Dealing with customer issues and problems with sales on eBay…

It is unavoidable… if you work in any kind of retail, online or otherwise, you will have problems to deal with and customers who are not satisfied or happy. Every problem will be different and most of the issues you will have are very easily solved.  The majority of issues that you deal with will be straight forward and the customer will be easy and friendly to deal with.  However, there will be times when the customer will be difficult.

The most important thing to remember is that in every case it is very important to remain professional and polite.  Feel free to rant at your computer or to a work ee6df64ac7cb20d13010b9a0df6169e6colleague… but always reply to every customer in a professional manner, no matter how rude or obnoxious they may be.  Not only is this good customer service practice, but the manner in which you handle yourself will stand you in good stead with eBay, who are more likely to side with you if they agree that a customer is unreasonable or that they have another agenda.


Some buyers like to send out ‘phishing’ messages with the intention to obtain a partial refund, or in some cases to obtain the purchased item for free.  You will come to recognise the language in this kind of message which will, for instance, begin that the item is not to their satisfaction and they are not happy to have paid the price they paid for it.  In this condition they would have paid much less.  They often go on to threaten to open a case against you unless you can offer them some discount.  They may go as far as to open a case stating that the item is not as described or defective to try to force you to pay the return postage.  Even if they don’t want to actually return the item they know that it may not be in your best interest to pay out two lots of postage to receive an item back that has a low profit margin.  In which case they will hope that you are going to refund in full and allow them to keep the item.  In a case such as this, accept the return anyway.  If they don’t want to return the item, you will have called their bluff and they will eventually close the case.  If you are happy to send the partial refund or to simply refund and move on, that’s OK too.

In each case it is beneficial to take the customer through every step possible.  Start with asking for photos to support what they are describing to you.  It is likely that you will receive obscure photos, but eBay will also see that the photos are not clear and don’t support the buyers claim.


If a buyer is unreasonable, rude, or you know that they are making false claims, call eBay.  In every experience we have found eBay customer support to be very helpful. They will look at everything… all correspondence between the buyer and the seller (you). They will take you through ways in which you can resolve this issue and suggest what to say to your customer, and what to do moving forward.

I have recently been dealing with a very rude customer who has unfortunately been difficult from the outset.  I’m cross with myself for not listening to my instinct and for taking her lower offer, allowing her to purchase the item in the first place.  This customer wants to return the item because it doesn’t fit.  However, she does not want to pay the return postage and so she has claimed that my listing was false and misrepresentative.  It wasn’t!  I immediately called eBay who agreed that the listing was accurate and guided me through the way I should proceed and how I should word my message to the customer.  The customer responded with a lengthy email, very obnoxiously saying ‘I don’t care what eBay say!’.  Given that eBay will review the case and all messages related to it, she has not done herself any favours!  This is a good example of how to not allow yourself to rise to rudeness and to remain completely professional throughout.

eBay will always suggest that if a return case is opened it is in your best interest to accept the return as it will show that you are willing to resolve the problem.

eBay is always there to help you and they will work with you to resolve ANY issue you have.  With any problem you can’t resolve yourself, call eBay.  You can’t control the way a customer will behave, but you do have control over the way you respond.  If you respond in a helpful manner, open to resolving the issue they have, you talk to them in a calm, polite and professional manner, you know that you have done all you can and there is nothing more that could have been done.  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stand your ground if you know that you are being ‘taken for a ride’, just that you should do so professionally.  You won’t win them all, and sometimes you will just have to take the hit and move on.


  1. Really good piece, especially regarding the phishing messages which can occasionally come in a very passive form, this is an example of a real one I received recently.

    “Dear Lee, Thanks for the fast delivery. My girlfriend loves the tunic, but when she tried it on we found it has 2 holes in the collar. We would like to keep it and wondered if you would consider a partial refund for the faults. Please let me know if you would like me to send some photos.”

    Just for the record I do not send dresses out with holes where they should not be. This message is concerning as they have already stated they will not return it. They have not initially sent any images and it is written in the third person. I asked for images and strongly advised them to return the item at my expense and I would get it fixed and they could then purchase it again if they wished. They refused to open a case, return the item or supply any images. I have never heard from them again.

    Another odd phishing style message that exists is what I call the ‘stacking problem scenario’ I rarely but unfortunately sometimes get (always concerning clothes) is where a ‘stain’ will be reported, then I will revert back to tell them to open a return. The customer will then revert back stating they have now ‘found a hole’. I will then revert back stating can you send an image. This is the point the customer states they are a tech phobic and definately cannot supply an image. I will then revert back stating that can they please then open a return. At this point they state that the item went in the bin and definately now cannot be returned. You can 100% guarantee you will not here from this person again.

    What I am trying to say is be aware not all scammers are threatening bad feedback, some come in a very coy non-aggressive form! I have very rare problems with customers but I do have the odd one who likes to try there luck 😉


    • Yes, absolutely, and you will often find that they won’t open a case because they do this a lot and don’t want to alert eBay to it. So it’s important not to immediately offer a refund or part refund, but to instead to ask for evidence and to suggest a return. For some reason this does seem to happen more with clothing I find. As I say though, the vast majority of customers are lovely, you just get a few who try their luck 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s