So you've spent your time researching the best sets and held them past EOL. You've watched their value climb and the time has come to start selling them on eBay, all is well until one day you get your first angry e-mail from a less than pleased buyer. What to do, What to do...
There is no way that you can spend any amount of time selling items on eBay or any other platform without the occasional issue popping up. While some of the forums may make it seem that every single transaction is a major battle and others paint a beautiful picture of happy customers through rose colored glasses reality is, as always, somewhere between the two. In most cases how you respond to the buyers initial contact will often set the tone for the entire exchange. While every case is in some ways unique most can be divided into two categories from your perspective; preventable issues and non-preventable issues.
First, a quick bit about my eBay history, I have had a single eBay account since 2002 and in that time have received 4 neutrals and 1 negative (the negative came about three weeks ago and eBay removed it) against over 1000 positive. I tend to sell around 200 items per year, although I do not sell consistently. I will sell 50 or more items in a month and then not list anything for three or four months, just depends on how busy I am with my real "jobs". In the same time frame I have only purchased 10 or so items on eBay so nearly all of my feedback is from selling. As far as knowing eBays policies there is a local amphibian who has forgotten more about them than I will ever know, but I have spent over 2 decades in various forms of retail and have found that in most cases it is better to simply provide good service and only involve eBay as a last resort. I am not implying that you don't need to have a good working knowledge of policy, you most certainly do, just that by providing good service you can resolve most issues.
Before I get into what to do after an issue is brought to your attention I want to make one thing perfectly clear. The easiest and most effective way to resolve any issue is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Take good pictures, make sure your descriptions are clear and accurate. Does the box have a crease in it? Disclose it and take a picture of it. Are you selling a new set without the mini figures or some other key element? Say so in the description AND the title. Assume that every single potential buyer is in kindergarten and needs everything explained. By that, I do not mean write a novel, no one will read it if you do, just make sure that your description is accurate and any potential fault is highlighted. You also need to be careful with how you describe your items. I have been selling on eBay for over ten years and have NEVER claimed a box to be "mint", your definition of mint and that of your buyer may vary considerably. Instead of "mint in package" try "new in sealed package", and then mention any shelf wear. I recently sold a Willis Tower with a dented box, I disclosed the problem in my listing and took a close up photograph of the damage. The buyer left me a positive. Point is be honest with your listings and take excellent photographs and you will avoid 98.764% of any potential preventable issues. And 75.6% of statistics are made up on the spot.
No matter how careful you are in your listings mistakes will be made on occasion. You forgot that one piece in a used set, used too little bubble wrap or too much, sent the wrong item, etc... You will mess up. So now you've just gotten a message from a buyer and they aren't happy. Now what? First off, and this is important, if you anger easily or are having a bad day step away and grab a snack, or a drink. Whatever it takes to relax and respond to the situation with an even temper. Last year I sold a set and had unintentionally used a few pieces of the wrong color (I was using them as place holders and forgot to replace them with the correct pieces). The set was a used 6211 and the buyer was, justifiably, angry as I had listed it as complete minus a couple mini figures. My gut reaction was one of defensiveness and had I responded at that moment the situation would not have ended well for me. Instead I just took a few minutes to calm down and collect my thoughts and offered to either replace the pieces if they would let me know which ones were wrong or take $5 off of a $130 set. They took the five bucks and left positive feedback to boot. All of this was done through eBays messaging system. Do not under any circumstances communicate with a buyer outside of eBays system, it leaves a clear and complete record of all communications between you and your buyer should eBay need to get involved. That also brings up another point, in cases where you messed up, do everything that is fair and keep eBay out of it if at all possible.
I define non-preventable issues as anything that happens after an item leaves your hands or if a buyer flakes out or tries to scam you. Lost or smashed in transit? Buyer decide they really didn't need that $3000 Millennium Falcon? Someone leave you negative feedback because Leia was in a bikini and they got offended (someone once tried to return a Leia from 6210 to me for this reason)? None of these issues can be prevented by you. Most of these are also simple to resolve. If a buyer changes their mind and wants to cancel a transaction because (insert random pointless reason here) cancel it and re-list the item. It is not worth the trouble of trying to force someone to pay. Yes, it's annoying, get over it and move on. If they try and mess with you by not accepting the cancellation, so long as all communication went through eBay, it's a simple phone call and you get your final value fees back. Returns are trickier. I sell mostly loose sets, on those I state "no returns", but it doesn't really matter because if a buyer opens a SNAD (Significantly Not As Described) case I will most likely have to return the item anyway. When I do sell a boxed set I will offer a two week return where the buyer pays return shipping so long as the item is still sealed. It is better to spell out your own policy than have eBay do it for you. I have yet to have to return anything, although I have at times given small partial refunds.
Shipping. I will not enter into a USPS vs UPS vs FedEx debate, or carrier bashing session as they quickly become. I will only say this. ALWAYS USE TRACKING. eBay will side with you if a buyer claims an item never arrived so long as you tracked the shipment and there was a scan that shows "delivered". Without a delivery scan you will have to refund the money. For items over $250 eBay requires a signature conformation, which is nice because I insure any shipment over $100 and USPS requires signature conformation for any insured item over $200. Insurance is there to protect the SELLER (that's you) so use it on any dollar amount that is higher than what you feel comfortable losing. As far as smashed packages go, pack all items well, use the correct amount of material to protect the item. If anything happens in transit, which it will at some point, it's on you. I will usually offer a small refund in these cases, which has worked so far and is much cheaper than a return. Why do you think Amazon is so quick to offer a 20% refund when they send you a padded envelope pancake?
Up until now I have assumed that both sides were behaving honestly. What about buyers with the intention to defraud? Protecting yourself from fraud as a seller boils down to following the rules. That, and not accepting checks from the Central Bank of Nigeria as a form of payment. I only take PayPal. It's simple, quick, and for the most part reliable. In the last 3 months I have had a handful of buyers ask about other forms of payment, one even tried to buy a BIN when I forgot to mark "immediate payment", I denied them all. The guy who tried to buy my BIN first tried to talk me in to taking a registered check and when I declined he said repeatedly that he would open a PayPal account but never did and then just stopped responding to me. I opened a case against him and re-listed the item. I should also mention that he had 0 feedback and had joined eBay the day he tried to buy my BIN. To me the whole situation just screamed "scam". With PayPal, in order to be covered you must send to the address confirmed by PayPal. No exceptions.
There are a plethora of ways to be scammed by a buyer, with "can I pay by check, money order, wire transfer, etc...", " I never got it", and "it's broken" being the most common in my experience. I've already covered how to protect yourself from the first two, the last one is not as simple. Even new items can be defective that's why a return policy is necessary. At the same time any return has the potential to be fraudulent. That is when you call eBay.
In all my years of selling I have only contacted eBay a handful of times. In the aforementioned Leia bikini case the buyer tried a SNAD case, but because of the pictures in my listing showing Leia in a bikini and the e-mail exchange pointing out the actual issue (the buyer was a nut job who was offended by a pretty plastic girl in a metal bikini) I won the case. Looking back it may have been easier just to take the return and block the buyer. But, come on, my listing title was "Leia in a Bikini from LEGO set 6210". Point is, try to avoid bringing eBay into a situation, but don't be afraid to do so if all else fails. That's why they have a CS department.
I hope that made sense and that some of you found it useful. And that I didn't scare anyone away. So long as you take care with your listings and follow some very simple rules the vast majority of you experiences with selling will be positive and profitable ones.