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Today’s post comes from PDX Deals Guy who has previously written about using the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program in Las Vegas, Ticket Reselling, how to earn up to 2.625% with the Bank Americard Travel Visa, his experience with Silvercar and Hyatt Zilara Cancun. You can follow him on Twitter and look for the latest deals on his website.
eBay Bucks Taken Away With No Notice
Any regular reader of Miles to Memories will know that eBay can be a great place to find good deals, and that their eBay Bucks rewards program can be a key factor in many of these deals. This is especially true during the periodic (and sometimes targeted) eBay Bucks promos, when eBay boosts their usual 2% Bucks rewards program into a 3x (6%), 4x (8%), or 5x (10%) payout.
Just as Shawn has highlighted his recent foray into reselling, my wife (Mrs. PDXDealsGuy) has also begun to do the same. For many resellers, the most convenient way of sourcing items to resell is via online retailers, such as eBay. (Although there are other sourcing avenues, as highlighted in this recent post.)
While I can’t speak for retailers, there are clearly pros and cons of resellers buying their most attractively priced deals. eBay, for example, has language in its terms to warn against “Creating additional eBay accounts to avoid selling restrictions”. Any person buying on eBay (whether in large quantities for personal use or resale) should be aware of this and not buy the same items on multiple accounts (and eBay appears to be most sensitive about items listed in their “daily deals” section). The PDXDealsGuy household is very aware of these guidelines and have become very careful to not run afoul of them.
It is also worth noting that we shop often at eBay for both personal and potential resale items.
First Signs of Trouble
In early February, Mrs. PDXDealsGuy bought five units (the maximum allowed) of a deal-priced item on eBay. Later in the day, she noticed the same item for sale at BestBuy.com and purchased some units there as well. Within hours of both orders, she received emails confirming that the units had been shipped by both eBay and BestBuy.com. It was at that time that she realized that the eBay units were actually being sold by Best Buy, via eBay. Within the day, she received the following message from eBay:
While there was no specifics on which transaction triggered this message, nor any specific details of what violation had occurred, it was a reinforcement of the fact that eBay is not fond of purchases made for resale purposes. Or so they said in this message. This flies in the face of their constant email marketing messages inviting buyers to participate in their daily deals, and those deals all have very clear limits (often one, three, or five units – and who really ever needs five units of a consumer electronics item?). I won’t rehash the entire terms listed on the “site interference” policy they linked to in that letter, but there is not any language stating that a buyer cannot buy an item and resell it later, or that they must limit their purchasing of daily deals to some threshold below the stated limits on any particular deal.
The letter concludes with a warning that “additional violations of this policy may result in your purchases being cancelled and a restriction or suspension of your buying and selling capabilities.” Of course, not knowing specifically what was done wrong makes avoiding it in the future difficult. But she knew it was likely the unintentional “double purchase” from Best Buy, so she has been more careful since that time not to repeat that mistake. There was NO warning about the impact of this mistake on the eBay Bucks rewards program. And she took the letter at face value that it was a warning, and NOT a notice of punishment.
Flash Forward to the End of the March Quarter
Over the course of the quarter, Mrs. PDXDealsGuy continued to purchase items at eBay and earn eBay Bucks. In fact, she was such a good consumer (!!!) that she maxed out eBay’s quarterly limitation on earning eBay Bucks at $500. (Note that since many of these purchases were made on 8% and 10% promotions, this was about $5000+ of merchandise.) During this time, every purchase displayed exactly how much was being earned in Bucks, and her Bucks “balance” continued to grow until it reached the $500 maximum.
On March 31st, her Bucks balance sat at $500 and, as with all eBay users, her account page promised that she would be receiving a Bucks certificate within a few days. After a week or so passed by, she noticed that the certificate had not been delivered. While in hindsight she should have reached out to the eBay Twitter team right away, she started out by trying to reach eBay support via email (a completely fruitless to impossible exercise) and by phone.
Over the course of a couple weeks, she placed multiple phone calls. This was a multi-hour waste of time. Eventually she did reach a person who told her that the Bucks had been withheld due to “abuse of Daily Deals” and that there was no appeal process. Interestingly this person (and other reps) did specifically highlight that she is definitely “eligible to earn Bucks during the second quarter.” So whatever she did wrong was grounds to have $500 in earned eBay Bucks withheld (with no notice), but not bad enough to remove her from the program.
eBay Twitter Team to the “Rescue”
At this point, Mrs. PDXDealsGuy had the great idea to reach out to eBay’s Twitter team, since many social media teams are given more latitude to be helpful. In a reply via Twitter Direct Message, eBay’s Twitter team invited her to contact them via email (since they couldn’t access account information via DM).
She then sent the Twitter team an email describing much of the situation described above. She stressed that she wanted to talk to a person on the eBay Bucks team. Preferably someone who actually had decision making authority and could explain the situation, and either issue the hard-earned Bucks or at least explain what she had done wrong (and how to avoid the situation in the future).
Here is the reply she received from the Twitter team (spelling and grammar not corrected):
With this, Mrs. PDXDealsGuy replied back to the Twitter team rep seeking some clarification and sternly requesting (again) to be able to correspond with a decision maker in the eBay Bucks department. The main point being that, at the very least, she deserved to know exactly what she had done wrong and what specific eBay Terms or rules allowed them to withhold Bucks that had been earned (recall that her Bucks balance continued to grow after the early-February message from eBay, and there was NO warning that eBay Bucks might be withheld).
Here is the second reply from the same member of the Twitter team:
Mrs. PDXDealsGuy replied yet again. Seeking not only clarification on her situation and requesting to speak with a real decision-maker, but also asking generic questions regarding the eBay Bucks program and how one would know if they had violated a undisclosed rule that might lead to a disqualification from Bucks earning.
This led to the eBay Twitter team’s most recent reply (below). Note that no attempt was made to address any questions, even those of a generic nature about the eBay Bucks program and any unwritten rules (not specifically related to the issue of the $500 in withheld Bucks).
So Where Does this Leave Us?
That’s the question. At some point (probably long ago) this stopped being worth $500 of our time. But this appears to be a case, in my humble opinion, of a big corporation behaving badly. They know that they have infinitely more resources than a consumer, and don’t care enough to even explain their actions. And their only excuse for that is that giving an explanation would somehow “increase risk” or “negatively impact the broader community”.
I would love to hear readers’ opinions on potential next moves, in the comments below. As I see it, the options are to either: a) simply drop the subject, b) “make some noise” via a consumer advocacy channel, or c) consider other alternatives.
Clearly all eBay buyers, especially those generating any significant amount of eBay Bucks, need to be aware of this situation. You may think you are earning eBay Bucks, because they are showing up in your shopping cart and eBay account. You may even be buying from eBay, instead of another retailer, because you have the expectation that you are earning Bucks as shown in your shopping cart and account. But that doesn’t mean your certificate is coming next quarter, as expected.
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