Just a short story on the dark side of eBay.
Last night I was looking on eBay for an iAudio X5 MP3 player. I was looking for one for quite a while, despite it only having 30gb; as much as I don't like the MP3 format, this one has the features that I consider important. I wouldn't go over them here, but I would just say it beats the crap out of the severely limited yet very trendy iPods.
Anyway, these gizmos sell for $650 is shops (JB Hi Fi), but you can get them over the web for less than $450. Personally, I think anything more than $200 is daylight robbery, which is why I was looking on eBay for something interesting.
Well, last night I stumbled upon a series of X5's on sale for some ridiculous prices - $31! For this price, even with $30 shipment and $20 insurance, I'd buy several and use a different one each day of the week (actually, I'd probably sell them on eBay). And not only that, on offer were 60gb models - mmm.... 60gb.... - which aren't even on sale in Australia. I didn't even know they exist.
Anyway, a second look at these auctions revealed some interesting info. The seller was in Beijing; they would only accept direct wire transfer or a Western Union money transfer, and not the more common PayPal (for international transactions) or a direct bank deposit to an Australian bank account (which many overseas sellers seem to have). They had no feedback as sellers, too. Overall, if you bid on this guy's items you have zero confidence of getting the item and zero possibilities for getting your money back.
Then I had a look at historical items. It turns out that there's a pattern of people selling similar items from Beijing. They create an eBay account for themselves, start a few 1 day auctions (as opposed to the default 7 days ones, especially for items that are generally expensive), and then quickly disable their eBay accounts afterwards; they are never there long enough to receive feedback from their occasional customer, be it good or bad.
I sent the seller questions concerning these issues (plus trivial affairs such as warranty and return policy if the delivered item doesn't work), but got no replies. By this morning all of the seller's items were removed from eBay prior to their auction's ending time (other than the first two, which sold for $60 something and $30 something).
I wonder if these people trade in stolen goods or whether they are just trying to trick people. I doubt eBay will do anything about it, because eBay is just another big company with zero conscience which just tries to make as much money as it can while closing an eye on illegal activities ( e.g., ticket scalping) and only doing something against politically incorrect auctions that might give it a bad name (e.g., the recent removal of the auction for the car "owned by the killer from Columbine").
Anyway, tread carefully on eBay waters. You can get wonderful deals, but there are obviously lots of sharks out there.
P.S. Talking about PayPal: I can't help thinking how useful PayPal would have been at the time of our wedding, when overseas friends and relatives wanted to give us money. Compared to other venues, it's so cheap and so easy. At the time, Yuval was the only one that asked me if I had a PayPal account (I didn't, and I only had a rough idea on what PayPal was; I was more like "why is he asking me about PayPal?"); yet another case where I have to bow down to this great person.