EBay’s Non-Paying Bidders

By Amy Lin on 12 January 2007 (Updated 16 October 2010) 11 comments
Photo: iStockphoto

EBay is an imperfect system, simply because for the most part it is run on non-binding contracts. You can’t make people who bid on your items pay, even though by bidding, they’re under “legal” contract to pay. EBay could solve this problem by charging buyers' credit cards (which they have on file) once they hit the “confirm purchase” button. But they don’t want to take that responsibility. I guess that would also give them another fee to charge sellers for.

I used to call people who didn’t pay or respond to me. I sold cheap zodiac necklaces and I remember the last time I ever talked to one of my buyers. It went something like this:

“Hi, [name]. I’m Lynn. You purchased a necklace from me on eBay [for $7.99]. Are you going to pay?”

“Oh hi. I’m so sorry. But I had a family emergency. I’m on the way to the hospital right now. I’ll pay you at the end of the week.”

“OH. I’m sorry. Thank you. Bye.”

She never did pay.

I’ve heard all sorts of excuses, and “family emergencies” top the list by far. Not that they’re always lying, but it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. In the end, you’re still left with no payment for an item that sold.

The point is, buyers don’t take very seriously the consequence of clicking the confirm bid/purchase button. You’re going to have to accept it and move on. How much you want to try to harass contact them is up to you. But after 7 days, you can file an Unpaid Item Dispute and at the very least get your final value fee back. You won’t get your listing fee back however. It will be treated as an unsold item.

The process takes awhile, and if you don’t remember to go back in to check on the status, eBay closes the dispute and refunds nothing. So keep track!

If the buyer doesn’t respond, you have to wait 8 days before you can close it. You can no longer file an unpaid dispute if the sale is over 45 days old, and a dispute can only be opened for 60 days after the sale. If the dispute is not closed within 60 days (this is 60 days from the sale date, NOT 60 days from when you opened the dispute), it will automatically be closed with no fees credited.

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Sometimes you’ll get buyers who let you know they won’t be paying for whatever reason (accidental bid, my kid placed the bid without my permission, I don’t have money to pay, I don’t want it anymore). Instead of filing that the buyer didn’t pay, you can file a mutual agreement claim. This is where you indicate that you’ve both agreed to cancel the transaction. You will get your final value fee back without the buyer getting an unpaid item strike. Most of the time I will do this if the buyer contacts me about not being able to pay. At least they had the courtesy to let me know, so I’m not waiting 2 weeks for a payment that will never come.

Some sellers charge a fee for canceling a transaction. I never incorporated this into my listing descriptions because I figured trying to get these people to send me money for nothing would be more trouble than it’s worth. One time however, I had a pair of very time sensitive event tickets. The winning bid was $510. The buyer complained of “paypal issues” and asked me to resell the tickets. I resold the tickets at $405 a few days later. That was a significant drop in profit so I asked her to send me the difference. I didn’t really think she’d do it, but I tried to sound reasonable about it. She agreed, but a week or so passed and still no payment. So I filed an Unpaid Item Dispute and a day later, she sent the money!

One more option for sellers is ReliaBid . They’re a collections agency mainly for eBay sellers. If your products are time sensitive, having non-paying bidders can really affect your profit margin, so ReliaBid might be worth your while.

Until eBay starts charging upon purchasing, you'll always get a few non-paying bidders. So get your final value fee back, leave them negative feedback, and relist with the hopes of getting an equal or higher sale price.

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Guest's picture
John

I've found that not taking bids from people who don't have a net 10 positive feedbacks is a good way to weed out people who may end up being non-payers. You get people who complain about not being able to bid. But, hey, sorry but too bad. I want to be able to sell my goods with as few problems as possible and that is a way to help me do that.

Guest's picture
Jeff

I have a method of dealing with non-paying bidders depending on how ethical you may or may not find it. Set up a second eBay account. When you get an unpaid for item, send an email from your second eBay account to the non-paying bidder. The email should say something along the lines of "I wanted to bid on the item you won but didnt get to. I will offer you more money than you won the auction for if you sell it to me." Now your non-paying bidder sees a chance to make some money. What are they going to do? They are going to hurry up and pay you for your item so that they can sell it for a profit.
Of course you have essentially lied to them and they are not going to be able to turn around and sell the item for a profit. However they placed a legally binding bid on your item and won the auction. They should be paying for it regardless of whether or not they had it sold.
Unfortunately this method doesnt really work for me as the items I sell are in unlimited quantities. But if you are selling only one of an item, this method usually works.

