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Paypal Orders Buyer of Violin To Destroy It For a Refund 362

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-had-to-destroy-the-village-in-order-to-save-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Erica was once the owner of an old violin that had survived through WWII, and decided to sell it on Ebay for $2500. The person who bought it decided it was a counterfeit and wanted his money back. Paypal decided to honor the request for a refund on the condition that the buyer destroy the violin and provided photographic evidence of the destruction. Couldn't he have just returned it?" Sounds like a hoax to me, but I guess it's possible.
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Paypal Orders Buyer of Violin To Destroy It For a Refund

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  • Read Paypal's Buyer Protection [paypal.com] which contains this little gem under Dispute Resolution:

    Comply with PayPal's shipping requests in a timely manner.

    For SNAD Claims, PayPal may require you to ship the item back to the seller - or to PayPal - or to a third party at your expense, and to provide proof of delivery. Please take reasonable precautions in re-packing the item to reduce the risk of damage to the item during transit. PayPal may also require you to destroy the item and to provide evidence of its destruction.

    For transactions that total less than USD $250 (or local currency equivalent), proof of delivery is confirmation that can be viewed online and includes: recipient's (seller's) address, showing at least city, postal code, state, or country (or equivalent), delivery date, and the URL to the shipping company's web site if you've selected "Other" in the shipping drop down menu. For transactions that total USD $250 or more, you must get signature confirmation of the delivery.

    Emphasis mine. Note, I found this at the original article over at Regretsy [regretsy.com] along with a picture for those of you who are lazy [regretsy.com].

    Well, at least everyone involved has a crazy story to tell: "Gather 'round children and let me tell you about the time I had to destroy a hundred year old violin in a timely manner. FuhrerMarks had instructed me -- back then they were known as 'PayPal' -- to destroy the violin after a dispute about its label ..."

    • by Toe, The (545098) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:36AM (#38585884)

      1. But $100 violin, then claim it's a fake
      2. Buy $5 violin, smash it up, send photo to PayPal
      3. Profit!

      • Teach a man to fish ...
        1. Buy $5 violin, smash it up.
        2. Sell pictures of smashed up violin in different arrangements for $25 each.
        3. Profit!
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:54AM (#38586124)

        Smashing idea! Simply smashing!

      • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:54AM (#38586130) Homepage

        According to some people, the violin should have been sent back instead.

        1. Buy $2500 violin, then claim it's a fake.
        2. Buy a $100 fake violin, return it instead of the real one.
        3. Profit!

        Only possible option would be for Paypal to let an independant expert verify the violin's authenticity, then let the losing party pay for the expert.

        • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:01PM (#38586212) Journal

          The problem in any case is, if the buyer swaps the violin, how do you prove the buy swapped it, or didn't?

          • by John Napkintosh (140126) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:11PM (#38586340) Homepage

            And to play devil's advocate, the seller could have just as easily authenticated the $2500 violin and then shipped the buyer a $100 fake.

        • by jythie (914043)
          Apparently years ago they used to do just that.. but now that they have a stranglehold on eBay they have dropped such complexity for a simpler system that screws merchants over pretty badly.
          • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:15PM (#38586386) Homepage Journal

            they have dropped such complexity for a simpler system that screws merchants over pretty badly.

            The pendulum of balance has been swinging wildly back and forth between buyer and seller at ebay. It wasn't too long ago that sellers were routinely screwing over buyers and leaving scathing negative feedback if they tried to get any resolution. (a buyer with ~25 feedback gets hurt a lot more than a seller with 10,000 feedback when each leaves the other a negative, and they knew it) That's why sellers can't leave buyers negative feedback anymore - too much abuse. I personally got burnt by a seller on two occasions there before they started adjusting things. (one cost me $156 - wound up with no product and no cash, PLUS a negative feedback, with a comment that made me look like the bad guy)

            In a local sale, the seller is usually at a disadvantage - in most cases returning items is very easy, so much so that for common issues sellers have to specifically exclude returns due to abuse - like water pumps and generators in times of flooding and ice storms. Lots of abuse of buy-use-return abuse on tools too. A properly working buyer/seller system doesn't appear "balanced and fair" from a casual glance, it appears to be tilted toward the buyer. But in reality, that's where fairness lives.

