Wandering off the trail: There’s no such thing as a “no returns” option for sellers on ebay

A few weeks ago, as previously mentioned, I began shedding some photo gear so that I could fully invest in the micro four thirds system. During this time I’ve sold many items via ebay. One set of items which I sold was my collection of Voigtlander SC rangefinder lenses. Though beautifully built and optically excellent, these lenses ultimately didn’t fit my shooting style. I sold my 21mm, 35mm and 85mm lenses to very satisfied buyers, as evidenced by the feedback I received…

One of the very best ebay sellers! Perfect transaction in every way.
Voigtlander 21/4 SC-Skopar with viewfinder (#320956110937)

Excellent condition, quick shipping. Great transaction. A++ seller. Thanks!
Voigtlander 35/2.5 SC Skopar Lens – Limited edition of 700 (#320974433292)

superb selller, fasth shipping, product BETTER than described A+++++
Voigtlander S 85/3.5 APO-Lanthar Lens – Limited edition of 600 (#320956552019)

This feedback is indicative of most of the feedback I receive, as I have a 100% positive feedback rating, and 5 out of 5 stars in all detailed rating categories. All of the feedback I’ve received has noted that my items are as described, and several have commented that the item they received was better than described. This is something in which I take great pride. I should also mention that my listings are always “no returns,” and this has never presented a problem for me nor any of my satisfied buyers.

Around the same time, I also sold my Voigtlander 50/1.5 S Nokton Aspherical lens, and unfortunately the buyer of this item was not satisfied. He contacted me claiming that the lens had several problems. This is the lens in question…

beware paypal/ebay

The buyer claimed that there was internal and external damage to the lens, that there were cleaning marks on the glass, and that it had been previously cleaned or repaired. He also claimed a problem with the aperture index. He asked for a full refund. Since none of these claims were true, and the item was listed as “no returns,” I respectfully suggested he take up the matter with ebay.

After exchanging a couple of messages with the buyer via ebay – during which he asked for my phone number, and made what I interpreted to be a vague threat to report my account to ebay – the buyer chose to open a dispute via Paypal, rather than addressing his concern via the ebay Buyer Protection Plan. I found this odd, and I also find his request via paypal for a 50% refund to be odd. If the lens was damaged as he suggested, then it would be practically useless in my opinion. So why would he be willing to accept a 50% refund for a non-functioning item?

A little background on this item – This lens was purchased by me in late 2011, in new condition from cameraquest.com, an authorized Voigtlander USA distributor. It was in use and functioning normally, and in the condition described in my ebay listing, when I placed it for sale on eBay. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve seen dozens and dozens of images captured with this lens…

Once listed, the lens was placed in it’s padded original box, in safe storage, until it was sold and shipped to the buyer. Before writing the description for my listing of this item, I thoroughly inspected all aspects of the lens. After the item sold, I inspected it once again, to double-check that the item was as I described it in my listing. I then placed the item in the original plastic bag, and then in the original box along with the original documentation. The item was then packaged carefully and shipped via Priority Mail on the 25th of August, within 24 hours of being purchased. I personally paid the shipping fee, and I also paid for signature confirmation and to insure the item, to be certain that the item arrived safely into the hands of the buyer. The buyer should have received the item on or around the 29th of August, which means it had been in his possession for about 11 days before he filed his initial complaint. If the item were defective when he received it, the defects he claimed were present should have been noticeable almost immediately. I find it curious that it took him nearly two weeks to file a complaint.

There are a few other points I wish to make. Since this lens is less than one year old, it’s still under warranty. Why would I risk my 100% feedback rating by knowingly selling a damaged lens when I could have had it first repaired under warranty, free of charge? My feedback on ebay speaks for itself. I am very conscientious when it comes to the condition of the items I sell.

Also, if the lens is in fact damaged as claimed by the buyer, who’s to say that the damage didn’t take place while it was in the possession of the buyer? Can Paypal, or anyone be certain that the buyer didn’t damage the lens in the 11 or so days he had it in his possession before filing his initial complaint?

Today I was informed by paypal that the buyer will be requested to return the lens to me, at which point he will receive a full refund. To the best of my knowledge, the buyer has not provided any evidence to paypal that the lens was damaged. I was not asked any follow-up questions by paypal, and my initial statement to them was limited to 2000 characters, which amounts to a rather short paragraph. If the lens is returned in the same perfect condition in which it was shipped, then I will have lost $349 to buyer’s remorse. If the lens is returned damaged as described by the buyer, then this damage took place while in the buyer’s possession, and I will have lost $349 and be left with a practically useless hunk of metal and glass. I find all of this to be outrageous. What is the point of offering the seller the option of refusing returns if a buyer can claim a problem almost two weeks after receiving the item – a problem which should have been apparent immediately – and receive a full refund? All without the buyer having to present a shred of evidence in support of his claim. Where are the protections for sellers? Unless this decision is reversed, it is likely that I will no longer be using paypal or ebay services.

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