In a front page story in yesterday's New York Times (Sunday, Jan. 29, 2006) it was revealed that Tiffany & Company is suing eBay for failing to curb the sale of Tiffany counterfeits. In 2004, Tiffany investigators made 200 purchases of Tiffany merchandise from eBay auctions. They found that three-quarters of the items were counterfeit.
EBay is claiming that they are simply a marketplace, and that they're in no position to determine the genuineness of the products sold on their auction site. A ruling against eBay, or even a settlement from eBay, will greatly impact the future of eBay.
In response, I sent the following letter to the New York Times:
Your piece on Tiffany & Company's suit against eBay [Sunday, Jan. 29, 2006] was timely. Our company, Sherlock Investigations, Inc., regularly buys merchandise on eBay for a well-known company that sells handbags, sunglassess, watches and other accessories. I can safely say that nearly one-hundred per cent of the merchandise we purchase for this company on eBay is counterfeit.
However, eBay is not entirely at fault. When we bid on watches, jewelry, or other high-end mechandise, we often find that it 's impossible to place a winning bid. What happens is that the seller is actually bids against the bidders. Then, the next day, the seller contacts the losing bidders with a concocted story. Either the winning bidder had to pull out for some family emergency, or that the seller just happens to have an identical item in stock. They'll point out the price that the item went for the day before, and then offer it at a slightly lower price.
People who fall for this ploy end up paying a highly inflated price for merchandise that is usually counterfeit in the first place. They get what they deserve because eBay strongly cautions against making deals with sellers outside of eBay. Buyers do so at their own risk.
Another ploy that fraudulent sellers use is that they use numerous email addresses to send in high ratings to themselves. So, checking out other buyer's experience with the sellers is not foolproof.
When our client's purchase non-existing Harley Davidson motorcycles, expensive, but counterfeit Rolexes, and imitation Fender guitars on eBay, we track down the seller and usually get out client's money back. But for the many buyers who contact us about having purchased a fake Chanel or Louis Vuitton handbag for $150, well, they're just out of luck.
The number one rule that eBay shopper's should follow is: don't spend more than you can afford to lose.
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