear­lier and I was more trusting and simply sent the par­tial re­funds as a way to avoid the ex­pense of having the items returned.

These trans­ac­tions neg­a­tively af­fected my score as a seller with eBay.

Now I be­lieve that they may have been eBay buyer scams.

I no longer offer my items for sale to buyers in any country other than the US and Canada.

That may change, but for now, I prefer to avoid any more in­ter­na­tional incidents . . .



1   For the old-timers out there, Media Mail used to be known as 4th Class mail.

2   Most mailing boxes are white; I don’t why, as it would seem bleaching the paper is an ad­di­tional cost. But the brown box above looked better against the white back­drop of this page, so I went with it!

3   On top of the $3.22 ship­ping fee, the cost of the box, in­serts, etc., add an ad­di­tional 80¢ to the “ship­ping cost.” Also, in this case, I would be paying al­most a dollar for in­sur­ance, so I would be out $5.

4   The names of the tapes and the artists who recorded them have been changed to pro­tect them, their friends, their fam­i­lies, and their fol­lowers from being has­sled on their Face­book pages by rightwinged trolls, Bernie Bros, or Chelsea Clinton.


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