Sorry, I had to say it.. a few years ago, I was a big pusher of eBay.. I’d tell my friends how you could find anything on eBay and that they made it safe and this and that.. I did a case study on eBay’s corporate culture and Meg Whitman.. I even thought about how cool it would be to work at eBay.. but that’s all slowing changing. Fact is, eBay is a monopoly in the online auction industry. Yahoo Auctions is useless by comparison and other comparable competitors are few and far between. So really, eBay could do whatever they want. You could say, “well then, I won’t use them”.. which is an acceptable solution. But the problem is, you have no substitutes. You can’t say you’ll stop using eBay and start using Auction X and be equally satisfied simply because Auction X doesn’t exist, much the same way “customer service” doesn’t exist at eBay. Anyway.. you’re probably wondering why I’m writing this.. so I’ll just get to the meat of the post..
1. eBay’s automated billing system sucks
2. eBay’s billing policy sucks
I work in Information Technology, Information Systems, Management Information Systems, whatever. I think I have a good grasp of “what can be done” and “what can’t be done”. From talking to the guy on the phone at eBay, it seems to me the problem with eBay’s automated billing is that it is simply out of control. At least that’s what he wanted me to believe. Here’s what happened. eBay bills me on December 1st 2004. I procrastinate, like I do with every bill. A couple of days ago, December 13th, I think, “hey, they haven’t charged my credit card, so I might as pay using Paypal.. after all, eBay does own Paypal.. it should be a quick and easy transaction with no danger of being billed twice”.. wrong.. two days later, eBay’s automated billing system charges my credit card. What Greg over at eBay told me was, basically, that once the ball starts rolling, there’s no way to stop it, not even a payment before eBay actually charges your credit card. Greg told me that the automated billing is done in batches. So even though they initiated a charge on my credit card on December 1st, my batch wasn’t actually processed until December 16th. If that’s true, seems to me eBay’s automated billing system may run into scalability issues if they pick up more customers/sellers. Additionally, they could probably save a few bucks by not charging a seller’s credit card (2-3% depending on the credit card issuer) if they didn’t have to. But the biggest reason of all, it would save me and Greg a lot of grief! Anyhow, I don’ t believe their billing system sucks THAT bad. If it does, they should start looking for new IT people or a better way to automate their billing. Ok, so if you sorted through all my BS, basically, I was double charged. I willfully paid once using Paypal. Then two days later, eBay’s automated billing charges me a second time for the same amount ($509.17 in case you were wondering), leaving a balance of -$117 something (remember this). Now.. on to my next point..
So I called Greg in hopes of getting the charge on my credit card reversed. Mistakenly, I was using my debit card as my eBay account credit card (coincidentally, I changed the credit card on my account on the 14th also, but I guess that didn’t bother their automated billing system). At this time of year, having an extra $509.17 comes in handy for the shopping. Greg told me that he was only able to refund the credit in my account (remember, the -$117?). I explained again, apparently in vain, that the charge to my credit card was 2 days after I had already paid my amount due using Paypal. He said he understood that, but that their policy was that they can only refund the amount of the credit in my account, regardless of the fact it was a double charge or billing mistake, basically. After pausing a few seconds to compose myself, I politely asked him why. He said, “well, that’s what the billing people say”. Ahh! The Billing People.. well, shit.. if I knew the billing people said it, I wouldn’t have asked such a stupid question (reminds me of when Samuel Jackson was talking to The Wolf in Pulp Fiction). Realizing I wasn’t going to get far with someone who takes orders from The Billing People. I emailed my Powerseller account rep. I don’t expect him to do much either. But I just had to tell someone at eBay how stupid I think they are. Here’s that email:
I re-read your email and noticed you had given the number for the 24/7 support hotline. I called and spoke to a CSR by the name of Greg. I explained to Greg the situation. After speaking to him, I realized I had no recourse. I have to tell you, I’m more than a little disappointed and I’ll tell you why:
1. Greg told me that automatic billing is initiated on the first of the month (so, in my case, December 1st). He told me accounts are charged in “batches”. Fair enough. However, he said that once an automatic charge is initiated from eBay, there is nothing that can “stop” it, not even a payment before my “batch” is actually processed. So, why would I EVER want to pay on my own? I will ALWAYS run the risk of being double charged. I might as well sit back and enjoy my 2.02% of Paypal interest and let eBay take a 2-3% hit charging my credit card. If this is true, I find this whole process to be ridiculous in this day and age of technology. But all ridiculousness aside, I could live with this if it wasn’t for #2.
2. Greg acknowledged I was charged twice. The first time, I willfully paid using my Paypal account. The second time, one day later, eBay’s automated billing charged my credit card leaving a current balance of about -$117. He explained that eBay would refund my credit of -$117, but they would not refund the $509.17 which was double charged. I asked him why that is and he told me something to the effect that, “that’s what the billing people say”. So it made me wonder. What is the point of eBay’s monthly billing cycle? After my Paypal payment of $509.17, I was left with a balance of $301.58. Given eBay’s monthly billing cycle, I would tend to believe that the $301.58 is, in essence, due January 1st, 2005. So, why is it that when eBay gets their paws on a double charge, which, yes, COULD be applied to my balance although NOT due yet, they won’t refund the double charge upon my request? To me, an analogy to this situation would be if I inadvertently paid my phone bill twice and the phone company telling me, “well, you WILL have a balance next month, so we’ll just hold onto your money until then.” If eBay’s monthly billing is not actually “monthly” in nature, then why doesn’t eBay just charge for every transaction that takes place as it takes place. Or make it daily billing, because that’s basically what eBay is implying by not refunding the full amount of the double charge with the assumption that I will have a balance due at the end of December. What then, does “Billing Cycle Date: Last day of each month”, which is printed on my invoice, actually mean?
3. Greg told me that if I wanted a refund on my credit balance, it could take up to thirty (30) days. I didn’t even want to ask why. It takes me about 30 seconds to refund someone’s money on a credit card machine or even Paypal. Why it could take thirty (30) days is beyond me. But it kind of highlights that whole “eBay getting their paws” on my money thing I alluded to above, doesn’t it?
In any case, I am no longer in need of your assistance as I previously stated in my first email. I’ve taken care of it myself. So please, do not refund any balance due or fix the double charge. eBay can hold onto my double charge. Besides, I don’t want to make the “billing people” mad.
So that’s it.. my story of why eBay sucks.. lots of people bitch about Paypal too.. but frankly, I haven’t had a problem with them yet (double fisted pound on wood)..