Working With Dishonest Buyers

The message comes in your inbox and it’s a return request made by the buyer and it’s your fault.  Shit.

As you read on you start to realize, ‘Hey wait a minute, this isn’t my fault.  This person thinks I’m Wal-Mart or something.  This is so unfair!’


I get it.  I’ve been there and will be again in the future.  The reality is that ALL of us have been there and will be again.   I remind myself of that all the time – everyone has to deal with problem buyers and not to take any of it personally. 

Most buyers are great to deal with and rarely ever cause any problems.  Unfortunately, there is a very small group that will try to take advantage of you in some way.  This conversation is strictly about that very small group of dishonest buyers.

What are some of the characteristics of a dishonest or problem customer?

  1. Typically this buyer is going to find a way to get free shipping both ways by claiming the product was not as described or that it was defective.
  2. They may message you and sound MAD and may even write their messages in ALL CAPS.  This is my favorite.
  3. They may just open a return without messaging you at all with a brief description of what they consider the problem to be and claim it’s your fault.
  4.  They may threaten you with negative feedback.


What to do first?

LISTEN.  Even though your hair is on fire and your mind is racing, stop and listen to what the customer is saying.  EVERY customer deserves your respect and attention because at one point they clicked BUY and trusted you to sell them a product. Whether they are a jerk or not is not your choice to make at this point.  You still have to be the professional.

Walk away and delay your response until you’ve calmed down and had time to RESEARCH the entire transaction.  If it is a sizing issue, did you include measurements? If it is a condition issue, did you accurately describe the condition?  Whatever the case, research it before responding in any way.


What does eBay have to say about this?

According to the eBay buying policy, the following is NOT ALLOWED by the buyer:

  1. Claiming an item isn’t as described in the listing when the item condition is consistent with the listing description.
  2. Threatening to open an eBay Money Back Guarantee request or PayPal Purchase Protection case against a seller in order to get a discount or additional goods and services, when the item arrived in the described condition.
  3. Returning a different item (for example, a used or older model of the same product or an empty box)
  4. Not returning the item in the condition that it was sent to you (for example, returning a TV without the remote control)
  5. Returning an item that has been damaged after being delivered.
  6. Claiming an item isn’t as described in the listing in order to circumvent a seller’s return policy.

  7. Not following the terms of the seller’s return policy.
  8. Threatening to leave negative feedback if you don’t meet their demands.

According to the eBay buying policy, the following is ALLOWED by the buyer:

  1. Returning a faulty item or an item that wasn’t as described in the listing.
  2. Returning an item within the terms of the seller’s return policy.
  3. Opening an eBay Money Back Guarantee refund request or opening a PayPal Purchase Protection case when you didn’t receive the item and you haven’t been able to resolve the issue with the seller.
  4. Opening an eBay Money Back Guarantee return request or PayPal Purchase Protection case after the item you received didn’t match the description in the listing.

What does eBay expect of you, the seller?

eBay Seller Performance Standards:

  1. Promptly resolve customer issues.
  2. Ship items on time, within your specified handling time
  3. Manage inventory and keep items well stocked
  4. Charge reasonable shipping and handling costs.
  5. Specify shipping costs and handling time in the listing.
  6. Follow through on your return policy.
  7. Respond to buyers’ questions promptly.
  8. Be helpful, friendly, and professional throughout a transaction.
  9. Make sure the item is delivered to the buyer as described in the listing.


So if a buyer is trying to manipulate the system for a ‘defective item’ or ‘not as described’ eBay should stand behind you.  Key word there is manipulate.  If you made a mistake, that’s on you.

Tips / Strategies:

  1. Only message thru the eBay messaging system.  Consider everything you type as documentation for your case that you will have to defend with eBay.  The messaging system is the main source eBay refers to when looking at a case.
  2.  Don’t use sarcasm or negative words.  Keep everything positive and let them know that you are sorry the item didn’t work out.  As it states in the Seller Expectations, be helpful, friendly, and professional throughout a transaction.
  3.  Don’t admit to fault.  Don’t accuse them of being dishonest.
  4.  Start asking clarifying questions.  Get them to state specifically what the problem is so when you receive the item back you can compare facts.  For example, if a customer states that your sizing is off ask them for the measurements before sending the item back.  This may give them a second chance to reconsider their reason for the return.  This is one of the most important steps.
  5.  DO NOT ASK EBAY TO STEP IN.  In all of my experiences of asking eBay to step in when a case is open they took the customer’s side and awarded the case in their favor. EVERY TIME.  I had to call in after receiving the item back to get it reversed and they did.  I don’t know where the loop hole is here but my suggestion is just to get eBay on the phone if you’re not sure what to do.
  6.  Accept the return.  You kind of have to.
  7.  Once the item has arrived back, check it against the facts you presented in your listings and the clarifying questions you asked.  .


If your customer was being dishonest, call eBay and let them know what’s going on.  I’ve had really good experiences when calling eBay.  I know that sometimes you have to get the right representative but if you treat the eBay rep with respect and have a calm demeanor it will help tremendously.


Live with the results.  Good or bad, it is what it is.


Let me know about your experiences or ways that you work with dishonest buyers.  We can all learn from each other.  Thanks a ton!


2 thoughts on “Working With Dishonest Buyers

  1. Some great nuggets here, Jesse. I’d like to offer my two cents…

    For every bad selling experience, I estimate that I have at least 100 go off without a hitch. Less than 1% of buyers have any problem at all with the item, shipping, returns, etc. That isn’t to say that some of these problem buyers really stick out, and I remember a few of them for years after the fact.

    That said, the best thing to do with these is to eat the transaction, block the buyer from making future purchases and move on. Now I only block when I know beyond a reasonable amount of doubt that the buyer meant something malicious from their actions, so it’s not something to take lightly. Most categories on eBay are so saturated with product, that sellers have to do what they can to keep buyers happy and keep them coming back to the platform. For those of us who depend on those buyers for a livelihood, all we need is someone’s bad experience to lead them to urge a dozen of their friends and family to leave eBay as well.

    The good far outweigh the bad and it’s in everyone’s best interest to focus our energies in other places. Go out and get better inventory, get more inventory listed and make some bank! It’s not worth the time or stress to dwell on the bad ones — and you get to write off the loss on your taxes anyway ;).


  2. Matt – I think you said it right ‘The good far outweigh the bad and it’s in everyone’s best interest to focus our energies in other places’. Don’t get caught up in the negative side of the business that rarely occurs.


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