When Free Ebay Listings Can Cost You Money–and How to Avoid the Problem

by Nindo Mom on April 25, 2011

I’ve been selling stuff on Ebay for more than 10 years now — and I still occasionally get caught and lose money.

As always, I was excited to take advantage of Ebay’s periodic free listing offer. And I was thrilled when one of my items actually sold. It was a brand new Nerf Super Soaker–priced at 25.99 and an additional 14.99 for shipping. (Nerf’s Super Soakers are very large and relatively heavy, so are expensive to package and ship). Even though the listing, itself, was free, Ebay’s final value fee for the sale was $3.69–based on a 9 percent rate.

After giving the buyer about a week to pay for the auction, I sent them a gentle reminder to pay. When I still hadn’t heard back from the buyer another week later, I sent a second payment reminder–to which I also received no response, and no payment. So I filed a non-paying bidder notice with Ebay.

Taking it for granted that I understood the process, I sat back and let the things proceed on their own. I thought that Ebay would automatically refund my final value fee and instigate the non-paying bidder strike against the buyer (danhulu7) if they couldn’t get him to pay. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

I failed to read a message from Ebay saying “Don’t forget to close your unpaid item case.” Had I read the message, I would have known that I would still have to pay Ebay’s final value fee for the auction, even if the buyer never paid, if I didn’t take one additional step. And, Ebay woudn’t give the buyer an unpaid bidder strike. I assumed the message said that if I had received payment from the buyer, I should close the case so that Ebay would stop whatever action they were taking. My confusion was in the wording of Ebay’s message–that I should CLOSE the case. To me, closing a case means stopping it. This was my misunderstanding–and ultimately, my mistake.

The Bottom Line

When you’re selling on Ebay, Amazon, or any online site, it’s important to stay appraised of the site’s changing rules and policies. Because these online sites often adjust their policies as time goes on — sometimes significantly. Not understanding the site’s rules won’t exempt you from following them.

Secondly, always read messages, emails, and other communication from the website where you’re listing your items. NEVER ASSUME you know what a communication says simply by reading the subject line–because the wrong assumption can cost you.

Ultimately, the $3.69 final value fee isn’t going to kill me. But it’s a bitter pill considering how hard I try to avoid unnecessary fees. Especially considering the original listing was FREE, and I expected to come out ahead–or at least break even and not owe money if my item didn’t sell.

My mistake with this listing is one I plan on never repeating. And now knowing the danger, it’s one you’ll never make.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

William Walter July 10, 2011 at 5:38 PM

I have to agree that this seller made an error but the bigger issue is the company that sets up a policy that unless the seller jumps through the proper hoop and at the proper time, the site can charge you for something you never received. In essence they make rules that allow them to steal from the seller. Ebay used to be fair but that all ended three years ago, when the screw the seller rules began to pile one on top of the other. The site is now theft central for the dishonest buyer and even the more dishonest individuals who run ebay. Ebay does not consider a buyer who claims non-receipt the day the item arrives a bad buyer or the buyer who purchased a blu-ray player and claims it does not work and then returns his ten year old broken CD player, in the box. No, not at all, to ebay these are good and smart buyers, as they are doing the exact thing that the ebay rules, that promoted them to do. Each time ebay changes it rules, it tightens the noose on the seller’s neck…..and digs ever deeper into his pockets. The buyer protection plan means any buyer can claim anything and not have to provide any proof, and if the seller disagrees, the seller is assumed to be a liar. It does not matter if the buyer has no feedback and the seller is a top rated seller who has done business for twelve years and has recieved 200 prior positive feedbacks on the exact same item. The buyer does not have to prove anything and the seller is not allowed to prove anthing as their opinion is completely ignored and given no weight. If a seller sends a package, that package will contain whatever the buyer says it contains and if the buyer returns anything, ebay assumes it can only be what the buyer says it is. Once again realiity take a holiday on ebay. Everything the buyer says is assumed to be 100% true and everything the seller says is assumed to be 100% a lie. With rules like this, a seller is a lamb being led to the slaughter. Is it any wonder that claims filed under NOT AS DESCRIBED as increased by more than 2000% over the past three years. and most sellers now have to assume that one in every ten buyers is going to run some kind of scam. If your profit is only 10% on each time after you pay the ebay fees that have climbed ten fold in the last 7 years, and then you have to deal with 10% of the buyers who are stealing from you and end up with free merchandise and you still to pay for shipping, the only ones making money are ebay and the dishonest buyer. After you have paid 20% fees and had you item stolen you then can look forward to having the buyer/theive lie in feedback, which ebay will then call opinion. The seller, or in most cases the victim is prohibited from leaving feedback as to ebay it is not allowed to soil the feedback of a buyer who uses the site to commit mail fraud and grand theft. Remember the words of a top ranking ebay executive, “we need dishonest buyers if only to keep the sellers in line”. Can any seller expect fair treatment from a company that takes that kind of position?


Nindo Mom July 12, 2011 at 3:55 PM

You have some valid points to make. I have had a couple of problems on Ebay–most of the time, I’ve been able to work them through the system. Although it costs more money, I try to avoid potential problems by purchasing insurance from the post office when I mail items I’ve sold. At a minimum, this would help me to recoup my costs if the buyer claims the new and working item I send is broken upon arrival. (I’m taking the precaution, but I haven’t had to file any claims, yet.)


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