Sure, we're all safe using paypal


Background: Bought a cheap calculator on ebay, paid $8, shipping included. Used paypal. Never heard from the seller, but I paid immediately using paypal. Mistake, I think. :D After 2 weeks or so, checked on the seller only to note that he was no longer a registered user and that several of the last feedback's before ebay unregistered him sounded bad.

No problem, I thought. I'll file a complaint with paypal for non-delivery of goods. Had to wait nearly 2 weeks while they waited to hear from the now unregistered seller.

Today was the day the claim was to be resolved. Below is the text of the notice I received from paypal:

"After careful review, we have concluded our investigation of the Buyer
Complaint described below.

We have decided in your favor, however, we were unable to recover any funds
from the seller's account. As stated in the PayPal User Agreement, recovery
of funds associated with a Buyer Complaint cannot be guaranteed.

Please know that we will make our best effort to recover the funds in
question if they become available in the seller's account in the future and
will take appropriate action against the seller. Such action may include
issuing a warning, a temporary restriction, or terminating the account.
Keep in mind that PayPal uses a number of factors to determine when to take
action, including member complaints. Due to privacy laws, we cannot discuss
the details of any action taken. We hope you understand our policy and that
it assures you that you are safe using PayPal."

Me does cause one to wonder. Exactly HOW does Paypal's policy keep anyone but themselves safe? How did it help me at all?

Perhaps this helps illustrate why there are so many complaints against paypal on the web....from buyer and seller alike.

Of course, it was only $8 so I won't cry long :D and I certainly won't pay the moment an auction ends. Next time I'll wait for some sort of communication from the seller.

Cheers all.


Hi, Gene:

Sorry for your problem and I know you must be right now
quite sore for it, but just a question: how many times have
you used Paypal, and for which grand total amount, without
any problems at all ?

Because if you've used it 100+ times, say, and for a grand
total of $3,000, I would think that it could be considered
to be better than 99% safe, so your case is just a typical
statistically possible incident, which can happen, and that
doesn't mean Paypal is unsafe or unworthy. I know a single
bad case will make anyone pretty sore, we're human an we
tend to rant when hurt, but that should be it and a little
reasoning should put matters into perspective.

Myself, I've used Paypal over 100 times, grand total
exceeding US 7,000, and never had even a single incident at
all. Should I have one in the future, where I could 'lose' US $200, say,
I still would think Paypal is great and has helped me get
items I could never obtain otherwise, or only with great
inconveniences and expenses to pay for the item (International payments, at that). So I certainly wouldn't blame
it nor would stop using it for just a few percent failures
from time to time. Not that I had even a single one, ever.

Best regards from V.


.....but just a question: how many times have
you used Paypal, and for which grand total amount, without
any problems at all ?

Hi, .... but I can't agree with this statement.

I don't use Paypal because I think that "safe" would be used only if Paypal protects the buyer/seller in these situations where perhaps there is a fraud.
All other situations (99% where there isn't any problem) are safe because buyer and seller are honest, without any pressure of Paypal.
So isn't a merit of Paypal.

Just my 2 cents, and .... sorry for my bad English.. :-)



But you didn't mentioned in your post if that auction was entitled to PayPal buyer protections or not.

PayPal only guarantees to refund if it clearly says in the auction it is entitled to PayPal buyer protection.


Yes, you're quite right. The auction was not "paypal protected" - the seller was too new.

Oh, anytime you buy from a low-feedback seller, you run a risk. I knew that. :D

And, I'm glad it was only $8, so I'm not that sore.

But a couple of observations:

1) I did find it grimly humorous that the resolution of the problem, in which they did nothing, also said they hoped I was glad because of the protection they offered to me. :D


2) When we use paypal, it becomes very easy to just assume we're protected, like using a credit card, but we're not.

Sellers are also at GREAT risk. You can do everything correctly as a seller, but a bad buyer can notify paypal that they received a box with a rock in it and paypal can freeze your seller account and take your funds, even if you really sent the item.

All it takes is a web search to find many examples of this.

Just an FYI. Oh well, easy come $8, easy go. :-)


I have paypal and I didn't realize that they do this.
If you paid by credit card, ask for a chargeback from the credit card issuer. One reason not to use a bank account with paypal. The product was never delivered. Almost always, for non-delivery the issuer will give you the money back and charge the merchant (paypal). Then its paypals problem.


Hi Gene,

I agree with you, trading online is based on trust. Sometimes that trust does not pan out and the buyer or seller gets burned. I sometimes buy calculators from sellers in central or south America, knowing that I may get nothing or not get the item I hoped for. I do check the feedback before I plunge in. I usually buy from veteran sellers with good feedback. I do read the feedbacks. So far, taking the risk has paid off, since I get lower-than average prices.

