Small Claims Court Case Valid?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Music_Producer, Dec 24, 2008.

  1. Music_Producer macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    I sold an audio interface on ebay 2 months ago (I usually resell audio gear) - to a buyer located in Ca, about 300 miles away. The product I sold was brand new, still sealed in packaging - when the buyer received it, he noticed that the volume knob was broken (it would just spin continuously)

    When he contacted me about this, I asked him if the shipping box was damaged or anything else was noticeable - he replied that everything was perfect, it was just the volume knob - which implied a manufacturer defect.

    I asked him to return it back to me so I could either refund his payment or ship him another unit. He went to the UPS store and shipped it back to me - when I received it, the shipping box was damaged (he used the same shipping box that I had shipped the unit in)

    I opened up the box, and the audio interface was crushed - clearly I could not return this to the studio I got it from.. it was crushed beyond repair. I contacted the buyer and mentioned this - he said he had purchased UPS insurance.

    So, I told him that I would ship the damaged unit back to him - that he could take it to the UPS store and file a claim and went ahead and shipped the item. After he received the item, he got hostile and started blaming me for selling a 'refurb' and going crazy :rolleyes:. Finally, he filed a PayPal dispute and as we all know .. paypal doesn't really read the details - as long as the buyer shipped it back to me, paypal is satisfied and issued him a full refund. :mad: I bet he also filed a claim and collected his insurance money (he filed the paypal claim a good 10 days after he received the crushed unit .. so he could have gone to ups with the unit in that period for his insurance money)

    Now I am stuck with a useless product which cannot be returned.. and I am out of my money. Do I have a valid claim to file a case in small claims court? I have pictures of the unit, the shipping box, all the emails, etc.

    What do you guys think?
  2. Sdashiki macrumors 68040


    Aug 11, 2005
    Behind the lens
    When you returned the broken thing to him, you screwed yourself with the only leverage you had.

    Small claims court for a place far away from you, seems...far-fetched.
  3. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    I can file the claim in my county.. why does it seem far fetched? :confused: He returned the broken unit back to me (as paypal instructed him to do so to qualify for a refund) He returned it to me after claiming the ups insurance money.
  4. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    do you have proof he rec'd insurance money from UPS?
  5. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    Of course not, he never sent that to me.. why would he? It's obvious though, because he kept the broken unit for a long time and then dispatched it back to me. At any rate, the reason I'm filing a case is because I am in no way liable for the damages, UPS is.

    In my listing it clearly states under return policy 'Full refund/exchange will be applied when product is returned within 30 days. Returned product must be in original, returnable condition - with no missing items or damages'
  6. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    Actually I just looked up the tracking # that he had used when he shipped it to me - yes, he filed the claim. When I try to enter the # in the file claim process, this is what I get :

    "A report for this package cannot be initiated at this time. A claim or tracer already exists for this package. "

    So he's getting his money back, and has taken my money - thereby making a nice profit.
  7. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    and that's the problem with you suing the would-be buyer....UPS is to blame for the damages, not you, and not the buyer either.

    if you can prove the buyer said he would give you the insurance money, got the insurance money and then didn't give it to as agreed, then maybe you can win a suit for that money....other wise, why would a judge make the buyer give you money for something that's the fault of UPS?
  8. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    That is *exactly* what I told the buyer - that it's UPS's fault, not mine or his. But he ranted on anyway and said it was my fault. Why would a judge rule in my favor? Because:

    He filed a credit card DISPUTE and took away my money. He paid for the product, now I don't have that payment anymore. So I am left without a product (it's basically worthless)- and money. I am at a loss. If he hadn't filed a dispute, obviously I would have left this alone.

    He was simply supposed to file for the UPS claim, and collect his money, which is what I suggested to him in the first place to do. But he didn't stop at that.
  9. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    my guess is that you're probably not going to have much success suing the buyer......why don't you sue UPS instead?
  10. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    Sue ups? Why? They are providing the insurance money to the buyer. The buyer shipped the item using UPS. If ups hadn't given him the insurance money, then he would have the right to sue UPS.

