Monday, January 16, 2006


Since I've purchased items on eBay, I've come to terms with that old saying - caveat emptor - buyer beware. My faith in the security and safety of buying from eBay and trusting the so-called feedback ratings has taken a severe hit as a result. Two items have gone off without a hitch, like when I purchased the ultra rare Twin 1 and Twin 2 action figures from The Matrix Reloaded. However, everything else apart from that they say, caveat emptor.
  • Paid $50 CDN (including USD conversion and shipping) for a berimbau, a Brazilian rhythm instrument used in the art of Capoeira, a martial art that I've been studying. I indicated to the seller that I wished for it to be shipped in separate parts to avoid breakage. When it arrived, not only was it shipped pre-assembled, two vital parts were cracked and useless. Thinking that the order was insured, I contacted the seller to send additional parts. He would not ship unless I paid him more money. Jerk.
  • Paid $15 for a copy of a Japanese film, Battle Royale. Not only does it not arrive in standard factory shrinkwrap, upon closer inspection, I realize that the DVD case insert was reproduced on a laser printer. It's clear that this is a bootleg.
  • Paid $8 for a bunch of New X-Men comic books which are advertised as being in "Mint Condition." While I can understand that the Canadian postal service isn't the most gentle when it comes to handling stuff, close insepction of the comic books reveal that they have been read multiple times and carelessly handled.
  • Paid $5 for a CD, Wreckage by Overseer (the CD was not available in Canada at the time). Good news: it's not a bootleg. Bad news: there's a sticker covering the UPC box that says, "Property of Sony Music. Not for resale. Subject to recall."
Needless to say, I haven't been using my eBay account as of late.

Which brings me to my next story. is a humor website that features a lot of pranks and craziness. Among them is a blow-by-blow account on the effects of Olestra, a test to see which retailers check the signatures on credit cards, and prank phone calls to companies such as AT&T.

In one particular prank, an individual named Jeff put an Apple G4 Powerbook, a fairly pricy notebook computer, up for sale on eBay. There was one response from UK and they offered to pay the buy-it-now price of $2100 USD. However, the seller smelled something really fishy with the method of payment (escrow), so he checked it all out and realized that the escrow site was fake. After checking with eBay, it turned out that, yes indeed, the account was accessed by an unauthorized user.

So with that in mind, the seller had the ultimate revenge: send him a notebook computer. As in, an old three ring binder with a bunch of old computer keyboard caps glued on the inside, complete with a bunch of fake peripherals. To make things even sweeter, he also put a dollar value on the package, forcing the buyer to pay out a 27% duty. That worked out to about $550.

The story has a strange epilogue to it. In retalliation, the scammer attempted to send a virus to the seller, followed by a DoS (Denial of Service) attack on the seller's websites, causing them to shut down. The writers at also report that Jeff is nowhere to be found.

Sadly, dishonesty is one of the bigger parts of eBay, and even though many things are being done to minimize that, it's up to the user to maintain some level of vigilance and rely on a lot more than just feedback ratings.

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