CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
“Conflict resolution the eBay way”
Originally Published: November 30, 2006
Maybe eBay should run the multilateral talks with North Korea. Or
serve as a mediator between the United States and Iran.
The eBay conflict resolution team doesn’t screw around. No meetings to
discuss where and when the next meeting will be — or debates about
the shape of the negotiating table. When there’s a crisis in the eBay
community, a crisis serious enough to jeopardize a citizen’s feedback
rating, proceedings begin immediately.
There aren’t too many things in life that I brag about, but here’s
something I’d like to shout from the summit of Mt. Washington: “I HAVE
A 676 eBAY RATING WITH 99.4 PERCENT POSITIVE FEEDBACK!”
For those of you who do not understand the ramifications of that
statement, let me share a few testimonials from eBay sellers and
buyers who have been my recent trading partners. Think movie poster
testimonials when you read the following kudos:
“…Great Customer. A+++ !!!”
“…A Real eBay Asset!”
It is quite typical for my feedback to contain a healthy serving of
exclamation points, only underscoring the enthusiasm people have about
me and everything I stand for.
So you might imagine my distress the other day when I received an
official eBay e-mail informing me I was under investigation in an
“Unpaid Item Dispute.”
Sounds like I need a lawyer.
I had “won” an old stunt show souvenir program for $8.01, but was
confused by the seller’s payment instructions. During the automated
check-out process, the message said that personal checks were
accepted. However, the auction listing itself said you had to pay by
bank check or money order.
So I emailed the seller, Melissa from New York, to clarify the
discrepancy. I explained my confusion and politely asked if a check
was okay, given my stellar 676 eBay rating. I emailed her three times
in five days. Never heard back. Never heard back, that is, until the
official eBay summons.
I hate Melissa from New York. Hate her guts.
The eBay warning told me I had seven days to get the payment to the
seller or else enter the next ugly phase of the conflict. I emailed
Melissa again, explaining I did not go AWOL on her and had tried
numerous times to clarify her preferred method of payment.
Getting close to the deadline – and not wanting to find out what
happens to auction deadbeats – I marked the box that said I paid and
just mailed a personal check. The souvenir program arrived 10 days
later and eBay informed me the case was closed and “No Strike Given.”
Strike? I had no idea they gave out strikes.
“If a buyer gets too many strikes in too short a time
period, their account will be suspended indefinitely. In some cases,
limits may be placed on the buyer’s account in advance of suspension.”
eBay giveth privileges to buy Pez dispensers; eBay can taketh away.
They can shut you off anytime and they’re not bashful about reminding
you who’s in charge. Whattya gonna do? Check out Yahoo’s lame-o
There is an appeal process to have a strike removed from your
permanent record. But after reading the fine print, I’d bet death row
inmates in Texas have a better chance of clemency.
Meanwhile, I’ve been contemplating the best forms of retribution to
strike back at Evil Melissa. Do I mail her a tersely worded note of
condemnation, hoping she will feel remorse about her overly litigious
behavior? Do I try to impose sanctions on her town in upstate NY? Do
I drive a few hundred miles, bang on her door in the middle of the
night and demand closure?
I’ve already ruled out the obvious option: giving her nasty negative
feedback. That’s only a guarantee for the same treatment back,
blemishing my 99.4 percent pedigree.
Mutual Assured Destruction caused me to exercise restraint and walk
away from possible escalation. Like I said, maybe eBay should take a
crack at resolving international conflicts.
Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in
Encore. Reader correspondence is welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org