            • by jythie (914043) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:24PM (#38586504)
              True, and eBay still has many scammer sellers on it (though often the scamming has moved up and is sellers scamming resellers)... but I think the big thing here is they do not even seem to have a resolution process... PayPal is infamous for 'we internally decided X, you have no recourse, we legally own your money, you are not getting it back'. Their whole model is crummy.
            • (a buyer with ~25 feedback gets hurt a lot more than a seller with 10,000 feedback when each leaves the other a negative, and they knew it)

              eBay's whole feedback system is a circle jerk anyway. You give me good feedback and I'll give you good feedback. It's designed to bury negative feedback in positive feedback. Basically, most buyers don't care what good feedback a seller gets. Maybe neutral, but you want to see what kind of negatives a seller has. A much better system would be showing neutrals and negatives but only counting positives. Then a prospective buyer could see what neutral/negative feedback was received over how many successful/positive auctions. Currently you have to wade through thousands of A+++++++++++++++++++++ useless feedback to see how a seller handles an auction where both parties weren't happy. And if you were going to display ANY positive feedback, it would be from buyers who initially posted neutral/negative and choose to change it to positive after resolution.

              • by jamesh (87723) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @04:02PM (#38588832)

                It would be nice if you could also see the feedback weighted by the sell price. A reseller could sell hundreds of $2 items legitimately but run a scam for high value items selling less frequently and still maintain a fairly good feedback balance.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Whyte Panther (868438)

                Actually, that has been changed recently. If you look at a seller's feedback page, you can see the chart showing the number of positive, neutral and negative comments in the last month/6 months/year. Click on the number of comments, and they're filtered, showing only the neutral or negative comments you want to read. Quite convienient.

            • by residieu (577863)
              A buyer who gets negative feedback just dumps his account and starts a new one. Sellers don't demand that buyers have extensive histories before they'll take the money. A seller who gets negative feedback is stuck. He needs his history, so buyers know he's a legitimate seller, but those black marks really hurt hium.
        • by Viewsonic (584922)

          1. Buy $2500 violin, then claim it's a fake.
          2. Buy a $100 fake violin.
          4. Buy lotto ticket.
          5. Win lotto.
          6. Profit with TWO violins!

      • by jythie (914043) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:00PM (#38586202)
        From listening to other merchants, turns out this is a known scam. Buyers take advantage of PayPal's policy of 'buyer is always right' and end up with both the money and the item, which they often turn around and resell. There have also been cases of people buying stuff, returning for a refund, and shipping back something else of much less value... with again PayPal supporting the buyer.
        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:56PM (#38586820)

          There's a lesson here: Don't use Paypal to sell any expensive items. If you're selling a bunch of things that are $10, then if you have a problem with some jerk-off buyer, it's no big loss. Plus, scamming buyers probably won't bother to scam you anyway, since they're not going to profit very much by scamming you out of a $10 item. If you're selling something that costs thousands at quantity 1, then use a different service; either have the buyer send a cashier's check, or set up a merchant account with Visa/MC (obviously not practical if you're only selling one expensive item, but if you have a business selling lots of expensive items it'll be feasible), or find a different service such as Google Payments.

        • by jdavidb (449077)

          I don't remember PayPal having a "buyer is always right" policy. Of all the problems I've reported to PayPay, the response has always been a very slow investigation, sometimes culminating in "We have found out that you are in the right. We are able to recover $0.00, which we now return to you." Then I report the situation to my credit card, which refunds my money. Then PayPal sends me a "We wish you would have contacted us first about your dispute" letter.

          I suppose in all that they nominally acknowledge

        • by bfandreas (603438) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @07:14PM (#38590884)
          It most definitely isn't a hoax.
          The violin had a label naming Maurice Bourguignon in it. The interesting thing here is that this doesn't claim that it was actually built by him or even in his workshop. It was used to denote that it was at least built in the image of his style and technique. Think a modern Les Paul replica if you must.
          Now I can't imagine you'll get a certified and genuine Maurice Bourguignon at a price tag of $2500. So what we have here is a clueless buyer, corporate insanity and a smashed antiquity with an interesting history. It even was assessed by an expert before the deal.
          The buyer comes over like a bit of a brat. The reasoning here is "I don't believe I got an original at less than a 10th of its price. So I will smash the thing because PayPal tells me so." And thus something of value or at least interest was lost.