Guest's picture
Guest

I think I don't trust Ebay for both sellers and buyers. I've had sellers refuse to accept my payment and then complain that I hadn't paid them or accepted my payment, then sold my items to someone else claiming I hadn't paid them. Or they don't respond to my e-mails if I never receive my items and Ebay refuses to do anything. Or they've accepted my payment, sent my item, and STILL filed an unpaid items strike. All complaints to Ebay result in a response "pay your seller". If I send them proof of payment in the form of receipts, they send me e-mails telling me they won't accept that kind of proof and that I have to send them receipts. Uh... I did?

I actually had a seller send me an angry e-mail telling me she wouldn't take my money and to shop at Macy's. Ebay suspended my account and cost me a lot of money because I had a rash of very bad sellers who would/wouldn't take my payments or changed their policies after I won items or charged me many times more for shipping than previously stated (try $50 as opposed to $5) and filed Unpaid Items strikes.

They keep raising their listing prices and make their site hard to navigate and complaints hard to make. Most of the time, I've never received responses to an e-mail sent about a problem or if I do, the response is automated and has nothing to do with my query. Mostly, I just want to let people know about the bad experiences I had with certain sellers/buyers so other people don't have the same problem, but no. Ebay won't allow it.

I've had non-paying bidders, a lot of them with a ton of feedback. You never know though. I know things happen and maybe they just went bankrupt or went to jail or died. The internet is too anonymous so all we can do is guess. I know I run into money problems too.

Anyways, Ebay is such a big company, they can afford to abuse a few people. Who's going to actually get enough money to sue them for emotional injury anyways?

Now I just stick to free selling sites. Less exposure, but it's easier on my bank account and on my mental stress as well.

Guest's picture
Guest

Ebay does try to scare the buyer with usuaing the term leaglly binding contract.However,there is no way to verify who actually made the purchase.
It is true that customers do not have to pay for a winning bid.There is a way for non payers to get around the system.Just creat a new account with different personal info.

Guest's picture
Novie Ko

Thanks for the post! I know how to get FVF refunded without having to wait too long now, using the unpaid item mutual agreement!

Guest's picture
Guest

Hi,
I'm a long time buyer who has had 100% feedback. I have never left negative feedback even if the seller deserved it in fear that there would be retaliation. I have opened and closed some cases against sellers, and decided to avoid opening some, but for the most part, everything has been rosy. Until recently.

An auction was open that I was very interested in; I asked the seller if it would be all right if I could pay about one week after it closed on my pay day as I did not have the funds until then. He agreed.

A few days after the auction closed, he opened up an unpaid item dispute. I didn't think anything of it, for at the time I thought it was just an automatic thing from eBay if it had been an extended period of time. I paid first thing on the date we had agreed upon.

The weekend passes, and on Monday I went to Paypal for something else and found out that my payment was unclaimed. I sent an email to the seller immediately after to find out why it was unclaimed, and why he was an unregistered user of said site.

Tuesday came and no response, so I sent out another, and also sent one to eBay about the situation.

Yesterday (Wednesday) there was still no response from the seller, and my contact with eBay over this time has been where I'm looked as the bad guy. The seller has sold two things out of a score of "9". Both things sold were positive, but they were also left immediately after the auction ended.

In any case, I have sent numerous emails to eBay asking why a new seller with a very small score is looked at with more credibility than someone who has bought without fault for years.

The money had still been unclaimed yesterday, so I cancelled the transaction. I have the contact information of the seller, but really don't want to talk to this person. I wish that the person wasn't injured or a family emergency, but aside from that, I see no reason why, if an unpaid item dispute "must" be opened almost immediately, why he would not claim the payment I sent.

It's not fair that my account may have a strike against it, suspended or closed, over a seller who doesn't want to show any professinalism on his part.

Guest's picture
the watch guy

I am living your article full seat..... I am scared of my buyers because not one has paid at auction closing in a long time...Me ..I have a habit to pay when I win..this is good for shipping and everything... Deadbeat Bidders

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with you, sir. I buy some things on ebay and always I pay up immediately after I was informed I have won. People always put on the excuse of payday or emergency. I have seen sellers who say they will take action if the payment has not been received in 24 hours or less.

Guest's picture
Guest

I really dislike ebay users that fail to pay up. I continuously resend the invoice, in the hope that they will take heed and pay. However, I end up having to open up a case a week later, and then by doing so, forfeit my chance to leave them negative feedback (you can no longer give feedback when you have recorded a 'non-payment').

Guest's picture
Guest

Unfortunately you can no longer leave negative feedback for buyers!!! Ebay is ****!

Guest's picture
Guest

I personally think there are fake ebay bots that jack up bids and never pay. You file a no payment claim and their rating never goes down.