Early this year, Forbes Magazine ran an article that was like a warning. The author told the story of three items that he had purchased from different Amazon.com merchants that were never shipped; “the sellers took my money and vanished.” It’s yet another example of the many things in the lives of baby boomers that have changed: how we buy and how we sell. BoomerCafé publisher and co-founder David Henderson has recently been down that road himself. It made him feel like a stranger in a strange land.
Buying and selling on Craigslist or eBay and using PayPal to receive and make payments has today become risky business. I don’t believe it’s because of age — we as baby boomers generally have good common sense — but rather the times we live in. Yet having been defrauded twice in the digital environment, I’m done.
While Craigslist and eBay are, in principle, effective ways to buy and sell – usually between individuals – I believe they’ve also become the territory of slight-of-hand artists. Both eBay and Craigslist are ancient digital platforms by today’s standards. We can call the bad guys, digital thieves. Let me explain …
A couple of years ago, my then-teenaged daughter no longer liked a still-new pair of Oakley sunglasses and asked me to help sell them on eBay. We took photos and created the listing, and, bingo! Right away, there was a buyer. After confirming that PayPal was escrowing the payment, we shipped off the sunglasses.
But the buyer cried foul, claiming that we had shipped a beat-up pair of sunglasses, which we hadn’t. But so as not to make waves, I asked the buyer to simply return the sunglasses. But what was returned was something we’d never seen – a scratched, bent, broken pair of sunglasses … someone else’s … not what we had advertised or shipped. Also, by the time we received the bogus sunglasses, he had demanded back his escrowed money from PayPal which PayPal readily handed over to him. There was little for us to do but chalk it up to someone being dishonest.
Just recently though, not wanting to judge the book by its cover, I tried eBay again, this time listing an unused LG smartphone. Within a few days there was a buyer. I checked with PayPal and my account there showed “Payment Received.” Good.
So with clearance from eBay, I shipped the phone to the buyer in Miami. Four days later though, I received an email from eBay warning me that the buyer was “suspicious” and advising me not to ship.
Huh?! Wait! EBay had given me a green light on the transaction. After more than a week, PayPal voided the payment, saying the “eCheck” used by the so-called buyer in Miami had not cleared.
I called both PayPal and eBay but it seems all of their customer support is handled by third party outfits abroad (the Philippines, in eBay’s case) which have no authority and are not coached on resolution for a customer. My impression is that both services — PayPal and eBay — have run on automatic for so many years with little enhancement of security or fraud protection to make them safer for users, like you and me. And, all the while, their owners and investors have amassed fortunes.
By the way, if PayPal were judged on the professional level of its website — with all its misspelled words and grammatical errors — I would not entrust PayPal with a dime of my money.
And, then, there is craigslist.org. It’s gotten to be so dangerous to use in my Washington DC metro area that local police actually caution Craigslist buyers and sellers to handle transactions in the safety of the police station. There are too many stories of theft, violence, and guns being drawn.
On one hand, maybe I am just too trusting when it comes to doing business online. On the other hand, the digital world has spawned a widespread corrupt culture that’s far more insidious than I can imagine. It’s like those strange spam emails we’ve all gotten from some guy in Nigeria who wanted to share his millions of dollars if only I’d just share details of my bank account.
Not going there! This baby boomer is DONE dealing with digital thieves.