In theory I should love eBay to shop for or sell vintage: it’s super easy to use, you can nab a real bargain and the whole world really is your market place. In reality however I’m about to turn my back on it altogether.

I’ve been buying things – old and new – on eBay for years but recently decided to sell off a few repro pieces I was no longer wearing. Quite frankly, my very short stint as an eBay seller was so bad it’s put me off selling through the platform ever again. Customer number one requested a refund for an allegedly missing parcel two (yes, two!) working days after shipping.

Customer number two couldn’t be bothered to pick the parcel up from the post office so it was returned to me. Yet another refund or me having to re-post. In both cases I lost out on postage costs and eBay fees not to mention the hassle. I’ve learnt the hard way that eBay seems to have become a paradise for timewasters and scammers (note: always send everything signed for).

But it’s not just my experience. A quick round of tweets revealed a lot of eBay anger among vintage sellers, who, let’s face it, are simply people trying to make an extra bit of money or sole traders, not businesses with the turnover or set up to write off regular refunds. Here are just a few tweets:

“Can’t deal with stress of it anymore.”
“I now only accept direct payments on Etsy and give eBay a wise berth”
“Everything in buyers favour and no protection for sellers!”

It’s the last point that really angered me too, eBay guarantees its buyers a refund. So if the post office messes up, if your buyer simply happens to be lying about receiving their order – you will be footing the bill, eBay will of course still charge you its own fees, even though you didn’t factually have a sale.

But even from a vintage buyer’s point of view, eBay is a minefield full of fake vintage, wrongly dated vintage, damaged vintage you need to navigate around to find the real deal. And if you do accidentally buy a modern dress advertised as original Fifties? You might get a refund but you’re also going to have to pay for posting it back and waste time sorting the repayment.

It strikes me that if eBay wanted to be really helpful to its sellers and buyers, it would crack down on the shops deliberately selling fake vintage. It would mediate between buyers and sellers rather than taking one side only. It would enforce signed-for posting only and reflect the added cost in its fees.

But as it is now, it’s no longer fair and most definitely not worth the hassle, so my conclusion is to move on from eBay. As a possible alternative I have my eye on another ling-time favoutite, Esty. Unless you have any better suggestions?

29 Responses

    • Lena

      I’d not heard of Beetailer before, will check it out. Thanks Lesley!

  1. Missy Vintage

    I’ve also been trying to sell off bits on ebay to declutter and get some much needed cash and yes, it has been a nightmare at times for me too. I’ve also had three people raise a case against me for items not received. Neither got in touch to even let me know before raising a case and one of them raised it within 3 days of actually paying!

    My delivery times clearly stated when they could expect their item (and I chose the longest time to enable me to work post office trips in with work) How can Ebay allow buyers to raise a case so quickly? Such a waste of everyones time.

    Another did get in touch and very rudely asked where their item was, I explained it had been posted and they left me negative feedback moaning not only about the time it took to get delivered but also that they didn’t like the condition of the item (which was a brand new pair of jeans still with labels attached!) again, no message to let me know she wasn’t happy before leaving feedback. I put it down to the fact that she is obviously one angry individual!

    This has also turned into a rant, but I completely hear where you’re coming from on this! I’ve been buying and selling in ebay for years, but my last recent experience was nothing but a pain

  2. Emily Buchanan

    Absolutely agree with this Lena. I used to sell quite prolifically on ebay, going to the post office on my lunch break and packaging things at night. However, because there is absolutely no protection for sellers and so many unjustifiably demanding customers, I use ASOS market place now – it’s much better and I make more money on fixed prices.

  3. Suzie Wheat

    I agree re ebay on the whole. I sell quite a lot and you do get the odd strange ones. You gave to accept its part of the business, but it can be a complete pain. I recognize the signs of a problem buyer now- namely when they’re asking about refund before even buying, basically they’re sowing the seeds and I always will attempt to put off the purchase as we both know they’re going to buy, wear the expensive jewellery to a special occasion and return! I also sell on etsy and find it very good but traffic/sales not as high.
    I have been looking into Ruby Lane which has a great reputation and seems high end and professional. Obviously it depends on what you’re selling- Ruby Lane is all vintage/antique.
    To end searching for ‘vintage’ is such a waste of time, it’s such a generic term that tons if rubbish comes up in the search ie 5 year old dress !!

