Saturday, November 7, 2015

eBay Time Wasters

Selling things on eBay isn't hard to do, but you do have to be astute.

Some of my friends marvel at the fact that I can buy things and sell things on eBay, as if it were some complicated deal.  Apparently, I am a Warlock, anointed with magic powers, to be able to divine how buy and sell things online.   For a lot of folks, just selling their car is a stressful nightmare, which is why they tend to trade-in every few years for a new one - squandering tons of money in the process.

There are a lot of tips to selling things on eBay to get a reasonable amount of money for an item (note: reasonable, not a killing.  People want to do "heads I win, tails you lose" all the time, which is why they are never successful at many things).   I could go on for pages, and indeed have a few postings on the topic on this blog.

But time-wasters is what we are talking about today.   They are not a big hassle, but they can throw you off your game if you let them get to you.   These are folks that have no intention of buying your item - at auction - and thus waste your time.

As I noted in an earlier posting:
"The other gambit I see a lot is the endless e-mailer - he sends endless e-mails with questions about the item (often questions that are answered if you read the listing).  He also wants 100 pictures of the car/boat/motorcycle, e-mailed directly to him.  He bothers you, he nags you, he runs down your item.  He offers to "take it off your hands" for $500 less than the minimum bid.
But one thing he never does is actually bid on an item or buy it.  In fact, there is an inverse relationship between the number of pesky e-mails and the likelihood of bidding.  If someone sends you one e-mail asking a simple question, they might bid. 2-3 e-mails, probably not.  5 or more, requesting pix and more information - definitely not."
There is a pattern here.

How do you spot the time-waster?   To begin with, they pepper you with questions using the eBay "contact the seller" feature.   I have no problem answering questions from real prospective buyers.  The problem is, these folks never bid and never buy.  And they aren't hard to spot:
1.  They ask a question that is clearly answered in the listing: because they never bothered to read the listing.   But they don't, likely because they are using a smart phone, or they are just lazy and don't like to read.   So they skim the listing and then fire off a list of questions.  Today I had to "answer" a question from a time-waster.  The answer to his question was in the second sentence of the listing.  He never bothered to read, he will never bid.  He is a time-waster.  Note that these are often real questions, as opposed to the "is the car in good condition?" generic questions that the Nigerian scammers send.   They are real questions - but already answered in the posting.
2.  They keep going back and forth with more and more e-mails about the item:  After you've answered their question, they keep pestering you with more questions and more demands.  They want to waste your time and make you feel insecure about the item.   We're talking 5, 10, even 15 e-mails here.  Really uncalled for.
3.  They ask you to "send them more pix":  (always "pix" not "pictures") even though you have posted 24 pictures in the listing and provided a link to more pictures in an online photo album.  The pictures they ask you for are already in the listing.  Plus, there is no way to "send" them "pix" through eBay's "ask the seller a question" e-mail system.   So it is an idiotic question.  Often con artists (Nigerian scammers) ask for pix or more information like this, in an introductory e-mail to the scam.

4.  They ask you to end the auction early  This falls into line with #1 above, as in my listing, I clearly stated I would be happy to answer any questions except one:  Will you end the auction early?  Again, Nigerian scammers do this all the time - to try to send you a phony cashier's check for more than the purchase price and then get you to wire the excess overseas.  But these time-wasters are not interested in even that - they just want to waste your time by asking you "what would you take to end the auction early?"  I usually answer, "A Billion dollars" which pisses them off.

5.  They run down your item:   Often they will state or imply that you are trying to conceal something or hide defects, even when you list them item-by-item and show pictures.  They will claim that your vehicle or product is "prone to defects" and should be "inspected" or whatever.  I have had this happen several times.  They are trying to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) and get you to think your item is worth less - or worthless.
Why do they do all these things?  Power-Shifting.  They want to buy the item from you for cheap, and to do this, they want you to start to think that you are lucky to get someone to buy your car from you. They want you to jump through hoops (sending pictures, for example, that are already in the listing).   If you do these things, they know they have shifted power, and then they can make their next move.

I had one person e-mail me (who never bid on the item) asking if I would end the auction early.  Then he started going on about a "defect" in these cars which has affected only a handful.  Some kids buy BMWs and think they are drag racers and peel out and do burnouts with them.  Problem is, the BMW drivetrain was never designed for this sort of abuse, and things fail.  The differential mounts will crack under such loads.

