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I have several items listed on eBay and a few of them due to their size and/or weight are listed as "for local pickup only". The description of each of these items clearly states that I won't ship these items under any circumstances.

From time to time, I get an inexperienced eBayer that does not notice these are for local pick up. And from time to time I get the occasional scammer that after being refunded claims that they got charged twice, or that they did not get properly refunded or a similar scam.

Lately, I'm getting a lot of lowball offers on the items I have for local pickup. These offers come from user with few votes, very new accounts and that always live far from my state. They don't ask for contact information such as an email or phone number. They don't ask to carry the transaction out of eBay. Actually there is no communication at all. They just make an offer for a price that is lower than the listed price (so they don't even appeal to my greed). I accepted one of these offers by mistake once, before realizing the buyer address was from a different state and there was no payment and no further communication. I just reported the buyer for the unpaid item.

I understand that I can set preferences so only users with a certain amount of votes and no strikes can buy my items, and that I can also remove the "allow best offer" feature from my listings. What I'm concerned about is that I don't understand how this scam works and I don't know what to do to avoid pitfalls except for ignoring these offers and users. What are they exactly after? How should I manage the transaction?

What is the point of making a low offer for an item they are not interested in and they are not going to pay? Are they trying to get some information from me from the offer or invoice details? If so they would get those just by "buying" the item and not paying it? What's the point of making the offer?

I tried looking for information on eBay forums but I could not find much about this specific.

Could someone explain to me how this scam works in which the scammer send a low offer on a "for local pickup only" item?

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  • I suspect they're trying to set you up for "I'll send you a check for much more than that, you send me back the change" -- which is sometimes money laundering and sometimes a plan to cash your check and then cancel theirs before you actually get the money. Or it may just be some punk kid making a mess.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 7:07
  • They never follow up after the initial offer. They don't pay, they don't respond to counteroffers or messages. That is what makes me wary. If they are not after money, are they after information? Am I unknowingly volunteering information they can use (information they would get from the offer, invoice or the like) and since that would be a standard for an eBay purchase, how do I avoid giving these scammer what they are after?
    – Diego
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 15:09
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    I don't think so. As seller, you get their address so you can ship. As buyer, they don't get any info unless they complete the transaction, unless you give it to them.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 16:26
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    This doesn't sound like a scam to me, so much as bot activity. A bunch of bots submitting bids below your asking price to generate a history of activity on their own accounts without actually processing transactions. I'm not familiar enough with the eBay ecosystem to say how this helps them, but I don't think it can hurt you if you just ignore them. Maybe after "laying the groundwork" for a couple years, they'll start putting out scam offers later, making it look like it's coming from a "real" account instead of one created yesterday.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 2:24
  • The only other thought I've got us that someone might be hoping to lower the historical average sale price enough that there's a brief window where they could buy it cheaper than it had been going. I'm not att all convinced such a scheme would work, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone was attempting it.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 4:51

3 Answers 3

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I learned a couple things the hard way with all these multiple scams hitting me at the same time and while it may not be a full answer to my original question maybe the answer will help others managing their finances when selling on ebay.

I have had a couple scammers paying for items they didn't intend to buy. These were accounts created recently and with low or nor reputation score. After paying they request a cancellation or refund. If they get it they are likely to claim that they were not fully refunded and try to get some money from the seller. If they don't get it they open a dispute with their own financial institution. That is one of the keys in my answer.

I spent a long time with a customer support representative, and I have reasons to believe that the scammer even forged some documentation stating that I had agreed to a cancellation (or at least that I was at fault form something, like not refunding them after cancelling, even if the transaction was not cancelled on eBay and I had fulfilled all my responsibilities as a seller). Again, after paying for the item and asking for a cancellation the buyer did not care to respond any messages, and pretended that a cancellation for the transaction already had happened on ebay and I was not refunding them.

My options as an eBay seller are to accept the situation and refund the buyer or to challenge the dispute. The problem is that even if this was a "for local pickup only" item, ebay wants me to provide information of shipping the item or the buyer picking it up. Bottom line, even if I'm honoring all the transaction terms I need to jump all these hoops just not to lose money.

The tricky part comes if you try to challenge the dispute. Ebay is acting just as a "mediator" with the buyer's financial institution, meaning that they only forward the information you provide, and it is the buyer's financial institution the one that decides how the dispute should be resolved. In addition (and completely unclear from eBay's "dispute challenge" forms) if you decide to challenge the dispute and you lose you get charged and additional $20 fee.

So you can find yourself in a situation were eBay does little for you (even if you are not at fault for any of your responsibilities as seller) and just forwards information to the buyer's financial institution who unilaterally resolves the dispute. If you challenge the dispute and fail you get charged $20 on top of losing the transaction's funds.

I'm not sure, but I suspect that the "lowball offer" could be a way of lowering the transaction amount under a certain level so it is more beneficial for the scammer. I assume that there is a "speedier" resolution if the amount is low. A buyer is also less likely to engage in a dispute resolution if they amount is low.

I hope this helps other people managing their transactions on ebay. I feel lucky that I spent so much time with customer support and learned about how the dispute resolution process is being carried and about those hidden dispute fees, because I had been tempted to challenge the dispute, which would have made me lose extra money.