  4. Mary

    From my experience, a lot of Ebay buyers seem to tend to want something for nothing and don’t seem to have an awful lot of common courtesy… Etsy is a much kinder and nicer place!

  5. Danielle

    Ugh. I despise eBay. Periodically, I try to give it another chance thinking I’ve just had bad luck, but it never gets better. I MUCH prefer etsy. I feel like the quality of items is so much better and I like the focus on seller info so you have an idea of who you’re buying from. I’ve been selling there for a few years and have had minimal problems, most of which were easily resolved!

  6. R Horler

    I agree with all of the above and have experienced as a seller the situations described or very similar. I like the look of Etsy but am going it alone with my own Facebook group which you are all welcome to join and sell too.

  7. Rebecka

    I still buy on Ebay (well the rules are in my favour, see?) but with 10% fees and like you say lots of either rude, scamming or simply lacking common sense buyers I really don’t think it’s worth using for selling. I once sold a pair of quite valuable 30s shoes and 10 days after I’d messaged the buyer to confirm that I’d sent their parcel and it would arrive the following day with Special Delivery they emailed me to say they hadn’t given me the correct address…after the palaver of tracking the shoes down and having them redelivered (not to mention the cost of being on hold to the Royal Mail) I decided never to sell on Ebay again. Have never had any issues with Etsy buyers – they have all been friendly and honest – but as people have already said sales are more infrequent as traffic is lower.
    Though I’m getting fed up internet selling altogether – I’d like to try a small vintage fair next.

  8. Lisa Eden

    I set up an online boutique last year and although I’ve been a user of eBay since it was first set up, I was disappointed at the very high fees now charged on listing, auction fees and Paypal fees. After all this has been deducted, not to mention the time and effort it’s taken to photograph everything, write descriptions and package and postage, I decided it wasn’t really worth the enormous effort for the minimal return.

    I haven’t heard of Beetailer but I’ll check it out.

  9. CherryT

    I now only buy off ebay, and it tends to be more for items for our other passion – reptiles! I haven’t sold anything on there for a long time, and with the postage going up as much as it has, I won’t be in the future! I go to a lot of vintage fairs now with my stall, and any vintage clothes etc that I want I will source at these, plus, it’s helping my vintage friends out too!

  10. Amy

    Completely agree – eBay has become horrible and not what it used to be. I am starting a vintage shop and want to use Etsy but concerned that the traffic isn’t high enough. As a buyer I also prefer Etsy, but most of the shops are in America and pricey. I hope Etsy becomes big over here and eBay has its time, as it’s got far too big for its boots now!!

  11. Girl in the Garret

    I’m not a business seller – I just tend to sell items from my own wardrobe occasionally that I no longer wear in order to fund new purchases. I’ve been using ebay for years to buy and sell, but these new rules have put me off selling vintage there altogether. I recently sold a vintage jacket which I had described as emerald green, and had noted in the description that my camera had struggled to capture the shade – it was much more vibrant in real life. The buyer opened a case against me, claiming that I had not sent her the jacket in the picture – the jacket she had received was grass green. She wanted me to either send her the jacket in the photo (duh, that WAS the jacket), or send her a partial refund AND she would keep the jacket. I refused to back down and responded saying I would refer the case to ebay to decide as I thought it was grossly unfair that she get a refund and keep the item, while I would lose out on all my profit once I’d refunded and paid Paypal and ebay fees. I pointed out the fact that the jacket was vintage so there weren’t other colours I could send her, that I had noted the difficulty of capturing the colour accurately in the listing, and that actually, what IS the difference between emerald and grass green? She backed down, and closed the case. I stopped selling vintage on ebay, and moved to etsy instead. I still buy on ebay though, and hope I’m a good buyer to deal with. Having said that, I did recently open a case where a seller described a vintage item as excellent, but when it arrived it was badly stained. So I’m hoping the system works in my favour as a buyer. It’s worth noting that ebay now encourages dissatisfied buyers to open a case as the first means of contacting a seller about an item not being as described, because of the way the Help pages are set up, rather than send a message the way we used to….

