It's Now Completely Impossible To Sell A Laptop On Ebay

The cool thing about eBay’s support system is it will always answer your question; unfortunately, that answer will always be a form letter on how to reset your password, as Timothy discovered when he tried to figure out how to sell his laptop to someone who wasn’t a Nigerian scammer. Timothy has learned the awful truth behind today’s eBay—something many readers here already know—which is that it’s become virtually impossible to sell any sort of medium-to-high end electronics there anymore.

Timothy’s email went on for about two weeks, so we’ve tried to edit it for length.

eBay seems now to be essentially broken. What used to be a ‘virtual yard-sale’ where one could hunt for – and potentially find – a good deal on a broad variety of eclectic items has now turned (in my opinion at least) into a hybrid mass of scammers and shady garage-retailers, clumped together with a straggling, dying breed of people who used to be excited about eBay, but who are now wishing it would return to what it used to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I still use eBay, and have for years. My usage has varied over the years, and I’m by no means a ‘power seller’ on eBay, but it has always been my first stop when I’m looking to acquire an item which I wouldn’t mind buying used. But a recent series of events has left a bitter taste in my mouth, making me wish eBay was what it used to be.

My experience started with a laptop which I wanted to sell – simple enough. I’ve sold on eBay before. “I’ll just throw it up on eBay,” I told my wife, “and see how much I can get for it.” [ha ha ha ha ha -Ed.] It’s a fine Toshiba laptop, 15.4″ screen, 1.7Ghz processor. I bought it brand-new, and have treated it well since then. There’s nothing wrong with it – I was just looking to upgrade to something newer and thought that I could perhaps get a few hundred dollars to offset some of the cost of buying a new laptop. So I listed the item and waited. I chose the 5-day auction option – I don’t know if that really makes any difference or not (I’ve heard arguments both ways on the topic).

After about two days with no bids I decided to find the laptop in the listings and see how it looked compared to other listed laptops – perhaps I had made some glaring mistake which other laptop-sellers were not making. I checked and saw how long the auction had left, and viewed the ‘Laptops and Computers’ category (sorted by ‘Ending Soonest’), and scrolled down to where my laptop ought to have been – about 6 pages in, since it still had a few days left to go. I could not find it. It appeared that my item was not listing correctly, so I contacted the eBay on-line ‘Live Chat’ (which, incidentally, seemed to be one of only two venues for their customers to reach them – the other being a ‘contact us’ form on their website [there do exist a couple of 800/888 corporate numbers, but they provide no means of reaching a human being unless you know their name ahead of time]). The Live Chat representative (pronounced “c-h-a-t-b-o-t”) informed me that unless my item was listed as a ‘Featured Item’ (pronounced “e-x-t-r-a-T-w-e-n-t-y-D-o-l-l-a-r-s”) my item would only appear after all of the items which had been listed as featured items.

So I returned to the list of items, and found that – sure enough – the 6th page which I had expected to find my item on was actually only the sixth page of featured items. It was not for another several pages that the list of featured items was finally exhausted, and the ‘Time Left’ column reset from ‘5 days’ to ‘< 1 minute'. Once again I had to click through several pages of items which were ending before mine, until finally, around page 20, I saw my item in the queue. Great, I thought, what good is an auction if nobody sees it?
The item ultimately did get a bid, however, and I was excitedly looking at new laptops on-line. I was sorely disappointed the next day when I received the following message from eBay:

?Account Security Notice: eBay Listing(s) Removed

Dear loneboat (*****@*****.com), The results of the following listing(s) ?have been cancelled due to bidding activity that took place without the ?account owner’s authorization:

[Blah blah blah. -Ed.]

eBay Trust & Safety ?

Yikes, I thought, some poor sap had his eBay password stolen/cracked/phished. Oh well , looks like they’ve graciously refunded my money. I’ll just re-list it.

So I re-listed the item. This time, I lowered the minimum bid and paid for the ‘featured item’ option (which I thought was a stupid idea, but the only way to get my auction seen by any appreciable audience). This time, the auction ended without incident. I got an email from the bidder telling me that he was glad to have won the auction, and was excited for me to ship it… To Nigeria.

Let it be known here that though I may not be the smartest person in the world, I’m not stupid. His email went on to explain (in poor English) that he was ‘on business trip to the Nigeria,’ and that he was willing to pay me $1000 through PayPal for the laptop. Shortly thereafter I received an email from ‘PayPal’ (who is now apparently sending out their customer service emails from gMail), stating that I had received a payment, but that it would not show up in my account until I emailed them back the tracking number for the parcel. Very clever, but once again, I’m not stupid.

This time I contacted the Live Chat system. I explained the whole drama, and was told to go on the website and contact eBay’s security team. I did so, and sent them the following email: [Email described the problem and included the buyer’s original email along with two spoof emails from “eBay” and “PayPal”. -Ed.]

I received the following response:

?Dear eBay member,

If you need help resetting your eBay password, or you think your account ?has been used without your permission, please go to the “Securing Your ?Account and Reporting Account Theft” Help page. Follow the steps on this ?page to secure your account:

For further assistance with account security questions, please contact ?us through Live Help at:

Live Help will open in a new window and connect you to an Account ?Security Live Chat representative.

***Learn More About eBay Safety and Security*** To learn more about ?account security on eBay, or to report a problem with your account, ?please visit our Security & Resolution Center at:

The Security & Resolution Center can help you do the following:

– Learn more about account protection and buying safely. ?- Access resources for rules, policies, protection programs, and ?announcements. ?- See important safety tips and features. ?- Review law enforcement information. ?- Access Security & Resolution Center tools, and more.

Sincerely, Anna ?

