Sunday, May 5, 2019

Job Posting - IT People Wanted at eBay!

eBay needs IT professionals!

The camper finally sold, despite eBay's best efforts.  A fellow drove all night from Illinois to pick it up, bringing an envelope of cash with him, along with a Mercedes Sprinter van.  I've done the same thing myself, driving from New York to rural Illinois to buy a 1948 Willys Jeep, and again to Arkansas to buy a 1941 Ford Tractor.  It is kind of fun, really, going on a trip to buy something and it is exciting at the same time.

By the way, I also sold those items on eBay, years later, for about what I paid for them (minus any amount spend maintaining them).  "Things" aren't forever in your life, and experiences are more important.  Use things, don't let them use you.  When you are done with things, sell them and move on, rather than cling to them.   I know too many people who keep boats, cars, jeeps, motorcycles, or whatever, sitting in the corner of a barn or garage (or worse yet, outside) until they are rusted piles of junk.  Not only is this a waste of your resources, having a lot of crap laying around can drain away your emotional energy.  That's why, to put it succinctly, people living in trailers surrounded by mounds of broken cars, trucks, and other toys and garbage, never get ahead in life.

But I digress.

This time around, it was a chore to sell something on eBay, and part of me wonders if this is by design.  As I noted in an earlier posting, eBay is a great place to buy cheap crap from China.  It's not crap, really, just cheap.  As a platform for "shopping" and for mega-sellers, it excels.  I clicked on a drip irrigation kit for $15, and in ten seconds, I was checked out.   Runs as smooth as glass.

However, if you, as an individual, want to sell something, it gets tricky.  The site is hard to navigate and has basic HTML errors when small sellers try to use it.  And maybe this is by intent, to discourage small sellers, which no doubt are not as profitable to eBay and represent the largest source of complaints and problems.   Or at the very least, eBay is directing its resources to areas that are the most profitable - mega-sellers and shopping platforms.  It seems more than ever, when I log on, they want to sell me things instead of letting me look at things.

What sort of problems am I talking about?  Well, to begin with is the layout of the site.  Most sites have a number of tabs across the top with pull-down menus, and you can easily navigate the site with a few clicks.   For some reason, a lot of features on eBay are hidden under a number of sub-menus.  The easiest way to navigate the eBay site is to do a search for what you are looking for in Google and then click on the tutorial links you find.   If you try to navigate from within eBay, you will be frustrated by FAQs that provide answers to questions you aren't asking.   Just cut to the chase and do a Google search.   It is sad - a website shouldn't be that way - but eBay's layout is anything but transparent.

For example, if you want to change your "seller preferences" you can try to navigate that internally in their site, or just go to Google and click on the links provided in the tutorial you find there.   And by the way, eBay changes the names of the tabs and menus you are supposed to be looking for, so often the tutorial is outdated anyway.   It is kind of frustrating.

But in addition to just being difficult to use, the site has HTML errors.   For example, the fellow who bought the camper paid me $500 via PayPal as a deposit, as required by the auction terms (and suggested by eBay when I listed the trailer).   After he made this deposit, eBay now says, "the item is paid for - time to ship it!"

Shipping.  That's another thing.  Obviously, I am not shipping the trailer - local pickup only.  I put that in the auction when I set it up, but for some reason, "Ships to US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand" appears in the listing.  WTF?   I go in to try to edit this and it says, on the edit page, "local pickup only!"  I check my seller preferences - no overseas shipping!   But nevertheless, it appears on the listing as shipping to Australia et al.   Just plain weird.

Speaking of which, the original buyer who bailed on me finally responded, three days later, after I sent him over five e-mails.  His response was, "Yes sir - I need to know where you are located and how much shipping will cost?"   Very odd.  Sir?   My location is in the listing, and not only that, I mentioned it in the e-mails I sent him.  I think the user's account was hijacked and this delayed response was some sort of overture to a con (the cashier's check for over purchase amount scam).

I pointed out to him that he was supposed to pay a $500 deposit within 48 hours of the listing and that he never contacted me until nearly 72 hours later - and that I had already relisted and sold the camper.  It will be interesting to see how that plays out.  Will he leave me negative feedback in retaliation?   It is a weird setup and I have to wait a week to get my listing fees and final value fees back.   A bad bidder can really screw up your auction!

But getting back to crappy HTML, it gets weirder and weirder.  I specifically said "cash only" in the auctions, and yet the auction lists showing me accepting credit cards, cashier's checks, and money orders (!!).  I go in and correct this, and it dumps cashier's checks and money orders, but still shows credit cards being accepted.   I no longer have a merchant account, and eBay even says, in the seller preference pages, that I can no longer offer to use my merchant account (and has "accepts credit cards" set to NO).   Still, it shows on the listing.  And the re-listing. And the re-re-listing.