          What really depresses me is that in this discussion people actually argued how you could make a scam based on this work. Rotten, materialistc, greedy, spineless bastards. I don't know how your brain works but I really hope this kind of senseless profiteering idiocy is nowhere near the norm or actually put in practice.

          If I felt malicious I'd say never ever send anything old over the Atlantic. But unfortunately this kind of moronic assumptuous Wikipedia fueled ignorance as displayed by the smashing buyer is ubiquitious.
      • by Asmor (775910) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:03PM (#38586244) Homepage

        Here's an old 2-man scam for you.

        The two of you are eating at a restaurant, separately. The first of you is dressed decently--not super well, but not shabby-- and has an old-looking violin. Personally, I make it a point of pride never to spend more than $10 on the violin. Anyways, after the meal, lament that you've forgotten your wallet, but here, hold onto my violin as collateral, and I'll be back in an hour.

        After you leave, the second fellow pulls aside the waiter and asks to inspect the violin. He then declares that this is a genuine so-and-so, worth thousands, and you'd be ever-so-interested in buying it and when did the violinist say he'd return? Oh no! I can't wait that long, I've a plane to catch. Here, give the man my card and let him know that I'm very interested in his violin.

        When the first person returns, the waiter in all likelihood will offer whatever he can scrounge up, perhaps a few hundred dollars, for the violin, keeping the other gentleman's offer to himself. The worst case scenario, the waiter simply passes the card along and you're out no more than the cost of lunch.

        (Kudos if you know where this is from)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Sounds more like a fiddle to me.

      • by ChatHuant (801522) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @07:38PM (#38591106)

        1. But $100 violin, then claim it's a fake
        2. Buy $5 violin, smash it up, send photo to PayPal
        3. Profit!

        Pfft, 95 bucks profit. That's chicken feed. Here's a better business plan

        1. Buy $5 violin. Smash it up
        2. Exhibit the debris at an art gallery, under a fancy name like "Postmodern deconstruction 7"
        3. Buy drinks to an art critic until he writes an article about "the latest development in modern art" and quotes you as a founder of the new movement
        4. Sell the debris for one million bucks

        Yes, I just visited the local modern art museum, why do you ask?

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      Hell, I'm surprised that PayPal didn't just ask for it to be shipped to them, and then turn around and sell it for another $2500.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:10PM (#38586316)
      What idiot would pay $2500 for a violin online without hearing it. For that amount of money I'd have to have physically inspected it first.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:20PM (#38586444)

        What idiot would pay $2500 for a violin online without hearing it. For that amount of money I'd have to have physically inspected it first.

        The kind that is scamming the seller?

      • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:45PM (#38586686)

        Uh, that's a good price for just about any decent-quality instrument, used or not. The seller probably could have got a lot more for it if they had done their homework.

        I play the euphonium -- if I found a B&H Imperial or a Besson Sovereign for that price, I'd use Buy it Now.

        • You still want to do a visual inspection on anything or have a third party do it. I bought a C&R rifle from a guy in AZ and a friend who lived nearby looked at it and confirmed it's legit and that it was in good shape. Same applies for a guitar since you can easily hide cracks in the neck with a bit of nail polish for a photo or just about any kind of damage that isn't 100% obvious.

  • Hey PayPal, ever heard of Photoshop?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Whats to stop the person making the claim from popping out to a thrift shop, buying an old educational violin for peanuts (or lashing out a slightly larger sum on a cheap Chinese violin), and "destroying" that? For a $2500 refund, I'm surprised thay don't require the whole, unbroken violin to be returned to PayPal.

  • Sure, ya, i destroyed the original.. Ya.. see here in this picture..

  • There is a site called "regretsy.com"... And here I was thinking I would get some work done this afternoon. Oh shit, they have a sister site called "uhpinions", too?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:43AM (#38586004)

    I sold a 24-port Fax board on eBay via PayPal when I decommissioned our internal fax server and went to an outsourced model about 3 years ago. The purchaser filed a claim with PayPal and said they could not get it to work. I asked for the item to be returned and I would refund. Instead PayPal reversed the money without them returning the product. I am not sure if they required them to destroy it but I lost the money and the fax board and it was a working device when it shipped. I have not sold on eBay or used PayPal as a seller since.

