Here Be Dragons: Navigating the Terra Incognita of International Book Sales
Because although I pointed out in a series of snail mails and e-mails that the book had been duly ordered, paid for, shipped, received, service praised, and so forth, I was told that none of this mattered: the vaunted eBay guarantee of “safe transactions” did not apply in international sales. My customer had used a stolen credit card; the various emails and feedback I received were just stalling tactics used to lull me into complacency so that I would quickly fulfill the order and give him positive feedback. I was told I couldn’t even take back the kind comments I had made to the thief, which was particularly galling.
At this point I had to take stock and think about whether or not I was going to pursue this bottom-feeding, smooth-talking petty criminal any further. I had already lost not only the book and my express mail shipping costs, but a lot of time and effort, not to mention the negative effects of general aggravation on my business and family. The book, after all, had sold for less than $100, and I was sure most such thieves count on the fact that it is generally much more trouble than it is worth to pursue them when the dollars lost are modest.
So, I took what I considered to be a more satisfying and less frustrating middle road. Rather than continuing to deal with eBay, I just made it a habit of seeking out the buyer/thief with the Search function on eBay’s site. If he was selling a book, I sent a form email briefly describing my experience to his bidders, and if he was bidding on a book I did the same with the sellers, suggesting that they ask for cash, not credit card-related payment such as BillPoint. Some might say this behavior was a waste of time and unworthy of an intelligent, highly-educated bookseller with more important interests, but it helped slake my thirst for justice and, in the end, proved effective.
A few weeks later, I received a long note from the buyer, claiming the chargeback had all been a terrible mistake, that he was reversing the chargeback, so sorry for my trouble, etc. etc. And within a couple of months I did indeed receive payment back from eBay. In retrospect I have considered what might have prevented this incident, and other than not participating in international sales at all, or insisting on receiving the equivalent of cash in advance from international buyers on eBay, reading all the eBay fine print on their lack of responsibility for international sales, and reading through all of the buyer’s feedback avoiding any buyers that are new, even now I can’t see how it could have been avoided.