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Letters To Ebay Ceo Donahoe Protesting Emr Elimination

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Posted 06/04/2014   12:35 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add MikeQ to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Brian, just curious. When all was said and done did you end up getting a refund on that US #38?

I think from both the buyer's and the seller's perspective, eBay's disguising user ID's was a very bad deal.
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Posted 06/04/2014   12:47 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Bill Weiss to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I was NOT involved with the Stamp Community Watch group until 2006, and indeed, Richard Frajola was a pioneer in anti-fraud work with eBay and if memory serves me correctly, he even got national media exposure on the issues. I actually spoke to RF yesterday by telephone about this issue and he essentially feels as his post quoted here says and also that it is impossible to "save the uninformed" so his philosophy has evolved from what it was back then to what it is now. In other words, people who feel that way (in my opinion - and Brian also touched on this above) think it's better to "give up" then to fight. I confessed to him that I DO understand feeling that way, and surely at some point, if I do not see our national organizations, like APS and ASDA express wlllingness to "help" in the fight, I too will likely abandon the effort(s).

The SCADS website contains a fantastic accumulation of interesting and important (and much of it disgusting in terms of eBay not helping much) information and I highly recommend reading it. Unfortunately, that site is dormant and no new updated work has been added (although the two primary catalysts are both still very much alive and well....).

Readers can also find lots of eBay fraud discussion content on the old StampChat board archives which I think is still available by Googling that name. You will find many familiar names that frequented that site back then!
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Posted 06/04/2014   1:56 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Rileysan to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I confessed to him that I DO understand feeling that way, and surely at some point, if I do not see our national organizations, like APS and ASDA express wlllingness to "help" in the fight, I too will likely abandon the effort(s).


My next comment/question may turn into a rabbit hole, but I think is needs to be addressed.

My perception is that organizations like the APS and ASDA have taken an apathetic, if not negative approach to eBay, et al. My opinion is that these organizations (and others) have suffered huge losses in membership, revenue, etc due to internet sales, and I think they could care less if eBay's reputation took a hit. Afterall, who stands to gain if eBay falls from grace?

One of my earliest posts to this forum a number of years ago was a diatribe about brick and mortar dealers and how I believed eBay had saved philately. If not for eBay, I likely would never have returned to the hobby, and I continue to hesitate supporting some of the old-school organizations in part, because of their attitude towards the internet.

If the APS, ASDA, and so on take no position or action to make eBay a better place - even something as simple as making a statement on the issue - then they will only confirm my aforementioned beliefs.


Quote:
Brian, just curious. When all was said and done did you end up getting a refund on that US #38?


Unfortunately, no. I purchased that stamp from a seller that is now banned (back in `06). I resold that stamp to another club member for half of what I paid for it (properly identified, of course)


Quote:
I think from both the buyer's and the seller's perspective, eBay's disguising user ID's was a very bad deal.


I could not agree more! Being able to see who was bidding on items helped me steer clear of numerous fake listings and hyper aware of shill bidders. I was genuinely angry when that happened.

Brian Riley
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Posted 06/04/2014   2:11 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add cfrphoto to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Philately is a hobby built on trust. Without trust many aspects of the hobby we take for granted will become unpleasant or cease to exist. No one wants to find out that stamps purchased in the past are now worth less because they were not what the seller said they were or the seller failed to mention material facts about condition.

The original Stamp Community Watch program was initiated by eBay in 2003 in response to persistent lobbying by groups like Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers (SCADS), some persistent individuals and bad press on MSNBC and other news outlets. The eBay category manager, perceiving a problem turned to the APS for assistance and the SCW program was initiated. Later, eBay took the program in house and continued to process actionable reports. It appears that the program has now encountered another crisis point and eBay management may be looking for some sort of resolution.

In 2003, a couple of different sellers were reported to be buying, altering and reselling stamps on eBay. Persistent efforts by several individuals matching buy/sell transactions were able to match before and after listings. I noticed that a seller purchased a 15 cent 1898 US first bureau stamp with a described deep thin and offered a few weeks later as having "disturbed" gum. The seller is still on eBay and listed by The Swedish Tiger. There is no way that that seller can ever clear his reputation in my mind. A second and much worse problem were drive by sellers of non-existent stamps. One seller in Mainland China offered a mint never hinged five dollar Columbian at a fairly low price. Aside from trying to figure out how such a stamp could have survived the Cultural Revolution, an established eBay dealer was offering the exact same stamp in a legitimate listing.