    I don't have any right to sue UPS as I did not pay for the shipping at all. I was simply the recipient. Anyway, I've talked to a few people and they all seem to agree that I should go ahead, first I'm sending a certified letter to the buyer asking for my money back (which is supposed to be proof that I did ask for payment before resorting to court)

    Let's see what happens.
  11. SFStateStudent macrumors 604


    Aug 28, 2007
    San Francisco California, USA
    Yup, UPS claim or take them to court for damaging your item. The buyer's claim needs to be stopped by your claim, similar to PayPal's dispute resolution. Basically, the buyer is filing a fraudulent claim against UPS, b/c it's not his property if he returns it to the seller and gets a refund. It's UPS's procedure to pay for damages to Electronics only if the item is double-boxed and insured. I'd hurry up and file a claim ASAP and check your Visa/MC bill...

    PM me if you want and I can give you additional info.
  12. jonbravo77 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 20, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    How much are we talking here? if it's less than let's say $500 I would probably cut your losses. Put a note on the buyer's ebay account and move on.. Sorry to say that but All you have is a tracking number that says a report has been filed, it doesn't say he got money from it.
  13. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    It's $850.. the best part is, I can't leave a negative feedback on his ebay account.. since he's a buyer. Sellers can no longer leave negative or neutral comments on buyer accounts. Ebay assumes that all sellers are crooks and buyers are honest.

    It's honestly not about the money, it's that I am so pissed off that he blamed me, and carried out this scheme. It's the principle - he's committing fraud. The tracking number says the claim is filed.. it doesnt say if he got the money.. but obviously he will get it or has got it.

    Even if he didn't have insurance on it, I am still not responsible for paying him back.. because the item was sent in that state to me.

    Edit - If you bought a macbook from an apple store.. got it home, and a friend broke it.. would the store take it back for a refund? No way, not even for a restocking fee!
  14. jonbravo77 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 20, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ

    Well $850 is a lot of money and would be worth pursuing it.
  15. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    Besides, this guy could be encouraged to do the same thing to another seller (by deliberately messing it up and knowing very well that paypal doesn't bother to check the details) That way he could collect his refund plus collect insurance money.
  16. mach42006 macrumors member

    Aug 14, 2007
    I don't know if this logic is valid, but here is my opinion: You ended up without payment, AND without the product. Perhaps there are grounds for a lawsuit: either return the product, or pay for it. I know if he were to return the trashed product it wouldn't do you any good. But with any luck, he no longer has the trashed system and has no choice but to pay for it. I don't know exactly how paypal claims work, but I don't believe he would be entitled to file a paypal claim, AND keep the product. So it seems like you have a legitimate claim for product or payment. The fact that you willingly shipped the damaged product back to him may nullify that theory, however. At the very least, you have proof of the paypal refund, the UPS shipping info, showing that he did receive the product, as well as the insurance claim, that should sufficiently show that he double-dipped, and may somehow work in your favor. Good luck.
  17. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004

    of course it sucks to be out $850

    look at it from his side though. Reading your account of the matter, it's easy to see what he could be saying to his sold him a defective piece of junk and when he asked for the refund you promised, you refused and tell him to try to get the insurance HE BOUGHT from basically he's gonna be out $850 unless he can get UPS to pony up the cash cuz YOU aren't gonna make good on your end of the deal.......and they would all be saying "this guy could be encouraged to do the same thing to another buyer.....send junk, then refuse a refund after deliberately messing it up".......seriously, why shouldn't anyone think that's what happened???

    well, i don't think you intentionally screwed him, but i can see why he might think that based on what you've posted here, and I can see why a judge might think that

    and you keep saying he's collecting insurance money......but you don't really know that do you? not from the various posts you put up here

    of course you're burned and upset at the way it's going........but chill out for a moment.....all the time we read threads here from people who have been you have any idea how much the details of your case sound like those???
  18. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004

    I did NOT refuse a refund. I offered him a full refund or a replacement unit as soon as he returned the defective unit to me. When I shipped it to him (as soon as he bought it) it reached him in perfect condition. It was a manufacturer defect (like a dead pixel on a laptop screen) I specifically asked him if the shipping box was damaged - he replied, nothing was damaged, everything was in perfect condition.

