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Q: "I have posted a reserve auction listing on eBay (a listing with a reserve price below which the seller is not obligated to sell); the reserve has not yet been broken, although the bidders are very close to doing so. Because he really wants this item, one of the bidders has e-mailed me and offered me twice whatever my reserve amount is if I will terminate the listing and sell to him privately. The offer is very attractive, as I don't think I will get twice my reserve price if the auction goes to closing. Can I take him up on his offer?"

A: Absolutely not. This violates eBay's "offers off of eBay" policy, which can be found at pages.ebay.com/help/policies/rfe-spam-non-ebay-sale.html. Transactions off of eBay are strongly discoursaged for two reasons:

1. There is no assurance you will have the same degree of protection against fraud when you sell off of eBay.

2. When sellers pull their listings and sell off of eBay, eBay loses a fee.

If eBay discovers sellers engaging in practices that circumvent their obligation to pay fees to eBay, they will kick them off the site without hesitation. Say no to the offer.

Q: "I recently put an item up for sale on eBay in a reserve auction. While the listing was pending, I received an e-mail from an eBay member offering to purchase the item for a specified price off of eBay if the item did not sell because the reserve wasn't broken. Is this acceptable? Should I report this to eBay?"

A: Technically, this is an offer off of eBay that violates eBay's policy. The difference between this and the previous question, however, is that the bidder here is not asking you to terminate your listing. If the listing closes and the item is purchased at a price above your stated reserve, then the bidder's offer becomes null and void. If the listing closes and the item does not sell because the reserve was not broken, you can choose to simply ignore the offer and relist the item. Still, it's an offer to purchase off of eBay that clearly violates eBay's fee circumvention policy.

I don't think you should report this to eBay, and I don't think you should accept this bidder's offer. Instead, wait for the listing to close. If the item does not sell, relist the item as a Buy It Now! listing at the price offered by the bidder and notify him via e-mail that the item is now available on eBay at his requested price. That way everybody wins—your item sells, the buyer gets the item he wants at the price he wants to pay, eBay gets their fees, and no policies have been violated.

Q: "I received an e-mail from a past eBay buyer offering to buy outside of eBay if I had more of the same items to sell in the future. Is this type of solicitation okay?"

A: There is nothing wrong with this type of solicitation; it does not violate eBay's fee circumvention policy, which can be found at pages.ebay.com/help/ policies/rfe-spam-non-ebay-sale.html. If you do have more of the same items, you have the choice of listing them on eBay (see the answer to the previous question) or negotiating with the buyer offline, as you choose. Be sure to check the buyer's feedback score and rating, though, as transactions off of eBay do not qualify for any seller protection offered by eBay or PayPal.

Q: "I have a fixed-price listing with less than twelve hours to go. A buyer has contacted me via e-mail offering a lower amount. Can I consider this offer, or should I ignore it?"

A: Because your listing has less than twelve hours to go, you cannot make any changes to it at this point. The buyer has to accept your price.

What you can do is wait for the listing to end, relist it as a fixed-price listing, and add eBay's popular Make an Offer feature. Then send the buyer an e-mail letting him or her know you have done this. If the buyer doesn't want to pay the full price, he or she can make you an offer without violating any eBay policies. If the buyer's lower offer is acceptable, you can decide to accept it and pay eBay fees based on the lower price.

Transaction Interference

Q: "I'm selling a certain type of antique on eBay, and I noticed that another seller is selling similar merchandise but there are many mistakes in his item description that are clearly intended to mislead buyers. Should I send e-mails to his buyers notifying them of these errors? Sellers like this guy make all of us sellers on eBay look bad!"

A: You have the best of intentions here, but I'm afraid if you send e-mails to the seller's bidders you are violating eBay's Transaction Interference policy, which can be found at pages.ebay.com/help/policies/transaction-interference .html, even though your warnings may be ioo percent correct. And if they're not correct, you have committed libel and can be sued by the seller in a court of law outside of eBay.

Unfortunately, eBay does not allow you to post negative feedback for someone unless you actually are engaged in a transaction with that someone. Accordingly, there are two things you can do in this situation if you want to be a Good Samaritan:

• You can track this seller's listing and report each one to eBay—sooner or later they will take notice, especially if other sellers (and especially buyers) have filed reports similar to yours.

• If the item isn't priced very high, you can snipe the item from the seller, pay for it, and file an item significantly not as described (SNAD) dispute with the seller on eBay. This will permit you to post negative feedback for the seller, but be prepared that the seller is likely to do the same to you, especially when he or she finds out you are a vigilante who wasn't legitimately interested in the item when you placed your bid.

 
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