Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

$750, 11-lamp eBay listing amid a global pandemic and yes, of course I bought it

The listing was for 11 lamps, all the same size, a glowing, veritable rainbow of wax colors suspended in clear liquids. A Dream Listing. There was one photograph of 11 lighted lamps, accompanied by one brief, pixellated YouTube video of the lamps in action. Price was $600 for the lamps and $150 for shipping.  I check the seller's rating, feedback, and other items for sale, and seller seems legit. I send the seller a message gently inquiring about the size of the lamps, as that info was not provided in the sparse item description. The seller responds quickly and confirms that the lamps are 16.3" height and all pre-2003 models. I am hearing no warning sirens in my head as I proceed to tap the Buy It Now button.

Well, lemme take that back. There are indeed some warnings going off in my head, but not of the helpful "Don't trust this listing" variety. These internal messages are more of the "Are you really about to spend $750 on lava lamps in a global pandemic, you selfish piece of shit??" variety. "There are people out there unemployed and starving and you are about to spend $750...on OLD LAVA LAMPS. What. Is. Wrong. With. You??" And so on. But concurrently, from another, quieter part of my brain, I'm hearing some "Fuck it, we're all about to die anyway so you might as well do something that brings you any tiny amount of happiness" uprisings. Eventually, the "Ah screw it" argument quickly grows loud and wins the morality battle, and in a kinetic, ecstatic tizzy, I tap the Buy It Now button, credit card debt be damned.

I know at this point that you, My Reader, have already seen red flags and are wondering why I went through with the purchase. I will just say that I had had an excellent, years-long record of successful, drama-free eBay purchases up to this point. I had never been scammed in any way. Additionally, I know that some sellers are just ordinary people who are not great at marketing their listings, or even giving photos, or comprehensive details. It's not always an indicator that something shady is going on, or that the seller is intentionally trying to omit important details.

Back to my story. The next day, I lay on my couch mindlessly watching Netflix, anticipating and dreaming about my big new exciting sexy purchase, and I receive a message from the seller. (These are verbatim, with intact spelling errors and chatspeak)

"Hey there did you read my description?? I am willing to drop the item off at a local shipping center and have you arrange packing & shipping and pay for it there...I will refund you the $150.00 for shipping & pay for it there...I will refund you the $150.00 for shipping & or pick the nearest shipping spot near me if you do not have a preference, but shipping will b between you and a service of your choosing...thanks"

Confused by this message? Yeah, I was too. I have reread it a hundred times since then, and I still don't understand what the seller was trying to do. eBay is pretty simple, like, I mean, you buy something and the seller ships it, this happens thousands of times every day and that's how it's worked for decades herebefore. It's not a difficult concept to grasp. You buy something, the seller ships it to you, everyone is happy. Or, if it can't be shipped, the seller lets you know that ahead of time, and doesn't charge you a shipping fee, and doesn't add the verbiage "Will ship in 3-4 days" in the listing, like it was added to this listing.

Puzzled, I asked the seller to clarify. "I don't understand your message. You charged $150 for shipping. Are you saying you're not shipping the lamps? I'm confused."

Seller Reply: "In the description it says your responsible for shipping I can drop them off & you arrange it...& give them your information so you can pay and ship but you need to call and pay and arrange the shipping, I'm not willing to ship them personally...My apologies for any miss understanding but I personally will not be responsible for 'shipping' the lamps, it's a risk I am not willing to take due to them being liquid and glass"

.... Uhhm okie-dokie then. At this point I was done trying to understand what shady thing was about to happen to me. Let's just give me my all money back and cancel the sale. After a few more messages were exchanged, and one noticeably long pause after asking twice for a full refund, I finally got my money back. I consider myself lucky that I did.

The next person might not be so lucky.

This happened a few weeks ago, and I'm still bummed about it. Finally achieving my "Clear Rainbow" goal would have been awesome. But oh well.

Btw. This listing might still be up on eBay at the time of this writing, even though I've reported it to the eBay authorities three times, and counting.

If you see it, caveat emptor.

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Comment by Rach on May 10, 2020 at 12:39pm

I forgot to mention that I did a reverse Google search on the image in the listing and it clearly did not belong to the seller. So I'm pretty sure that the listing was overall fradulent.

"Seller doesn't want to be responsible for the lamps/globes to arrive in one piece/non-cloudy. Thus he shifts the shipping responsibility to you so he can keep the money if the delivery is done poorly." - This seems like a reasonable explanation. It's better than anything I could think of. I guess that would explain why I actually got my money back -- they weren't able to ship anything, so they couldn't then deny responsibility when whatever was shipped arrived, and therefore couldn't complete the scam.

Comment by Minions on May 10, 2020 at 12:17pm

Seller doesn't want to be responsible for the lamps/globes to arrive in one piece/non-cloudy. Thus he shifts the shipping responsibility to you so he can keep the money if the delivery is done poorly.


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