ADVICE FOR AUCTION USERS:
For Sellers Who Have a Problem Getting Paid
© 1999-2003 by Tessa Hebert, all right reserved.
If the auction was listed on
eBay, please see the eBay-specific "What to Do" list at this URL:
|TABLE OF CONTENTS:|
|General||Slow Payer or Non-Responding Bidder|
|Arbitration or Mediation Services||NSF or Returned Check|
If you have a bidder who is not responding to your e-mail request for payment, or is not paying you in a timely manner, or has given you a hot check, this is a list of suggestions and advice for the things you can do. The term "buyer" in this list will refer to a back-out winning bidder, a non-paying winning bidder, or a winning bidder who pays with a non-sufficient-funds check.
Slow Payer or Non-Responding Bidder: Remember: This is business! You expect a winning bidder to pay you promptly, and you comply with the auction site's rules and policies. Your status as a seller with a good reputation is important to your success in business and your continuing to doing business on the auction site.
It is very important in business to set your own policies about how you will conduct your business and to remain very calm when dealing with difficult situations or difficult people. A calm, unemotional manner in dealing with the public can insure your success in business.
1. Keep good notes and document everything about the transaction. Print out hard copies of:
(a) all your e-mail correspondence to and from the buyer:2. Develop your own policy about the time limit in which you expect to be paid after the auction is over, such as a 12-day time limit for receipt of payments.
(b) the auction listing; and
(c) the End-of-Auction Notice from the auction site.
3. State your time limit for receipt of payment in your auction listings and in your payment-request e-mails, such as "Payment must be received within 12 days after auction ends."
4. On the fourth day after the auction ends, if you have not received a reply from the buyer to your payment-request letter, send another e-mail which states something similar to this:
"I have not heard from you about whether or not you are sending your payment for this auction. Please let me know within 24 hours [or whatever time limit you prefer] whether or not you intend to complete this transaction."5. When writing e-mail to the buyer: Be very firm, but polite, and make specific points about what you expect from the buyer. Set a deadline for compliance and tell the buyer what it is.
Remember: You do have the right to insist that the buyer complete the transaction. You do have the right to insist that the buyer comply with the terms of your policies, especially if they are stated clearly in your auction listings and payment-request letters. You can refuse to accept payment after the deadline you have determined is right for you. You can refuse to do business with anyone you feel uncomfortable doing business with.6. Do not engage in any activity that is against the auction site's rules or is illegal.
Do NOT engage in any personal attacks against the buyer's character or personality.
Refuse to participate in any arguments that the buyer may present. For instance, you do not have to decide if the buyer's mother/father/child or other relative really died, nor do you have to believe that the buyer has any catastrophic problems which prevented the buyer from paying you. What you HAVE to do is deal with the problems as they occur and remain calm and act in a professional manner at all times.
Giving the buyer an extension to pay later than your normal deadline is okay if you feel alright about doing that. If you do decide to give the buyer an extension to pay beyond your normal deadline, remember that you are granting a gift which you do NOT have to give, and you can decide what you want to do about agreeing to an extension, depending on how you feel about it.
Do NOT make any statements which could be interpreted as threats. (Threats against an auction-site user are usually against the auction site's rules.
Do NOT threaten to leave negative feedback if the buyer does not pay. (Threats of negative feedback are usually against the auction site's rules.)
Do not contact other sellers who have open auctions which the buyer has bid on (this is called "auction interference" and is usually against the auction site's rules). *See the "Note About Contacting Other Auction-Site Users" below.7. If payment is not received within your time limit, notify the buyer by e-mail, and give the buyer a deadline to reply (24 hours or 3 days).
Do not post any personal information about the buyer on any of the auction site's boards.
If the buyer behaves in a manner which is against the auction site's rules, notify the auction site by forwarding any of the buyers e-mails with "the headers turned on" to the auction site. To "turn the headers on," check in your browser's e-mail area for a function which allows you to see all of the routing information on e-mail. (In Netscape Communicator 4.5, click on "View" and "Headers" and set it to "All.")
8. Request the buyer's user-registration information from the auction site.
9. Attempt to contact buyer by phone (and proceed as suggested in numbers 5 and 6 above).
You do NOT have to do this, it is only a suggestion, and the cost of a phone call may not be worth it to you. However, many users do succeed in completing the transaction by contacting a buyer by phone, which they were unable to achieve by e-mail.10. Leave a request for the user ID of the buyer to contact you on the auction site's Emergency Board or other chat board. Also check the Emergency Board or other chat board to see if the buyer left a message there about not being able to complete transactions. Catastrophic events do happen, such as illness or death in the family, computer failure, bad weather and loss of electricity, etc., and it is helpful to know that if the buyer is not responded for a good reason.