It is clear that eBay has done a lot of work behind the scenes to filter out totally bogus listings of non-existing items. Much of this work is undoubtedly algorithmic. More recently, eBay has imposed selling limits on new accounts and some existing accounts. We no longer see as many $10,000 ultra-common "rare" stamps with far fewer Scott US 596 and other equally improbable listings. Still, many inexperienced sellers try using the first catalog number with a matching picture in the catalog. The problem for buyers has shifted from fraud to sloppiness or incompetence. I noticed today a seller listed a $2 orange red & black US 523, but the catalog value and image of a carmine & black 547. Where do we go from here and what can buyers do to protect themselves?

It seems clear that enforcement has worked to some extent. The number of known buy/alter/sell operations seems to have declined. However, the number of misidentified, poorly described or altered stamps has not declined, although the number of seller altered stamps may have. Many sellers don't know the difference, and a few don't care and will sell whatever "sticks" and doesn't come back. Most collectors are not able to tell the difference or may not find out until too late.

Some have said that eBay has ended anti-fraud efforts because of some undisclosed problem. Some worry that the number of bad listings will increase if it is not possible to report them. I doubt if the number of bad listings will increase, but the number of intentionally bad higher priced listings could increase. While it is not possible to read eBay's intent, it seems unlikely that they will allow conditions to deteriorate to the situation in 2003. Some have said that eBay doesn't care and won't listen or respond to outside pressure or lobbying. They have no way to know.

As in 2003, some eBay managers may perceive a business problem and may be open to suggestions or negotiations if presented from a credible source or contact. It appears that the APS and ASDA are in such management disarray that the ability of either organization to act constructively on behalf of buyers may be in doubt. While there is only a small chance for success, taking action is better than admitting defeat and giving up. Since enforcement activities have been ongoing for more than a decade, it seems like it is time to look at other approaches.

I proposed that eBay (and bidStart) look into allowing buyers of qualifying single stamps or sets to request a 90 day extension for expertizing. The buyer would pay for a good cert or the seller for a bad one. One objection raised was the limited time window allowed by PayPal to settle transactions. That will have to change now that eBay is requiring top rated sellers to offer 90 day returns during the holiday season. The amount of infrastructure eBay has in place to handle order processing is much improved over that available in 2003. It would not be difficult to for eBay to provide sellers with the information and paperwork needed to send stamps for expertizing. Each participating expertizing committee would have some sort of contract with eBay with rates, handling times and paperwork automation, which could make the process more efficient. If expertizing fees could be based on selling price instead of catalog value it could be a major benefit to buyers. Qualifying stamps could be based on selling price and catalog number. Unlike in 2003, eBay has the infrastructure to implement Catalog Name and Catalog Value Item Specifics. I understand that the new bidStart site will have catalog number search capability built in. Stamps not on the list of any expertizing committee would not be subject to extension.

If you don't believe that cannot or won't take action, read the eBay stamps, currency and coins policy on the eBay site at http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies...rstamps.html. It seems clear that eBay has taken action related to higher priced graded coins and has limited the number of coin grading organizations it will recognize. It is too bad, because the APS has taken some very aggressive actions against marketplace fraud in the past.

I believe it would be better for the APS and the ASDA to try to negotiate with eBay rather than let them unilaterally decide to impose new stamp selling policies, or even item specifics that go counter to recognized philatelic descriptive terms. Rather than more rigorously restrict or police sellers, it may be more effective to give buyers more resources to protect themselves. Although many buyers may still be getting less than they pay for, even a few buyers exercising extensions may be enough to make listing bad stamps unprofitable for many stamp sellers.

In my opinion, the time of having maximum leverage could be now.

Clark


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Posted 06/04/2014   3:59 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Bill Weiss to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I am very pleased to see Clark's post above for several reasons, but he adds a lot of back-knowledge to this discussion, which I think is valuable info for readers here.

