Wednesday, December 15, 2004

People are Good?

OK, I know I just recently touted the merits of eBay in this very blog. But, after a few recent bad experiences I'm ready to bitch a bit and warn you all that using eBay does have its down side.

First of all, there's the higher chance that your financial information will get out there. I can't be sure whether my recent banking problems stemmed from transactions through eBay or elsewhere, but it does open one to a larger area of use and thus, potential fraud.

Then there's the possibility of getting shafted. People disappear or refuse to pay or send goods. It happens. Not often, but if you use eBay regularly, just as if you participate in any marketplace, it's likely to happen to you.

The problem is, for a number of legal reasons I can't really fathom, not only is there very little accountability or recourse for this sort of thing, but trying to get it fixed can cause the victim more trouble. Case in point, recently I won an item. For illustration's sake, let's say it was a 1980s E.T. Colorforms set. I did not receive the item for some time and had to remind the seller to mail it (this after I learned that a certain someone would not only not be thrilled with the gift of a 1980s E.T. Colorforms set, but find it an appallingly insensitive present that might trigger nightmarish flashbacks, but I digress). Then, when I received the item, it did not work (no stick to the forms), was dirty, and was missing one third of the advertised pieces. What was my recourse? Well, not much. I wrote a polite email to the seller asking if there was some way to clean the item and make it work. "WITH WATER" I got back - thanks. Then I wrote a polite email saying that I was considering posting neutral feedback due to the condition of the item, but perhaps we could come to an agreement (I would have settled for a partial refund). "DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO" was the reply. So I did. And the next thing you know? I get a negative rating in my feedback that simply says "THE WORST!!!" What the...?

Now buttholes are buttholes and troglodytes are troglodytes... and troglodytes' buttholes are... pretty damn dirty, you get the idea... but what can I do about this unfair treatment? Nothing. You see the eBay system is set up with feedback so that people can rate their transactions and leave comments so that other buyers and sellers can decide if the other person is a safe bet with whom to conduct business. If I get a negative comment in my feedback, I can leave a response, and technically other sellers and buyers, if they bother to read the comments, will see that this one negative rating was obviously abnormal and made by a rude and not-terribly-intelligent person. However, the rating still affects the number that shows with my name at all time - the percentage of good-to-bad feedback that I have. So, after being treated poorly and commenting very mildly on it, my record gets a blemish. And all eBay offers in terms of rectifying retaliatory feedback is the ability to mutually withdraw feedback if an agreement to do such is mediated y an outside service - for a fee.

So, that, my friends, is part of the agita you can expect now and then with eBay. Fortunately, it happens rarely enough that it is still worth it to hunt for bargains with this service, but there is a recurring nauseating feeling of uncertainty - "is my payment safe?" "will I get the package?" "can cavemen type?" that quietly pervades one's transactions thereafter. So, are the actual majority of positive experiences enough to really justify eBay's recent "People are Good" ad campaign?

Bring back the dancers, I say.

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