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Giving People the Time of Day--on eBay

Updated on August 9, 2013
2010 Chanel Watch Ad
2010 Chanel Watch Ad | Source
2011 Graff Watch Ad
2011 Graff Watch Ad | Source
1947 Hamilton Watch Ad
1947 Hamilton Watch Ad | Source
2012 Rolex Watch Ad
2012 Rolex Watch Ad | Source
1961 Bulova Watch Ad
1961 Bulova Watch Ad | Source
2010 Cartier Watch Ad
2010 Cartier Watch Ad | Source
1925 Longines Watch Ad
1925 Longines Watch Ad | Source

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!!!"


Submit a Comment

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thanks, wetnosedogs. The traffic has virtually come to a standstill on eBay. I'm hoping it's just a temporary thing. I need to research if Google has changed anything that might have affected things on eBay. Gratefully, there are alternative venues I can explore. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

  • wetnosedogs profile image

    wetnosedogs 5 years ago from Alabama

    This is fascinating what you went through and finally got a nice explanation from the wife. Hope Ebay is going better for you.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Amen, brother! So we do what we gotta do--our part in keeping things as reputable as possible--and hope for the best...essentially, things do work out for the best. Thanks for your support!

  • RichardPac profile image

    RichardPac 5 years ago from Sunny Florida!

    I tend to agree with you. Since Meg's departure and the ability for sellers to leave negative feedback, things have been going downhill.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    RichardPac, I hear you loud and clear. Thank you very much for identifying with my frustration and for sharing your personal experience with fellow Hubbers and me.I'm very grateful to eBay, but ever since the passing of the torch from Meg Whitman to her successor, there has been such a tremendous imbalance, in my opinion, where each year the bar of expectations is raised higher for conscientious sellers while consequences for irresponsible buyers become less and less meaningful. We can take heart in the new startups that are underscoring incentives for sellers. Thanks for your encouraging words. I wish you continued success on HubPages, RichardPac! Aloha!

  • RichardPac profile image

    RichardPac 5 years ago from Sunny Florida!

    I too have had many run ins with ebay buyers. My most frustrating was a Harley Davidson helmet that I personally used and had a large gouge on the face mask.. Made it abundantly clear, took pictures the whole thing.. Would you believe the buyer tried to sam me out of the entire helmet! I shipped it to him, and he had the nerves to file an ebay and paypal claim that there was scratch on the face mask.. What was even more aggravating is that ebay sided with him! At first.. I went through three appeals, and the money for the $200 helmet was tied up for about a week, but I finally got the sale to stick. I got a negative feedback on it, but the buyer wanted me to buy a new shield for his new helmet.. Sorry but as the seller I was right.. The buyer is not always correct... Just keep plugging along, and good things will happen with your budding ebay business.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Postlude to this hub:

    A few hours after I published this hub, I received a message on eBay from the wife of the man who purchased the watch ad and then asked for a refund. Here's what she wrote in broken English:

    "Hi,im really sorry and,im apologize for my mistake,but i neeed to give an explanation,my husband made the order.and he can't read english very well,and im sent you the mesage without read your ad,your right,im so just listen to my husband.if you give me an adress im can send you the cost of the postage. thanks and again im sorry.god bless you"

    Wow! Her humble message really touched my heart. So I sent her the following response:

    "Bless your heart, dear...not to worry. In about two weeks, PayPal should reimburse the postage. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. Thank you for understanding that I don't set out to trick people. To make things easier, I did take your husband's critique to heart and added another disclaimer in the title. This wasn't the first time that it happened.

    "Thank you for reinforcing my belief that the great majority of people on eBay are honest and have a sense of global community. Please extend my warm aloha to your husband. Thank you again for making my evening with your kind remarks. I will be sure to share this occurrence with my wife.

    "Best regards,"

    (my signature)

    I tell you, fellow Hubbers, the lessons of life keep on coming...

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thanks, sls450! It may seem like I'm making a big deal out of a trivial thing, but in over twelve years of selling on eBay, I've never seen (as I have in the last two months) so many non-paying and errant buyers. Yes, I realize it may be--as eBay reminds me--a sign of the economy, but we sellers are just as much a part of that economy as are buyers. Your empathy means a lot to me. Best wishes, and aloha!

  • sls450 profile image

    sls450 5 years ago from USA

    I feel your pain, thanks for sharing.