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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SOME SELLERS WILL TRY ANYTHING TO AVOID A REFUND!

Today I want to fill you in on one of the most unpleasant buying experiences I've had lately. It left me wondering to what lows sellers will stoop to avoid issuing a refund to a dissatisfied customer.

I purchased an unusual ring from a seller. I'd never seen one like this before. The photos looked good and the description left me little to worry about in terms of quality. The ring was described as "mint", free of any scratches or problems and a size 5.5. The ring contained a combination of rubies, diamonds and sapphires and was originally purchased, at great expense (so I was told by the seller) from Bailey, Biddle and Banks years back when the seller was a child. I asked if there were any receipts or proof the ring came from BBB but was told no, they were long lost. Well no problem. It looked lovely and I wanted it. So I paid the BUY IT NOW price and eagerly awaited my ring.

When the package arrived, we all stood around breathlessly as I opened it and removed the bubble wrap. We opened the ring box and it looked great, just like what we'd seen in the photos. It was way too small for my swollen fingers but my daughter who wears a size 5.5 tried to put it on. Not a chance! She got it on her pinky finger, barely. We grabbed the ring-sizer and it showed it as a size 3.5. Ouch! Oh well, maybe we could get it re-sized.

Just as we were discussing if there was enough gold in the band to do that, my daughter noticed a small crack or break in the band where one would normally re-size. We grabbed the loupe to be sure. Yes, there was a crack, perhaps from a previous re-sizing. This was bad news. No way could we risk re-sizing this ring. I checked the seller's ad: yes, she'd said it was a size 5.5 and she said it was in mint condition. Well now, it was neither, and worse yet, I'd paid a lot for it and didn't want it because of these issues.

I immediately contacted the seller, who had stated "no refunds" (should have seen a red flag right there!). She wrote back saying she was in shock. The ring had left her in perfect condition. She'd even had it polished and her jeweler hadn't seen any "crack". So we grabbed our camera and did close-ups of the flaw. Again, she couldn't believe it and started to insist it wasn't there when she shipped it. I asked her about the size too: We sent her a photo of the ring on the ring-sizer. Now this time she got mad and said no way: our ring sizer must be defective or we have different ring-sizers in Canada. I wrote saying I'd purchased the sizer from the US but said, either way, I don't want the ring and wish to return it.

She then offered me $50 to have it repaired. I declined. I just wanted my money back and would ship it back the next day by Express mail, about $30, for insurance and tracking. I asked, since the ring was 'not as described" that she cover my return shipping costs. That's what I'd do for my customers if in some way my ad was inaccurate and the customer wanted a refund. Well, didn't she hit the roof! No way would she cover the return cost because as far as she was concerned, I was merely suffering buyer's remorse and she doesn't cover shipping for buyer's remorse. When I read that, I knew I was in for a battle.

Well I shipped it back in the exact same box next day, at my expense, meaning I'd be out over $60 with original and return shipping costs. The tracking showed it was delivered successfully about a week later. I waited a couple of days to hear from her expecting her to say she'd refund the cost price. Nothing came. So I wrote and asked. Another 2 days went by and she wrote to say she was out of town but her office did confirm the package had been returned and that she'd check to see the ring was the one she'd sent when she got back. Oh really? So now, she was insinuating I'd returned something she didn't send me. Whatever! I waited. Several more days passed with no communication and no refund. I emailed to say if I had no response from her in 48 hours, I'd open a dispute in PayPal. Still nothing. So I opened the dispute. She didn't respond. 3 more days went by and suddenly I got a note from PayPal saying the seller had escalated the dispute. HUH? The seller had escalated the dispute?? I logged in and read what she'd told PayPal. Now it was my turn to be furious.

According to her account, I waited 3 weeks to inform her of problems with the ring! (Remember, I contacted her the day I got the ring). Further, she claimed I must have somehow damaged the ring as the break wasn't there when she sent it but was there now. She said her jeweler looked at it and said it looked like someone had tried to stretch it to fit and that cracked the the ring. HUH? How could I stretch 14k gold? Besides, if I did, how come the ring had shrunk from the size 5.5. she claimed it was to a size 3.5? And her last claim was I was suffering from buyer's remorse and that was my only reason for returning the ring. It was now up to PayPal to decide.

Well I phoned PayPal as I'd had no chance to rebut her comments since she'd now escalated the dispute and got a nice gal who listened to and wrote down everything from my side of the story. I also informed her that I had an earlier email from the woman (when I'd tried to resolve this amicably) in which she said she used to have another shop on this site but closed it because people were always buying stuff, suffering buyers remorse, damaging the item and then returning it to her for a refund. Oh really? So this had happened to her on many occasions had it? Funny 'bout that.

Well in the end, I'm happy to say PayPal did rule in my favour and issued a full refund, including my return shipping costs. That must have upset her again as she immediately filed an appeal. To my satisfaction, she lost the appeal. Justice had prevailed.

Now, one last thing: after all this happened, I went back to her photos of the item. We found one that showed some of the band. While the detail wasn't as clear as we make our photos, all of us could see that break! There was no question. It had been there all the time. That she or her jeweler didn't see it means nothing. It's easy to miss such things ... isn't it...?

Point of all this sad tale? As a buyer, we need to look very carefully at anything we buy online as soon as it arrives. We don't have the luxury of close scrutiny as we do in the real world in the jewelry store. So, a word of caution when you're buying: read the ad carefully; study the return policy and when the item arrives, examine it immediately, under good light. Invest in a loupe if you need to. Magnifying glasses are limited. And before you return the item, take photos of it as you got it. Even take a photo of the re-sealed box with date of returning stamp so there can be no questions that you sent it back. And, according to PayPal, always return the item with tracking and signature required. No signature and a seller can claim they never got the item. It could be left in a box, on a doorstep, whatever. The tracking will show successfully delivered, but without a signature, how do you know the right person received it!