It's sad that it takes so much to get eBay to do the right thing sometimes, but I love a happy ending.
eBay sellers are increasingly finding themselves in a no win scenario being flagged by automated systems resulting in accounts being put on hold indefinitely with no ability to appeal.
From last year's bots gone wild mass banning event to my own personal experience with having my account shut down for "being a risk to the eBay community", it's clear eBay is relying more and more on automated systems and not providing their support reps any leeway to actually assist sellers to resolve situations once a restriction has been triggered.
An eBay seller recently reached out to me with a difficult scenario - he had sold a painting originally purchased at an art fair 20 years ago and eBay is holding the payment and restricting the account until he provides a receipt, which, understandably, he does not have.
The most troubling part of this story is at no point did the buyer lodge any complaints with eBay - they are perfectly happy with the transaction and have even left positive feedback.
Importantly, the first message the seller received did not ask for a receipt, it simply asked for proof of delivery for the items that had been sold. That's a reasonable request and understandable action to be taken, especially for a newer account.
The seller complied with that request and provided eBay the requested delivery information.
Then eBay asked for more - wanting to verify the seller's identity and address and requesting receipts for the purchase of all items recently listed for sale.
Verifying the identity and address is also reasonable as far as I'm concerned, again especially for a newer account.
I know a lot of sellers are uncomfortable with providing ID documents and don't trust eBay (some with good reason) but given the rampant fraud I've seen on the platform using hijacked accounts and stolen identities, it's an unfortunate reality that eBay does need to verify accountholder information. There are also anti-money laundering and payment handling regulations in play that may require eBay to verify sellers' identities.
For the record, this seller had no problem complying with the ID requirements and provided that information to eBay in his appeal.
The last part of the request is the sticking point. The item in question was a piece of art purchased at a street fair 20 years ago - unsurprisingly, the seller does not have a receipt to provide.
Again, this action may have been reasonable if the buyer had complained of non-delivery, questioned the authenticity, requested a return for not as described etc. but that's not what happened.
The buyer left positive feedback and has even been in communication with the seller and offered to contact eBay directly to let them know there were no issues with the transaction.
So it's a bit perplexing that eBay has now permanently restricted the account to "reduce negative buying experiences on eBay" when in fact according to the buyer, the experience was anything but negative.
It's also a bit confusing that eBay has now changed their tune and said the original restriction was due to a policy violation when it was previously presented to the seller as a security check to verify identity and make sure the buyer actually received the items sold.
eBay used the same vague language here about "behavior that posed a risk to the eBay community" that they used when they suspended my account in June - an account which had not been used for buying or selling and which eBay later confirmed had been taken down due to their automated systems flagging the account in error.
I was eventually able to recover that account but eBay themselves admitted that was only because of my "social presence."
It's clear that many innocent accounts are getting caught up in the automated dragnet and eBay typically provides no way to appeal. Quite simply, that isn't good enough.
It's one thing for eBay to step into disputes between buyers and sellers and make determinations on cases based on policies.
It's a whole other thing for eBay to insert themselves in the middle of successfully completed transactions and put seller funds on hold indefinitely when there has been no complaint or dispute raised about the transaction.
This is not the first I've heard of consumer sellers being asked to provide receipts for personal items they may have bought long ago. That's going to pose a particular challenge as eBay CEO Jamie Iannone says he's leaning in to second-hand goods and collectibles - precisely the kinds of items sellers are unlikely to have manufacturer receipts for.
If eBay wants to win in the consumer selling recommerce space, they're going to have to figure out a way to balance trust and safety issues with enabling frictionless commerce on the site - and that needs to start with scrapping the automated systems and putting highly trained human reps who are empowered to actually assist sellers on the job.