11. If you do not receive payment within your deadline or receive an appropriate response from the buyer:
(a) Send the buyer an e-mail notice which states that you are canceling the transaction.Also, state that you are forbidding the buyer to ever bid on your auctions again, that you will cancel any bids made by the buyer on your auctions in the future, and that you will request that the auction site suspend the buyer's user privileges if the buyer bids on your auctions again. Send a simultaneous copy of the e-mail to support at the auction site, so the buyer knows that you are keeping the auction site informed. The site may also provide a block against certain bidders, and if so, use the bidder block on the site to prevent the buyer from biding on your auctions again.(b) Request a refund of the Final Value Fee and other fees on the auction from the auction site by sending an e-mail request to the auction site at its billing address. Put "Credit Request" in the subject line of your e-mail, and state the auction number and the reason for the request. (It is possible that your auction site will not refund fees on non-paying winning-bidder auctions, but it is worth a try.)
(c) Re-list your item, if you wish to.
(d) Leave appropriate feedback in the buyer's feedback file on the auction site.Use a professional tone when leaving feedback, leaving out all emotional responses to the buyer's behavior in not paying you. State the problem in factual terms, such as: "Payment NOT received 4 weeks after auction ended" or "No response or payment after 4 weeks." Do NOT use derogatory terms about the buyer's character or behavior.
Keep it non-personal, non-emotional, and non-flaming. You can suggest in your feedback that anyone in need of more information can contact you.
It's best to NOT post negative feedback until after you have exhausted all possible means of communicating with and obtaining payment from the buyer.
If the buyer leaves you negative feedback, remain calm and post a neutral explanation in your own feedback file or in a reply to the negative feedback (if the site provides that option). Most experienced auction-site users are knowledgeable about retaliatory feedback, and it is relatively easy to recognize retaliatory feedback in a seller's file, especially when the seller does not have other similar complaints or similar negative feedback from other users.
Returned Checks: If the buyer stopped payment on the check, and you had already shipped the item, you can get help through the fraud sites and other agencies listed below. You may also wish to obtain the services of an attorney. For help in finding an attorney or obtaining legal advice, click the link below:
NSF Checks: Remember: The buyer knows long before you find out from your bank that the check is NSF, because the buyer's bank notifies the buyer promptly. Your bank may attempt to clear the check twice, and you may not receive notice from your bank until 3-6 weeks after the check was deposited. If the buyer has not contacted you about the check being NSF by the time you find out the check is NSF, you can be reasonably sure that you will need to take further steps to collect from the buyer, including legal and criminal ones.
1. E-mail the buyer and request immediate payment of the amount due, plus your bank's fees for a NSF deposit. You may want to state that this payment may be made by money order or cashier's check ONLY.
2. Do NOT return the NSF check to the buyer until you have received a valid payment for it. Request that the buyer send you a stamped self-addressed envelope for the return of the NSF check.
3. If your bank did not attempt to clear the check twice, deposit the NSF check again.
4. You may request that your bank "protest" the check. This means that the check will be held at the buyer's bank until sufficient funds are deposited to pay the check. The buyer's bank may not like this, and may refuse to allow the buyer to do business at the bank again. However, your bank may charge you an expensive fee to protest the check, so ask first how much it cost to protect the check.
5. If you are unable to obtain payment for the NSF check:(a) Send the buyer a letter by certified mail/return receipt request, stating that unless you have payment within _____ days (10 days or 2 weeks is probably a long enough time), you will be turning the matter over to law enforcement officials. Be sure to include all the fees your bank charged you in the amount you expect the buyer to pay, plus your costs for the certified letter. Keep a copy of this letter, and when the return receipt is received (or your letter is returned undeliverable) keep it with the copy of your letter to show to law enforcement officials.
(b) Contact your local sheriff or law enforcement agency to file a complaint against the NSF check writer. Also contact the law enforcement agency in the buyer's area and file a complaint.
(c) Notify the auction site of the problem and about all charges and complaints filed with legal authorities, by e-mail to Support at the auction site.
Also provide the auction site with copies of all e-mail from buyer to you, from you to buyer, and all legal complaints and actions filed by you against buyer by mail.
(d) Leave appropriate feedback in the buyer's feedback file on the auction site, following the guidelines for leaving feedback listed above.
(e) Notify the buyer's Internet Service Provider (ISP) of all charges and complaints filed with legal authorities, by e-mail to support@[ISP name].[com or net] or to go seller's ISP site and find a place to e-mail the webmaster of the ISP.
(f) If you feel that you have been defrauded, file complaints with the agencies listed below. These organizations have the power to investigate and initiate legal proceedings that your local police may not have. Often a report to one of these agencies will result in the prompt payment of money due to you, once an investigation is initiated.
New!!!!! FBI and NW3C's Online Site
INTERNET FRAUD COMPLAINT CENTER
Where Consumers Can Report Suspected Internet Frauds!
