Hey, man. Killer idea.

Publication date: 23 December 2005.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.


Would you like to rip people off on eBay, with no risk?

It's easy! Check it out!

There are some hardy perennials in the eBay scam department, some more complex than others, and then there's the whole subsection of buyers who are trying to rip sellers off, but you're looking for the Perfect Crime. One that won't get you busted by eBay, or by PayPal, or by the cops or the Feds. One that leaves a lot of people far away mildly angry at you, but none of them angry enough to catch a plane to your town and come after you with implements.

Excessive shipping fees are an old, and very popular, way of Making Money Fast on eBay. You list some $100 item at $1 with $110 shipping, and you win two ways. One: Idiots don't notice the shipping fee and bid the item up to $75 anyway. That's all nice and legal-like, since the fee is right there on the page - let the buyer beware, and all that. Two: eBay charges fees based on the final price of the item, not on the total amount owing including shipping, so your outrageous "handling" fee whistles right past the revenooers.

Personally, I don't mind that very much. I've bought little computer bits from Hong Kong for 99 cents plus $15 postage; heck, as far as I know, the unit wholesale price in China is under a buck.

There's another simple way to pump up your eBay profits, though. Even experienced eBay shoppers won't spot it until it's too late, and there ain't nothin' they can do about it, either.

Open a store that sells things to international buyers. Now, offer for sale, say, a little box full of batteries and such, which weighs a couple of pounds including packaging material. Then, when an international bidder wins such an auction, say that the box weighs, say, eight pounds. They can't prove that it doesn't, since they're on the other side of the world. They have to pay up, or get slammed as a deadbeat bidder.

And since the vast majority of sellers on eBay are honest about this stuff, maybe the buyer will just figure you use some kind of amazing triple-boxed aerogel-padded wooden crate packaging or something.

If the buyer asks for fancy superfast courier delivery, then you can really make out like a bandit with the weight overspecification scam. But even if they only want plain USPS air mail, you can make, oh, $US28.05 (I'm just guessing here, you understand) by saying that a two pound 1.5 ounce box weighs eight pounds. That's not going to buy you an Escalade full of hos in the first week, of course, but it all adds up.

The reason this works so well is that eBay and PayPal provide no way to complain about it. Their attitude is simple. "You got the box? It contains what it's meant to? Well, because the Complaint Policy applies only to the delivery of goods and does not apply to complaints about the attributes or quality of goods received, we are unable to reverse this transaction or issue a refund. See ya!"

The complaint, of course, is about the delivery of the goods - they weren't as described, in that they were six pounds lighter, and the delivery was thus too expensive - but there's no way to complain about that. The buyer can leave negative feedback, but so what - you can leave a response of your own saying "buyer never paid me, and he paid me with fake money, and anyway he doesn't exist and is probably French, so there".

So you can soak people for international postage, and walk away whistling.

As more astute readers may by now have figured out, someone pulled this scam on me the other week. He's currently running the usual routine - say you'll have to "look into it", ignore the next e-mail, then reply and say you don't remember the dispute at all, and lather, rinse and repeat until the buyer loses all hope. Actually, he just sent me another e-mail thanking me for a payment I didn't send for a Buy It Now item I didn't buy; I don't know what the heck's up with that.

Do feel free to drop him a line and ask him for his side of the story.

All I want is my $28.05 back. No more, no less. It doesn't really matter to me whether I get it or not (if I could file an eBay/PayPal dispute, their resolution fee would eat almost all of it - but I'd rather they had it than he did), but if those of us with a bit of leverage don't use it on sellers like this, they're just going to keep on making the world a less pleasant place for everyone.

And, after all, it's your donated money we're talking about here (well, those of you who've donated, anyway).

Maybe he'd like to share with you what he's doing with it.

Give Dan some money!
(and no-one gets hurt)