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How to Resolve a Problem When Buying On eBay

Updated on November 28, 2010

I have been buying and selling items on eBay for many years. While 99% of my transactions have gone very smoothly, there is that 1% that causes problems. It is hard when you trust another person whom you don't know to either pay you what they say they will, or send you the item that you have paid for. I think eBay is probably the safest place on the internet to buy and sell because they have a lot of rules, regulations and protections in place to help make things go smoothly. Nevertheless, there are sometimes problems. Here is what you should do if you run into problems as a buyer.

If you are in the market to buy a new book, for instance, and you find what you are looking for on eBay for a great price you should feel pretty confident that the transaction will go smoothly. eBay does a great job of protecting the buyer, in fact sometimes I feel they lean too strongly in that direction, but when you realize that the buyer is blindly sending someone their money, trusting they will receive what they paid for, I guess it makes sense. But you have a responsibility to make sure you know what you are buying as well.

Once you have won an auction it is time to pay. In most instances you can do this right away online, as the seller should have already determined the shipping charges. After you have paid for an item you should receive an email notice from the seller that the item has shipped. If a couple of days go by with no communication then you can go into your account and send the seller an email making sure everything is OK. Hopefully you will receive a response.

At that point you just have to wait for the item to arrive. For most items a week is more than sufficient, unless the item is being shipping to a different country and then you should give it extra time. If a week goes by with no communication and you still haven't received the item it is time for another email.

Sometimes an item is not as it was described. I have received fake purses, the wrong coupons, broken items, etc. eBay wants a buyer and seller to resolve the problem themselves if at all possible. Your first step is to contact the seller. Be polite and stay calm. I always go back and look at the auction again before emailing the seller, just to make sure I am right. Usually the seller will want to resolve the issue as best they can quickly. This is not always the case and then it is time to contact eBay.

Yes, resolving the issue on the buying end is a long process. Email the seller again (through eBay so there will be a record of it) and mention what is wrong and that it has been x number of days and the problem has not been resolved.  Be specific about the problem ( still haven't received the item, the item was damaged, or it wasn't what you won, etc) and state what you want done about it. eBay won't do anything until at least seven days after you send this email. At that point it will have been two or three weeks and it is time to take further action.

Log into your account through "My eBay". Once it comes up scroll over the "account" tab at the top. Under this you will see Resolution Center. When you get to the Resolution Center it will ask you if you are a buyer or seller. You will choose buyer and then the items you have won should appear. Click the one you need help resolving. You will open a case and eBay will walk you through the steps of what to do next. I have found it helpful to do a Live Chat with someone, as that can clear up a lot of issues, but you can also talk to someone on the phone. Sometimes all it takes is an email from eBay to the seller to get them to refund your money or fix the situation.

Fortunately for buyers eBay offers the Buyer Protection Plan. If eBay contacts a seller for you and the seller still does not fix the problem you can go back to eBay to get your money refunded from them. This is a nice safety net, but remember you have to have proof of what is wrong with the transaction. Keep detailed records of everything that happened, including all emails sent or received. This will help your case. In the end, buying on eBay is one of the safest places to buy directly from an individual so be confident that you will most likely never have a problem at all. And even if you do, you should be able to get it resolved.


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    • profile image

      Kai Lawrence 

      5 years ago

      Here’s a workaround I use, if you are fed up of being shut out of auctions because the eBay seller does not ship to your country. The same goes for online retailers who refuse to ship to your destination.

      When you sign up with BPM, you get local shipping addresses in 6 countries.

      Drop points include: USA, UK, Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. You then use these for buying from whom you want, regardless of where the seller ships or not.

      You then have all your purchases combined into one, even from the different countries, and use the parcel mail forwarding service to have everything sent home in only one shipment, wherever you are in the world!

      Membership for renting these addresses and using the service is only 5€ per month.

      You can check it out on

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for your good advice which I needed in case there goes something wrong.

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 

      7 years ago from UK

      Useful hub.

    • suziecat7 profile image


      7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I, like you, have had pretty good luck as both an Ebay seller nd buyer. I did get negative feedback from a lady who found one of my hairs stuck in the tape of her package. Yikes. Great Hub - very useful.

    • samsons1 profile image


      7 years ago from Tennessee

      voted up & useful! Thanks for this informative article. Last year about this time I got 'burnt' by being so trusting. It wasn't eBay's fault and I finally received some satisfaction but the old adage 'once bitten, twice shy' still applies...


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