The Problem With Buying Intangible Items On eBay: They Can Expire

Jen used eBay to buy some Fandango Bucks so she could save a few dollars off the cost of a movie. She wasn’t going to the movies right away, though. At first, the credits came up short, and she filed a case against the seller. They straightened that out, she closed the case, and all was well. Until she actually went to use the codes, and discovered that they had expired. She was out $70, and eBay  couldn’t help her. 

In August, I went to Ebay to purchase a Fandango gift card or Fandango bucks–anything that lessened the price and guilt of paying $15.50 to see a movie in New York City. I found a seller (jerryiscereal) who was selling one hundred Fandango Bucks for the Buy It Now Price of $70. I purchased, and the seller sent the code to my personal email within a couple of days, saying that if I ever needed more bucks, I could get them from him.

When I went to check the balance a few days later, I found that the amount was actually about thirty Fandango Bucks short, and I contacted him to ask that he send a new one. When I did not hear from him in three days, I sent one email saying I would be filing a report with Ebay the next day if I did not hear from him, which I did end up doing. Within hours of opening an “Item Not As Described” case, I heard from the seller, who apologized for not checking his email, and saying he would send along another code for the full value. Once I received this and checked the balance, he asked that I close the case so he could receive his payment, and I did.

I did not need to use the code for 5-6 weeks, but when I went to purchase a movie ticket with it in mid-October, I found that the Fandango bucks had expired. I was irate at this point, and wrote the seller asking what was up. Someone by the name of “[redacted]” wrote back and asked what email address I had sent the original payment to, so he could send me a new code. I gave him the info, and then waited two weeks (the hurricane struck in the middle). When I contacted him again to follow up and let him know that I would be filing a case with Ebay the next day, he wrote back: “Shut up slut, you are my submissive whore, you file it with eBay and I’ll spank you, slut.”

I wrote back saying I would be filing with Ebay, and then did. As I had already had a case open on the item in question, I had to call the customer service number to explain my situation. After ten minutes on hold, someone answered, and I told him the situation. I was told I needed to be transferred to a specialist; when I finally spoke to her, I explained my situation again. She reported the seller, and told me that I needed to be transferred to yet another specialist to see about opening a case and getting my money back. When I finally spoke to this specialist, I was informed that as I had closed the case, I could not reopen, and as there was no physical product, I was not covered by buyer protection. Despite being hassled, threatened, and cheated, the most Ebay could do was apologize and report the user, who almost certainly was part of a larger ring of illegal sellers and probably was no longer even active. She said my only option was to work it out with the seller myself–the one who had threatened to spank me.

Am I wrong here? I understand the lack of buyer protection for codes, but the fact that there is no override or exception made for filing claims such as mine seems absolutely ridiculous. For any issue that requires opening a case, Ebay strongly encourages buyers and sellers to work among themselves to find resolution (as I did), and then to resolve the case. This means that all a shady seller has to do in order to make off with buyer money is appear to make amends. What of when multiple issues arrive with a purchase?

Let’s say I ordered a new pair of brand name headphones off of Ebay. I contact the seller and do not hear from them, and so I open a case with Ebay. Upon hearing from Ebay, the seller sends along the headphones, and they work fine, so I close the case. But then, three days later, the headphones stop working and it becomes clear they are knockoffs. Under Ebay’s policy, despite being sold an item that does not match the description, I am not screwed for my money, even though the case I originally opened was for a different reason. How is this fair?

I know I am never getting my money back, and that the seller will continue to sell and harass on Ebay (where I will no longer be shopping after 13 years). But this just seems so bureaucratic and unfair.