Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2008 Issue

An Unhappy Story: a deal gone bad

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Within a few days my PayPal account was credited $77.00, my only cash expense the $8.64 spent to return the book [via Priority Mail] and track the package. The seller apparently felt I should pay the extra $8.64.

In later writing this article I found another buyer had recently posted negative feedback to this seller:

"Book not as described. Seller took no responsibility. Beware"

To which the seller posted his rebuttal:

Reply by Seller

Buyer wanted to keep book and get refund, a shakedown. Avoid!


This buyer's experience sounded similar to mine and I contacted them by email to ask about it. They both emailed and called soon after. They expressed concern at the negative rating the seller gave them but expressed determination to pursue their complaint through PayPal and eBay. The seller offered to remove his negative rating of them if they removed theirs of him. They declined and are pursuing this issue through appropriate channels.

So where does this leave me? I'm a committed and continuing eBay buyer who encountered a mis-described book and an unpleasant seller. I feel an obligation to write about this misadventure and post neutral feedback to him. The experience was negative but he made it good. It just took too much time and effort.

My feedback: "Item incorrectly described. Seller reluctant to accept responsibility. Resolved."

I took the time to press my claim. How many others just give up? As to what will happen next? Who knows? A seller with a grudge seems to hold the high cards.

Post script. The book I bought, and then returned, is back on eBay! It's up-for-sale.

The description appears to be the same. The faults go unremarked. Perhaps the next buyer will like it better. We may never know.

For me the real casualty of this episode is lost confidence in the eBay rating system. Both my experience and that of the other unhappy buyer suggest the current feedback system is yet imperfect and so I look forward to some fresh thinking by eBay. Fear and intimidation should be banned or neutralized.

As for my online bidding I'm mostly unaffected. Because I've bought so many interesting things, run across books, pamphlets and ephemera otherwise unobtainable, spent little and learned a lot; I'm almost immune to cranky sellers. I'll avoid this character and look ahead to the many lots I'm following, the next of which is closing in 21 minutes.

Editor's Note: This article has generated many Letters to the Editor, which can be seen by clicking here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: KUPKA, Frantisek (1871-1957) - Quatre histoires de blanc et noir. Paris: Marcel Baque, 1926. €5.000-€8.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: VASI, Giuseppe Agostino (1710-1782) - Raccolta delle più belle vedute antiche, e moderne di Roma disegnate ed incise secondo lo stato presente. Rome: A. Vasi, 1786. €4.000-€6.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: SALAMANCA, Antonio (1478-1562) - [First map depicting the bay of Naples]. [Rome: 1538]. €3.000-€5.000
  • Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MADISON THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MONROE PRESIDENTIAL SERVICE SOUP BOWL. $6,000 - $9,000
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    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A RUTHERFORD B. HAYES CIVIL WAR-ERA TRAVEL DESK. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S FINAL PRESIDENTIAL AUTOMOBILE FLAG. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: GARFIELD LS AS PRESIDENT ALLUDING TO THE "STAR-ROUTE" SCANDAL: "REGRETTING THE EMBARRASSMENTS WHICH THE EVENT HAS CAUSED US BOTH." $25,000 - $35,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: AN 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL WILLIAM MCKINLEY INAGURATION POCKETWATCH. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADE FLAG. $80,000 - $120,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S LAST DAY: OFFICIAL SCHEDULE ANNOTATED BY SPECIAL ASSISTANT DAVE POWERS WITH A MINUTE-BY-MINUTE DETAIL OF THE DAY'S ACTIONS. $40,000 - $60,000
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