Beware Selling on Ebay


(Subtitle: eBay I now hate you)

Selling on eBay has cost me £25, lots of my time has been wasted and a £100 computer has been destroyed by a stranger. It seems they allow buyers to screw sellers over. I want to hit it with a hammer. I want to hit eBay with a planet sized hammer. And it’s stupid capital ‘B’ in the middle of it’s name. I don’t recommend selling computers on e’B’ay.

Recently I sold a little computer on eBay. For nearly two years it had sat under my TV storing music and being my HTPC. It was working fine before I packed it up, having replaced it with a newer more powerful model. I listed it quickly when a free listing day came along and before I had time to flesh out the listing with photos it had a bid on it. I was pleased to get a little over £100 for it as I hadn’t expected to get that much. When I sent it off by carrier it was like new. I look after things.

A few days later I got a message from the buyer saying he had problems with it. He said that there were blue screen errors and he had done a test and the memory was faulty. I’m pretty confused by this seeing as it had none of these problems for me. I sent several emails back and forth to try and help. He took it on himself to buy RAM for it even though I said the RAM fitted was not faulty for me when I sent it off. I asked if it had been damaged by the carrier, no it was well packed and arrived in good condition. I asked if he used anti static protection when working inside the computer and he did not answer that.

After all that I came to the conclusion he must have broken the computer somehow by static electricity or some other way. Maybe unknown to him it had an accident. Not my fault. Or maybe there was nothng wrong with it and his software was bad or something. I’m not a professional selling computers just a man selling an old PC. He filed a case with eBay asking for a return as ‘Significantly Not As Described’. I described it as a 2 year old computer which was working for me and that is what it is. I decided to accept the return after much thought and searching eBay and asking eBay for advice. Having asked eBay for help it seemed like I had no other choice even though it seemed to me he had broken it himself. That might have been a mistake. I should have stuck with no returns as it says on my listing. I hoped his conscience would tell him not to send it back.

It arrived back.

I attached it to a screen, power supply and keyboard. I booted into windows XP from a USB drive using Yumi and UBCD for Windows and that seemed to be working. Then I ran memtest86 using YUMI again and pretty soon it was showing many memory errors. Clearly the PC, at least the RAM anyway, is now broken. Probably whatever fried the memory has also damaged other components. So it seems to me it could be a bad dose of static, the guy working inside the computer while it was on, lightning, water, some kind of accident by a child ‘posting’ items inside, a power surge. I don’t know.

It’s clear to me the computer is not in the same condition as when I sent it off. If it was like that I would have listed it as faulty and made that clear.

So I told him I was not going to give a refund and explained my reasons.

He sent me an email threatening the small claims court. Bit much eh? It is a second hand item sold by a private seller so no case there. Then eBay inform me he has escalated it to them. I reply to him and eBay again stating he has broken a working PC and also that he has no claim to make in the court.

EBay decided to give him his refund. I appealed, of course, again saying he has damaged a working computer that I supplied in good faith. Appeal denied. No good explanation given.

I have sent an email complaining that this person is responsible for destroying what is now my property (again). I explained how unhappy I am with the lack of support I got as a seller having asked several times for help and advice from eBay and only getting quotes from the eBay webpages I had already seen, having spent much time trawling and finding little of real help. I also explained how this has put me off listing anything of value on their channel and I would be advising everyone who would listen to avoid selling on their channel as well. I got no reply.

I can see from their point of view it is 50/50. I say it was fine and he broke it. He says I sold him a broken item. Why leave the seller so much out of pocket though? This seems highly unfair. Unfortunately it seems I have no recourse apart from complaining about it publicly. Which I am.

I’m left out of pocket the cost of sending the computer (£10), eBay fees which they are not refunding (£10.99) and Paypal fees (£4.21) which it seems I’m not getting back either. Plus lots of time wasted sending emails trying to help the guy that broke the PC, reading up on ebay about returns, packing and sending the thing etc. etc. And this computer worth £100 is now near worthless. I will have to see what I can get for it by selling it as faulty. Not much.

I have listed it for sale as faulty here:


  • Don’t sell valuable electricals on eBay. Or indeed anything of value. Try somewhere else.
  • Be very careful when buying and selling second hand computers in general.
  • Try to avoid using paypal to accept payment. They will give refunds against your wishes and not refund their charges to you.
  • If there is any doubt, eBay will side with the buyer to the point of screwing the seller over and leaving you badly out of pocket.
  • Testing items very thoroughly and taking screenshots and photos before selling might help your case but it probably won’t. Ebay will side with the buyer whatever.
  • Take care to list second hand items as untested, not guaranteed to be working and with no warranty and no returns accepted clearly stated in the listing. Sold as seen, caveat emptor etc. This still might not help you avoid returns completely.
  • Know you are taking a risk selling online and be prepared for losses. Buyers will screw you, maybe not deliberately and eBay will let them.
  • If enough sellers complain and move to other sites, maybe eBay will change their policy.

I didn’t start a blog to moan and whinge but this seems like a good platform. Wrtiting this has maybe helped me process my thoughts. Maybe writing about my experience could help someone avoid some of the annoyance and cost I have had. I wanted to get this out there and maybe it will help someone as well.