When and Why NOT to use Ebay’s Unpaid Item Assistant

… and how it completely messed up a transaction with a genuine buyer, embarrassed me, and lost me a final value fee on an item that was never paid for.

This Ebay tool is designed for sellers, to save you time monitoring unpaid items, to open and close unpaid item cases for you, and to claim back final value fees automatically.
But I recently had it work for me and completely mess up a transaction. I will never use it again!!!

The story:
When my Ebay shop was up and running, and I was looking for ways to automate where possible, I came across this tool and at some point in my wisdom decided to enable it. I thought it would save me keeping an eye on my unpaid items myself.

I set it to the longest available setting of kicking in at 32 days after the initial sale, so that it would catch any items I might fail to deal with manually.
I sometimes sell items which have a delayed dispatch date so wanted to give myself some leeway and not open cases on genuine buyers.

So it has been sat there for many months in the background and I basically ignored it and kind of forgot about it.
In the end I dealt with all unpaid items manually because I did keep a reasonable eye on my listings. (See Conclusions below for some reasons)

Victim 1 – The Unsuspecting Customer
So … one day I get a Best Offer from a new Ebayer who doesn’t really understand the implications of Best Offer.
I accept. The item is therefore “sold” and Ebay takes its slice of the “sale” immediately as the final value fee, despite the fact it hasn’t been paid for and I think the buyer was surprised things had gone this quickly.
Turns out he doesn’t need the item until 2 months later, but he seems to be genuine so I let the order stand.
Later he says he wants two, so I revise the invoice.
No payment yet, but there’s plenty of time anyway.

BANG !!!

Ebay open an unpaid item case against the poor guy (without checking with me).
That wasn’t what I wanted, to scare off a new Ebayer!

So I go to Unpaid item assistant and turn it off for that transaction – and send an apologetic note to my buyer.
Unpaid Item Assistant asks me if I want to close the case but doesn’t explain the implications either way.
It seems if I close the case, the transaction will be cancelled and I will get my final value fee back. But then the buyer won’t be able to buy!
So I decide to not close the case.
Only 4 days later, Ebay close the case automatically (again without checking with me).

Victim 2 – Me the Seller
Next thing, the buyer (who I believe is still genuine) asks to cancel the order because his plans have changed and he no longer needs the item.
So I try to cancel the transaction.
But I can’t!
There is no way for me to cancel it! I find that I can’t reclaim my final value fee either because a case has been opened and closed and I have somehow been automatically locked out of my eligibility.
Now this has all happened ONLY 36 DAYS since the initial acceptance of Best Offer.

If I hadn’t set up Unpaid Item Assistant.
Actually without Unpaid Item Assistant, I would have had 45 days to file an unpaid item case, and a further 15 days to close the case and still receive my final value fee back. A total of 60 days!
And as it happens, my buyer DID inform me of his intention to cancel in less than 45 days, so without Unpaid Item Assistant I COULD have got my Final Value Fee back with no issues.

Points to Note from all this
1) Don’t let Ebay do your dirty work for you – they will mess it up!

2) If you sometimes ship a good while after sales, Unpaid Item Assistant is a curse. It runs automatically without any warning to you, the seller, and could alienate your buyers.

3) The minute you accept a Best Offer, the Final Value Fee is added to your account. This is despite the fact the buyer has not confirmed the sale, has not completed Ebay checkout, and has not paid.

4) Sometimes items which ARE paid for via Paypal – including “Immediate Payment Required via Paypal” items – remain in the Unpaid section of Selling Manager Pro.

5) You can only get rid of the paid items stuck in the Unpaid section of Selling Manager Pro when you mark them as Paid and Dispatched. Marking as Paid via Paypal does not move them to the Await Postage page, they remain on the Awaiting Payment page.

6) Because I found out 4) and 5), I have had to keep an eye on my unpaid items anyway. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t mark those “paid but marked as unpaid” items as dispatched and the buyer would have no notice of the dispatch, causing unhappy customers which I don’t want! And my sales totals would be wrong.

What I Did Next
I completely turned off Unpaid Item Assistant and will never use it again!

Well I need to have a chat with Ebay as soon as possible to see if anything can be done about the failed transaction.
I have been billed a final value fee for an item I was never paid for, and I can’t reclaim it purely because of Unpaid Item Assistant.

And while I am still angry about it, I wrote this article for other sellers to beware!

NOTE : In the following days I did chat online with Ebay and they kindly agreed to refund the final value fee.
The item disappeared off my list of items awaiting payment, although it has now mysteriously reappeared!

4 responses to “When and Why NOT to use Ebay’s Unpaid Item Assistant

  1. Hi, how did you chat with eBay? Did you call them? Having a hard time contacting them. Thanks!

    • Hi Ally,
      Thanks for your question.
      I have looked into it a little further, and I can see that the options for contacting Ebay vary with which Ebay site you use.
      My comments were related to Ebay.co.uk, I don’t know which site you use but Ebay.com does not offer chat, only telephone.
      Ebay.com.au offers four different contact options including chat.
      I don’t know if you could use another site from your usual one to place your question.

      The procedure with Ebay.co.uk is as follows :

      Log into Ebay
      Click on Customer Support (top right)
      Click on the Contact Ebay tab
      Select a question that may have something to do with your question.
      Then on the right you can choose from Call Us, Chat with us, or Send us an email.
      Select chat, and follow the instructions.

      Be aware that the chat opens in a pop-up window so you will need to enable pop-ups for this site.

      I hope that helps,

  2. Good article, but you are missing the MOST VALUABLE feature of this, my personal favorite tool: it BLOCKS the buyer from leaving FEEDBACK! That’s right, getting an ‘unpaid item’ strike against you would tend to make a lot of people nasty and vindictive, but they cannot take it out on your good reputation; I like it besides just this, but this feature alone is why I use it ALL the time, for every single sale!

    • Hi Patrick,
      Thanks for your comment, I have not really been aware of this feature and can see it could be useful. However I have not received any bad feedbacks from non-payers to date. What I have done is put restrictions on buyers who have a history of not paying, this has certainly reduced the percentage of non-payers. See my other article here :
      I have also stopped politely asking for payment (except for some obvious cases like new buyers) and in due course just manually file an unpaid item when it is possible to do so.
      Good luck with your selling!

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