UK man pays $735 for a photo of an Xbox One, or why I don’t use eBay

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UK man pays $735 for a photo of an Xbox One or why I don't use eBayEver disregard a few little words in an eBay description and lose hundreds of dollars? No, me either.

But one UK man did. A19-year-old Briton bid $735 for what he thought was a Day One edition Xbox One for his young son for Christmas. What he was really buying, according to the listing, was a photo of an Xbox One.

Sure enough, as the winning bidder, he was the lucky recipient of a cardboard box somewhat smaller and thinner than the one he expected (I would have used a large one for comic effect if I were the seller), containing one badly printed picture of an Xbox One, signed “Thanks for your purchase.”

Don’t feel too bad for the guy — a British retailer took pity on him and gave him a free Xbox One to make up for it.

But while it’s tempting to make fun of him for reading over the listing too fast and not knowing the flaw before buying, I can actually see myself doing the same thing.

Despite the fact that it can be a fun place to make a few bucks flipping consoles, there lots of things I don’t like about using eBay, the caveat emptor-est commerce site on the Web. PayPal is a pain to use and the hassle of setting up shipping arrangements seems to defeat one of the central purposes of buying stuff online: convenience.

But the worst is that eBay is still a playground for sketchy sellers and buyers alike to do things like deliberately bid on items they don’t want buy or, well, sell purplish printouts of consumer electronics to unsuspecting British people. In fact, using the site at all seems to me to be a tremendous act of faith. At the end of the day, all you know about a seller is some username, their rating and whatever they choose to put in their description.

Even assuming the person on the other end of the transaction is acting in good faith, you don’t really know what you’ll be getting from the seller — or when you’ll actually get it — until the box shows up on your doorstop and you can open it. In the case of holiday gifts, it’s definitely possible a seller will get stuff to you when they say they will, but it’s also very possible you’ll end up with some empty spots under the tree come Christmas Day.

And if that sort of thing happens, there’s really no way to hold anyone accountable besides leaving bad feedback, and that only works if you’re buying from an established seller who would actually care.

Of course, if things go really wrong, you can complain to eBay, or try to dispute the charges with PayPal and get your money back. But even if you’re successful, it’s a massive waste of time and effort, when instead, you could just buy from a vendor like Amazon, get a price that’s pretty good, and actually have a real business with a proven track record filling the order.

What do you think? Do you use eBay? Have you ever been scammed on the site?

(Photo: Arthur Caranta)

{ 19 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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19 Responses to “UK man pays $735 for a photo of an Xbox One, or why I don’t use eBay”

  1. Cackalacky says:

    Let’s be fair – this kind of scam is not the experience of the vast majority of eBay users. I ran a successful business on eBay for several years. There are numerous protections in place to ensure a positive experience for the buyer.

    • K says:

      I have to agree with this. I’ve only had positive experiences on eBay (knock on wood). I also carefully read the listings and try to only deal with reputable sellers.

  2. I quit eBay after getting scammed a couple of times. What I found unforgivable is that, despite my complaints and protestations, the guy who scammed me continued to sell on eBay!

  3. Susan says:

    Oh that’s just sad. Glad it worked out well for him in the end. I’ve used ebay for hundreds of successful transactions. Like any other website, you have to read item descriptions CAREFULLY, and if you are unsure of anything, ask questions before bidding.

    I only had one item come that didn’t live up to it’s listing, and the seller made it right for me without hesitation.

  4. Debra says:

    I have used e-bay successfully.
    That said. I would NEVER drop hundreds on an item.
    I have an ‘addiction’ to vintage eyewear frames and have never spent over $30. (usually much less.
    The amount of transactions a ‘seller’ has completed ~ AND the seller’s satisfaction rating, by buyers, tells me a lot about the history and reliability of the seller.
    I also look at the country of the seller.
    A seller selling from Shanghai, China or Hong Kong (and many other countries) just won’t even capture my attention.
    I have always bought from within the US.
    tho I have considered purchases of some unique optical frames from Britain.

    Now THERE. is a topic I wish ‘Bargaineering’ would take up and explore ~ the shady optical industry and the severe markups on both lenses and frames in brick and mortar optical dispensing shops. and consumer rights.

  5. Marguerite says:

    I just purchased a Game Boy and 4 games from 3 different sellers and everything was way better than what I expected. The game seller said the game had been completely refurbished and it looked like and worked like, brand new. I love ebay – I have, actually, both bought and sold on ebay with no problems.

  6. Michelle says:

    I have been scammed by eBay buyers before. One time I mailed a buyer a pair of designer jeans that they bought for around $100 (I know for a fact that they were real). They then opened an eBay dispute and said that they were fake. eBay then told them to destroy the jeans because they don’t deal with fake items. What actually happened was that the buyer took pictures of their own jeans that were fake and said they were the pair that I mailed them. I was out $100 because I was FORCED to refund the money.

