I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Especially when it comes to selling online, I believe most buyers and sellers both are basically good people. You are innocent until proven guilty with me.

At least… so I thought. I’m starting to wonder if hearing other people’s horror stories is making me paranoid.

I sold an item online. It was a collectible item, one of those items were the accessories were actually rarer than the item itself. It sold at auction for a bit lower than expected but still for a good price. The buyer paid promptly and I sent the item, nothing strange there.

The buyer gets the item and immediately tells me he wants to return it, the same day he got it. When I press, he says that there is extreme damage to it and it is totally destoryed. He goes on and on about the damage until I am convinced the item must have melted in transit. I ask him for a photo because I want to file an insurance claim and he hems, haws and stalls and finally gives it to me with a sheepish “Well, maybe its not that bad…” The “damage” was a minuscule thing that we covered in the description less than the size of a pinpoint. But I don’t see the point in fighting with a buyer so, realizing this is not a case for insurance, I give him our return address and let him no that, no problem, we accept returns for any reason.

Now, you may already be getting annoyed with this buyer, but I have cut him some slack. I’ve been that starry eyed collector who bid an item up in a mad bidding frenzy and then was disappointed when it arrived and realized I missed something in the description. I also have been outraged by something when I first opened the package that later I realized wasn’t so bad. So, at most, I’m thinking he’s a drama queen but that’s it.

One thing that did strike me as weird, though, is that he immediately wanted to return it. Usually, in the case of collectibles, people want a refund (either full or partial) but they always want to keep the item, esp if it is rare like this item was. This guy was really eager to give it back which was unusual.

So he finally sends the item back and I open it and one of the valuable accessories is missing. My thought process assumes one of two things: A) He forgot to include it in the package or B) It somehow fell out in transit. Now, B seemed pretty unlikely, he’d wrapped it right back up in my packing material and I don’t mess around so my money was on A, he simply forgot to include it.

I email him. “I got the package but it seems like you forgot to include this part, etc, can you please send it over so that I can process your refund… ” I’m expecting one of two responses. Either some variety of “Oh, my gosh, sorry about that, it’s right here on my desk. I’ll be it in the mail today” or “I shipped it, did you really check the package well? etc.” I was dreading the “I sent it” response because if it was lost in transit, what do I do then? It’s his word against mine and I’m out an important part of the set so I can’t resell it for the same value.

What response do I get back? “Why the hell haven’t you processed my refund yet?”

Um, ew. I don’t see why you need to be such a jerk about it, especially since I just explained why: I don’t have all of it back yet. But I assume something got crossed and repeat my query into the missing part and add a polite message that I cannot issue the refund until the full contents of the lot have been returned, etc.

His response? “Oh fine! I’ll send the other one back.” I got the missing piece in the mail a few days later and issued a refund for both the original price and shipping both ways.

But I have to ask…Does this seem fishy to anyone else? No, sorry I didn’t send it, oops you’re right, it’s still here, no blaming the post office, nothing to indicate that it was some kind of mistake. Just a resigned sort of, “You got me, I’ll send the rest.”

But he sent the missing item back and I issued the refund and everyone seems to be happy. On my end, a return is a return and as long as I get everything back in original condition, I don’t care what happens in between.

I try not to read too much into emails, messages can easily get crossed. But I can’t help but look at this in context of how this buyer wanted immediately to return the item the same day it arrived, made up an elaborate excuse to return it (even though I don’t even require a reason for returns), tried to dodge my question about the missing piece and wonder if his plan all along was to buy the item, take the hard to find accessory and return the rest. Maybe he was banking on my not looking all that closely at what he returned? Maybe he was hoping if he pretended to be angry enough, I would be scared to confront him about the missing piece lest he give me bad feedback?

But if I take off my foil hat and let go of the conspiracy theory, if the guy was trying to run a scam, he was awful at it. He didn’t even try to make excuses for why he kept the other item. He came clean (almost) immediately and didn’t put up much of a fight. And maybe that “Oh, fine!” comment was just supposed to mean he would look for it and try to send it and wasn’t an admission of guilt at all. I don’t know whether to balk at the gall of this guy or to wonder at what has made me so cynical and paranoid that I’m reading into this so much.

So I submit this to you. Was this a case of a buyer (trying to) behave badly or have I just gotten paranoid? How would you have read it if this had happened to you?