I have had a weird case in the past few months, where a buyer seems to have mental problems (I am not sure of the exact nature). This buyer has bought 2 graphing calculators from me and each time he is unable to possess it!! The first time, the calculator went to his work place and he never go it. He gave up and ordered another calculator from me. I mailed the second one to his house/apartment with a Signature Confirmation and he has still not picked it up from the post office. His questions to me reflect a total lack of knowledge of how the postal system works!!!! He asked me to send the 2nd calculator to his post office so he can pick it up, but he does not know where that post office is. In this case, the post office will send the calculator back to me if the buyer is a no-show!!



Look at auctions as e-commerce, nothing else. Trust does not apply. You have to pay in advance before you get it.

If were is trust based, then you would be able to order it, try it and then pay for it or return it.

Maybe paypal should hold the funds until delivery confirmation or some time interval like a month after expected delivery.


Hi again, Gene:

Gene posted:

"Oh well, easy come $8, easy go. :-)"

    Easy !? I have to work for at least a minute or so to earn $8 ! That's not "easy" money to me, working for one minute is a pretty hard affair methinks ... :-)

Best regards from V.


After taxes, rent, I have to work about 3 hours for that $8........


I also want all to know I'm really not that upset about the loss of funds on this one.

It just comes upon having an idiot of a buyer bid on my apple laptop auction a week earlier.

Within the last 5 minutes of the auction, a bidder with a feedback of 0 bids a few times on the auction. I cancel two of the bids but didn't get a chance to block the bidder before the end of the auction, and he wins with another last minute bid.

Never heard from him again. No response to any emails, etc.

Really strange people out there who waste their time to waste mine. :-)

Good news for me is that the 2nd time I listed the auction, it sold for more than the first time!

Now, let me tell you about the HP70 that got away...


Hi Gene,

This happens often enough... I recently wrote an article about the "psychology" of e-bay buying for ham radio operators. Unfortunately, when we get scammed, it's for closer to $1000!

I have one comment: if one wants to ferret out if a buyer is a crook, ask them if you can pick the item up before the auction ends. Say (for instance) that you will be in their neck of the woods. If they give you a resounding "NO", be wary.

I generally preach the benefits of postal money orders in the U.S. After all, if the seller doesn't want to receive them (guaranteed, but trackable funds), I would also be wary. If they scam you, it turns the "incident" into mail fraud.

Best wishes,



1.0 - 1.5 million USD/year. Not a bad job...




In fact, sometimes PayPal turns out to be complicit in the whole thing, take this for instance:

I wanted an extra battery for my cell phone. I found an auction for a kit with a cradle, battery and chargers for my home and car. I won the auction for about $35 (including shipping). Eventually the package arrived, everything was there except for the battery. I tried to contact the seller, but they wouldn't reply to any e-mail.

So, I submitted a claim to paypal, and said that I had specifically wanted the battery, but it wasn't included. After a few weeks, paypal said that they had decided in my favor, so if I send back what I did get, they would refund my $35. Since I had to ship it back with a traceable carrier (UPS or FedEx) it cost me $10 to send it back. After the package showed up as arriving at the sellers, I got this message from ebay:

We have completed our investigation of this case. We attempted to process a refund from the seller's account to your account. Unfortunately, the seller's account does not contain the funds necessary to cover this refund. We were able to recover $7.49 USD. We have taken action against the seller and are working to recover the remainder of your refund. We will contact you when we have more information. No further action is required of you at this time.

Certainly PayPal knew how much the seller had, and could certainly guess how much it would cost for me to send the stuff back. So, now I was out $2.51 more than had PayPal done nothing, and I didn't have any of the still useful stuff. Needless to say, I never got any more money back.

I'm pretty sure any words to describe my thoughts on PayPal's action in this matter aren't allowed on this forum.



On a somewhat related note, I've seen a boatload of computers for sale from a certain eBayer at prices that are just too good to be true. Not many people seem to be bidding on them. The bidders are "private" and the ad states that you must contact the seller at an e-mail address (not through eBay because the eBay messages are "not working") to get the terms of the sale. Why can't he just put the terms of the sale on eBay listing?

I can't put my finger on it but something seems very "fishy" - I think that eBay should investigate these fishy ads and close them down if they are fraudulent. eBay risks getting a bad reputation otherwise.


It is probably a scam. There have been a number of occurences lately on e-bay where someone's alias has been hijacked. Typically, there will be a large number of items being sold - all the same - or maybe different groups of things - but when you look at the user name and their number of transactions it will be very low. So they are taking a name that doesn't get used much (unlikely the person will notice) then trying to sell a bogus item at a really good price and work outside of eBay for the transaction.

You should notify eBay directly through an on-line chat to notify them. The person who really owns the alias will appreciate your help.

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