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  • Regarding, "I'm not sure, but I suspect that the "lowball offer" could be a way of lowering the transaction amount under a certain level so it is more beneficial for the scammer." In this case why wouldn't they just elect to purchase less expensive things at asking price?
    – TTT
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 20:08
  • Scammers value their own time. Why surfing ebay for an item with the right price or price range that meets the other criteria for the scam (like being a "for local pickup only" item) when they can make an offer and set the transaction in a price range that is convenient for their purposes?
    – Diego
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 3:01
  • If they value their time I'd still argue the other way. There's no time wasted if you pay asking price, whereas if you make an offer of a lower price you usually get rejected. If you're buying an item at $250 so you can run some sort of scam at $175, it should be fairly simple to find an item priced at $175, somewhere on ebay.
    – TTT
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 3:23
  • BTW, I'm kind of leaning towards the lowball offers not being a scam, at least, not in the sense that someone is trying to steal from you. I've seen lowballs as well with pickup only items. (Thinking about formulating my own answer...)
    – TTT
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 3:31
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Just chiming in with a situational response and not so much of an answer, but it might be helpful for others.

My cousin was one of those people. But not for malicious reasons. He was a chronic, compulsive auction bidder. He won auctions all the time and then cowered at the bill and just hoped it "goes away." I had explained to him many times how this is a rotten way to behave, but he didn't seem to be able to stop. And his interests are super expensive. Like rare 80's memorabilia. The way you'd think of like an original dukes of hazzard lunch box. Not million dollar rare, but someone would be pretty happy to list it on ebay and get $500 for it. My cousin would win that, then not pay. Then when it comes back on the auction block, he would do it again. Banned? no problem. New account. Repeat. It's like he just couldn't stand the idea that someone else will win it.

As a side note to the psychology here, many of us had tried to explain to him the notion of catfishing. He did that as well. He lied constantly about who he is, what he has, where he is, etc. We told him one day someone would kill him over it, and he still kept doing it. On one occasion we pretty much forced him to tell someone he was not the famous actor or whatever it was at the time just before this person got on a plane on the other side of the planet to visit him. They reacted exactly like we said they would - basically told him to drop dead and never talk to them again.

Some people are just like this, for whatever reason. So it is possible it's not exactly in the scam realms.

That being said, I would go through the normal process of reporting to ebay, cancel the transaction as much as you can, and open support tickets. I have regular shops on a number of venues, and this happens enough to be irritating, but if I go through the normal seller process of grievance, the fees get reversed, and nothing happens to my account. It really sucks because I sell seasonal things and if someone skips out on the bill of some mother's day package, I am out for that season and whatever I composed for the listing will likely not be relevant next year.

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I have had a similar experience, and I don't believe it's a scam.

In 2019 I bought and sold a lot of used fitness equipment, all local pickup in person, and (nearly) all in cash1. Although I purchased things I found on Ebay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace, all of my selling was done exclusively on FB Marketplace. Due to the weight and size of most items, delivery was not a viable option. All of the listings for everything I sold had the following qualities:

  1. Local pickup only.
  2. Cash only.
  3. Due to limited space for inventory I priced everything to sell quickly (typically most things were gone within 24 hours of being listed). I made this clear in my listings with wording similar to:

I expect this to sell very quickly at my asking price. If you can see this post and it's not pending, then it's available (so there's no need to ask). I live about 1 mile from [supermarket] and I'm available at [certain times] for pickup. Please respond confirming you wish to purchase, and include what time window you can pick up. I can help load anything you purchase into your vehicle.

Having sold many things this way, I quickly learned that very few people actually read the posting. I suspect they scan through the pictures, see the price and then lazily click the button that auto-sends me a message of "Is this still available?" Or they click the offer button with something lower than my already great price, oftentimes with lowballs of 1/2 or even 1/3 of my price. Sometimes they ask if I'll ship to them, which is sort of funny considering most items would cost more to ship than they're worth. For the most part I simply ignored the noise.

Having experienced this myself, the best explanation seems to be laziness and the ease of pressing buttons and making offers without genuine interest.

That being said, one difference between my experience and yours is that most of the people contacting me, (with or without lowball offers), were relatively local, whereas it seems many of your lowball offers are coming from far away, which does seem weird for a "local pickup only" item. The best explanation I can think of, is on FB Marketplace, the default search automatically filters out local-pickup-only items outside of (I think 40 miles from) your location, whereas I don't think this is the case on ebay unless you check a box. I believe people are simply scanning through stuff so quickly that they don't bother to read details, and if something catches their eye they just make an offer since it's so easy to click a button to do that. Another possibility is that people may be more likely to keep their FB profile location up to date instead of their ebay profile, so it's possible that some of the lowball offers you received were actually local people with outdated ebay profiles.

I do want to comment on keshlam's comment to the question, because I did have a similar thought once:

...someone might be hoping to lower the historical average sale price enough that there's a brief window where they could buy it cheaper than it had been going.

This wouldn't be the "sale" price, but one time I listed something for $250 and within an hour I had 4 lowball offers (mixed in with a bunch of "Is this available?"). All 4 of the offers were less than $125. But then shortly after that, someone offered $200. I told that person that I had lots of interest already and I expected to sell it for asking, and the person ended up saying OK and buying it for asking. It's probably just a coincidence, but the timing of the lowballs followed by a reasonable offer from someone ultimately willing to pay the original price, made me wonder if maybe the lowballs were working together with the buyer as a psychological ploy to get me to accept the $200 offer...


1 I recall at least one person asking if they could pay me via Zelle, and I agreed. They initially offered to pay in advance but I would not let them. (Mainly because I didn't want to feel obligated to hold an item for them if they paid first and didn't show up when planned.) After they showed up in person I let them pay me with Zelle, and then we loaded up their truck.

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