I recently sold my old camera, Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom via Amazon Marketplace where I have had a sellers’ account for more than a year. I was damn pleased to have sold it within a week of putting it up for sale. The camera worked great and had produced great photos for me over the past two years. I was simply selling it because I got my new DSLR.

The camera was purchased by a guy in Atlanta who first emailed me about my return policy and I replied that the usual 30-day period and return-as-you-received applied for a full refund minus the shipping costs. He bought the camera a few days later and I instantly shipped it to him through Priority Mail to beat the Thanksgiving break. I received a delivery confirmation yesterday so I was naturally surprised when he emailed me as to when he could expect it. After sending him the tracking number, he confirmed that he had received it but at the same time added that after shooting few pictures, the LCD screen was not working for reviewing the pictures. In the same breath, he asked for my return address. I asked to see if he was using it correctly and pointed him to the different setting for shooting and reviewing the photos. He responded within the hour saying, the MyMode was not working and he was returning the camera.

Of course, I was disappointed since I was considering using the money for a new lens for my SLR but I found the whole thing a bit fishy since the buyer was more concerned about returning the camera than its condition or quality even before he bought it. Probably I am just being paranoid but the camera was working perfectly fine and I packaged it extremely carefully complete with bubble-wrap and those air-filled plastic bags that come with any Amazon purchase. I read up on Amazon’s return policy on the Marketplace and it is heavily skewed in favor of the buyer especially for used goods. But there have been cases of buyers returning defective items and keeping the originally purchased items. Ash managed to dig up the original receipt so that we can compare the serial number of the camera when it is returned. But I’ll have no way to prove if the buyer has tampered with the internal parts and damaged it. I’ve told him that I would refund the money only if it arrives before I leave for India, is in the condition I had sent it in, and matched the serial number. But in absence of any outward proof of any wrongdoing, I might have to refund his money if those conditions are met. But the whole thing just seems too fishy and I’m keeping my fingers crossed and waiting for the camera so I can personally inspect it.

Online transactions are heavily based on trust and although retailers shoulder most of the liability burden, you are simply not willing to invest any time and effort in any dispute that arises. Your reputation as a seller may be negatively impacted and thus any future sales that you might be hoping to do can be affected. Any misdeeds such as buying stuff and exchanging non-working parts or tampering with the original item before returning must be rampant. I just hope that isn’t the case with my camera. Although Amazon recommends that the seller refund the buyer in case of returned items, the sellers are not obligated to in case they suspect any mischief. The buyer is covered under Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee Protection and the sellers have to negotiate with Amazon regarding the dispute. I just hope I don’t have to go that way because frankly I don’t have the time or the inclination.

Have you had any such bad experiences with selling your stuff online?