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      Did you file a report of mail fraud against the buyer? That would be the correct course of action
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:48AM (#38586066)

    This policy probably stems from modern counterfeit goods such as Rolex/Coach or whatever else knockoffs of expensive products are floating around. And it's bad enough there, let alone antiques, since companies of modern goods have a good incentive to suppress any secondhand market of their own products and some will flag listings as counterfeit just for the sake of it.

    But I have relatives in the antique business and in certain areas, you can really ask 10 experts and get 10 different opinions. Really. Or appraisers tell you different opinions based on what you pay and want to hear or their own agendas (if you didn't buy it from them, it becomes more suspect in some cases, petty politics like that, etc.)

    But that is besides the point. Here, Paypal broke the piece, they should buy it, at full price. It's not their place to determine what's fake or not. Even if it was, they are not law enforcement, they are acting as self-appointed vigilantes. Return shipping in the condition it was sent should be a requirement. And moreso, if they determine the seller is out their to sell counterfeit goods or defraud someone, they should shut down the account and forward evidence to the proper authorities.

    I hope the lady sues them and gets extra damages.

  • by WarlockD (623872) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:51AM (#38586102)
    She is screwed. I am sure the case would win agents PayPal as you could say they didn't have the technical expertise to verify it was fake. IANAL, but I cannot believe a judge in small clams court would deny that Paypal was stupid in this case.

    I am curious, any lawyers out there familiar with small clams? Would you sue the buyer, who lives out of country, because he is stupid and doesn't know a real from a fake or Paypal who ordered the destruction of the violin? If you do sue Paypal, do you just go to your local court for it, it doesn't seem like they would bother to send anyone there as it just be cheaper to pay her off.

    It all could be bogus though. Someone paying 2500 for a violin, even an amateur, might understand something "Made in Japan" doesn't make it 100 years old.
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:52PM (#38586762) Journal

      I am not a lawyer, but a few rules of thumb:

      In any legal dispute, the person that you usually take to court is the person that you have a direct relationship with. In this case, the buyer gave the money to PayPal and PayPal then did not give it to the seller, having agreed to, or took back the money for spurious reasons. PayPal should therefore be taken to court.

      Filing in a small claims court is usually very cheap and does not require a lawyer. The purpose of these courts is to allow low-value disputes to be resolved without involving the full legal process. File near you and PayPal has to send someone to your local court if they wish to defend it. If they don't defend then the judge or magistrate will rule based purely on your testimony.

      Small claims courts do not usually expect either party to be a lawyer (taking a lawyer to a small claims court can often prejudice the judge or magistrate against you) and are not expected to have detailed legal knowledge. They are simply expected to state their grievance and allow the judge to decide what statue and common law is applicable. In this case, the buyer would state that, as a result of PayPal's actions, they do not have the violin worth $2,500, nor do they have the money, and so they have lost $2,500. The judge would then decide whether PayPal had acted correctly in this case.

      Once you have a judgement, if PayPal refuses to pay then you can usually just hand it over to a collections agency. They will add something on top and require PayPal to pay the collections fee as well as the total amount of the judgement. If they still don't pay, then they will arrange to have PayPal assets confiscated and sold until the amount is reached.

  • by RicardoGCE (1173519) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:52AM (#38586112)

    It's the world's smallest violin, playing just for... DAMMIT, PAYPAL!

  • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:54AM (#38586136)

    FTA: "It is beyond me why PayPal simply didn't have the violin returned to me."

    It is beyond me why anyone uses PayPal. I feel genuinely sorry for the seller, but then again, caveat emptor. It's not as though there aren't thousands of well-publicized horror stories about these fuckwit douchebags - if you need a citation, just Google "paypal sucks" and check out a few of the 189,000 results. If PayPal were the last financial institution on earth I'd be keeping my money in my mattress.

    It's said that we get the government we deserve - I guess that applies to companies as well. If people would just stop using PayPal then they'd change their ways or go out of business. But I guess expecting the majority of people to get their heads out of their asses, do a little research, and take a principled stand on something is asking too much.