  12. Catherine

    I haven’t sold on eBay for years since i received feedback from someone who said i wasn’t communicating with them, but what actually happened was my emails were going to their junk box. i got no apology and they never withdrew their negative feedback. If i shop on eBay now i stick with the “stores” and only buy from Australia as our PO have made it standard to track parcels now for free.
    I had ordered something from ebay last year and it never turned up but i gave them the grace of the thanksgiving and xmas period but it never showed. by then 3 months was up and i couldn’t dispute the order and the seller seemed to disappear off the face of the earth

    And just having to wade through the crap from shitty sellers. You have to be so specific with your searches or you’ll end up with pages and pages of 60s dresses which are actually those plastic yucky costume party outfits! I like that anyone can sell on eBay, but if its being abused by people selling knock-offs or 20,000 different types of watches, then clearly eBay has drifted so far from what it used to be 10 years ago.

  13. Dee

    I agree with your post. My husband is a power seller on Ebay and the amount of people trying to get something for free is crazy. We hear so many times. “I didn’t get it”. “It is broken”. It’s not all here”. etc etc….knowing full well we have covered all our bases when it comes to the auctions and shipping.

  14. ebay/etsy

    It isn’t that easy to sell on etsy. It is almost like a high school popularity contest on there. If you’re cool enough, you will sell something. If not, well, you get the point.

    I’m not sticking up for eBay–I have had my own fair share of bs with them! But, they will reimburse you for listing fees and FVF if a sale doesn’t work out. I do agree that eBay isn’t what it once was; I’ve been selling on there for over 10 yrs so I “remember when”. Personally, Etsy is not the answer and has been a total waste of time. Something else needs to come along, and I hope it does real soon.

  15. Denise Dougherty

    Dear Lena. Yes, selling in any retail environment can be frustrating. People are undependable, arrogant, lazy and down-right stupid at times. The challenge is in setting up your selling venue with all the traps in mind. One year ago, I had my 100th sale on eBay and I’ve been at it for only 3 years. Slow and steady has been my game and so far, so good (fingers crossed!).
    Although I wasn’t crazy about the marketplace Etsy, I finally threw caution to the wind and set up shop. My first sale was beautiful blouse that sat on eBay for months and months. My first sale was a scammer. What a let down. Those who sell have all been introduced to the “I’ll accept a partial refund…” character. My policy strictly states “No returned item, No refund. No exceptions.” Etsy, however, has no customer service to help you through the weeds. The only help I had with this transaction was a customer service person at PayPal which I called out of desperation and in search of guidance facing a potential scam. eBay customer service has always been helpful and safety net. Yes, I know I sound like I’m not addressing your concerns or frustrations but the selling road is bumpy. Each time you run into a problem, it makes you smarter. Those problem buyers pave your road to selling success.

    Also, I happen to agree with a previous comment (ebay/etsy) which likened Etsy sellers to a popularity contest. Also, I believe the venue is too immature as a marketplace and the back office is amateurish. They flip-flop with policies and seem to blow with the wind. That doesn’t make for a positive incentive for me. Yesterday, I took my shop off “vacation” mode and let a few listings run out of time. If I sell something, I’ll be gratefully surprised. If I don’t I won’t have lost anything but 20 cents per.

    In conclusion, Lena, I would suggest you keep your shipping policies tight and in your favor, if in the US, use Priority or 1st class with tracking for every item mailed. If elsewhere, use any similar option available to you. Burn lessons hurt but make us smarter. Retail is not for sissies, girl. Pull up your nylons and go claim your fame as a fabulous seller. Your fellow sellers are right behind you. Don’t let a few idiots drive you away from a global marketplace. You are a Vintage Queen – go rule.
    DD in Philadelphia

    P.S. Bonanza seems to be tightening up their game – check them out as a secondary marketplace.

  16. sue

    Many years ago I sold on Ebay but for the very reasons you have said we moved to our own website (2008) and never looked back. However if I was to sell on another platform for vintage, I would go for ASOS not Etsy. But scammers are every where and you just have to learn to spot them, cover all possibilities and like the brick and mortar shops do, add extra into your business to cover virtual shoplifting losses.

  17. Stephanie

    eBay is in a really sad state compared to how it was years ago. I don’t blame you for wanting to leave. I have had an Etsy shop for several years now and I have had no problems with it, the community is great, and I’ve generated far more sales than eBay. Now I’m looking into It’s similar to Etsy, but they don’t charge you any fees unless you want them to promote it in their marketplace. If you have no problem generating your own traffic this might be a good option for you.