I am hesitant to accept credit cards or even PayPal on such a large transaction as people can dispute a charge, which means you have to scramble to prove the item was delivered, etc.   It is a pain-in-the-ass, and it is much easier to just deal in cash.   Cashier's checks and "money orders" (they still exist?) can be forged with a laser printer, as is well-known.  I accepted one for the M Roadster, but only because it was drawn on Bank of America, and I could go down to the branch and cash it (after verifying funds were available in the buyer's account).

It is just weird that after you change settings they don't carry over to the actual auction, or the settings you choose initially show as being set, but the auction displays otherwise.

Speaking of which, I decided to put a "buy it now!" feature on the auction, as it was bid up to $7800 in the previous auction, and I figured that $7500 was a fair price.  I put that in the re-listing, and it shows on the thumbnail as having a "buy it now" price of $7500.  But you click on the auction, and the buy-it-now feature is missing.  I had to re-re-re-list this auction in order to just eliminate the auction feature and put it at fixed-price.  Maybe relisting an auction and adding a buy-it-now doesn't work or something, but a properly written script shouldn't offer me the option of adding a buy-it-now to a relist if it isn't allowed.   This is just plain shitty programming.

The eBay messaging site is plagued with issues.  When I click on my auction, it says, "you have 13 messages that are unanswered!" when in fact, I answered them all.  When I click on "answer questions" only two or three of these messages appear.  When I try to answer them again, it goes to a 404 page.  Shitty and sloppy coding!   Oh, and by the way, there is no way to "erase" these messages - they will appear in my inbox forever and ever, amen.

Maybe these are little things, but it seems odd to me that a big company like eBay would have major defects in its website programming.

Maybe I am using the site wrong or something, or my browser is outdated (or my computer, or me) or something.   But even given that, it is odd that the site does these weird things.   Odder still that it is so hard to set up an auction, without having to visit a number of hard-to-find sub-pages (such as seller preferences, etc.) in order to change the terms of the auction.

But then it sort of struck me.   eBay makes a lot of money and has little overhead from mega-sellers.  Few disputed transactions, lots of little fees.  Some individual selling his crap online is bound to generate more customer service inquiries (which cost money) in terms of either the seller asking questions, or a buyer disputing a sale.   So they either make it intentionally harder to use (and opaque) to discourage amateur sellers, or they are just not directing precious IT resources toward an area of their business that doesn't generate a lot of income for them.

But in the end, it all worked out - in the great old-fashioned eBay tradition.  I put the item online, someone bought, drove all night to get here, and hooked up the trailer and left - leaving me with an envelope of cash.  So maybe eBay isn't dead quite yet.

And I do have some more items to sell on there - little things, actually.   But a dollar here and a dollar there, it does add up.

As for the camper, after 15 years, we got $7500 for it.  We paid only $8350 for it, fifteen years ago.  Of course, a reader pointed out that with inflation, $8350 could be worth 11 grand today.  But even given that, it is still remarkably low depreciation.   Most cars of that era would be approaching scrap value today.  A $20,000 car from 2004 would be worth $10,000 by 2009.   It would be worth $5000 by 2014, and today, maybe $2500 on a good day.  But then again, a trailer doesn't have an engine to wear out, which illustrates why trailerable RVs are a lower-cost way of RVing - and why motorhomes are a depreciation nightmare of upside-down 20-year loans.

The only downside to the Casita is that it attracts a lot of oddball people - myself included.  I had two people want to bid on the Casita who didn't even own cars.  This struck me as odd.  One told me that they didn't want to spend more than $3000 on the camper, and when the final minutes of the auction wound down, they tried to bid $7900.  I cancelled their bid - I don't need to mess around with someone who doesn't even have a car, nor the money.   You know how that would play out - I would have had to re-list the item (as I ended up doing anyway) to find a serious bidder.

Casitas are commonly used in Craigslist scams, and today, I went on "Search Tempest" and saw no fewer than 50 bogus ads for Casitas - usually the same picture with an embedded e-mail address and some weird fractured text scraped for other ads.   I never knew Casita made a camper with three slide-outs, a king-sized bed and a 25-gallon water tank (they don't).   I also never knew they made them as far back as 1967 (they didn't).   Yet these ads exist, and people click on them and send their money off to scammers, because their grasp of reality is tenuous at best.

I put up a legit ad, and it is flagged as a scam.   eBay has a future.  Craigslist seems to be just a waste of time.

It was sad to see the Casita go.  We had some good times in it.  On the other hand, I never "bonded" with other Casita owners, and many of them seemed to be downright crackpots or cranks.  Whoops - maybe that includes me.   On the Casita Club forum, someone was asking about an electronic keypad for their camper, to which some "Dad" responded, "You don't want that!  What will you do when the penlight batteries in that thing wear out?  You'll be locked out of your camper!"

Penlight batteries?   Hey you kids, get off my lawn!

Casita people are more than a little crazy, it seems.  Well, of course, I did put rainbow lights on our camper!  We'll see if the Escape crowd is a little more sane.

I guess I just don't have enough imagination to envision doing this....