Q: "I sell clothing and ladies' fashion accessories on eBay. Recently I sold an orange jersey on eBay, but the buyer wants his money back, claiming that the jersey was not the same shade of orange as the photo on my eBay listing depicted. My sales Terms and Conditions state clearly that I do not accept returns on clothing items, for fear they may have been worn by the buyer or removed from their original packaging. Do I have to refund this buyer's money?"

A: This is a tough call. Colors are a particularly sticky subject on eBay, because they are literally all over the spectrum. Often a buyer trying to wiggle out of a bad bargain claims that the color of the item received didn't match the color on your auction photo.

Sometimes it's your fault—for example, if you didn't properly calibrate your digital camera when you took the photo or you didn't light the object properly so the color showed up darker than it actually was.

But a lot of times it's the buyer's fault. Colors often show up slightly different due to the way you set your monitor. If a buyer is using an older monitor and has it calibrated differently than someone using a newer monitor, the color of the object may show up differently on each screen.

There really is nothing you can do about this situation except disclose to potential buyers that you are not responsible for differences in color due to differing monitor settings, and you can be flexible with your return policy if a buyer really makes a stink about it.

For sample language for the Terms and Conditions section of your eBay listing relating to colors, see Appendix B of my book The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book.

Copying Other Sellers' Descriptions

Q: "I sell a lot of different items on eBay, and it takes up way too much time for me to write descriptions of each item from scratch. If I see somebody else selling a similar item on eBay, can I simply cut and paste the person's description into my listing and perhaps edit it a little bit so it describes the exact item I'm selling?"

A: There's an eBay policy saying you shouldn't use other sellers' descriptions, photos, and other listing content without their permission (pages.ebay .com/help/policies/vero-image-text-theft.html), but I don't know that eBay enforces it very aggressively. There's also the need (discussed in Chapter 6) for eBay sellers to do everything possible to minimize the amount of time it takes to list items so they're not reinventing the wheel every time they put up a new listing. Also, there are only so many ways you can describe certain merchandise, such as a particular make and model of laptop computer—put ten monkeys in a room with this item and they will all write the same description, pretty much word for word.

Common sense should rule here. You absolutely should not use someone else's description if the item you're selling is not 100 percent identical to the other item. I also strongly discourage your using anybody else's description word for word unless you are selling generic merchandise that can be described only one way. On the other hand, using several other sellers' descriptions of similar merchandise as templates or guidelines for drafting your own unique item description shouldn't get you into too much trouble on eBay. But...if a particular seller is well known on eBay for using certain idiosyncrasies of grammar or syntax in his or her item descriptions, avoid copying them in your own because, although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, plagiarism can get you kicked off eBay.

Your Selling Terms and Conditions

Q: "I would like to put Selling Terms and Conditions on my eBay listings so buyers won't be confused as to when I will and won't accept returns of items. I have looked at the Terms and Conditions on other eBay sellers' listings, and I think they're very forbidding and off-putting, having been obviously drafted by lawyers. Do you know where I can find some more user-friendly forms that will protect me but not scare my buyers off?"

A: There are three mistakes people make when putting Terms and Conditions on their eBay listing pages.

The first mistake is not to have any Terms and Conditions at all. As long as you are not violating any of eBay's policies or disqualifying your listings for PayPal's Seller Protection Policy (see Chapter 11), eBay allows you wide discretion in setting your return and refund policy, disclaiming warranties, stating clearly how soon after a listing closes you will ship items, and so forth. If you do not clearly state in your listing that you will not accept returns of a particular item, then there's a presumption that you will accept returns under certain conditions, and buyers will be entitled to rely on that assumption if they receive defective or incorrect merchandise.

The second mistake is to go too far in the other direction, posting Terms and Conditions with ten or more pages of legalese that spell out in Byzantine detail how few rights and remedies buyers have when they successfully bid for your items. If it takes more than a minute for people to read your Terms and Conditions, you probably are scaring off some good buyers, because either:

• They are convinced you are an inflexible, bullying nut job who won't even listen to them if they have a legitimate problem with your merchandise.


• They don't feel they should have to hire a lawyer every time they bid for something on eBay!

The third mistake is to have a lawyer draft your Terms and Conditions. Your Terms and Conditions should be an extension of your item description. They should be written in the same language, and in plain English. By all means, have a lawyer review your Terms and Conditions before posting them in your listings, but make sure the language and tone of voice are yours.

You can find sample Terms and Conditions for eBay listings in the back of my book The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book.

Q: "What should I include in my listing Terms and Conditions to avoid being cheated by unscrupulous buyers on eBay?"

A: At the very least, your listing Terms and Conditions should include the following:

• A disclaimer of all warranties that are not expressly and explicitly stated in your item description

• A statement that residents of your state who buy from you will have to pay sales tax in addition to their winning bid amount (unless, of course, your state is one of the few that doesn't have a sales tax)

• A list of people whom you do not want to buy from you or bid on your merchandise (for example, residents of certain countries or people with low feedback scores)

• Your refund and return policy

• If you allow overseas buyers, a statement that their purchase may be subject to customs duties, import restrictions, and value-added taxes, and a recommendation that they consult with their legal or tax advisers before buying anything from you

• Your shipping policy, including an explanation of your shipping and handling charges if you impose these

• A statement of precisely when you will consider the buyer to be in default for failing to pay for an item in a timely fashion

I have included sample Terms and Conditions for eBay listings meeting all of these requirements, and more, at the end of my book The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book.

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