PayPal Destroys Violin And Burns The Seller


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There are a lot of sellers out there who try to rip people off, so it’s not without reason that companies like eBay do whatever they can to protect buyers. After all, that’s where the money comes from, right? Unfortunately, the solution isn’t a simple one. In their efforts to protect the buyers, eBay and their payment arm, PayPal, may be unduly turning their back on the sellers.

PayPal Knows Best

The most popular way to pay for anything on eBay is through PayPal. Outside of eBay, PayPal pretty much has the market cornered for smaller transactions and even a lot of online shopping. People use PayPal because people use PayPal. Most times, PayPal transactions occur as anticipated. A buyer sends money. PayPal takes their cut, and life goes on. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In the past, PayPal has been known to freeze accounts simply because they had too much money in them and more recently, they nearly ruined Regretsy.com’s charitable Christmas giving. This month, PayPal seems to have not learned anything about bad publicity as they instructed a buyer to destroy a product in order to get a refund. Below are the photo and the details the seller sent to Regretsy.com.

smashed PayPal violin

I sold an old French violin to a buyer in Canada, and the buyer disputed the label.

This is not uncommon. In the violin market, labels often mean little and there is often disagreement over them. Some of the most expensive violins in the world have disputed labels, but they are works of art nonetheless.

Rather than have the violin returned to me, PayPal made the buyer DESTROY the violin in order to get his money back. They somehow deemed the violin as “counterfeit” even though there is no such thing in the violin world.

The buyer was proud of himself, so he sent me a photo of the destroyed violin.

I am now out a violin that made it through WWII as well as $2500. This is of course, upsetting. But my main goal in writing to you is to prevent PayPal from ordering the destruction of violins and other antiquities that they know nothing about. It is beyond me why PayPal simply didn’t have the violin returned to me.

I spoke on the phone to numerous reps from PayPal who 100% defended their action and gave me the party line.

The first thing I wondered when reading about this is why PayPal would make such a decision. As it turns out, they even have a clause in their user agreement stipulating that destruction of an item may be required of the buyer in order to get a refund. I can understand if a seller sells something – not worth paying to have shipped back and then relist – and decides he or she would rather just have proof that the unwanted item was destroyed for a refund. It’s still wasteful, but I get it. In this case, it seems the buyer disputed the authenticity of the item and PayPal agreed to a refund if the buyer would provide proof of the items destruction. This also makes some sense if the item is confirmed counterfeit and it’s an illegal knock-off, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Now the buyer is getting (or has gotten) a refund from PayPal, the seller is out a violin (or $2,500, depending on how you look at it), and PayPal is surely going to have to back-pedal again to save face.

PayPal Can Fix This

All hope is not lost. Regretsy tells us that PayPal assures them the matter is being looked into. Perhaps Anuj Nayar, Paypal’s Director of communications, will issue another post similar to the Regretsy half-apology on the PayPal blog. Personally, I find it interesting that he even has a somber picture for posts like this and a smiling photo for up-beat news. That may also hint at what I think the real problem is with PayPal. Any time I hear about PayPal from people, they’re often frustrated with PayPal’s customer-unfriendly decisions and, like many huge companies, PayPal seems to be reluctant to admit any mistakes until the bad press is beyond real repair. My suggestion to PayPal is to take a good look at your account holder/PayPal dispute policies and figure out better ways to work with people instead of just wielding a gavel. I suspect that for every Regretsy who gets resolution to a problem via social media outcry, there are scores of average users who’s voices go unheard.

As for the issue with the violin, I foresee a lawsuit. If PayPal received and debunked the authenticity of the violin, themselves, I would still question the legality of their authority to do so, but ruling in favor of the buyer, sight unseen seems like a legal fumble by PayPal at best. I think PayPal should decide they just bought a violin and pay the seller, especially since the violin is no longer around to authenticate.

What do you think?

Full Disclosure

I’m currently a little peeved at eBay for some anti-seller action they took against me today, but this isn’t about that. Mine is a love/hate relationship with eBay. I’ve been a buyer and seller on eBay for more than 15 years. Sometimes I love them and other times I get pretty annoyed at how disputes and other actions are handled. It really just depends on when you ask. Honestly, though, this is more about PayPal – a part of eBay, but not eBay, itself. I haven’t had any disputes with PayPal, personally.

Author: Joe Colburn

Joe Colburn is a software engineer specializing in PHP and a technology enthusiast. Always eager to dive into new and exciting things, Joe writes about anything technology related news and products that he thinks you will also be excited about. Find Joe Colburn on Google+ or by any of the links below.

18 thoughts on “PayPal Destroys Violin And Burns The Seller”

  1. How incredibly sad for you, to move a treasured instrument on to a caring new owner is brave but sometimes necessary but to see it smashed like that must have been gut wrenching!! and of course the money, but to think that the violin will never be heard again – phew ….

  2. @Sourish @ iPhone 4 Jailbreak Good point. digital delivery items are easy to refund and bear no real loss, but most people sell tangible items. Just have to be careful, I guess.

  3. I think PayPal is most trusted gateway to get payment across globe.Most of the people in online world believe that PayPal provides the best and secure services with nominal charges.I do all my business transactions with it.

  4. @ice fishing equipment Most people? Yeah right. Almost everyone that I talk to hates Paypal. As soon as there is a more widely used & accepted alternative, Paypal will be relegated to eBay (by continuing to strong arm auction buyers into using them).

  5. Wow, this is just sheer insanity on Paypal’s part. I cannot imagine what sort of lunatics are running the company now but they deserve to be sued and sacked.

    -Jean

  6. Let us imagine that the buyer is with God at the time that he had the violin. It is a fact that the buyer is not happy with the product and wants a refund. The buyer must ask the seller for the refund and that is the best way in trying to solve the problem. Destroying the violin wil make matters worst even if the seller refuses a refund. Satan is here to kill, to steal and to DESTROY.

  7. Excellent information up to date related PayPal.I trust a lot while money transaction are in concern.PayPal has millions of users worldwide,all my business transaction complete by it..

  8. Hi Joe! Ebay must not teach others to cheat or destroy items. communication is the key. Talk to know what is the solution. If someone intends to cheat just let the do it. Karma hits harder and also funnier.

  9. Paypal should invest more time in creating a more adequate rating and review system like eBay. That way the trust of a buyer or seller could be more easily determined by their past activity.

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