back to article PayPal dispute ends in 'violin destruction'

Like just about every collectable, violins are subject to fakery and claims of fakery – something that a person claiming to be a seller on the site alleges has led to the destruction of what the poster claims was a $2,500 instrument in a PayPal dispute. According to a post on the blog Regretsy the violin was smashed in …

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So how was it advertised?

If the eBay listing said "old violin, had it for a long time, probably made in the 1930s but I can't verify that, Stradivarius sticker on the side of dubious authenticity", that's one thing. If the eBay listing was "GENUINE ANTIQUE STRAD VIOLIN NR L@@K!!!!", well, that's another thing.

If the listing genuinely does not support a counterfeit claim then I'd say it's lawsuit time.

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Anonymous Coward

Definition of "counterfeit"?

I think it's probably a waste of time trying to apply logic to the actions of eBay and PayPal.

I would have thought that the "various government and private sector groups" mentioned in the article are primarily interested in registered trademarks rather than any old item "made to deceive" (an expression I heard on Antiques Roadshow). Antique forgeries can be valuable without any modern buyer being deceived by them.

I don't know the "official" definition, but to me "counterfeit" suggests something that is illegal to produce or pass on whatever your motivation, even if you don't intend to defraud anyone with it. Like fake bank notes, for example. Is "Stradivarius" a trademark? Who owns it?

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you certainly don't get a Strad for $2500. This http://www.musical-instrumentsuk.co.uk/more/on/details/01486 is the sort of money you pay for a reasonable quality brand new violin, so I don't think he was being ripped off.

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Stop

Seems it was advertised as a "Maurice Bourguignon", as per the label, the buyer did not agree.

As to whether it was advertised as a "authenticated by [Insert Name of Luther] Maurice Bourguignon" I don't know.. If it was then Paypal were in the wrong to order its destruction.

I think Paypal should have consulted a specialist on this one.. Perhaps they should also do so on all $1000+ item disputes.. Or at least offer the service to the seller with a $100 fee. Perhaps a Paypal Authentication centre should be established...

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FAIL

Don't use paypal

I think that's the real lesson here. I certainly don't.

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@don't use PayPal

The problem is, banks provide so extremely bad service, that even PayPal seems to be good compared to them. Just try to make an international money transfer. You'll typically end up with 20+x Eur fees, even if it's just a few Euros you want to send.

If banks would only start cooperating and bring down transfer fees to something reasonable, PayPal would die immediately.

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Coat

"If banks would only start cooperating... "

We and them don't have the same interests. They make money from our money and bill us for using our money through services that only exists thanks to our money.

Or something near that.

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Anonymous Coward

Each to their own

It's extremely convenient but that convenience comes with strings attached.

If you visit some small website on the internet selling some specialist item you want, they may have their own CC services or PayPal. Sorry but while PayPal are slimy buggers I'd rather trust them to handle the "dirty part" of the purchase than some knock-up CC service the website might have had installed by the websites owner's nephew while he was on his school holidays. I know exactly where my bank details are during the entire transaction and I know they don't go anywhere near the person selling to me. The seller knows they don't have to worry about being accused of abusing my bank details as they will never see them.

The costs of using PayPal are fronted by the seller/sender, as buyers/receivers you're in a pretty good position as all the onus and cost are on the other side. I've been using PayPal as a user for over 8 years now without even using eBay and, touch wood, never had one problem with any transactions I have passed through them.

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Anonymous Coward

re: I've been using PayPal ... never had one problem

I upvoted your post because it's true, but immediately felt slightly dirty :-(

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Strings attached.

Nice one.

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Mushroom

Hiding behind Paypal? Paypal hiding behind badhats?

First, nobody claimed the violin was a strad. (See first link which has picture of label) Second, article had been vetted by "an expert". Third, buyer doubted purchase. Result: buyer destroyed article of value.

This is not right by several measures. Paypal and friends are in deep doodoo, because a process governed by MAD, where the red button option has no drawbacks, .... add your doomsday scenario.