    UPS damaged the product when shipped to me - so I returned it to him and asked him to file a claim and collect the money.

    Look at it from his side? If he was honest, he would have filed the claim and collected the money, simple. Why did he have to file a dispute and take my money and leave me with no product?

    Of course he is collecting insurance money, I checked the tracking #, I myself tried to make a claim today.. and it said 'there is already an active claim'. The unit is crushed.. like a really heavy object was placed on it. This buyer shipped it back in the same shipping box i sent it in - instead of using another one. He didn't even put packing peanuts or bubble wrap around the unit.

    I have all the evidence in the form of emails (where he mentions that he received the product in perfect condition except for the manufacturer defect) I have the evidence of the claim filed, pictures, etc.
  19. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    I think people are assuming that I sold him a bad item.. it was a defective item (which there was no way I could know of, since it was sealed and brand new) but he returned it to me in a crushed condition. For e.g.

    Picture 25.png

    This is how he received it - defective screen while the entire laptop was perfect.

    Picture 24.png

    and this is how i received it.
  20. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004

    well, why didn't you just send him a replacement unit then? or give him his refund? It wasn't his fault UPS crunched it! You've already admitted that

    (i'm just trying to present the argument you're going to go against in take this as help in preparing for you law suit, not a slam against you)

    sure, you thought it was fine when you sold it to him.....but it wasn't! it was a bad unit you sold him (how do you feel when you get sold something that doesn't work as promised?) and given the story you've presented, why should a judge think you're not trying to avoid making good on the deal???

    you say you offered him a refund, but when the bad product you sold was returned to you in order to get the refund, you found that UPS had damaged it then you refused to give him a refund even though you've conceded there was a flw in the product to begin with....isn't that right? Where does that leave the buyer??? With that kind of treatment, obviously he's going to feel like you're stiffing him! Perhaps he's over reacted, but who can blame him really?

    didn't you basically give him the brush off by telling him no refund and take it up with UPS?? You say he sent it to you in the same packaging you sent it to him.....was it double boxed as SFStateStudent says is required by UPS policy? What chance does he really have of getting paid off on his insurance claim? You keep saying he's getting insurance money, but really all you know is that he's filed a may well get denied....up until today, had you even bothered to see if he had filed a claim??

    I don't think you intended to screw the buyer, but i don't think you've really presented a good case to show that you've been cheated by the buyer either.
  21. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    Thanks for the comments.. always appreciated (and no, not taking it as a slam!) To answer some points:

    "well, why didn't you just send him a replacement unit then? or give him his refund?"

    Because I didn't get the unit back in returnable condition. I am out $850.. you want me to send another unit worth $850? So I would be out $1700!

    Getting money via the insurance claim is same as getting a refund - he purchased insurance for $850, and now he is getting it.

    I KNEW he would file a claim.. I just didn't know that the tracking information would provide that online. I just found out today because the payment was reversed barely yesterday.

    I was confident weeks ago that he was going to defraud me, and file a claim and basically make extra money and it has happened.

    Every store's return policy states (generic) " Items may be returned within 14 days (or 30 days) All materials must be included with the item as when it was sold. Item must be in good condition with no cosmetic damage. Restocking fees apply"

    I am interested in knowing.. what would happen if you went to circuit city, bought an ipod.. got it home.. banged it against the wall.. took it back to the store and asked for a full refund? Would they give it to you?

    If they didn't offer a refund.. and you filed a credit card dispute and got your money.. isn't CCity out of an ipod AND the money?

    Except in this case, UPS messed up. So they are going to pay the buyer his insurance money - he is getting his money back but at the same time, he's swindling me out of money too.

