After many years of using Ebay with absolutely no issues I noticed a major increase in scammers and fraud in the last couple of years. I had wondered if the site was getting worse or if I'd just been unlucky so I asked around. All the people I know who were sellers were having a much worse time with scammers since the pandemic started.
There's a few interesting threads here.
The first one is that a friend of mine who sells old out of print books online was saying that he thinks that a lot of the scammers are ex-sellers. After my recent experiences I can see why, Ebay will side with the buyer in almost all cases, even if it is fairly obviously that the buyer is scamming the seller. If you are a seller you'll see fairly quickly how Ebay will side with the buyers for certain reasons. Perhaps the best way to scam a seller is to claim that the item is counterfeit. You might not even need to buy a counterfeit to return in place of the real item as Ebay will sometimes not require the buyer to return the items in such cases.
Another seller said he had got empty boxes with bricks, yes literal bricks, mailed back to him and EBay had sided with the buyers.
So I got thinking about this, from a business strategy point of view why would you side with the buyers so much that it starts to actively incentivize scammers?
I guess this was the situation in the economy more broadly for a bunch of crap consumer goods. For a while there's was more supply than there was demand. If the bottleneck to your service as a marketplace is that you can't get enough buyers for your platform you might decide to make your policies such that you attempt to keep up buyer numbers at all costs. This is going to be very interesting to reflect on if that assumption about more sellers than buyers changes. If the global supply chain issues get worse there's going to be a lot less sellers and I'm sure the balance will shift, but will the policies keep up?
Perhaps the most interesting change is how the common-knowledge changes over time. If you have a situation whereby the buyers and sellers are mostly honest then a platform can maintain some rate of fraud on it without that causing a complete collapse of trust. There's an interesting tipping point that gets reached when there's so much scamming that people openly start to talk about how profitable it is to scam the sellers on a platform. A huge number of horror stories are just one search away but more importantly the inaction in response to those stories is also very easy to find. When that point is reached a large number of opportunists start to get involved because they see the risk to reward being very favorable. If a platform doesn't take steps to deal with that then the future doesn't look great for that platform.
My breaking point was selling something on Ebay and getting a claim that what was sold was counterfeit. The buyer included a bunch of detailed pictures in the dispute process that actually demonstrated the genuine nature of the product, including some more detailed close up pictures that proved the authenticity. I then got a return parcel that didn't even include the box that the item came in, the weight was at most half the weight of the original item. Despite all this Ebay sided with the buyer in the dispute. This was in part because enough time elapsed to trip over some sort of process threshold with returns. I'm pretty much 100% sure that in this case the buyer deliberately was delaying on the return explicitly to game this aspect of the system. When Ebay wanted to charge me seller fees for the item I got defrauded on I was angry and this was the last straw for me (I'd already had two extremely negative experiences leading up to this). After presenting the evidence that I was defrauded Ebay waived the fees but I still was out all the money for the original item and didn't even get a restocking fee for my efforts. Many weeks later I saw that particular buyer still had an active account. Since then I've not sold anything on Ebay and I probably won't until the platform makes some serious changes to deter bad actors. This is a major pity because I used to particularly like the platform and I think the platform could be a good one again, but the automatic siding with buyers is so one sided it now just incentivizes fraudsters.