Pritish Chakraborty

Work and Everything Else

eBay India: A Cautionary Tale of Pain & Frustration

As Flipkart attempts to breathe new life into the dead and decrepit Indian arm of eBay with its “Reboxed” sale and other promotions, I provide you with a cautionary tale which will keep online shoppers awake at night (long post ahead).

I’m sure eBay users have been bombarded with “#REBOXED: Try toh karke dekho!” e-mails at some point. I’m not sure how well eBay are doing after their recent acquisition by Flipkart, but they’re alive still. The irony of them promoting refurbished items is what prompted me to write this post - almost eight months after I bought a (poorly) refurbished Xbox One from a seller on eBay, only to find that it was dead-on-arrival.

Bugger off, man

What followed was months of frustration and back-and-forth with eBay India’s PaisaPay Guarantee team and Microsoft support. Amazon and Flipkart users (especially the former - their service is truly exceptional) are used to being coddled by their customer support teams. If you are expecting even 30% of the same, if not the exact same, from eBay India, this post should make you change your mind.

Having pooled in for a close friend’s Xbox One purchase, I was quite keen to acquire my own so that we could co-op together on Xbox Live. My friend is quite good at finding discounted electronics online, and his recommendations usually stand the test of time. From a bunch of links that he gave, I stumbled upon this product listing (it might not be available now, but I will provide screenshots below).

Here is a rough timeline of the events that transpired -:

April 4: I purchased the device. The seller shipped it in 4 days, which was quick, but I had no idea what was coming. The device was supposed to have a 6-month Microsoft warranty, and I’d paid 18k for it. The market price at the time was 26k or so, so it seemed like a great deal.

April 8: The device wouldn’t boot fully and get past the Xbox start animation. This is popularly known as the “Green Screen of Death”. I had tried Microsoft’s device reset technique to no avail. I then filed an eBay guarantee claim on their portal. Below is a recording of the product listing that I took (view in fullscreen mode).

Product Listing

April 9: I received a call from eBay’s claims team. The guy was not in the least bit interested in resolving my issue. He kept parroting the “fact” that the device was under warranty, and that I should go to the manufacturer and get the device replaced. He repeatedly said that they would close the claim.

It took me a few seconds to process what the hell was going on, but once I got my bearings, I shot back that if the seller would’ve specified on their listing that the device was to be non-functional/dead, I would’ve not purchased it in the first place.

This seemed to confuse the claims guy, and he put me on hold for 10 more minutes. He then reiterated that eBay’s policy on refurbished items under “warranty” prevents them from doing anything about it, but said that he would not close my claim as per my request. Bear in mind that all this happened during the time I was getting into my car to head to office.

The guy wasted a good 20-25 minutes of my time heckling me with “close claim huehuehuehu” and left just as unceremoniously. After this incident, my claim would go into a black hole for 10 days.

April 15: I emailed eBay customer support about my claim because they were just dilly-dallying at this point, probably hoping that I would give up and close it myself. I wasn’t going to do such a thing.

April 18: I received a customer support reply stating that they were still investigating my case and that I should be patient. In the meanwhile, they kept asking me to upload higher quality images of the device on their claims portal. I offered to give them videos that I’d recorded of the device failing to boot, but they did not acknowledge it.

There was no option to upload videos on their portal, almost as if it was designed to frustrate the customer. The portal itself looked like something out of the early 2000s. I sent these videos in emails to their customer service, but they ignored them each time.

April 25: On my very first call with eBay (claims team, which is different from their support team, as I would come to realize later), I had also requested followup with a seniorperson, but they had refused to oblige, stating that they would say the same thing. On 25th, I received a call from eBay support while I was driving back home, so I told them that I could not talk at the moment. They continued to send automated emails about uploading higher quality images on my claim page.

April 26: I emailed them and requested them to call at a specific time in the evening. No luck.

April 27: Their claims team called me up and told me that my claim was going to be rejected. I asked to talk to a seniorperson but once again, they told me that the senior would say the same thing. I argued a lot but it led to a dead end. Perhaps I was going about it the wrong way? Perhaps I should’ve had the device replaced under warranty - maybe they were right?

Now let’s take a breather before we dive into the spicy bits. When I asked my initial test audience to review this article, they (just the one guy out of this audience, actually) came up with a passionate defence of eBay, of how its workers are underpaid, how it has its own distinct style and identity, of how I did not read the fine print and the item description and deserved to fall into this hole of misery, and finally of how me expecting a better user experience after having used competitor sites like Amazon (and uptil recently, Flipkart) was akin to digging this hole for myself.

Let’s address these comments one by one.

Workers underpaid: While I feel for them, having been grossly underpaid at the beginning of my career, I don’t get how this is my fault and why this somehow excuses them into treating my case like they did.

Distinct style and identity: Perhaps eBay should state this in bold on their website’s landing pages and mention that they’re only for e-commerce power users who look at the 2000s through nostalgia goggles.

