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James Baggott: I’ve just about had enough of the world’s biggest auction site

Time 8:48 am, June 25, 2013

ebay-logo-01IT claims to ‘connect buyers with sellers worldwide’ but if my recent experiences are anything to go by the only thing eBay can claim to put you in touch with these days are freaks, timewasters and lowlife.

Things seem to have taken a real turn for the worse in the shopping aisles of the world’s biggest virtual car boot sale — and I bet I’m not the only one out there that’s just about had enough of it.

Before I really kick off, let me explain. eBay hasn’t always been like this. Really it hasn’t. I’ve sold hundreds of things on the site over the years. From old motorcycle kit to kids’ toys and computers — many things have been and gone, paid for via Paypal in a matter of minutes, wrapped in whatever scrap paper I can find, covered in tape (Sello, electrical or tank, depending on what’s left in the garage) and then deposited at the post office never to be seen again.

Screen shot 2013-06-25 at 08.51.10I’ve bought hundreds of things on the site, too — and more often than not for a bargain price. I’ve always paid for the items immediately and patiently waited for them to arrive before leaving some positive feedback for the sellers. There used to be a real community feel about the site — everyone wanting to conduct themselves properly in the transaction process so that everything rubbed along nicely. Like one big happy cult.

Not any more. I don’t know about you, but I’m finding the good experiences are the exception these days rather than the rule. As the website — which launched back in 1995 under the name AuctionWeb — has grown over the years, so too have the dodgy members. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky, but of late they all seem to be buying from me. If it’s not some text-style direct message (Ow much 4 dat car on by na?) it’s someone asking you if you’ll swap the car for two horses and a goat. Or a Kawasaki motorbike.

You may remember last month my hate-filled Abu Hamza-esque rant at the eBay member that messed me about for a week after winning the Metro I’m trying to sell as part of the Brewer v Baggott £50 car challenge. Despite a week of text messages from the illiterate fool, in which he seemed to use the words ‘mate’ and ‘pal’ in place of full stops and commas, he decided several days later that despite promising to come and pick the car up three times he no longer wanted it because ‘he’d lost his job’. He told me I’d have to ‘relist it’. Yeah, I know that, thanks to you.

I spent the week of the resale thinking of suitable punishments for the time-wasting sheep’s gonad but the anger eased when the car sold again — albeit for £60 less than before. By now I just wanted shot of the doom blue OAP transporter and thankfully the emails started positively: ‘I’ve just found out I’ve won your wonderful Metro would it be possible to collect on Friday?’

The fact he’d just found out, three days after the listing ended, should have set off alarm bells — surely he must have known he was bidding? Still, two days passed before I heard from him again: ‘Sorry for not getting back to you sooner but I have to fly out of the country and will no longer be able to buy the car’, came the cryptic message. Fly out of the country? Where? When? Why? Was he an illegal alien? A Metro-loving spy? Surely he must have realised that at some point he would have to ‘fly out of the country’? Was he never coming back? Did he know the plane wouldn’t make it? Was it the worst excuse ever to not proceed with an eBay purchase? Perhaps, the latter.

Maybe I’ve just been unlucky. Maybe everyone was buying the Metro after some Booze Bidding — when, after a night in the pub, buying a C-reg Austin with no MoT or tax SEEMS like a good idea. I really do think eBay should ditch its current password log-in system and have an intoxication test that won’t let you log in if you’re drunk, but I digress.

It’s not just cars, though. I listed an iPhone recently and the winning bidder contacted me to ask if I wanted to relist it because he ‘didn’t have enough money in his account’. And this guy wasn’t joking. Surely he’d have checked he could afford the phone before getting caught up in the excitement of the auction? No, it seems that would have been too sensible.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for those of you trying to run a business on there. A scroll through the thousands of cars listed on eBay Motors points to many dealers using the site. I’m sure the freak ratio to pukka punter count for you is far higher than the GCSE-dodgers I seem to be encountering.

I’m wondering if eBay is worth the hassle. It might be a little cheaper than traditional classified sites but at least they filter out the freaks. You know if the buyer turns up at your dealership that he’s at least a little bit serious. OK, they might haggle but that’s what we like isn’t it? It’s called car dealing for a reason. I’d love to know whether it’s just me that appears to have a time-waster magnet, or is it inherent in eBay selling now?

Let me know by tweeting me @CarDealerEd.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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