questionshow can i protect myself when shipping an ebay…

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UPDATE: Better judgement has proceeded over me and I have chosen to cancel the purchased item and avoid any possible frustration/problems.

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If there's a way to back out of the deal, do it now. If that means a hit on your reputation, take it anyway. Do a little more research on why so few eBay sellers accept orders from certain countries. Your fears are reasonable, and you're likely going to get burned badly in this transaction.

Edit: Glad to read your follow-up, which posted just a few seconds before my comment did.

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@jsoko: Glad to hear. My advice was going to be "don't send it." There are a few place we have friends where it is just not worth trying to mail them anything. Even cards get opened by people looking for cash. :/ I have never had any concern using the USPS, but once it's out of their hands all bet's are off.

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@okham: Are there any decent countries to ship an iPhone to without much worry?

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If you're not currently aware of it, there is an option on ebay to restrict the individuals who can bid on your item. I do this for any high value items to avoid the concerns you recently had.
http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/manage_bidders_ov.html

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@rooopert2002: Thanks for your input... I currently use it, the problem is there is no option to block 1st time buyers, that joined the same day, from Russia. I normally sell only to the US, but figured since the iPhone is apple unlocked and can be used worldwide, I would get better prices out of international countries.

On a side note: Anyone want to buy an iPhone 3G? Send me a PM, lol jk

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@jsoko: Argentina is among the best Countries in the World to ship an iPhone to! ;)

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It seems as though ebay has not consolidated their pages for managing bidders. You can set up buyer requirements for them to be able to bid. "I do this..."
http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/buyer-requirements.html

This includes having a purchase history.

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@jsoko: I can speak personally about shipping electronics as gifts to the UK and Germany without any trouble. Anywhere else, I would make sure to use insured FedEx or UPS.

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@rooopert2002: Having a purchase history isn't a choice when restricting buyers, here are the options:
"You can block buyers from bidding on or purchasing your items by specifying buyer requirements. You can block buyers who:
Don't have a PayPal account
Have unpaid items recorded on their account
Have a primary shipping address in countries you don’t ship to
Have reportedly violated eBay policies
Have a Feedback score lower than the number you specify
Are currently winning or have bought 1-100 of your items in the last 10 days (you can specify the number)
You can also block buyers based on their user ID by creating a blocked list."

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In order to have a feedback score though you have to purchase or sell something and get feedback...

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Let me tell you my story...

Few years ago I received a iPhone 3S from woot for christmas! While I would have loved to use an iPhone as my phone, I had sprint service and was unable to use it with my contract. Months and months later I decided to list the phone on ebay. Had a buy it now option and blocked all sales outside the USA.

Some user with less then 10 rep purchased the iphone, paid for it, and I shipped it out promptly. Paypal put a hold on the money till the tracking info marked it as delivered. Three weeks after it was shipped from my home I received a message from the buyer stating they wanted me to send $150 of their money back for the purchase. They claimed the phone was damaged, that the mute button did not work correctly or something along those lines. I was ready to believe it but not willing to part with $150 for a small damaged feature such as this so I declined and said that I will offer a refund once they ship the phone back to me.

Continued below...

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@rooopert2002: However, "Have a feedback score equal to or lower than -1" is the largest option. Can't choose 0.

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So a day later I received another email from the user insisting I send them $60 to cover the cost of shipping the phone to me. Yes $60 to ship an iPhone I paid no more then 15$ to ship with insurance etc. I checked with paypal and it is the buyers responsibility to pay for shipping if they wish to return something, so I said I would not pay for shipping. The next day I found I had an open dispute in paypal for the amount of $150, the user was trying to get me to accept $150 discount in paypal, I declined and eventually it was escalated to a claim which means my account went negative $350.

Then I spoke with paypal and told them I had agreed to fully refund the purchase if the buyer sent the iphone back and it was in the original condition. Paypal says ok and informs the buyer they need to send it back and include tracking information. A few days later the item in the claim was marked as shipped but had no tracking information as required.

Continued below... one more time...

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Well then, ahem, my apologies -I misremembered that detail it seems.

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USPS has a new thing this spring that you cannot ship phones and other stuff with lithium batteries outside the 48 contiguous states. This includes the military addresses. Somethingto keep in mind if you do end up shipping out of the states. I do not know but have heard the UPS and Fedex are expensive for international stuff.

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@rooopert2002: No problem. It's frustrating trying to deal with eBay when they prioritize buyer's concerns over seller's.

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A week or two goes by with no package showing up at my house, no tracking info on the shipment on paypal. The buyer sends a message threw paypal demanding I refund the money as he sent the item back. I explain to paypal I never received the item back, and I point out that he never entered the required shipping information in the claim area. He counter replies saying some foreign shipping service does not offer tracking. Here it turns out he had me ship it to a USA address which is set to forward all the mail over seas to Africa or somewhere similar where he actually lives. I dig up information on the shipping service and managed to find a page where you can track shipments. I sent the URL to paypal showing that the shipping company did in fact have a way to track packages.

To make the rest of the story short, paypal sided with me and closed the claim informing me that it was most likely a scam attempt to get a refund without ever returning the purchased item.

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@darkinc: What a mess. How long did you have to wait for the claim to be settled? Good to know that it can work out for the seller. Seems like I hear alot about paypal siding with buyers.

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I have had no un-resolvable problems with shipping to Russia (6 times so far), but due to lithium battery restrictions through USPS, I have stopped. I only used USPS due to the high prices through other services. The long story above shows that the system works IF you follow the rules.

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@pattiq: It took right around a month for me to get the $350 back in my account. Till this day I still have not received this package he sent back.

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Thanks, @jsoko, for asking this question, and thanks to you and @rooopert2002 (and others) for the informative answers. I keep meaning to post stuff on eBay (but not electronics, thankfully), and it's always helpful when I see information from the more experienced sellers.

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I read your question and immediately thought "Don't do it!". Glad you backed away...it sounded like trouble. FWIW, when I sell on ebay I restrict my buyers to the U.S. and Canada. The northern postal service is a little slower but I've never had any problems with them.

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This is almost like asking "I saw Breaking Bad and decided cooking meth would be a great way to supplement my income. How can I do this safely and without getting killed by other drug dealers?"

There simply isn't any safe way to do it. I'm very happy you thought the better of it. Ebay remains (to this day) the wild west of eCommerce. There are scammers left, right, and center: both on the selling and buying end. Best answer is to restrict sales to the U.S., and accept PayPal only.

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@jsoko: You have made the right decision, regarding this sale. Be sure to block this buyer, to avoid possible future retaliation over the cancellation. Anytime I have concerns about buyers OR sellers I always preempt problems by doing this.
http://pages.ebay.com/services/buyandsell/biddermanagement.html

Edit: While I don't usually advocate lying, you may want to fib, and say the iphone was damaged, if it isn't too late. An email to the purchaser apologizing for it could go a long way in keeping you from a bad a feedback hit. It can also get you your seller fees back, if the buyer agrees to cancel, although that is a long shot, especially with a scam artist, or even an innocent new user.

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@jsoko: That's the best decision you could've made.. I know somebody who had some shady eBay dealings pretty similar to that and it ended up being almost a year worth of postal bureaucratic bull-plop.

Protip: If you relist, you might keep it local :D

(I haven't read the comments yet, but I'm pretty sure most of 'em are going to say "Don't send it!" heh)