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It finally happened

People said if I bought from Ebay for long enough, I'd eventually get screwed and today it happened. Granted I only got screwed out of $5 but it's the principal of the thing. I've been buying from Ebay for over 4 years now. I was looking for an external modem for one of the PC's I have. It's one of those disposable type computers that was essentially made to compete with the IMac when it came out. It's very compact and made to hook right up to the Internet right out of the box except it came with no modem. Hey, I got it for free so I'm not complaining. But the only thing upgradable is the memory. You couldn't stick an internal modem in if you wanted to. What I had been doing was taking a modem back and forth from the city house to the farm every time I went but that gets to be a pain unhooking things all the time.

So I'm on Ebay earlier and I narrow things down to price and the Buy It Now option. I find a US robotics modem for $1.99 Buy It Now and I jump on it expecting the shipping to be reasonable. Hell it can only weigh a couple of pounds, Even with packaging it could only be about 4 pounds right? RIGHT?

So I'm going through checkout and I put my zip code in and the shipping price (for USPS Priority Mail) comes back as $20.40...

For a $1.99 item. Methinks someone is trying to make money off the shipping cost. So I go to the Post Office website and figure the cost of a 4 pound package with the proper dimesions of a box a little bigger than a modem. Nearest I can figure, the most it would cost is $11. I mean we are not talking FedEx here. It's the Post Office.

So I write to the seller. Of course this is after I got the winning bid on the modem so I'm stuck with it no matter what. I figure maybe he made a mistake on the calculations.

Here is the note I wrote and his response:


I was looking to purchase the modem with the buy it now option. I chose it because of the low price of $1.99 expecting the shipping to also be reasonable. However, the calculator when I go through the checkout, lists the shipping at over $20.00 for Priority mail. I went though the Post Office's website and estimated the cost for sending a 4 pound package, (even with packing, this modem should weigh less than 4 pounds) and priority mail was only $11. Can you provide some explanation of why the shipping cost is so high? Because honestly, had I known it was that high, I wouldn't have bid on it.




The price of 1.99 you know is to low to be resonable for that modem. So in shipping cost is included $5 for handeling and $5 for modem price + priority mail as you said $11 = total over $20.
The item description says clear to check shipping costs before biding.
This modem sells on ebay for a total price (including S&H) for minimum $25 and w/ an average of $30. Your price is less then $25 so you got yourself a good deal.

Thank you,
Seller's name

What the fuck? Am I missing something here? $1.99 is too low to be reasonable for that modem? Of course it is! That's why I snapped it up so fast. Sounds like a little bait and switch tactic going on here. This guy ought to be a car salesman. To me, if you are going to sell on Ebay you ought to list a price as being the lowest you are willing to let it go for. That's the true spirit of an auction. Ever been to a real auction and the auctioneer starts the bidding out at a certain price? That's because either he or the owner feels that what it's worth at a minimum. Shipping should be just that, your cost for boxing something up and sending it to me. Not that cost plus an extra five bucks because you failed to start your opening bid high enough.

Moron. I wrote back to him incidentally asking why the hell he was charging me the extra $5 and I've yet to hear back from him. If I could find a way out of it without him coming back and leaving me negative feedback, I would. I know it's a buyer beware kind of world out there but for Pete's sake, telling me I should have checked out the shipping before I bid is just insulting. What, check out the shipping so I can tell before I bid what a crook you are?

Here is the note I wrote back:

I've got no problem paying it as I should have looked at the shipping before I bid. I've just never encountered a shipping cost on Ebay that high before for something that weighs so little. I understand the $5 for handling as packaging costs money. What do you mean by the $5 for the modem price? I thought the price of the modem was $1.99.

I'll be paying this later today.



If you want the seller's ID, drop me a comment with your email and I'll give it to you privately. I won't be buying from this one ever again.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 23rd, 2004 03:28 pm (UTC)
The sad part is that even eBay's rules allow sellers to include a "reasonable" handling fee. While I personally think that sticking a thing in a box isn't worth $5, I get the feeling that eBay would still let them get away with it.

