By RICH FOLEY
I wish the television show “Unsolved Mysteries” was still on the air. Maybe the late Robert Stack could track down the location and fate of the Warren Zevon poster I purchased on eBay nearly two months ago. The saga of its purchase and subsequent disappearance has turned into one of those horror stories that make people swear off buying online. Me? It just makes me want to swear, period.
Way back in April, I saw the eBay listing for the Zevon promotional poster. I put in a bid and on April 20, won the auction. I paid the next day through PayPal and waited for its arrival. I’m now glad I didn’t decide to hold my breath.
After three weeks passed with no poster, I e-mailed the seller asking for an estimated delivery date, but received no answer.
About a week later, I saw an identical poster for sale by the same person. I e-mailed him again, asking if that was the poster I already paid him for. Again, no reply.
On May 16, I filed a complaint with PayPal, asking for a refund. The next day, I finally received an e-mail from the seller, John, admitting that he hadn’t sent out the poster yet (“There was indeed an oversight” were his exact words), but he would send it that same day. He also claimed he hadn’t received either of my previous e-mails.
PayPal e-mailed me the following day and gave me a shipment tracking number John provided to them. I wondered if he told them he didn’t ship the poster until after he heard from them, but it didn’t really matter, I thought at the time. At least the poster was coming.
A couple of days later, I received e-mails from John, replying to both of my previous complaints. He claimed he had recently just got a new computer and it had put my e-mails in some junk file he had just discovered. He seemed pretty contrite about the situation.
Meanwhile, the days pass and the poster is lost somewhere between Georgia and Fayette. The postal service website doesn’t get into small details when you enter a tracking number for information, so my friendly, neighborhood postmaster offered to run it on his computer. I now know the exact time John mailed it, how much he paid and how much the first class package weighed. I just don’t know where it is. Neither does anyone else.
I don’t mean for this to be an indictment of the postal service. A couple of years ago, I won an eBay auction from a seller in Hawaii. I paid for it through PayPal on a Thursday night and Saturday morning, my letter carrier knocked on my door with the package in her hand. The time difference allowed the seller to still get it mailed on Thursday and the Priority Mail package somehow made it to Michigan less than 48 hours after I paid for it.
No such luck in this case, however. I’ve bought a few other things from eBay since, and every time I get one of those yellow cards in my mailbox, it’s always some other purchase waiting for me at the postal counter.
After 12 days of fruitless waiting, I e-mailed the news to John. He replied that he had several of the posters and if I hadn’t received it by June 1st, he’d send another. He added to be sure to let him know on the first because he was leaving for a trip on the second and it would be a while before he returned.
I e-mailed John on the evening of the first to break the bad news and stayed online for 40 minutes or so in case he replied. On Friday, my e-mail contained a reply from John, sent just five minutes after my e-mail, but lost in cyberspace until Friday afternoon. Not a surprise considering how the rest of this deal has gone.
John had misplaced my address and needed it to send out another poster. Of course, by then I was sure he’d already left on vacation, so I sent him my address and mentioned that I’d probably missed his deadline and wouldn’t expect the replacement anytime soon. Could this situation get any worse? Sure, at least for John.
On Friday night, I received an e-mail with the results of PayPal’s complaint investigation. I assumed they would drop the case after John sent them the tracking number, but apparently they have monitored it and know that the package never arrived. Their decision was to take the amount I paid out of John’s account and recredit it to my credit card. I’m sure that’ll make John’s day whenever he returns from vacation.
Meanwhile, it’s been 47 days since I paid for the poster and 21 days since it was mailed. Wasn’t it Warren’s friend Tom Petty who said the waiting was the hardest part?– June 7, 2006