At this point in writing this article, my emotions regarding this response from eBay are emphatically urging me to pound out several paragraphs worth of rant about how hilariously irrelevant this response is to the message I originally sent – an urge which shall be eternally frustrated, since there is nothing more to say than to simply stare at it aghast and say, ‘that has absolutely nothing to do with what I sent to them. Nothing which I mentioned in the original message is even mentioned here.’

So – frustrated – I re-listed the item a third time. I waited. Same story – after waiting a few days the auction was ultimately won, again by somebody who desperately needed it shipped to Nigeria (this time they were sending it to their fiancee who was working for the ‘Nigerian Peace Corps.’). ‘What’s wrong?’, I thought, ‘how hard is it to sell something on eBay nowadays?’

So I listed the item for a fourth time. This time I added the following disclaimer to the top and bottom of the listing:

?Note: I WILL NOT SHIP THIS ITEM TO NIGERIA! This is the fourth time I have ?listed this laptop on eBay. All three of the earlier auctions were ?ultimately won by Nigerian scammers trying to get me to use some phony ?escrow service to ship the item to Nigeria. Each time I got a slew of ?elaborate (but grammatically poor) spoofed emails explaining to me that ?payment had been made to my PayPal account but would not show up until I ?emailed the buyer with a tracking number showing that I had shipped the ?item. I may not be the smartest crayon in the box, but I’m not stupid ?either, so I (thankfully) haven’t fallen prey. But each time this ?happens, I lose a few days of selling time, and I really need to get ?this laptop sold because I need the money for something else. I truly ?apologize if you actually ARE on a business trip in Nigeria or need it ?shipped to your cousin or fiancee in Nigeria, but I repeat: I WILL NOT ?SHIP THIS ITEM TO NIGERIA! I’m just a poor guy trying to sell his laptop ?on eBay. If anyone reading this has any ideas as to how to keep people ?in Nigeria from bidding on or winning this item, please send a message ?to me via my eBay profile! Thanks! 🙂 ?

The listing posted, and I waited. A few hours later, I tried to log into my eBay account to check on it, and my username and password would not allow me to log in. I checked my email, and found the following:

?Dear [redacted] (*****@*****.com),

Your account was accessed by an unauthorized third party to list items ?without your authorization. At this time we have taken several steps to ?secure your eBay account. Rest assured that your credit card and banking ?information is safe on the eBay site, as this information is kept ?encrypted on a secure server and cannot be viewed by anyone.

To regain control of your account, please complete the following steps:

1. Change the password on your personal email account to verify that it ?is secure and cannot be accessed by anyone other than you.

2. Change the password on your eBay account. Go to the eBay sign-in ?page, click the “Forgot your password” link, and change your password ?using the instructions provided.

3. Verify the contact information on your account is correct. Go to My ?eBay and click the “Personal Information” link under My Account.

To better understand how your account was compromised, please take a ?moment to review the Account Protection tutorial.

We’re sorry for the inconvenience, and we thank you for your patience ?and understanding.

Sincerely, eBay Customer Support ?

The only thing I can figure as to why eBay locked my account and removed my listing was that my listing mentioned the word ‘Nigeria’. I am positive that my eBay password was not stolen, as I have NEVER revealed my eBay password to anyone (not even my wife knows it; I don’t want her to know that I buy her birthday presents off of eBay – can you blame me?).

Having nowhere else to turn, and in no real hurry, since I’ve lost all hope of actually selling my laptop on eBay, I contacted the security team with the following email:

?I’m having a very hard time selling my item on eBay. I have listed the ?item four times, and each time something has gone wrong. Here are the ?item numbers, with descriptions of the problems:

[detailed list of everything Timothy’s tried up to this point. -Ed.]

After the last two listings, my account was locked because eBay thought ?(for some reason never told to me) that the listings were due to a ?compromised account password – even though the listings were legitimate ?and posted by myself. I have now had to reset my password to something ?new, since eBay would not allow me to reuse the password I have used for ?a long time. 😦

Can you please tell me what I am doing wrong? I’m just trying to sell my ?laptop on eBay. I have used eBay for several years, and have never had a ?single problem before. I am not doing anything differently – so why am I ?having such trouble?

I would very much appreciate a phone call from a real live person who ?can communicate to me why I am having such a hard time. I have called ?customer support (1-800-322-9266 & 1-888-749-3229), but am only greeted ?with a recording which refers me back to the website. I have tried the ?online-chat, but they only refer me to the security team. I have emailed ?the security team, but they just say basically ‘sorry, there’s nothing ?we can do’.

My phone # is ***-***-**** (US).

Thank you. ?

About an hour later, I received the following email in my inbox:

?Dear eBay member,

If you need help resetting your eBay password, or you think your account ?has been used without your permission, please go to the “Securing Your ?Account and Reporting Account Theft” Help page. Follow the steps on this ?page to secure your account:

[You know the drill by now. -Ed.]

Sincerely, Anna ?

No joke, this is an identical email to the other one which ‘Anna’ had sent to me a week ago. And once again, I feel compelled to rant about exactly how much and in what ways this has absolutely nothing to do with my initial request, but (once again) I’m left with nothing to say except, ‘that has absolutely NOTHING to do with what I sent to them.’
One more note – when I logged in to list my item for the fifth time, my account was once again locked. I think I’m going over to CraigsList.
Comments?? Anyone want to buy a laptop? 😐

Timothy, if you decide to try eBay a fifth time—and honestly, at this point in the company’s history we wouldn’t recommend it—there’s an option to restrict bidding to people in the U.S. only. While this won’t prevent scammers who have hijacked U.S. accounts from bidding, it will at least cut down on the number of international bids. But seriously, try CraigsList or a flyer in your neighborhood. EBay is broken.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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