    • Lena

      I’d not heard of them before but I’ll definitely check them out, thanks!

  18. LollyWillowes

    I tend to buy on ebay as I have never had much luck with trying to sell anything, but a friend of mine and my son have both complained recently about time wasters and people asking the most idiotic questions you could imagine.
    I have a shop on etsy but it has proved hopeless, and I have to say I detest their arrogance and attitude in general, extremely immature in outlook. I quite often see things I’d quite like to buy but the international postal costs in the US have gone up and I have always been afraid of being belted by customs so have never bought anything large or of much value.
    Would it be possible for you to set up a web site of your own and try and advertise that? I was told about the following by someone who has used this service to create one.

    • Lena

      Thanks for the suggestion! I have thought about setting up my own shop, but most of the things I’m selling are modern retro-looking clothes and only the occasional real vintage gem, so I’m not sure it’ll e worth it. Something to keep in mind though!

  19. michele

    The biggest eBay scam in my opinión is the Global Shipping Program. Most American sellers have no idea that they are signing up for you to use a PRIVATE SHIPPING COMPANY (sorry for the capitals) and not USPS. For those of us living overseas this gives an inflated shipping and the shipping company take out the customs fees front up. Now in my country (Spain), sometimes i am charged customs and sometimes not, its a bit random. But I detest that eBay has gone into business (no doubt more money for eBay) with a private company, reduced choice for buyers and increased costs. Thankfully every seller I have contacted so far has been very willing to change the listing and offer USPS. In this case it´s both buer and seller BEWARE!

  20. Janet Webster

    Very inciteful article and comments. I trade on Asos marketplace as a seller not a boutique (the fees really stack up for boutiques) and its not bad. I do know successful boutique sellers but they sell in high volume, its their main job, not a sideline. I havent had any problems with Asos or their customers. I think the internet is a great opportunity to sell your wares whether it be through ebay, Asos or the rest BUT it is not easy as there is so much competition. You can spend a fortune on photo shoots, help on getting on your site at the top of search engines etc but its the big boys who have the clout. No different to the high street really. Iv realised Im not going to my make my fortune this way!

  21. Bluesette Blanco

    Not to beat a dead horse, Lena, but like ebay did several years go, etsy announced this week that they now welcome large manufacturers and consider factory items “handmade.” There are already tons of resellers on the site, including many vintage knockoffs — the expectation is that they will be ebay junior (several ebay execs are on etsy Board of Directors).

    Anyway, besides that disappointing news, etsy search function is horrible, and there are many vintage shops that are quite desperate with few views/sales. The smart ones are developing their own sites so they don’t have to be victims of all the nonsense.
    ~Regards to all vintage lovers~

    • Lena

      Oh god, that is dreadful news indeed! Thanks for letting me know. x

  22. Suzanne

    I am the owner and operator of Simply Sass, A NEW community marketplace with a focus on Vintage/Retro (or inspired) Collectible Handmade and Original Creations. We launched June 2013 !
    It is free to become a Member or a Vendor. Vendors have full control over their storefront. Our fees are small in comparison to other websites who offer a multi shop marketplace environment. We are trademarked, PayPal integrated, a member of CIRA and have a fully secured site to ensure the best shopping experience possible. As an alternative to the other sites I invite you all to check us out and join us in bringing the past…into the future Thanks !

  23. Tsering Wrench

    I used to sell very well(hehe I am a poet and nobody informed me of the fact) and just 2 days ago I sold a horrible dress from Unique Vintage (I flipping hate them!! and will never but again from them) that was pretty but with effed up sizing and it would have been worth it to sell on ebay rather than pay for alterations anyway it sold after 4 attempts and 3 bidders! OKay so I sent it FREE shipping so out of my profits mind you the buyer opens a case for non delivery the after the day it was marked delivered in tracking info! So, I called ebay and asked why was he able to file a fraudulent claim and lucky for me the tracking info was my saving grace and I won the case! However, on ETSY they do not allow you to sell non vintage items and I do not want to lie at all. I see a lot of people do by saying things are ‘made to order’ but they are other shops posting as 1 person or they may say all but this one size is available . I have been lucky as a buyer on Etsy and may ave spent more on their as a seller than I have made money, oh well.