Saturday, April 11, 2015

eBay the Saga Continues

I mentioned in a previous blog that eBay has grown and changed as we all do as we get older. My current experience (last 60 days) has been a sobering wake up to the realities of now. The first three miscues were my fault because I wasn't used to the changes. I am a little better informed now, but the miscues continue. One of the basic principles of eBay is leaving feedback on transactions as you progress allowing everyone to gauge their performance. Both buyers and sellers leave feedback and the feedback can be positive, negative or neutral. You can see how many times a user has received feedback for both buying and selling and I truly admire people who have collected thousands of positive feedback responses.

My experience with feedback has not been encouraging. I believe my first negative feedback resulted from my wanting to return an item that did not work correctly when it arrived. The seller understandably was none too keen to accept it back and a minor tussle occurred resulting in my leaving feedback that included the seller's first name. Well, that is a big no-no on eBay. I was reprimanded and reminded we don't do that on eBay and that was the end of that. I had to find a way to make the device work on my own.

Since that time eBay has changed their philosophy on returns and even if the seller does not offer them eBay has a return and refund policy that is fertile ground for abuse.

A case in point, I listed a guitar multi-effects pedal with a buy it now price of $60 and offered free shipping USPS Priority Mail, which in this instance was just under $10. A buyer (who shall remain nameless), bought the item and I carried it to the Post Office, saw a sign that said free Priority Mail boxes, grabbed one and put the pedal in it and attached the mailing label I had purchased through eBay and Pitney Bowes. When I got to the counter I was in a hurry, late for a meeting and became confused when the clerk at the counter tried to tell me I had a problem. The free box was free as long as I purchased $17 worth of postage. I had only purchased a little less than $10. I couldn't understand the clerk and was not offered any alternatives. She took the package and I assumed all was well with the world. Well it wasn't.

I proceeded to my meeting feeling a bit flustered with government employees like I am at the DMV with state employees.  eBay provides a link so you can track the package through the USPS. I watched as it moved through the postal system and was delivered according to the USPS. This is where it starts getting real interesting.

After 4 days, the buyer sent me a message to say he hadn't received the (delivered) package. I respond by giving him the tracking number and suggested he go to the post office to see what the problem was and I told him if there was postage due, to pay it and I would reimburse him. The next message he sent said he went to the post office and was told they had no such tracking number in their system. That could not be true because their system said it was delivered. The next message from the buyer informed me not only had he not received the package but that I was a fraud, didn't use Priority Mail and he wanted a refund. I replied by sending him the tracking information provided by the USPS and a receipt showing the date I sent it by Priority Mail as well as letting eBay know we had a problem. The buyer's next move was to submit a claim with eBay asking for a refund and providing me with negative feedback. Too much negative feedback on eBay will result in being run out of dodge so to speak.

At that point, I thought he still might be telling the truth and not making up a story so he could have his pedal and play it too. I sent him a message and stated I wanted to send him a refund but wanted to find the pedal so I could get it back. I filed a claim with the post office and waited for a week or 10 days and in the meantime, eBay informed me they were sending the buyer a refund and they were not going to charge me for it. That was good news and bad news. I was relieved I wasn't going to be out the pedal and have to forfeit the $50 as well. I complained to eBay and reported the buyer because by now I thought the buyer was the fraud. The USPS informed me my claim was denied because they delivered the package, period. I asked eBay to remove the negative feedback and they said they couldn't do that and I should contact the buyer and ask them to change the feedback. I did and he didn't.

While there is a possibility that I am missing some information I seriously doubt that because I have since had a problem with the USPS saying they couldn't deliver another package because it was undeliverable as addressed. This was a small bubble wrap envelope but it was not lost in the vacuum that is the post office, it eventually got back to me. Why didn't the pedal come back? Simple answer really, it was delivered.

Out of 10 sales transactions on eBay, I had problems with 3 of them and one of those spoiled my feedback rating. I thought I had sold another item because a bidder won but when I had not received payment I sent an invoice (eBay facilitates that too) only to find the buyer changed their mind and wasn't interested any longer. I thought eBay was a step up from Craigslist, but now I'm beginning to wonder.