Item description: This came up because the audience pointed out that I did not immediately email the seller on their work email, which was mentioned near the bottom of the listing. Somehow this also meant that I did not read the item description. This point will be addressed entirely by the next section, after our intermission. There is also the fact that eBay contacts the seller as part of the resolution process, and the seller did not budge.

User experience: I explained that the modern user generalizes e-commerce websites in their mind for ease of use. While the user understands that eBay is first and foremost an auction platform, they expect some basic things from these platforms - user experience and decent customer service. These are merely the standards that the competition has set. Not adhering to them is why people moved to competitors in droves in the first place.

eBay didn’t get acquired because it had great intrinsic value, it got acquired because Flipkart thinks that it’s assembling its own version of the Avengers against the big bad Amazon, except none of them have superpowers and Amazon has a lot of cash.

All in all, these arguments combined sound suspiciously like a this is just how things are argument. Maybe the next time you’re standing in a huge line at an old-style, inefficiently run government office, think of the guy behind the counter as being underpaid and deserving of your bribe money, and the office as having their own distinct identity and style of running things.

This is just how things are, fool. It’s lunch hour now, see ya later.

With all that out of the way, and me successfully coming off as a pompous, poor people hating asshole, let’s get to the second half of our movie, with plot twist and all.

April 27 (contd): That night, I finally decided to check Microsoft’s Xbox portal and found, to my ironic amusement, that the device was not even under manufacturer warranty. After all of eBay’s stonewalling, I learned that I could not even take the device to a Microsoft service center.

I tried emailing customer support about this several times on the Friday of that week, with proof of warranty having expired in 2016, but I got the same reply from multiple support team executives - that I would need to acquire a dead-on-arrival letter from a Microsoft service center, with the appraiser’s contact details and address.

I was going to find out that no one “goes” to a Microsoft service center - we’re meant to request pickup-and-drop if the machine is under warranty. eBay was hell-bent on making this impossible for me, and I just wouldn’t take the hint.

April 29-30: I called up eBay customer service, argued with the service executive and got through to a senior executive. I told this executive (Ms. Baninder, posted at eBay’s Gujarat center) the steps I took to confirm that my device was indeed not under warranty, and she repeated the steps exactly as I told her to. She then informed me that she would be forwarding this proof of expiry to the claims team internally, and that they would contact me in 48 hours. This cost me my Saturday evening.

The serial number from the machine

Proof of expiry

Full view of proof of expiry

May 1: The claims team called me back and, as you might have guessed by now, stonewalled even further. They asked for a Dead-On-Arrival/service center authorization letter, and that they would not reopen my claim without it. They were adamant about this, throwing around the “policy” word and pretending to be helpless about it. An hour of my office work-time went to waste. The support team wasn’t very supportive either: they kept treating the matter as if they had thoroughly investigated it and claimed that the device was under “manufacturer warranty”, even after I’d shown them that it was not. The implication of all this was that I was lying to them, which was insulting to put it very mildly.

I decided to contact Microsoft support in parallel. They informed me that Microsoft does not provide DOA letters and you can’t go to a service center (i.e., they aren’t customer-facing). They construed a screenshot of their Xbox portal showing proof of expiry as legal evidence. I also got the support executive to email me from a Microsoft-verified address that the device was indeed expired. I forwarded this to eBay, but at this juncture, I knew it was pointless.

Jayce and Cove were both MS support executives

File a case - what do you think I’d been doing until then mate?

May 2: I had my final call with eBay support. I was told that my case could be forwarded back to the claims team, but that they would only reject it without this mythical DOA letter. I provided all the information and evidence to them one last time, but their reply had the familiar phrases - “policy”, “DOA”, “service center”, “can’t do anything”.

After this, on the advice of my friend (last ditch effort), I contacted the seller on eBay with all the information, as well as a mild threat that I would take the matter to court. They never responded, and what was even funnier was that there were several other people who complained about this seller on eBay’s product ratings page for various product listings.

When I first bought the device, there was only the one positive review on the Xbox listing, and I hadn’t bothered to look hard enough at the negative reviews of the seller’s other listings. There were multiple complaints of the other products not being under warranty that would’ve raised suspicion in my mind. The Xbox complaints came later.

What beats me is how this guy continued to sell on eBay after all these complaints, but then I figured that if eBay Guarantee was full of such horseshit, of course the guy would get away with it. When independently testing the accessories that came with the device, I found even the Xbox controller to be broken/not working. I didn’t bother to test the Kinect module after that.

There were some hilarious negative reviews too, apart from the warranty complaints

So if you come across a refurbished product on eBay and decide to buy, hell, I would probably encourage you to if it’s a good deal. But keep in mind that -:

  1. The seller should have a 95% or more rating - an absolute must.
  2. The hassle that you would have to go through if you end up with a shit product - I don’t think an acquisition will have changed things.

And if you’re wondering what the redeeming factor of this story is, or what the ultimate payoff is - there is none. I lost a hard-earned 18,000, something I did not think was possible in this era of e-commerce, and learned a life lesson. Let that sink in for a minute - it’s all fun and games until it’s you on the receiving end. Think of the two points above when making purchases, and you should be fine (mostly).

Happy shopping!