Online Marketplace Precautions

The holiday shopping season is a busy time for scammers, including those who sell merchandise online which consumers never receive. It happens year-round, but consumers are most vulnerable now. They’re overwhelmed, so they’re more likely to miss warning signs.

Scenario:  A child asks for a trendy toy, and Grandma can’t buy it directly from established retailers because the toy sells too fast.  So, she takes a chance.  She buys it through a reputable site, but the actual seller is a contractor who has signed up very recently with the site.  The toy might be bargain-priced.

After the toy is ordered, either it doesn’t arrive or a pirated or damaged item is delivered.

I want to share a personal experience, which fortunately for me didn’t involve a lot of money.  It also happened before the official opening of the holiday shopping season.  I lost under ten dollars, but if the recent consumer reviews are any indication a lot of people got ripped off.  This morning I added my own review, but it’s useless to other people because the marketplace no longer posts that seller’s listings.

I saw a listing on a reputable marketplace site for a copy of Hamilton, the biography which is the basis for the current musical.  The listing described the book as “new,” and only five dollars plus shipping.  The current trade paper edition has a publisher’s price of $20.00.

Okay, I was gullible.  I’d never had trouble with this site, though, and although the seller was identified as a new member of the marketplace I assumed I’d found a bargain.

That was when I should have stopped and put on my thinking cap.  At the time I didn’t even look for other customers’ reviews of the seller, although a whole bunch of them are available now.  A long line of pissed off people.

To quote a badly worn bit of wisdom, If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Read consumer statements about a marketplace contractor, and if the seller is new to the company understand that your experience is the proverbial canary-in-the-coalmine thing.  If you get screwed, follow the proper protocol for reporting it.  Likewise, if your experience is good you should write a positive review to encourage honest business practices.

Here’s a redacted screenshot of the e-mail reply from the marketplace site.  Evidently, it was sent automatically after I tried to contact the seller:


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