My conclusion is that most of what happens on eBay is done by computers, processes, responses, reminders, and decisions are made on coded logic, eliminating the human element altogether.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Right and Wrong

Different Points of View

The report of the Boston massacre in 1770 is an example of different views of the same event depending on which side of the street you were on, both figuratively and literally. This event, among others, led to the American revolution in 1776. If you were a British loyalist you saw things in favor of the red coats and if you were not you saw this as abuse of British authority. Five colonists were killed and several others wounded by the eight British soldiers who came to the aid of a sentry being harassed by the Americans. An order to shoot was never given, the soldiers did so after being attacked by the crowd throwing rocks and other objects.

The current news stories of police brutalizing and killing unarmed African Americans comes to mind especially when you consider the typical police justifications for too many of these crimes against the citizens they are supposed to protect. Human nature dictates we take sides unfortunately, often ignoring the facts. This is compounded by the fact people see things differently even when they don't have an axe to grind. Today's technology makes hiding the facts more difficult but even with videos of the event, folks still come to the wrong conclusion. Harkin back to the Rodney King III video of police brutality and that four policemen were originally acquitted in a court of law. 

"Three were acquitted of all charges. The jury acquitted the fourth of assault with a deadly weapon, but failed to reach a verdict on the use of excessive force. The jury deadlocked at 8–4 in favor of acquittal at the state level. The acquittals also led to the federal government's obtaining grand jury indictments for violations of King's civil rights. The trial of the four in a federal district court ended on April 16, 1993, with two of the officers being found guilty and subsequently imprisoned. The other two were acquitted again." - Wikipedia

From a black person's perspective, things look pretty bleak after hundreds of years of slavery, lynching and being treated poorly by society as well as the authorities.

The interesting results of the 1770 incident in Boston are, the defendants were represented by a future President of the United States, John Adams, and all but two soldiers were acquitted and the two were found guilty of manslaughter.

Right and Wrong

The difference between right and wrong isn't as black or white as it used to be. Too many loopholes and dishonest people have blurred the two ― never mind the gray areas. Unfortunately, many people think "rules were made to be broken". Nobody does wrong and admits it. If you ask the prisoner why they are in prison, they will tell you they didn't do it, whatever it is. Human nature forces us to justify our actions and believe we are right.

We inherently trust that people will do the right things. We hope we can walk down the sidewalk minding our own business and not be run over by a passing motorist. We believe we can get on an airplane and arrive safely at our destination without a depressed pilot flying into the side of a mountain with us onboard. It does not occur to us that as law abiding citizens we will be pulled over by the police for a broken tail light and shot in the back five times making a feeble getaway fleeing on foot.

I have great news! There is a difference between right and wrong. Not just a difference in what you believe or I believe. Those beliefs are not what makes something right or wrong. Right is right and wrong is wrong, it's that simple but somehow we humans don't believe it.

If Moses had to receive the ten commandments to teach the Hebrews what was right or wrong it is evident we humans have been getting it incorrect for thousands of years. While he was carving the stone tablets the tribes of Israel were celebrating their freedom from slavery by practicing idolatry, and worse. Someone's higher power had human nature pegged pretty well.

We have inherited a boatload of fixes to remedy this "human nature" problem, from rules, laws, authority, police, religion, boundaries,  gates, fences, obstacles, litigation, legislation, etc.,

I have no illusions that I will have much impact on the problem, after realizing the conundrum, I decided to concentrate on myself. What rules am I breaking? What laws of nature am I not obeying? How can I set a better example? We can improve things a little bit if everybody does the same.


Have you noticed the absence of common courtesy and good manners; caring about others; or treating people the way we'd like to be treated? It's gone missing in our "civilized" society. The stresses of "getting ahead," or "keeping up with the Jones," maintaining our way of life, keeping our jobs, paying the bills, and taking on too much responsibility has wound us up like a tight spring. In focusing all our attention on getting from point A to point B, we have discarded common sense and courtesy when it comes to rules, laws and right and wrong. Taking time to smell the coffee might actually alter the way the world works, or so the naive idealists may believe.

Today, without attaching a winning lottery ticket, getting human beings to change their behavior is a daunting task. I have become a better defensive driver, betting the other motorists will take chances with my life. African Americans expect to be profiled (especially if they are driving an expensive car) and they do not trust people in law enforcement or the judicial system. Their previous bad experiences have taught them to prepare for the worst. Isn't that an awful thing to say about this country?