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Stop

I would agree that there are no counterfeit violins (if it looks like a violin and quacks like a violin, it's a duck), there are counterfeit stradiwhassisname violins.

Article's a bit thin on the facts that would allow the reader to really draw their own conclusions about fault/blame here.

I disagree with the notion that for not reading the entire T&Cs the seller is at fault (obviously, this is the case legally) - I'm sure most reasonable people selling antiques or similar over the internet would expect that if a dispute like this arose it would just be a case of 'return to seller and the deal's off'. The exception being repeat offenders, which I assume wasn't the case in this instance.

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Anonymous Coward

I have big issues with what has happened here. If it was a counterfeit then it is evidence of a crime and you have then just destroyed that evidence which I believe is a crime in itself. If it is not a counterfeit you have just destroyed the property of someone else whilst also relieving them of the payment for said property - also a crime. Was the counterfeit claim suitably investigated? Either way I'd say Paypals T&Cs will have them firmly fucked depending on the jurisdiction as, in most civilised societies, you cannot contractually remove someone's statutory rights and nor can you wantonly destroy evidence of a crime.

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Well...

"Was the counterfeit claim suitably investigated?"

No, I really don't think it was.

Firstly, there's a difference between 'item not as described' and 'counterfeit item.'

Secondly, antiques and artworks are supported by a thing called provenance. If the seller can prove provenance, or has an expert witness supporting same, the buyer's 'I don't think so' - apparently based on a finger in the wind and some wishful thinking - is worthless.

So yes - PayPal are fucked. They ordered the destruction of an item which the buyer didn't own, and which wasn't actually a counterfeit in any legal sense.

It's a shame this didn't happen in the UK, or it would be an easy win in Small Claims.

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"if it looks like a violin and quacks like a violin, it's a duck"

Up voted just for that :)

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Coat

"I inherited a painting and a violin...

"... which turned out to be a Rembrandt and a Stradivarius. Unfortunately, Rembrandt made lousy violins and Stradivarius was a terrible painter."

- Tommy Cooper

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Coffee/keyboard

inimitable, that man!

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FAIL

Who?

So who exactly decided this was a counterfeit? The buyer? Paypal?

Dayam, these Paypal people are good if they can spot a counterfeit violin from an email.

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My thoughts

Entirely.

Unless the buyer, or paypal rep was an antique violin expert I don't think either of them are in a position to comment on it's authenticity.

Moreover now it's been destroyed no-one is able to verify it, I smell a juicy lawsuit on the horizon.

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Coat

Too bad it wasn't one of the larger stringed instruments, so that the title could have been:

PayPal to scammer: All your Bass are belong to us!

The coat with the smashed tiny violin in the pocket, please.

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par for the course

Sadly this is par for the course where ebay and paypal are concerned. Any dispute favours the buyer unless the seller is sufficiently large in turnover.

With paypal, if you get into a dispute as a Seller then forget it you've lost by default unless you happen to spend 1000's a year on paypal commission. Oh and never ever ever do local pickup for something paid for by paypal because if the buyer disputes they collected it then you have zero recourse (no proof of delivery, you lose, game over)

Oh except you can't take payments via any method other than Paypal for some auctions (I had this when trying to list a PS3)

They know a buyer can potentially pull a chargeback on them and a seller can't

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Proof ...

Why not get the buyer to sign a collection receipt when they collect the goods from you?

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Because Paypal won't accept it as proof. They will only accept signed for receipts from their recommended delivery companies.

And even then they don't always believe thaht things have been delivered.

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Your latter sentence resonates with me. Twice over Christmas I was told by online services that items delivered had been signed for by Edwards. My girlfriend signed for one (surname not Edwards) and my neighbour took another one (surname not Edwards either). In the latter case I spent an hour on the phone and an hour trawling the street to find the bloody thing.

So I wouldn't take a delivery company saying something was signed for by me as proof that it was actually delivered.

