I’ve been a skeptic about E Bay as long as it’s been around. I have both bought and sold items on it, but for the most part whatever I try to buy, I either get outbid or get a bad feeling and never bid at all.

The concept of an online auction site is something that has appeal to most people. It’s so convenient to look for something at a bargain price or to sell something that you’d never find the right person willing to pay what it is worth any other way. But after you play with it a while, you begin to realize it’s not an online version of your family garage sale.

Well, when you sell something, maybe it is, unless you make a business of it. And that’s the big problem – most of the items being sold are being sold by what is really a business. Granted, they may be basement businesses, but they are not casual sales.

E-Bay has encouraged this. They make money by commission and encourage people to sell, sell, sell. And buyers to buy, buy, buy. But you think you’re buying somebody’s personal item, then it turns out you’re buying some store’s overstock, or last year’s model.

Then there are those who buy, then sell on E-Bay. They buy low and sell high, because they find items that Joe Average might be selling, but doesn’t have the time or skills to list it properly and therefore doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Then they, as pro sellers, turn it around and resell it for a profit by listing it in ways only the experienced E-Bay user knows.

Both of those are irritating, but not totally fatal flaws. I can live with those and still find value in E-Bay. But then, there is one more type of E-Bay user: the Scam Artist.

There are probably a million ways to rip someone off on E-Bay and I don’t want to create a catalog of them here. But there are people who use E-Bay to scam people out of money – real money and E-Bay, contrary to what they tell you, doesn’t stand behind it.

I’ve not dealt enough on E-Bay to have it happen to me, but no one is immune. Recently, well-known syndicated radio host and famous podcaster/internet celebrity, Leo LaPorte, bought a video camera, a Canon XL-2, from a seller on E-Bay. He looked at his rating as a seller and it was supposedly good, so he felt safe making the purchase through Paypal.

He waited and the camera didn’t show. He emailed the seller and got no answer. He contacted E-Bay and they gave him a phone number which turned out to be fake. He filed a dispute with E-Bay and the selled faxed him a UPS form that looked like a legitimate form, but the tracking number was not found in the UPS system.

So, he’s still waiting to see what happens with the dispute resolution through Paypal. Paypal apparently only covers $200 (far less than the $2200 he sent.)

Now, if Leo can get burnt, what chance do you or I have? Leo will probably get his money back just because he knows people high up in E-Bay and having him talk bad about E-Bay to his thousands of listeners is bad publicity. But the little guy doesn’t have that protection.

There was some discussion that if your Paypal transaction goes to a credit card (rather than a checking account) then you can get the credit card company to dispute the charge. I can’t confirm that as true or false, but a lot of people are reluctant to do that. They prefer a checking account and only put in the amount of money they need for the transaction.

E-Bay used to have third-party brokers for big sales. But since they bought Paypal, they seem to have dropped that.