(1). File a fraud report with the FBI. The Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC), http://www1.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp, is for consumers and businesses to report suspected internet frauds. The Internet Fraud Complaint Center is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and The National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). For victims of internet fraud, the IFCC provides an easy-to-use form to report fraud. For law enforcement agencies, the IFCC provides a depository for information, help with identifying fraud trends, and access to statistics on fraud trends.To file a complaint, click here: http://www1.ifccfbi.gov/cf1.asp(2) If the transaction involved the use of the United States Postal Service (the buyer mailed the NSF check to you), file a Mail Fraud Complaint Form with the Postal Inspector's Office.To File a Mail Fraud Complaint Form Online: You can fill out a Mail Fraud Complaint Form online, or print out the form and mail it.It does help to file a Mail Fraud Complaint, because not many people will refuse to make good on an NSF check, when the Postal Service notifies them that a Mail Fraud Complaint is being investigated.
Click here to file the online Mail Fraud Complaint Form: http://www.framed.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/MailFraudComplaint.htm
To get a Mail Fraud Complaint Form: The form is available for a 1-800 phone call, and you will be provided a postage-free envelope to mail it back. Call 1-800-275-8777 and ask the Operator there to give you the number to call for your zip code area.
You can also download the Mail Fraud Form, if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader software, by clicking this URL: http://www.usps.com/forms/_pdf/ps8165.pdf
(3) Feel free to contact the National Fraud Information Center if you have questions concerning fraud. You can prevent future fraud by filing a complaint at this URL: http://www.fraud.org/. Several people who filed a report with this organisation have reported that they received a refund of their money, so do file a complaint with the NFIC.
(4) There is also the International Web Police, which is an organization to protect the Global Internet Community. You can file a report there: http://www.web-police.org/
(5) Another private organization, which reports consumer complaints to agencies that are interested in investigating and taking action, is The National Consumer Complaint Center for Internet Fraud, False Advertising, and Breached Warranties and you can file a complaint there: http://www.alexanderlaw.com/nccc/cb-ftc.html
(6) File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems, the FTC does compile complaint data and investigates criminal activity, and your complaint will help the FTC to investigate fraud and can lead to law enforcement action. You can fill out the Complaint Form at https://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm or go to the Federal Trade Commission Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov and click on Complaint Form (at the bottom of the page) to report an internet scammer.
You can also file a complaint about Internet auction fraud with the Federal Trade Commission by calling the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).
The FTC also has a helpful article for buyers and sellers titled "Internet Auctions: Secrets of Success" at this location: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/gonealrt.htm
Also, the FTC has a publication titled "Internet Auctions: A Guide for Buyers and Sellers," that offers more information about Internet auctions. You can order a copy of the guide at: http://www.ftc.gov or by calling the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).
Also, the FTC provides a host of pamphlets to help consumers recognize the warning signs of various financial cons at: http://www.consumer.gov
(7) File a complaint with your State Attorney General and the Attorney General in the state of the person who commited fraud. Many state's Attorneys General have special investigative units for internet fraud. You may be able to find a form online to report internet fraud directly to the State Attorney General. To find out how to contact an Attorney General in the 50 USA states, go to the National Association of Attorneys General at this location: http://www.naag.org/ag/full_ag_table.cfm
Remember, if the buyer is not paying you, the buyer's probably not paying other sellers too. There might be others who will get hurt like you did, if you do not file complaints with the proper authorities and the auction site.
It is very important to file a report with the proper authorities and notify the auction site, because the auction site and the legal authorities can only act if you report it.
If you provide sufficient evidence and file complaints, the auction site can suspend the buyer's registration and the authorities will have what they need to file charges and prosecute.
Seek help and comfort from a friend. You are NOT alone and good people do care!
Post a message on the auction site's chat board about your problem and ask for some moral support.
Remember, other auction-site users do not want deadbeats and non-paying bidders on the auction site either.
* Note About Contacting Other Auction-Site Users:
It may be helpful to contact other auction-site users who may be having a similar problem with the same auction-site user. It may be very helpful to form a support group with other auction-site users who have suffered a similar problem as yours. A group action may be more effective than a single action. Also information can be pooled about the criminal, which may be helpful in aiding the authorities to track down and prosecute the criminal. Moral support can be provided to others to encourage them to file complaints and reports to legal authorities, as well as other actions which may prevent future fraud.
However, do be careful to not break any of the auction site's rules or do anything to cause you to lose your user privileges with the auction site.
Be particularly careful about what you write or state to any third-party user on the auction site (who may not keep your correspondence confidential).
Do not make any statements which are untrue or speculative or may endanger you (such as libelous or slanderous statements).
Phone numbers for the proper agencies to file
complaints with are available:
(1) in your local phone book;
(2) through your phone company's long-distance information or 1-800 information; and
(3) by using an Internet search engine.
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