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PT

I absolutely agree - PayPal is the worst online payment service in the world, except for all the others.

When I ran a CC merchant account, I once had a Visa payment yanked right back out of my account (without notice) because a buyer claimed his card had been stolen and he neither ordered nor received the goods. I was able to prove from previous correspondence that he had discussed the purchase with me and personally ordered it, and had personally signed for the delivery. The bank accepted this, but then told me they couldn't make corrections for trivial amounts of money (anything under $1000).

For this merchant "service" I was being charged about $100 a month in fees plus 6 to 8 percent on transactions, and was required to maintain a separate commercial bank account that also carried monthly fees. PayPal may have its problems, but at least you only get screwed accidentally instead of systematically.

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Megaphone

Anyone Out There?

Am I alone in thinking that destruction of a violin may have been a good thing?

Sure, vile din's played by the likes of Yahoodoo Menuine or Stephan Gropelli can sound brilliant, but my recollection of the screechy sounds coming from the string section of the school orchestra probably contributed to my hearing deficit.

I saw Gropelli in person several years ago - Concorde Club in Southampton for those who know it. Outstanding, as you would expect from one of the masters.

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Anonymous Coward

To paraphrase a tired old saw...

... it's not the violin, it's the player. Well, mostly. But anyway, the masters too had to start somewhere, and it wasn't at the top.

Having had to listen to family members slowly, painfully attempt to master the violin (they had to listen to me learn play something else, so I can't complain too much, but I digress) I know what you're on about. But I don't agree that justifies paypal in any way or form.

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Anonymous Coward

Proof

Because of the lack of proof and the destruction of the violin, I think that paypal ought not to have a leg to stand on if they are taken to court. Unfortunately, this happened in the USA, where I believe justice will be coloured by the amount of greenbacks that support whatever side eventually prevails, and which side they will support depends not on justice, but on the interests of those with the said greenbacks. Does that mean that we can demand the USA justice system is smashed as being a fake justice system? Or that paypal can be smashed for being a fake reputable online payment organisation?

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If they are taken to the small claims court which they likely would be as the value is only $2500 then it will probably be the smarts of the judge and not the greenbacks that decide the outcome. Besides, for the piddling amount of money that it is in the grand scheme of Fleabay/Praypal income I hardly think they would attempt to bribe or coerce a small claims court judge into finding in their favour, and given the facts as they "appear" to be, then any judge with at least relatively modest smarts would find for the seller.

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I think something stinks here though...

And it's not necessarily paypal even though I think they stink by definition.

Small rant but really; it used to be so good; I open a paypay account, I /manually/ transfer some money to said account and I have "internet money". Even if something horrid would go down I'd always know up front how much of my money I'm risking.

Nowadays you can't use their services /unless/ you give them full access to your bank account. So you can no longer wire money manually yourself; no, you need to give them permission to do it for you. Should pretty obvious why I don't use their services anymore; now you can be sure that if something goes horribly wrong with your paypal account you're now risking your live savings.

Still; who in their right mind would buy an instrument without so much as listening to it ?

So I really think there's much more going on here than we're currently told.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I think something stinks here though...

ShelLuser: Nowadays you can't use their services /unless/ you give them full access to your bank account.

Too true. Solution: Create a checking account just for dealing with Paypal. Preferably at a different bank than where your primary accounts are. That way you can limit what Paypal can grab, by how much you have in the account, and they don't have access to all your funds.

AC so Paypal can't retaliate.

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I'm looking forward to competition where I'm not asked to give full access to my bank account. Perhaps V.me will be it. Hopefully.

The one with whale, oops hole, in the pocket, please.

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If you keep your life savings in your current account or give your savings account details to PayPal..

Id suggest that either of the above would be a dumb thing to do.

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Stop

@David

Depends on the bank you use!

HSBC for instance once transferred money from my savings to my current account to pay a huge direct debit (and an erroneous one at that).

When I phoned them up to find out why my savings had been moved they (annoyingly correctly) stipulated that the T&C's said they could.

