(Yes, it's time for another episode of `adventures in customer service'.) Occasionally I buy things via eBay, an online auction service. Usually these transactions proceed smoothly, and items usually sell well below their retail values, so it's good value. Occasionally, however, they don't.
Last week I bought from `Snowdon Computers' (which appears to be a one-man operation) a terminal server (if you don't know what one of those is, you probably don't want to). This was described by its vendor as `removed from a working environment' (eBay for `was working when obtained by vendor') though the vendor didn't claim to have tested it himself. I bought this item.
On arrival, it didn't work. I inspected it and discovered that it had suffered from a large current discharge, almost certainly from a nearby lightning strike (this is a common cause of failure for terminal servers, because they are often connected to long cables which are vulnerable to nearby strikes); this current had destroyed one of the rear-panel sockets:
(apologies for lousy photo). It is not surprising that a device damaged in this way didn't work very well, and as you'd expect about half the ICs on the board were in a short-circuit condition just sitting there getting hotter and hotter rather than actually doing anything.
So I pointed this out to the vendor, expressing my surprise that he had not seen fit to mention this obvious damage to the device in his advertisement. He said that he hadn't opened it up at all(!). I pointed out that it is fairly dangerous to be selling electrical equipment without inspecting it, and he replied (hilariously styling himself Niel Humphreys of the `eBay department', presumably in an attempt to make his pissant operation look bigger than it really is),
Naturally I asked for a refund, since given the above I felt it unlikely that Mr. Humphreys was competent to repair the unit. (It certainly is repairable, but not, I suspect, economically.) Initially, shit-for-brains refused, even, idiotically, remarking,
I note you are relatively inexperienced on Ebay. I can only suggest in future you read and understand auction descriptions fully and do not bid on any items if you are not willing to accept the level of testing advertised. This item was listed in good faith with no reserve according to the auction description, I did not ask you to bid the amount that you did & expected you to evaluate the risk in relation to the information given. It seems you expect the best of both worlds, perhaps Ebay is not for you?
This suggests that he doesn't understand the Sale of Goods Act either. The Act -- which covers sales via eBay just as well as it covers sales in a shop, a fact which I fear some eBay customers don't know and which some eBay vendors no doubt don't want them to -- requires items sold to:
``conform to contract''. This means they must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality (i.e. not inherently faulty at the time of sale).
An obviously faulty item which has been destroyed by a lightning strike cannot have been from a `working environment' and so is not `as described'; nor is it `fit for purpose' or `not inherently faulty at the time of sale'. The Sale of Goods Act gives the customer (roughly) the options of repair, replacement or refund of cost of an item which is not of merchantable quality.
Although Humphreys has now refunded the money I paid him, he evidently felt that he was doing me an enormous favour in doing so. Since the worthless fucktard doesn't seem to understand the legal requirement to sell goods of `merchantable quality', I would suggest that it is him, not me, who is unsuited to using eBay.
Item supplied as described, returned totally blown & useless. Bidder admitted he'd had the case open and poked around inside.
This, of course, is a lie; and it is defamatory, since Humphreys is implying that I damaged the item. (I did not, by the way, `admit' that I had opened the unit: I showed the little shit the photos above, to demonstrate to him that he had sold me faulty goods which were dishonestly described.) His account is also not consistent with his behaviour; if I really had destroyed the terminal server, he would presumably not have refunded my money, as he would certainly not have been liable to do so. In fact, he knew damn well that he had to give me a refund, since basically he'd tried to defraud me and I'd called him on it. He is still trying to weasel out of refunding the cost of returning his faulty goods to him. We'll see about that....
(I was also amused that Niel Humphreys is obsessed with the phrase `poked around', sparing no opportunity to describe the simple process of inspecting electronic equipment as `pok[ing] around inside' it. Perhaps psychoanalysis would furnish an explanation of this fixation.)
So, in sum, do not buy anything from Niel Humphreys of `Snowdon Computers'; on eBay he presently calls himself `snowdonia2002'. He is a liar and incompetent; he sells shoddy goods which are dishonestly described; and he is reluctant to fulfill his legal obligations. It is often said of such people that they are not fit to run a `whelk stall'; I suspect that would be far beyond the abilities of Mr. Humphreys.
(Other than this, by the way, my experience of eBay has been good. eBay itself is an odd organisation; they are the largest online auction outfit in the world, yet they are barely capable of sending a correctly-formatted email, and their website is, frankly, shoddy. But most eBay vendors I've dealt with have been scrupulously honest and efficient. All the more reason to draw attention to those, like hopeless numpty Niel Humphreys, who are not.)
So, sorry: no graph today, though this digression may entertain you.
Update: hopeless dishonest person Niel Humphreys is apparently so self-obsessed that he couldn't resist posting about this page on a public newsgroup, writing inter alia: (emphasis mine)
URL reservered [sic.] (email me if you want a laugh & I will send it [later he posted it to the group]) as it is highly profane and I was basically in the wrong anyway but the guy was such a dick about it I decided to argue. I did refund after a bit of an entertaining barney though. :)
A commenter -- who did not follow the comments policy and whose comment is therefore no longer visible -- remarked on the fact that `snowdon2002' has (other than mine) no `negative feedback' on eBay. The commenter argued that this suggested that my complaints above about human turd Niel Humphreys are unreasonable. This is one possible interpretation, though it is not the correct one. Note from the history of pseudonyms on the eBay site, Niel Humphreys regularly changes his eBay pseudonym, presumably in order to escape from any negative feedback. (eBay do not show feedback for his old pseudonyms, so this cannot be verified.) Secondly, Humphreys is a keen student of how to remove `negative feedback' from his profile. It is hardly surprising that there isn't any there.... (There's a point in here about reputation systems which is of wider interest; perhaps I'll write about those later.)
If he's have been reasonable and polite from the start he'd have found me reasonable and polite and I would have refunded without question immediately.
Having now found time to test this unit, I discover that it has suffered fatal damage, most probably from a lightning strike. The damage is obvious from a cursory inspection; I am surprised that it was not mentioned in your description of the item. Thoughts?
(As another brief note, posting this seems to have brought all sorts of creatures out of the woodwork, all of whom seem intent on commenting but somehow have failed to read the comments policy, which states various guidelines for commenters, including that they should: write something interesting; give their full real name and email address; and avoid errors of grammar and orthography. It's no good expressing surprise that your comments don't get displayed if you don't comply! Idiots.)
(I have removed the word `crook' from the above description. I am absolutely and wholly satisfied that Mr. Humphreys is in no way a crook and apologise unreservedly for any offence caused by my so describing him.)
Update #3: Readers maybe interested to know that Niel's company, Snowdon Computers Ltd, was mentioned on several IT websites in July 2010 having apparently ``admitted to selling software illegally'' on eBay. This seems completely consistent with the behaviour Chris documented here. [Added 3 Aug 2011 by Richard Smith]