Q: "I purchased and immediately paid for a lot of three items last week for my son's second birthday. This morning, my PayPal funds were returned by the seller with a message saying his kids won't let him sell their toys. While I empathize with the seller, what are my options in terms of enforcing the valid contract I believe we entered into? If buyers are given a 'this is a valid/binding contract' warning upon bidding, shouldn't this work both ways? I have tried to find the same items in other auctions, but they are not all being offered."

A: Generally, you cannot force someone on eBay to go through with their transaction—what we lawyers call "specific performance." This works both ways: A buyer can't force you to sell something you don't want to sell, and you can't force your buyers to cough up money for something they don't want. The proper remedy is to file the appropriate complaint with eBay—in the case of buyers, a nonperforming seller complaint, and in the case of sellers, an unpaid item dispute.

In this case, the buyer probably could file a nonperforming seller complaint against the seller—the seller clearly is bound to sell these items—but I would use good judgment here. Check out the seller's feedback score and rating. If it's extremely good (more than one hundred transactions, and a 100 percent positive rating), then I would cut the seller some slack here. Just make sure the seller gives you positive feedback for being such a "mensch." And keep your eye on his listings—if he puts the same stuff up for sale in the next week...

Q: "I sold something on eBay last week, but then discovered to my horror that I totally screwed up on the shipping fees. Can I ask the winning bidder to pay the actual shipping amount, or do I have to eat this? Can I simply undo the transaction and send the bidder her money back?"

A: You have to eat the excess shipping fees—eBay expects you to get this right before you list an item, and they're pretty unforgiving when you screw up. If time permits, you can amend the listing and increase the shipping fees, but don't try to do this if there's less than twelve hours remaining in the auction. But your auction has already closed—chalk this one up to experience, and next time make sure you have the exact shipping charges for the item before you list.

Q: "I have just listed an item in an auction-format listing. The buyer wants me to add a Buy It Now! option so she can purchase this item. She has made me a nice offer—apparently, I don't know what I have. I would love to work with her, but someone else has already bid the minimum. What are my options?"

A: At this point, none. Had this happened before you had a bidder, you could have ended the listing early and relisted it with a Buy It Now! option. Once an auction listing has at least one bidder, however, you are prohibited from adding a Buy It Now! option. All you can do at this point is ask this person or submit a bid, or perhaps snipe the item when the listing closes.

Q: "I have just listed my first items for sale and I think I made a mistake. I listed them as auction listings with a Buy It Now! option. I'm afraid now that my items are going to sell at a huge loss. Can I cancel these listings even though there are bids on them? If not, I guess this is just a learning curve thing I'll have to eat."

A: Making a mistake on eBay can turn into an expensive lesson. You have bids, which is a good thing. But it also means you cannot cancel the auctions without creating a ton of ill will with your bidders.

It's too bad your first listings might cost you. Many sellers are under the impression that having a Buy It Now! saves them from low starting bids. But, as the eBay rules make clear, the Buy It Now! option is removed when there is a bid made. For details, see pages.ebay.com/help/sell/end_early.html.

You can end the listings, but you need to cancel the bids first. Read the instructions carefully because if you leave a bid active and then cancel the listing, the bid that is left becomes the winning bid.

Q: "I canceled an auction that had twenty-two people watching it. Will they be notified or will they just be left hanging?"

A: No, watchers aren't notified. The auction will still be in their watch list (as ended). They can check the listing and see that you ended this listing early because of an error in the listing, and that it has been relisted.

Some sellers revise the description before ending the listing, to let people know why they are ending the listing early.

 
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