I'd imagine other banks probably had the same policies 4 years ago (may have changed now)

Thankfully it was all sorted in the end, but it did teach me to send savings to a different bank, not just a different account

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A separate account for Paypal

... won't be of much help, I think - at least in the US. An ACH debit against an account with insufficient funds will often be processed by the receiving bank anyway, and then they'll happily go after you for the balance, with fees on top.

The root problem is that Paypal is a largely unregulated para-bank without the consumer protections of a real bank. And they've been happy to play politics and act unfairly when so inclined, arbitrarily freezing accounts and such. Until Paypal is legally treated as a bank, regulated, and forced into a measure of transparency, it's a liability for anyone who deals with it.

And yes, the transfer fees charged by real banks, Western Union, etc are unreasonable. I don't have a good alternative. (It ain't Bitcoin.)

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Anonymous Coward

PayPal and its Ts&Cs way out of line.

They're not the police, they're not judges, they're in no position to decide whether something is or is not what the seller claims it to be; they're but a payment facilitator. So they take the buyer's money and give it to the seller. That's just about all they do.

IANAL so this is speculation. Here, they ordered the buyer to destroy the seller's property for a refund; without payment the ownership doesn't transfer. So PayPal might in fact be liable for theft and wanton destruction. I doubt a company's Ts&Cs override local law. They might have to compensate the seller for depriving her of her property. She just has to say it wasn't a fake and they'll have to prove it was, which they can't since the thing's been destroyed.

I think that even if it wasn't exactly what the seller claimed it to be, destroying a perfectly good violin is downright barbaric. So I'd steer well clear of this den of barbarism.

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They Actually do NOt Make the Call on Counterfeit.

Unless their policies changed over the past two years since eBay took over their dispute process, you are required to get the manufacturer to certify that the item is counterfeit before a dispute is resolved in your favor. I don't know how this would work with an old violin. In fact I don't know how it would work for anything. With the amount of fake gear floating around one would expect them to just facilitate a return and issue a full refund.

I filed a few disputes in the past when I was shipped counterfeit Cisco gear. Most f the time I was stuck with it because it was too much of a hassle to get Cisco to verify that the items were counterfeit.

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Anonymous Coward

They don't?

So they effectively took the buyer's complaint at face value then? That's fairly interesting. Now it's conspiring to defraud the seller by telling the buyer to destroy the thing based on the buyer's claims the thing isn't what the seller says it is. Aiding and abetting at the very least. Racketeering possibly.

And it doesn't change that old musical instruments are much closer to, say, paintings by old masters, than cisco-branded kit where the "counterfeit" might very well come out of exactly the same factory as the "original". You might smash a recently manufactured PCB with little ill effect, even if it is paypal trying to police sellers without the authority to do so. An antique, though, is a different kettle of fish altogether.

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WTF?

Smashed Strat

So can we assume the smashed article never made it back to the original seller? The update from PayPal suggests that it is illegal to post counterfiet goods back to the original seller, so, even in a smashed state, sending it back would be against the law.

So, what's to say that the buyer realises he's got a good violin, smashes up a second hand, mass produced (and cheaper) instrument, and then claims he/she's destroyed the self same unit??

A mole with cataracts can see this stinks!

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WTF?

Criminal offense

"The reason why we reserve the option to ask the buyer to destroy the goods is that in many countries, including the US, it is a criminal offense to mail counterfeit goods back to a seller", we are told."

Good thing that it's entirely legal to destroy other people property, or they would be in trouble.

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Good thing it's not illegal to destroy evidence in a criminal offense case, either, and not demand the authorities get involved.

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Mailling counterfeit goods

This also makes it damned hard for me to build my collection of counterfeit goods.

(And I had my eye on a genuine counterfeit Maurice Bourguignon, too.)

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Devil

Beat PP at their own game..

This is how i do it...

Sell something, wait for payment and then, crucially, wait for that payment to clear into your bank.