I agree with him, and others, who have expressed the opinion both publically and privately, that they believe both APS and ASDA should take a bigger role in protesting to eBay and/or offering to work with eBay to improve the Stamps category. Now the problem facing us is HOW to convince APS to "get involved"? I sure don't have the answer. Maybe if enough emails are sent to the Executive Director at kpmartin@stamps.org or to APS President Steve Reinhard at sreinhard@optonline.net we could at least start the ball rolling. Why not take a moment and express your dissatisfaction with what eBay did and ask them to strongly consider getting involved. While you may simply get ignored (APS President Reinhard has been sent virtually every email from me about this situation from the beginning and has yet to even acknowledge even ONE of them!). Ken Martin, on the other hand, has been forthcoming and has made his current position very clear, and that is that he does not feel APS can influence eBay at all, so why bother? (my brief summery, not exact word for word quote). Much like your elected representatives, they may respond to many constituents writing about the same issue. Or not.......
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Posted 06/04/2014   4:57 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add smauggie to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
It seems simple enough to make it a requirement that when a seller/dealer does any business that he prominently displays his/her APS/ASDA member number. Should buyers have a complaint they can take it straight to either organization for investigation.
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Edited by smauggie - 06/04/2014 5:02 pm
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Posted 06/04/2014   5:51 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add cfrphoto to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Sellers who have caused the most problems are often not members of either organization or have already been kicked out. While eBay has removed a number of sellers, some keep coming back with new accounts. Try searching the web for the terms "British Cartel" and philately. Also, checkout the SCADS web site. Although not updated lately, some of the mentioned sellers still frequent eBay or bidStart.

Clark
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Posted 06/04/2014   6:01 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add smauggie to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I agree completely, but I guess that is kind of my point, Clark. If you do not see an APS member number or ASDA member number, this person does not want to be a part of the larger philatelic community in this country, act accordingly.
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Posted 06/04/2014   7:01 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add kevin504 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
smauggie....

Quote:
If you do not see an APS member number or ASDA member number, this person does not want to be a part of the larger philatelic community in this country, act accordingly.

That is a incorrect statement.
I was a APS member....for many years.....I was the 2nd leading recruiter behind Mystic for 2-3 of those....
For my reasons now (which I will not get into) I am no longer a active member....
But ....when I sell...I try to do the right thing.
I do not need a APS # to be honest.
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Posted 06/04/2014   7:23 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add smauggie to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Kevin - You have a point and I was a bit over the top in what I said, I admit. I was trying to answer the question in regards to how the APS could get involved. This is a thorny subject indeed.
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Posted 06/04/2014   9:46 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Bill Weiss to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
"I do not need a APS # to be honest.";

I agree with Kevin on this and I personally have seen his honesty demonstrated many times over the years that I have known him.

This is a tricky subject, which boils down to "how do I know if I can trust a particular seller". I think we will agree that being an APS or ASDA member might be a "plus", but not being one is not necessarily a "minus". So next, how about feedback? Well, that MIGHT be a helpful gauge if the OLD feedback system was the current one, but it isn't (once they removed the ability for a seller to give a negative to a buyer, the system tanked). So how?

I personally do not believe there is any "foolproof" way. What a seller's policy is on allowing expertizing is one way to judge the ethics of a seller in my opinion. If seller refuses to allow third party expertizing, that should raise a red flag. Why? Because buying a product on eBay should not be any different from any other type of purchase in the respect that THE BUYER HAS THE RIGHT TO EXPECT THAT THE PRODUCT HE BUYS IS "AS DESCRIBED", which means (if no description is present to the contrary) a SOUND and GENUINE stamp. Period! And allowing a recognized expert service to examine the stamp to confirm or deny the description is elementary honest behavior.

So beyond that is the fact that nearly all ethical mainstream dealers and auction houses have no problem allowing third party expertizing, but in fact, will even bear the costs involved if the item is found to be other than as described! On a venue like eBay, because it is so "easy" to be a seller, Pandora's box opens up and presto, everybody suddenly is a dealer! Most of these "new" sellers either do not understand the industry standards *or* choose to ignore them. So, unfortunately "Buyer Beware" becomes the "standard" which we are forced to live by. Fine. But eBay should help, by having a program (as they have for the last decade or more) designed to help protect inexperienced buyers. It does buyers no good whatsoever if eBay has a "Buyer Protection" Program if the buyer is too inexperienced to recognize what is wrong with the product he bought! If he has no clue that the #459 imperf coil he just bought for $150. is actually a #409 worth less than $2. how does that Buyer Protection Program help him? The ONLY thing that helps him is if some expert or more knowledgeable member spots that fake 459 and after reporting it to eBay they remove it. THAT is buyer protection!
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Posted 06/04/2014   11:12 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add cfrphoto to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
A very useful point has surfaced from this discussion. Prices realized from eBay auctions are frequently somewhat lower than on other auction sites. There is a strong price disconnect between the fixed price market and auctions on eBay. It appears that eBay has a business problem which unfortunately is shared with sellers. Auction realizations are simply too low. In many cases, low prices are justified because sellers often dump their second and third rate material in auctions just to get rid of it. Because so much unsalable material formerly hidden away in the stock of stamp retailers is now exposed for all to see, prices, especially inferior stamps, once thought to be scarce was bound to drop. However this does not explain low realizations of better, scarcer stamps.