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:03PM (#38586242)
      Because there are few online payment services, the others are little better. Also because only one is supported by the world's largest auction site, and don't forget the network effect - a payment service is no good if the other party doesn't use it too.
    • by jythie (914043)
      Sadly, getting away from PayPal is not easy.

      As a seller, not accepting PayPal significantly decreases the amount of business you will get, and as a buyer one's options for sources is dramatically reduced if you do not want your money going through PayPal. They have the chicken and the egg, and figuring out how to get rid of either is non trivial.
    • by SGDarkKnight (253157) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:30PM (#38586572)

      Google "paypal sucks"

      Now, I'm not trying to defend PayPal by anymeans, but If you google that you get 11.4 million results, however if you google "paypal is the best" you get 1.22 billion results, thats a 93% happy ratio, so using that logic isn't good argument to make in this case.

      • by epiphani (254981)

        How would you feel if your bank only honored 93% of your deposits?

      • by Galestar (1473827)
        Its actually a 99.07% happy ratio according to my calculations

        in other news...
        "breast cancer is the best" = 323 million
        "breast cancer sucks" = 5.6 million
        98.3% happy ratio

        Granted, breast cancer has slightly less customer satisfaction than PayPal, but I'm thinking you can't really use that metric either. Either that or PayPal isn't aiming very high.
  • by Jaegs (645749) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:58AM (#38586176) Homepage Journal

    Were this just an isolated incident, I would be screaming hoax with the best of you; however, given PayPal's handling of a recent charity case, where a group had their account suspended after trying to raise money to buy presents for poor children, I'm not so sure. Quote PayPal's support: "You can use the donate button to raise money for a sick cat, but not poor people."

    http://www.regretsy.com/2011/12/05/cats-1-kids-0/ [regretsy.com]

  • by mekkab (133181) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:15PM (#38586380) Homepage Journal
    the bass bar shape has changed, the neck has been lengthened, the fingerboard has been lengthened, the neck has been mortised, the tailpiece, bridge, pegs, have had their shape changed. It doesn't even have original catgut strings! Antonio Stradivari wouldn't recognize this. Burn it, so that others may not have it, either.
  • by FeatherBoa (469218) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:16PM (#38586396)

    I think it would be a good idea to sue Ebay Canada/PayPal Canada in small claims court.

    The courts have already decided http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/fct/doc/2007/2007fc930/2007fc930.html [canlii.org] that EBay Canada is a distinct legal entity. It would be interesting to have them show up in court to explain themselves. They would likely lose, and would definitely be out of pocket more that $2.5K just to put in an appearance.

    Just because their dispute resolution policy says that they "MAY ask for destruction" does not defend them that they have applied this policy reasonably. The seller could reasonably obtain a judgment that the application of that policy was improper, in this instance, and that EBay has to cough up the $2.5K.

  • by djl4570 (801529) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @12:45PM (#38586698) Journal
    The hand crafting of fine violins often involves a master, journeymen and apprentices. Once crafted and approved the master applies his label to the instrument but the violin may have been made by a journeyman to the master's standards. Journeymen can become masters in their own right and apprentices become journeymen. It's possible for one shop to have several journeymen of varying experience over the years. After the instrument is sold and used it can require service. The bridges get broken, the peg holes wear, the neck might have to be reset so additional luthiers may have worked on the instrument. This is one way that labels can end up being disputed.
  • by sootman (158191) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @01:23PM (#38587160) Homepage Journal

    This policy makes sense for about five seconds--"Hey, instead of giving a counterfeit item back to a seller so they can just scam someone else with it, destroy it!"--until you think about about a) the possibility of mistakes and b) the potential for abuse. At that point you say "Oh, right, that's stupid" and no one ever speaks of it again. PayPal is RETARDED for keeping it in place.

    Sadly, eBay is still a HUGE (the hugest?) market for many kinds of goods, and they're tied in with PayPal, so it's a chance you take when you do business there. Just as you shouldn't take anything rafting that you aren't willing to lose at the bottom of a river forever, you probably shouldn't sell anything on eBay that you're not willing to take a loss on.

    But yeah... this particular incident totally sucks. There should never be any kind of punishment without some kind of proof. No claim of any kind should ever result in automatic long-term or permanent anything, just like with DMCA takedown notices.

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