The eBay Buyer ... From HELL!
Those of you who were drooling uncontrollably at the description of my new PowerBook may console themselves with the knowledge that it has not been all beer and skittles. Not when you consider the agony of the Worlds Worst eBayer F-------- Will Not Deal With Again. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is a long and hopefully amusing story, please bear with me.
A few weeks ago the plan was hatched, received approval from the Household Ways & Means Committee, and swiftly put into action. A laptop upgrade for very little money. Purchase new laptop on salary sacrifice, sell old laptop online, small outlay to cover the difference. What could go wrong?
The Information Superfleamarket
I initially decided to try my luck outside of the relative safety of eBay, specifically the AppleTalk trading forums. During the planning phase I had posted a price check request there, and had received some rather over-optimistic prices.
Buoyed with confidence I hit the trading area proper, and priced it at $2000 ono. I got a few nibbles, but nothing definite so I listed on eBay about a week later.
The auction proceeded nicely, with the usual sequence of dumb questions, and a final flurry of sniping to arrive at a final price of $1535. A little disappointing, but not much I could do about it. Anyway I get an email from the buyer saying "I won't be able to pay you for 2 weeks". Even more disappointing.
As it turns out there are no strict payment policies on eBay but they do have a procedure for unpaid items that requires at least 7 days to elapse from the close of the auction. I told the guy he had 10 days.
darknight84: No connection to Bruce Wayne
A few days later I was browsing the AppleTalk forums, and found a very interesting post in the price check forum. It was a price check on a PowerBook, which had exactly the same specs as mine. Not only that but the description was word-for-word identical to my eBay listing! (which was in turn copied from elsewhere but had been modified slightly by me, and these modifications were carried into the price-check forum).
The poster went by the name of darknight84 and Chris and I were intrigued enough to do some digging. It would have been quite a coincidence that someone wants to sell the exact same spec of PowerBook, and posts a price check on AppleTalk, but then also knows exactly what it is worth on eBay because that's where they copy-n-pasted the description from!
If you take the time to dig into darknight84's history (and BTW I don't recommend it), you'll find all sorts of bizarre laptop deals going down. I'll spare you the details, but at last count there were about half a dozen. Hmm.
The other shoe dropped when we found an old post of darknight84's which was signed with his first name, E. The same signature was also used in some of the correspondence from my eBay buyer in email. So, my buyer and darknight84 were one and the same. To this day I don't think he knows that I know this.
The initial theory was that darknight84 was attempting to on-sell my PowerBook to some sucker on AppleTalk after getting a bargain on eBay. Nothing wrong with that, I reasoned, and so waited patiently for the payment deadline to arrive. That did pose a possible explanation for the delay — perhaps he wanted to hold off on paying me until he had a buyer — but it seemed a bit far fetched.
Indeed it was. A few days after posting in the price check forum, he posted in the Wanted to Buy forum, again copy-n-pasting my description, and nominating $1600 as the total price.
Seasoned eBayers should at this point be appalled at the bad behaviour. This is someone who is delaying payment on the item that he as committed to buy, but then posting in another forum to buy the item elsewhere. Easily a neg-able offense.
At this point I was highly tempted to respond to the guy on AppleTalk and publicly out him as a non-paying bidder. But I decided against it, the payment deadline was approaching anyway and at this stage I was more interested in getting out of the sale. Between gritted teeth, I started making overtures to another person who responded to the original AppleTalk advertisement.
Hey all, well I have just bought myself another powerbook for $1500 and Im beginning to realise that the money i was expecting wont come until late next week. So Im getting a student loan, I just want to know how long would the waiting time be to ge the money? Do I get the money immediately or is there a waiting period?
Heh. I almost felt sorry for the guy. So much gadgetlust, so little clue.
So of course the deal falls through and I fulfil my promise to file a Mutual Agreement Not To Proceed. The eBay auction is off.
The next day I got an email from E (who still doesn't know that I know he is darknight84), claiming that he now has the money and could I go ahead with the deal? He's even going to throw another $100 in as a sweetener.
I initially say no because I'm in negotiations with the other buyer. But of course that deal falls through as well so I'm back to E. That weekend E and I shared an interesting email exchange:
Me: Are you still interested? $1695?
E: Maybe consider paying $1595 the winning ebay auction price
Me: You offered $1695 a few days ago
E: Oh yes I remember that. Anyway: [bunch of questions]
Me: All of these are answered by the original ebay listing
E: What was the auction number again? And do you take COD?
Me: [Is this a prank?] xxxxxxxxx. No COD
E: I'll look over the information and get back to you tomorrow
Me: [gritted teeth] No more time, you either want it or you dont
E: Ok then I dont sorry for wasting your time
Within 20 seconds of the last email I had relisted on eBay.
(Yes dear reader, the story is coming to a close.) The second eBay auction proceeds, and as expected I get more bids from E! Yep, he's in there bidding away with about 12 separate bids (obviously not understanding the whole automatically-bid-up-to-your-maximum feature of eBay).
And so the auction finished, I got $1775 in my bank account the next business day and a great story for my blog, Chris brushed up on his
cyberstalking investigative journalism skillz, some guy in Queensland got a nice PowerBook, E got squat, and we all rode off into the sunset.