My honest suggestion is to pay for your item, and once you get it, file negative feedback either after you've received feedback from the seller, or on the last day of the 90-day feedback window, whichever comes first. This person certainly deserves the black mark, but you don't want to give him/her the option to retaliate.
Jun. 23rd, 2004 03:39 pm (UTC)
He just wrote back and said he includes the extra fee because of the price Ebay charges him to list the item. I've sold things before and I always include that fee in the opening bid. You are right about the feedback. I can wait the 90 days.

Jun. 23rd, 2004 05:53 pm (UTC)
Ugh... I learned the same bitter lesson on eBay this year... don't buy anything without upfront shipping, they are going to screw you. I had to fight my way out of a deal I made for two small stuffed animals that the total was less than five dollars on, the vendor wanted to charge twenty for shipping. I ended up paying their listing fee to get out of it and told them to go screw themselves, I'd never buy from them again and if I could help it none of my friends would, either. That was netclearances, by the way, so tell all your friends. It took me over a month to get it straightened out, but I refused to pay for the auction or the shipping. I'd have rather taken negative feedback.

I write the sellers now beforehand and ask them for a shipping quote. If it is ridiculous I just don't bid or buy. I put a handling fee on my auctions because I want my listing fees back from eBay and PayPal, but it's not high. I don't like it done to me and I won't do it to anyone else.
Jun. 23rd, 2004 10:11 pm (UTC)
The guy wrote back and told me this was his way of compensating for the listing fee. Funny, I've listed before and I don't recall it being $5 for a $1.99 item.

Jun. 24th, 2004 05:11 am (UTC)
Most auctions cost less than a dollar to run. I have even cut corners by using a template, which makes things look fancy but all goes in the html box so you don't pay for a background or extra pictures. There's ways around it, and people who sell a lot know that.

PayPal makes me wince, though, they take 3 percent of anything sent to you. I guess it's no worse than taking credit cards, though.
Jun. 24th, 2004 07:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's just convenient to use PayPal. when they first started they didn't do that but I guess they figure they are playing with the big boys now, they can charge people a little more.

Jun. 24th, 2004 04:39 am (UTC)
Hmm. I'm in two minds about what happened to you.

Firstly, I've found it commonplace for sellers to list something low, but tack on a high shipping price. I'm really very surprised that you've never come across this after using the service for four years.

For example, my mate bought some anime DVD boxsets the other day. They were 1 cent each. Now, of COURSE the shipping price is going to be high. Otherwise, how are they supposed to make their money back? So the 'bait and switch' is something I've come to expect, and look out for. I don't even see it as 'bait and switch', because I'm not baited by the fact the price is so low. I *know* there's going to be a catch, I just have to look for it. Most often, though, it's in the shipping.

Even just things like DVDs that cost $5, but have a $6 shipping fee. That's still a good deal, but it can get pretty ridiculous, unless the final bidder takes the shipping fee in to account. Like when it would cost $25 at the shops. If you bid $23, you think you've got a good deal, but you end up paying $29, and you've been screwed. You just have to bid smart.

Secondly, isn't the US Robotics modem a fairly expensive and quite a decent modem? Personally, I would have been expecting to pay quite a bit for it - that is, if it's the modem I'm thinking of. Thus his argument does stand about how you've still got a good deal. And, unfortunately, so does his 'you should have checked', which you accepted - but I can understand that leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

However. As a fellow eBayer, I still understand the fact you feel hard done by. And sometimes you just get those sellers that don't care two hoots about you, as long as they've got your cash. So I think you're lucky in that you not only got a decent deal (even though it wasn't what you were expecting) but you've learnt a lesson that some people pay through the nose to learn the first time. I make sure I ask all my questions and do all my calculations before I bid. But it could still happen to any of us.

Hopefully this guy hasn't soured your eBay experience too much. :)

Take care,

Jun. 24th, 2004 07:49 am (UTC)
Oh no, I'll still buy and usually I do check but I was thinking, "Hell, it's a modem, how much can shipping be?" I knew it was a decent modem but it is a used decent modem and 56K modems have been around for a few years. Given that the low price didn't really suprise me. I buy computer stuff all the time cheap on Ebay because people are trying to just get rid of things they don't use anymore. I'm just thinking that, was tacking the extra $5 on to the actual sale price going to hurt anything? it would still have been the lowest priced modem in the list. It's not a huge deal. I've bought modems for $20 before from Ebay, I'd just prefer people be more up front and hoest with their pricing is all.

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


Wander aka StoneBear
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