  7. Scott Hedrick says:

    Sometimes, though, what appears to be a scam really isn’t. I was looking at some real estate listings in eBay in an area where my family already owned property.A lot of the listings read like a scam, until I figured out what the seller was doing. The seller was indeed selling real property. However, the price of the property was not what was being bid, because that was fixed. It was the down payment that was being bid. I was a real estate agent for many years, and once I figured out what was really going on I thought this was a good idea. The person willing to put the most cash down up front is clearly the person who is most interested in the property. I would have liked to see a sentence that clearly and unambiguously stated, right at the beginning of the description: “THE PRICE OF THIS PROPERTY IS $X. YOU ARE BIDDING ON THE DOWN PAYMENT.” I didn’t find the ad deceptive, because the description of what was being sold was at the end and not hidden in the middle and the words were clear. I think a clear statement like I suggested would prevent misunderstanding. I have seen deceptive ads that appear to be selling electronics and have excessively lengthy descriptions (which ought to be a clue)which tout the benefits of owning the item pictured, but what is actually being sold is a link to a website where you can bid on such items. The description of what is actually being sold is deeply buried in the description. I’d like to see sBay require a simple line, separate from any description or photo, prominent at the top of the page, that says: “Item being bid on is:” and then a clear, short description of what is actually being offered, using less than a dozen words, most of them from a drop-down menu to minimize creativity. If that doesn’t match what is in the description, then eBay should nail the seller. In this case of the UK man, if eBay had followed the suggestion I’ve made here the line would have said:”Item being bid on is: PHOTO” If the seller had put down anything else, he could be prosecuted for fraud.

  8. adam carolla fan says:

    cmon lads….caveat emptor!

    “a fool and his money are lucky to get together in the first place.”


  9. Shahid Khan says:

    The guy who purchased the photo of xBox is a 19 year old UK citizen. He saved up his money all year to buy it for his son. How old is his son?

  10. RobinK says:

    I have purchased items on ebay for many years and they, as well as Paypal, have excellent “buyer protection” in place in the event you receive something defective or that doesn’t live up to your expectations. You CAN get a refund. You can file a case with either Ebay OR Paypal, but only ONE of them…personally, I prefer to file with ebay. You may have to wait a few weeks to get your situation resolved , but , it’s well worth it, particularly when the item is expensive.
    Additionally, if you are a SELLER, you should photograph and document the item that you are sending so that you are not possibly scammed by a buyer…it can happen.
    This young man can simply file a dispute with ebay and be prepared to ship the “picture” of the XBox One back to the scam-seller. He doesn’t have to be stuck with the very expensive photocopy.

  11. rouncivelt berwileger frimble says:

    ebay is a scam. I don’t use it.

  12. Mike Goodman says:

    Whether it’s ebay or other online shops, it is still up to the buyer to make sure he’s protected. Being a smart consumer ( that means reading the description of the item you are planning to purchase, reading reviews, etc. ) can save anyone from a lot of trouble.

  13. Michael says:

    This is somewhat beside the point, but… If the dude is 19, how could his “young son” be anywhere near old enough to enjoy an Xbox One? The box that it comes in, maybe. But not the console itself.

  14. Mark Ross says:

    Now, that’s why reading the description of the item that you’re about to buy is pretty important.

    Anyways, I haven’t bought anything from eBay ever, but I use it to check if the other online stores that I’m buying from are pricing their items right.

    Although, some items are really sold much cheaper in eBay. I still haven’t bought from them because when I check the reviews about the seller, most of the time, I see a lot of negative feedbacks.

  15. George says:

    So I think only way to avoid from all those things is to check the reputation of seller and double check the specifications before placing orders.

  16. Wilma says:

    My issue with Ebay is that they push the Pay Pal thing. I have a Pay Pal account but my Visa is no longer good enough for them despite years of buying and no complaints. I was told that unless I connected a checking or savings account to my Pay Pal account I would no longer be allowed to shop on Ebay. So guess what? I don’t. If they were the only place to shop than they’d have me cornered. So glad the internet is so vast. My Visa is excepted every where else I’ve gone.

  17. Dolores says:

    I have been a seller and buyer on eBay for many years. I’m careful to accurately describe my items and also to read the listings I’m bidding on or purchasing. I ship via USPS and accept PayPal and must say that the whole process is easy. I feel sorry for the fellow who was scammed and hope that eBay has taken the proper steps top remove that seller.

  18. Joe says:

    I have been using eBay since 2001 and have never had a transaction that I was not happy with. Yes there were times that the seller did not send an item (I got my money back), the item was not as described (not only did I get my money back but the seller said I could keep the item – this happened to me twice), took forever to ship (for two Ralph Lauren dress shirts that I won for 99 cents and $3 shipping each – seller was probably hoping I would just cancel so she didn’t have to take the loss, I didn’t and pestered her everyday to send the items). 8 times out of 10 I can find the same exact item on eBay cheaper than Amazon if you are not in a rush of receiving the item right away in case the item is up for bid.

    Selling on the other hand is not as pleasant as buying. eBay and PayPal charges exorbitant rates and you lose much more if you take your money out of PayPal. There are times that I forget I have money sitting in PayPal for months! So basically it’s a win-win situation for the eBay.

    I have not had an opportunity to test the eBay Protection Program (which I’m hoping I won’t) but overall I’m pretty satisfied with eBay.

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