So he runs down the item and implies that I am hiding a "hidden defect" - and asks me to post a lot of extra pictures of "the interior" (even though I already had many).   When I ask him which parts of the interior he is interested, he says, "I don't know, the seats and dashboard and stuff."  The point is not that he wants more pictures, but he wants to make me take more pictures and thus make me the submissive party in the transaction.

A proper commercial transaction should be a meeting of the minds, with each party feeling they got the best value on their side of the deal.  Once you go down the road of feeling "lucky" to get something, whether it is tickets to a rock concert, or some must-have Christmas toy, the transaction is no longer a meeting of the minds, but rather a one-sided deal.   You bend over, they drive it in.   And not nicely!

So then he drops the other shoe:   He will stoop to buy my car, he says (even though it is horrible) but wants me to drive it an hour to Savannah to have a BMW dealer inspect it and prepare a list of things that need fixing.  I've been down this road before - any used car (particularly a 16-year-old used car) you take to a dealer will have a laundry list of things to "fix".  This is called routine maintenance.   For example, on this car, it will need new tires in another 10,000 miles.  The brakes are original and have a lot of meat left on the pads - but a dealer would recommend replacing pads and rotors, because that is what dealers do.  And it will need an oil change and the brakes flushed and the radiator flushed - in due course.

Add all that up, at dealer labor rates and dealer parts costs, and you've have thousands of dollars of "repairs" that the buyer would then claim are needed.  He then tries to re-negotiate the price of the vehicle based on these alleged "defects" and you either have to re-list the car or take his shady low-ball offer.

Here's the deal:  When you buy a used car, you buy it as-is, where-is.  Even car dealers don't warranty used cars more than 30 days.  Maybe a late model car would be "certified" for a few years, but even then, wear items like tires often aren't covered.

When you bid on something on eBay, you are buying it.  You are not bidding on the right to later negotiate a sale.   But many folks like to do just that - try to snooker a seller into letting an item go for cheap.   And yes, some of these folks are very clever and will re-list your item and re-sell it for more money.   They are curbstoners or even used car dealers.

Fortunately, you do have some weapons in your arsenal.  First, if someone seems like a time-waster, just cut them off.  While it is helpful to answer real questions from real bidders, asinine questions from time-wasters don't merit a response.  If the information is in your listing, maybe point them to it.  But don't spend a lot of time going back-and-forth with a time-waster.

Second, you can block them from bidding if they seem like time-wasters, hostile, or running down your item.  In this case, I blocked the user from bidding, as he clearly stated up front that if he won the auction, he would then "think about" whether or not to buy the car after an inspection.   I told him if he wanted to inspect the car, he was free to do so - before the auction ended.   Of course, he had no intention of doing that, as it would not power-shift in his favor.

Funny thing, when I blocked him as a bidder - and told him about it - his real colors showed.  He showered my inbox with tirades "sent from my iPhone" (of course) about why I had to sell him the car as if he was entitled to it.  I pointed out to him that on Autotrader, there are about 30 such similar cars listed for sale, and he could go "negotiate" a price with those folks and have the car inspected as his leisure.  This is an auction.  I want the car to go away in 10 days, not linger on the market for months (the latter being the reason many folks are afraid to sell their own cars).

By the way, they're real....and they're spectacular!

The video clip above sums up how I feel about the car.  It is a very nice car, and people attempting to run it down are the same as folks trying to claim someone's breasts are fake.  Go fuck yourself with that shit.  They're real, and they're spectacular.

But but the upshot is, after selling three boats, ten cars, a motorcycle, and an antique tractor on eBay, I have run into time-wasters on nearly every auction.  They never bid, they never buy.   So don't waste your time on time-wasters, and don't feel like you have to jump to their commands, lest they get pissed off and not bid - they weren't going to bid anyway.

And it is funny, how they show their hand this way.  One time-waster badgered me to "end the auction early" and offered to buy the vehicle for $8,000 (let's say).  I told him he could bid on the car if he wanted to, with an $8,000 bid, and maybe he would win.  But no, he wanted me to end the auction, deal with him in person, and of course, negotiate down the price.  He didn't say this out loud - he didn't have to.   His lack of bidding was the real tip-off.

The car later sold, for $7,500.  If he had bid on the car, he could have bough it for less than he claimed he was willing to pay!  But he never bid, because in reality, he was never willing to really pay $8,000 for the car - not even close.  Odds are, he was a used car dealer or curbstoner, who wanted to get me to end the auction, then talk me down to $5,000 or less, and then re-sell the car on his lot.

Just walk away from time-wasters!