    I've dealt with ups/fedex/usps before.. and you always get your insurance money as long as you provide evidence of damage.. and he did, because I shipped the damaged unit back to him for exactly that purpose! I shipped it to him so he could show it to the UPS store and collect his insurance, the unit was worthless in that state.

    Anyway, let's see how it plays out. I'm always interested in knowing people's views.. :)
  22. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Sue him in small claims court for court costs and the equipment cost, and he likely won't show. I think you may be able to get both since it looks like he schemed to deprive you of your money and the insurance settlement.

    Or might be able to check to see if he meets the triple damage criteria.

    With that, you should be able to place a lien on his property, or garnish his wages along with add the collection fees to the amount owed.


    If you can only collect $850 or less, can't add collection costs, and the court fees eat into it. You might get back $50-150 for 40-80 hours work.
  23. AppleMatt macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2003
    If you take this to court as is, the judge will no doubt throw it out and probably have a go at you for wasting his time. No matter how badly you have been wronged, you always need to demonstrate that you have exhausted every avenue of recourse and that court was a last resort.

    First email the buyer. Explain you know he is claiming twice and hence will be in profit, which is unfair. It is further unfair that you are at a loss for his profit. Attempt to negotiate splitting the money so you both are in the same position before this all happened - i.e. both at no loss. He will, no doubt, refuse (check your PM's about this). It's upto you whether you let him know you're going to inform the companies about his fraud, I would tell him but not at first - you want the best chance of him saying yes, not getting his back up.

    After his replies, write a pen-and-paper letter to UPS. Explain the situation and enclose copies of all emails, including full headers. I'd go with the angle that you are alerting them that he is committing a fraud against them, and that you believe it is a very common fraud committed by eBay buyers. Briefly back this up. Then I'd cheekily request the money. Argue that in paying him, they had written down the loss anyway so by not paying him and giving it to you they are in the same position however they 1) prevented fraud being committed against them and 2) are aware of a new type of scam, thanks to you.

    As the policy wasn't in your name, they will probably say no. Preempt this and request in their reply that they will confirm that they are not paying him, regardless of their decision to pay you. They will probably also refuse to tell you this, but if you don't ask.

    Do the same with PayPal but don't expect a response. They are a joke of a company and get away with behaving unlawfully due to being impossible to contact or raise a fair case against. If you're lucky enough to get a reply, expect it to be irrelevent and in broken English. My credit card company told me they are a major source of credit card fraud (due to poor vetting).

    On his feedback warn other sellers; 'BEWARE: broke item, frauduently claimed on UPS and PayPal insurance, unreasonable. avoid.'

    With everything above, including all replies, then consider claiming against him. This will not be an easy task. Remember if you win, you won't usually get legal fees added onto your judgement so you're either on your own or relying on a solicitor friend; it would be uneconomical to instruct a firm.

    AppleMatt (selling on eBay since 2001, legal experience)
  24. Music_Producer thread starter macrumors 68000

    Sep 25, 2004
    One question Sun Baked.. can I file the claim in my county? I have read all the rules of small claims and it seems the Plaintiff is supposed to file a claim in the county where the Defendant resides (so it's fair for him/her to show up)

    His county is 300 miles away.. *but* I also read a few exceptions where I can file it in my county because this is a claim related to a sale apparently, and that the goods I sell reside here with me. I've emailed a small claims advisor anyway, will hear back probably on monday.. but just, if you know anything about this it would be appreciated.

    Thanks AppleMatt.. great points. I've done everything except, obviously, file the claim and write to UPS. I'll write to UPS tomorrow and I'm sending a demand of payment letter to the buyer via USPS certified mail with a return receipt for proof.

    Yes, PayPal is horrible.. it's funny how ebay only allows PayPal payments or merchant card payments - no paper payments anymore. (The merchant card provider they recommend is ProPay.. again ,affiliated with paypal and you should see their fees!)

    Wonder how come ebay is not being sued for monopoly? :confused:

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