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Giving People the Time of Day--on eBay
Less than half a year into my new eBay niche of selling vintage and contemporary print ads, I've stumbled across a couple of valuable lessons.
Arguably, one of the most aesthetically appealing sub-categories of paper ephemera happens to be watch ads.
It also happens to be, hands down, the most exasperating.
Seems the universe has a keen sense of humor about balancing the cosmic scales. Just when I think I'm picking up decent speed on this fun and exciting eBay roller coaster ride, I run smack dab into these irritating, time-consuming, and humbling derailments.
Let me put it this way. If I'm selling an ad for cars with a price of $9.98, no one in the world would assume that I'm selling cars. The same would apply to ads for alcohol or guns or trains. Everyone I've had transactions with knows with absolute certainty that I'm selling paper advertisements.
But when I sell original print advertisements for watches, all of a sudden everyone and his cousin thinks I'm selling the actual product instead of EXACTLY WHAT I CLAIM TO BE SELLING--a piece of paper!
More often than not, it happens with the contemporary ads.
Modern print advertisements for timepieces are very elegant, appearing in the thick, glossy-paged, and more expensive magazines. The ad agencies apparently cut no corners in the budgeting of their printed media promotions.
Admittedly, as I glean these ads from their respective periodicals, I am awestruck at their beauty, intricacy, and rich imagery. I can understand why potential customers are figuratively salivating over these ads.
Which is precisely why I add to my watch ads a bold, large, and sometimes colored disclaimer at the very beginning of my item description--
PLEASE READ: I am not selling a watch. I am selling a PRINT ADVERTISEMENT, as in MAGAZINE AD, not the watch.
And that's when the exasperation really begins. Why? Because I still encounter customers who buy a watch ad only to later renege.
See the top photo? I've sold that same ad not once, not twice, but now THREE TIMES to different customers, only to end up having to grit my teeth while politely maintaining the decorum of a professional seller.
After the third time--just this morning, as a matter of fact--I was almost tempted to tear the darn thing up and give up on selling watch ads.
But that would be totally against all that I'm trying to do...chief of which is my adamant stance against ever giving up.
God bless my customers. From a buyer's perspective, they're operating on the universal precept of getting something valuable for an absurdly cheap price. I mean, if I could get an iPad for $9.98, why, I might just overlook, either accidentally or purposefully, the large, bold print that states I'm buying a print advertisement, not the actual iPad.
But what really got my dander up this third time was that the buyer had the audacity to suggest that the description was--how did the customer put it?--"like tricky"--and that I should, in the future, "...please be more specific..."
This time, I went a bit beyond the polite and professional response. I reminded the buyer that I'd actually sent him (or her) several emails after the purchase had been made and paid for, requesting the buyer's confirmation that he or she knew exactly what they had just purchased. I even went one step further and requested the buyer's contact information from eBay so that I could place a personal phone call. (Alas, I tried, but the phone remained busy for hours...)
So, checking my email this morning and not finding the anticipated message claiming "Oops! I've made a mistake! Please cancel the transaction!", I processed the package and printed out the postage.
A few hours later, enjoying a power bar and Starbucks' morning roast, I received an email stating that the customer had sent me an email wanting to cancel the transaction because I had been very tricky. (By the way, I checked my inbox, and there was no such email.)
Ah, what's an eBay seller to do?
Well, as miffed as I may have been, I did the followng:
- Vented my true feelings (silently, of course, because--after all--I was at a public and crowded establishment);
- Took several deep breaths;
- Regrouped and mentally Rolodexed my options;
- Called my wife and asked her to lay aside the large envelope before going to the post office;
- Proactively, assertively, and responsibly wrote email messages reminding my customer about the disclaimer at the beginning of the ad and to carefully read future listings before purchasing items;
- Promptly refunded the customer;
- Cancelled the transaction from my end and asked the buyer to do the same in order that I might recoup my final value fees;
- Voided the mailing label (thus ensuring a PayPal refund for the amount spent on postage, a process that takes about two weeks);
- And relisted the item.
Why? Because I'm a glutton for punishment.
I've never been to Las Vegas, but I'm convinced that the odds are in favor of the same thing happening again...and again...and again.
Right about now, somewhere in New Delhi, or Singapore, or Copenhagen, someone is racing past the bold and italicized message in large font, probably excitedly yelling out to their spouse in their respective mother tongue--
"Honey, check this out! I can get this beautiful Swiss watch REALLY CHEAP!!!"