How I Got Involved In the Most Petty eBay Transaction of All Time

This is one of those petty stories you have to read with your own eyes in order to believe.

In preparation for my backpacking trip, I have been selling a large portion of my belongings on eBay. I want to radically simplify my life. To accomplish this, I have decided to create eBay listings for any of my non-essential belongings that have been laying around. If it holds little meaning or value, it’s getting listed online. They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. I’ve sold phone cases, gadgets, clothes, the list goes on and on.

One item that I have sold, miraculously, was a bookmark.

Oh, you know! Like the piece of paper that you place between the pages of a book so you don’t lose your place…? Yeah, that! I sold one of those for $5.00.

When I got the bid notification, I was shocked.

I listed it mostly for laughs and the “what if” but never did I expect someone would actually buy my bookmark.

It had a cute tassel with tiny small beads attached to the top. 3 people bid. I guess the bidders all found the bookmark pretty. Since I read on my Nook e-reader, it is quite unusual for me to pick up a paperback book these days. When I noticed the bookmark laying around in my bedroom, I reasoned with myself: I can either throw this out or I can list it on eBay and make a few extra bucks.

I doubt anyone would ever buy it but hey, why not try!?

To the winning bidder: You actually already had a bookmark but ok, we can trade.

After getting paid, I put the bookmark into a plain envelope, slapped on a stamp, and to the post office it went. In hindsight, yes, I was wrong. I will explain more on this in a moment.

3 days later, I open my e-mail and find an essay from the buyer.

Message from the Bookmark Buyer

Hello. I received this bookmark in the mail yesterday and opened the envelope this morning. To my great disappointment, a good amount of the small, silvery beads arrived broken in pieces on the bottom of the package. I’ve included pictures of the 3 broken beads so you can see the exact condition I received your bookmark in. If you compare it to the pictures in the original listing it is no longer the same bookmark. I was hoping that it would come in a padded mailer for the $2.50 shipping I paid, not just a regular letter mailer with a stamp. I was super excited to get and use this bookmark and it just sad that it arrived damaged. I would like to return it now please and get a full refund. Thank you for your understanding and anticipated cooperation.

Now, I fully acknowledge that the customer was right. However, this is also where things start to get a little bit petty because I know how the bookmark looked thanks to the MANY photos from far away and up close she attached to her email and I know that if the roles were reversed, I would have just used the bookmark as it was and not thought much of it.

Without comparing it to the original images, you’d never even notice the missing beads. However, she was right and it did arrive damaged on my own fault.

For that reason, I agreed to issue her a refund.

Now I had 4 options. I could:

  1. Issue her a full refund and allow her to keep the item.
  2. Issue a partial refund.
  3. Accept a return first and then issue a refund.
  4. Say no. Case closed.

The easiest and cheapest option would be to just issue a refund and not for her request the item back. My internal pettiness didn’t want to do that though because I felt like she’d get her refund and just use the bookmark anyway. The thought of that annoyed me.

Even though it required me to wager an additional $2 loss over this $5 item, I opted to have eBay send her a $2.00 shipping return label that I’d only be charged for if she used. My logic was that she’d probably spend more money on the return packaging than she ever spent on the $5.00 bookmark, to begin with. So maybe she wouldn’t even bother to proceed with the return.

I’m horrible. I know. I’m sorry.

One week later…

My dad walks into the kitchen and asks me, “Hey Rock? Did you order something?”

“No, Dad. Why?” I replied. My father walks in with a package and hands this to me.

“What did I order that is fragile….?” I pondered.

That’s when it HIT ME.

NO! SHE DIDN’T!!! Oh… my.. goodness. Please tell me this is a joke. 

Obviously, I immediately realized what I was holding in my hands.

I proceed to peel open the envelope with caution.

Oh wait, I can’t.

She taped the manila envelope shut. I found scissors to slice it open.

Oh whaddayaknow, there is yet another envelope inside.

Very safe. What wonderful shipping.

Isn’t this amazing?

What did she do?

Quadruple package the freaking…. paper bookmark?

From there, I go to open the Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope.

To answer my previous question: yes.

It appears the answer to that is going to be a resounding yes.

She totally quadruple packaged the bookmark.

Inside the mailer was yet another layer of thickly double-wrapped bubble wrap protecting the precious bookmark. AND INSIDE THERE WAS MY BOOKMARK.

HALLELUJAH!

I know I was petty here but so was she.

Sometimes, it is SO difficult to take someone seriously when it feels like they are trying to pull one over on you. It’s something I have to get better at. I’ll never repeat this mistake again. Now I see the full value of why a no-questions-asked return policy should be standard practice in business.

Besides, who has time for this stuff!? If someone’s unhappy, tend to the relationship. Money should never be the focus. I took it too personally and lost sight of that. Ugh, I was so stupid.

Opening her return package showed me we’d entered some kind of war, each trying to prove our own point. It was so stupid but still kind of funny in retrospect! Funny only because of its extremity. A war over a $5.00 bookmark that also could have just gone into the trash…. What was I trying to prove? In business, sellers are never meant to “prove a point.”

I issued her the full refund, sent an apology, and just called it a day.

THE PETTY FIGHTING IS NOT WORTH MY TIME.

Lesson learned.

Never doubt a customer’s decision because the customer is always right.

This transaction made me feel like that guy from The X-Factor who almost dropped out of his audition because his friend/boyfriend gave him undercooked chicken putting him at risk of getting salmonella poisoning.

That is the exact level of pettiness we had going on with this freaking cursed eBay transaction.

Welcome to The Rocky Safari

Hi, I'm Rocky Trifari. I am a huge proponent of long-term travel as a lifestyle. The Rocky Safari chronicles my strangest experiences around the world. I share stories about the most bizarre situations I have found myself in while exploring. My goal is to visit every country.

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16 Comments

  1. Awesome! I’d have had to send a return letter, explaining how I was relieved to know, in a world riddled with war, starving people, incurable diseases, homelessness, chemical weapons attacks, human trafficking, racial inequality, mutilation of women, and mass shooting of children, we were never too distracted to address the most important matters in life, no matter how small or trivial they may seem, like getting a damaged bookmark that clearly could scar a person for life, diminishing any chance at joy or happiness they had once dreamed of achieving. I’d have also sent a batch of brand new bookmarks, wrapped in a note that said the unintentional emotional damage I inadvertently caused through my lack of proper packaging would haunt me the rest of my days and ensure I’d never enjoy reading anything again.

    But that’s just me 🙂

  2. Suze

    oh my dear……………that is just too funny (and petty) for words to express! I give two thumbs up for the laughter…and also for knowing I am not the only one to ever sell ridiculous stuff on ebay!

    1. The Rocky Safari

      Hahaha I am glad you enjoyed our banter. Can’t handle this bookmark girl. ? Oh and don’t worry, if something is even remotely sellable, I’m listing it. I have no shame on eBay. Worst case is it won’t sell and now it can officially become garbage.

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