Close any (pay pal) direct debits with the bank then post the item

If the buyer is a cock chops and decides to file a claim and (as is usually the case) wins, PP cannot get the money back from the seller.

Their next action is to send you letters from their choses Debt collection company.

If that happens (speaking from experience), tell them the debt is in dispute.

Now you need to be able to prove the item was as advertised, was posted etc but they then dont have a leg to stand on.

Also the FSO has helped numeropus people out like this...

Fuck paypal and their "seller protection"..

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1) Buy fake designer handbag at market

2) Buy real designer handbag from ebay and dispute its authenticity on arrival

3) destroy the fake and keep the real one and get your money back

4) Profit!

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Trollface

Even better:

5) Repeat steps 2 & 3, using the same destroyed handbag.

6) Profit even more!

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Anonymous Coward

Don't use PayPal; don't use eBay

Their time has come and gone.

Remember that PayPal isn't a bank, is not bound by any banking codes, and just applies any logic that allow them to keep your money for as long as possible whilst sidestepping any responsibility for its safe transit whatsoever. Their customer service goes way beyond a joke into deeply evil territory. Makes no difference whether you're a buyer or a seller: PayPal will walk all over you.

Seems like no-one in authority will keep them in check, so we need to by refusing to use their shoddy service.

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Black Helicopters

@AC 8:56 Remember that PayPal isn't a bank

It is actually regulated the the FSA in the UK at least, not sure about the rest of Europe, and so far as a seller they have been pretty good, although the horror stories I have heard coming from the US of A make me shudder!!!

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WTF?

As a violinist...

This story made me want to cry.

I hope the seller is able to and does sue the @rse off PayPal. It may be a crime in the US to post fake goods (does the seller have a letter from the luthier who believed it to be genuine?) but surely it must also be a criminal act to deliberately destroy other people's properties? If it's legal to, PLEASE can someone go and have a small word with the PayPal CEO's most likely expensive car? Preferably with a wrecking ball.

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Anonymous Coward

Hello World; Violin labels are not genuine (!)

In the world of old violins almost no credence is given to the labels. Hundreds of thousands of 'Stradivarius' labelled instruments were produced in the 1800's (along with many other makers). They weren't fakes, they were reproductions in the style of and everybody knew this and it's not hard to find out about it.

Paypal will no doubt state that the buyer made and is responsible for the 'counterfeit' claim.

The buyer is an idiot for taking the label at face value and an idiot for following Paypal's instructions

Paypal T&C's - well that's just moronic lawyer driven boilerplate

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Anonymous Coward

Got the T shirt

...except in my case it wasn't a violin, just a sealed, genuine copy of some tat from Microsoft that happened to have a revoked licence key. Ebay wanted nothing to do with it although they pulled the account of the seller. Paypal were as about as co-operative as a Pit Bull on crack.

Paypal insisted on wanted written proof it was 'fake', Microsoft couldn't provide it, except from screen prints of their failed activation process, so Paypal suggested (I kid you not) I go to PC World and get a report from one of their 'experts' I was also against a timescale of a couple of days that Paypal had imposed on me (not related to ANY of their published conditions) If I didn't submit proof by that time then I would get no refund.

So I then asked for a UK address at which I could serve legal papers, repeatedly, via a number of electronic channels.

In the end they said I could fax, yes fax, not email or by post, a signed affidavit to their office in Dublin confirm I had 'destroyed' the counterfeit item, but they wouldn't guarantee a refund even if I did.

I asked them to confirm they were asking me to destroy any evidence that could be used in court to prove my case if they didn't refund my money. They confirmed they did.

Said 'legal document' looked like something thrown together by someone on a YTS.

I signed, but handed over the 'counterfeit goods' to a tame solicitor in case things went t*ts up.

The fax was permanently engaged, but after many hours it eventually got through, my money was refunded.

I still use Paypal, as their is not to my knowledge a practical alternative but I would not trust them at all. The sooner they are brought under control with suitable legislation in a territory that has some credibility the better.

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