Low prices may benefit buyers, but don't really if much of the material is bad. I can understand the reluctance to bid on an expensive item when it is quite possible or even likely that the stamp is faulty or worse, altered. Dealers of better material suffer because prices keep dropping. Even Scott has noticed and has been chipping away at US stamp prices. Ultimately collectors suffer because they will receive even less when they sell.

If eBay did support an extension policy for better stamps, it is likely that auction prices realized would rebound. I would bid aggressively for some stamps I see on eBay if I knew that I could get a good certificate or a refund. Even if eBay escrowed the money, sellers would be better off because selling prices would be higher. Buyers would benefit, even though prices would be higher by not having to receive or return so many bad stamps. A couple of years ago I bought ten stamps and had to return six and had to sell the seventh at cost to avoid having to do a return. One order was from the British Cartel, as I found out later. Every stamp in the order was regummed, leaving the stamps rigid and likely to crack.

I suspect that if eBay realizes that they have a business problem, it is likely that they would act and everyone would benefit, especially if the APS and ASDA can be available to help them "get it right". If eBay goes it alone, we could all face another Cuba, New York fiasco because the word "Cuba" is forbidden in titles

It is possible that an opportunity to act in the best interests of the hobby is upon us. Will the APS and the ASDA do the right thing?

Clark
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Posted 06/04/2014   11:58 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Bill Weiss to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
"It is possible that an opportunity to act in the best interests of the hobby is upon us. Will the APS and the ASDA do the right thing?";

The jury is still out on ASDA, but I am quite certain that as of this moment, APS has no plans to do anything to support a protest against the eBay action of ending the EMR and CW Programs. And I am now told (because of an earlier comment here by me that the President has not responded to any of my communications, that he "was consulted" before ED Ken Martin made his position known to me. Just so readers are completely clear about that, the official APS position as of right now is that they do not plan to support a protest.
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Posted 06/05/2014   08:53 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Rileysan to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
The seller is still on eBay and listed by The Swedish Tiger. There is no way that that seller can ever clear his reputation in my mind


Instances like this are common, but not limited to eBay. I can cite a specific instance of a local dealer in Portland, Or who has done the same thing. If I could prove it, I would report it to the APS/ASDA. For the time being, I steer clear of him.



Quote:
Prices realized from eBay auctions are frequently somewhat lower than on other auction sites. There is a strong price disconnect between the fixed price market and auctions on eBay. It appears that eBay has a business problem which unfortunately is shared with sellers. Auction realizations are simply too low. In many cases, low prices are justified because sellers often dump their second and third rate material in auctions just to get rid of it.



I respectfully disagree. True rarities will always do well - no matter what the venue. Everything else? We could go back and forth on the many reasons for the disparity in prices between eBay and brick & mortar auction houses, but the bottom line is that the worldwide collecting community has spoken. The market is exactly where it should be. And in my opinion, eBay is the market.


I love the ideas being put forth to make eBay a better place - esp as it pertains to allowing extensions for certification. However, certifications are prohibitively expensive, and often cancel out any implied value given as a result of being confirmed as "sound". The only affordable certs are from Weiss expertizing. How much more business is Bill Weiss going to be able to handle? When do you plan to retire, Bill?

I hate the fee structure of all the other organizations. Until that changes, I think nothing will change in terms of buyers seeking certifications.

Brian
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Posted 06/05/2014   10:46 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add artlaunier to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Have I been the victim of a fake or miss-described stamp? Yes, several times. Have I gotten my refunds? Yes, nearly always. On the other hand, have I always told the seller that the stamp I bought was better than what he described? No, several #20 & #22 described as #24. Am I as guilty as the fraudsters? No, JMO. Perhaps, it should work both ways but that's never going to happen.

Should the APS get involved in this issue with eBay? That's a slippery slope. To get involved would mean additional time spent by someone. Time means cost and the APS currently has no budget for that cost and it may not in the future. They are trying to cut cost. So, rely on volunteers like Bill, that's a lot to ask of him and he may be willing to continue to do it. Note: I had not heard of the EMR program prior to Bill's letter.

Let's also forget eBay doing anything about this topic. They really don't have an incentive that would make an impact on their bottom line in the near future.

So, what's the solution? Make the issue more public. Create a face book account where everyone can contribute names, scans, stamp images, comments etc. This will allow search engines to better find out about the fraudsters and educate those about the shady dealers and what to look for. Call the account "Stamp Frauds Inc." or something along that line. Bring the questionable practices by these people out into the open where they won't be hidden by eBay's practices or lack of.

It's just an idea.

Art
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