Selling My Cursed Phone; or, No Such Thing As Karma

I’ll admit, that title is a little misleading.  My phone isn’t cursed — quite the contrary, I loved my Galaxy S2, would still be using it now if Tery hadn’t surprised me with an S4 last year.  But then I decided to sell it on eBay, and it kept coming back to me like the demonic monkey with the cymbals in that movie.


Okay, that’s hyperbole. It came back once, but in over a decade of selling on eBay, this had never happened to me.

A woman snatched it up the day after I listed it at my Buy It Now price. I was obviously thrilled. I shipped it out and started dreaming of all the ways I could spend the money (not very many; I didn’t sell a house, for heaven’s sake).

Less than 12 hours after she received it, she emailed saying she’d be returning it, she decided she didn’t want it.

I was gobsmacked that she was so honest about such a flimsy excuse. I’m not a damn Sears where you can return stuff and no one really cares. I’m not even an eBay Power Seller — I sell things infrequently, and I usually really, really need the money. I’m not paring down my expansive estate.

But unfortunately I had used the default seller settings, which stated “EZ returns for any reason” (this will be changed in future auctions). And I know from experience that eBay tends to favor buyers, which is great when I’m a buyer.

I wrote back to her and said unless it was defective I didn’t have to accept the return, but I’d make an exception for her. She admitted she didn’t know how eBay worked, which was probable as she had no feedback yet.

We didn’t exchange many emails, but hers were written in text speak (“i emailed u not sure.if u got but i have ship the phone back 2 u.plese ur address.its blurry on box.thx.”). Unless you’re texting in class and you’re afraid of getting caught, or you’re being charged per character by your carrier, this is not acceptable communication for grown-ups.

On top of that, her messages were perplexing, sounding like she wrote to me without reading my emails to her. She asked questions that I had already answered. It was like corresponding with a drunk person with three different email accounts who never checked any of them.

She at least priority mailed the phone back, which was appreciated because I took a big chance and relisted it immediately. (In a parting shot of “Is there something seriously wrong with your brain?” it included a handwritten note that read, “Hi, I need to return your phone, I don’t know if you got my email.”  Do you remember me emailing my address to make it possible to ship the phone, crazy person?)

The point of all this is, I put up with this nonsense and made it very simple for this pain in the ass because I’m generally a good person (who is eager to avoid confrontation, who knows that she’d probably lose a dispute anyway).  You’d think I’d have some good karma, wouldn’t you?

(To finish the phone story, because otherwise I just know you’d be up all night thinking, “But WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE CURSED PHONE???” I sold it for slightly less the second time to a guy who, based on his eBay history, refurbishes phones for resale.   But not before he emailed with a promise to pay that day, then vanished inexplicably with zero communication for three more days. This despite having a 100% rating with hundreds of purchases. Why would he suddenly decide to forsake this winning streak for my phone? It was right about then I started considering the possibility the phone was cursed.

My friend speculated maybe he was hit by a bus just as he was about to pay and went into a coma. If so, the nonpayment claim I opened snapped him out of it nicely.)

Hard on the heels of this transaction, I needed to return something to an Amazon seller, who made it clear from the outset they weren’t pleased by the request (“My goods are goods. Why you return?”  Their English was almost as bad as the woman in California, though their excuse was being Chinese).

After an equally torturous series of emails, he finally gave me his return address. Except he WAS in China and he wrote it out in paragraph form. It was three steps above “third left after the goat herd.”

On any given day, I am seconds away from outraged fury for one reason or another.  Being treated this way, after going out of my way for California girl, had me feeling especially put upon by the universe.

After two requests to write his address more coherently, which were both answered “I gave you address. Thanks!”, my patience had run out and I turned to Amazon. I got an animated southern woman who was very sympathetic. I waited as she read through our whole conversation, muttering under her breath “Oh no. Oh dear no.” I could tell the minute she got to the address part, because she exclaimed, “Oh LAWD no!”   Have you ever wanted to kiss a total stranger for taking your side?

I said, “It’s like he doesn’t want to take the return and he’s deliberately making it difficult.”  She said quietly, “Of course he doesn’t!” followed by a louder, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”  But I thanked her for her refreshing honesty.  Of course he doesn’t.  Just like I sure didn’t want to take California girl’s.  But life doesn’t always go our way, does it?

She couldn’t help me, but suggested I show it to the post office clerk who would have a better chance of deciphering it. In the meantime, she immediately initiated a refund and offered to extend my Prime membership for a free month.  What I really wanted was that awful seller banned from Amazon, but this was the next best thing.

I thought this was my good karma manifesting at last, until I got to the post office. The clerk was as stumped as me. He pointed to one phrase and asked, “I think this looks like a street name, don’t you?”  Seriously. That’s how incomprehensible it was. He didn’t even know the country (I had to Google the province. Good sellers do not force their customers to do their own research like this).  I was back to wishing extreme pain on the seller.

He suggested I just copy it down exactly on the envelope, which I did with some difficulty as it seemed to contain more information than American postal forms can accommodate; yet simultaneously not enough to be useful as an address. Who knows if it will ever get back to the seller? Who cares? Amazon made it right.

The next time I had occasion to return something to an Amazon seller, it was as easy and painless as this transaction wasn’t. They instantly approved the return and sent me a prepaid shipping label. THIS is how it’s done.

(Unbelievably, I received a follow-up request from China to leave them feedback. Really? And which part of our interaction makes you think I’d have anything at all nice to say? I had mercy on them and just didn’t respond because, you know, karma.)

That’s right. Karma. Does it exist?  If it does, it works so circuitously as to make a definitive determination impossible. How about we just follow the Golden Rule instead?  Thou shalt not be an asshole.


2 thoughts on “Selling My Cursed Phone; or, No Such Thing As Karma

  1. Funny communication, does make you wonder how many people are walking around seriously over-medicated.

    If you use paypal on Ebay, then you are in a situation where you have to return it or suffer the bad feedback, regardless of any returns policy. Paypal will immediately hold the funds until you get the item back from the buyer when you refund it. I sold a scope and had a request for refund because it was “dented and damaged”- this was not the case, but you have to do what you have to do. Plus my buyer must have recently bought a legal thesaurus or skipped ahead in his “word-a day” calendar, “Pursuant to….”no need for recapitulation….” and on and on….. At least I got good feedback even though I was and am clearly a liar /charlatan selling damaged goods, etc…

    • Definitely one of the most surreal interactions I’ve ever had. Maybe she had multiple personality disorder.

      It’s really bullshit how eBay has gone overboard in favor of buyers lately. Sellers can’t leave negative feedback for buyers — and I understand the reasoning, they think buyers are afraid to leave negatives on sellers for fear of retaliation, but it seems like it should go both ways. But maybe if a buyer is terrible enough the expectation is that eBay will handle that more harshly with account suspension or something (although, guess what, eBay? Easy enough for them to just start a new account). It comes back again to my summarizing thought: Just don’t be an asshole, everyone wins.

      That’s the kicker, what kind of irritates me the most — I never received feedback from her, even after sending a friendly reminder. No one ever leaves feedback for me anymore (except Power Sellers), despite me not being a liar or a charlatan selling damaged goods.

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