Ebay Fraud :

Purchasing an ASO (Anvil Shaped Object)

In recent years anything labeled "blacksmith" has become a hot item in ebay the on-line auction system. So selling blacksmithing tools has become big business on ebay. Ebay has also become a haven for unscrupulous dealers and folks that commit out right criminal fraud. There is no shortage of them selling tools, including anvils.

This story starts out when someone posted a note on the guru's den that someone on ebay was selling small anvils for 99 cents. So I thought I would investigate and bought one fully knowing I was getting an ASO. However, the transaction was enlightening.

An ASO is a popular new blacksmithing term for for "Anvil Shaped Object", something that LOOKS like an anvil but is so poorly manufactured that it is useless as a tool and often said to be good for nothing but a boat anchor. In fact, they are not even good for a boat anchor. They are just big ugly paperweights or doorstops. ASO's are generally made from cheap low grade cast iron. Cast iron is not suitable for tools because it is brittle and very weak compared to steel (1/3 the strength of common steel and 1/5 of tool steel). Good anvils are made of hardened and tempered tool steel.
99 cent ebay ASO

Case I

The dealer that sold me this 99 cent ASO with $19 shipping had a half dozen other AS0's for sale ranging from the item at left to badly cast copies of the Russian 50Kg anvil we recently reported on. All are misrepresented as this one was. Besides being described as "Professional" and "Heavy Duty" it was described as having "great ring" and "awesome hammer rebound". It has neither. In fact it is even missing the "two square holes" described. . .

The two dings in the detail (one near center and one at 2 o'clock) were made by gently tapping with a 16oz. carpenters hammer. The other marks are slag inclusions at the surface. The texture and shape of the dings indicate that the metal underneath is porous or full of sand. This is not unusual for an ASO.

The problem is that the dealer is using carefully crafted words that are used to describe good steel anvils to describe a useless lump of iron. And in this case the "non-refundable" shipping was jacked up to create an unrefundable profit.

   - guru - Thursday, 10/03/02 20:46:27 GMT

I contacted the dealer (eBay alias "Integratool") and expressed my concerns about the way he described the anvil. His response was "I'm sorry you had a bad experience" and "I'm going to block your e-mail if you contact me again."

If I had asked for a refund I am sure I would have gotten my 99 cents back AFTER shipping the anvil back at my expense. Then I would have spent the original $19 shipping and another $4 shipping (actual cost) for a total of $23 and nothing for it. A lose--lose situation for me. On the other hand it was win--win for the dealer who had made $15 on shipping AND he would have his merchandise back. All this dealer's other items had similar sales structures, low price and high shipping.

It was suggested that I leave negative feedback on the the ebay system. The ebay system only allows about 10 words so it is very difficult to post anything meaningful. I posted a message complaining about the deceptive description and high non-refundable shipping.

Integratool replied that I was an "inexperienced new user" and bad customer. He assumed that since I hadn't bought hundreds of items on ebay that I was inexperienced. I've been bidding on ebay for YEARS and only buy when I REALLY want something or it is a good deal. I learned about "auction fever" in my youth and have gotten over that a LONG time ago.

I checked into some of his other complaints and they were all handled the same way, berating the customer and calling them names.

It was also suggested that I report the dealer to eBay's fraud department. I looked into it and found that ebay has a complicated system where they want you first try to settle with dealer, then wait 30 days before making a complaint. In many cases of fraud on ebay the dealer sets up, does his dirty work and then disappears in less than 30 days. Ebay knows this and does not want to get involved.

This particular dealer has had many eBay aliases. Once he becomes known for what he is and things get too hot he opens a new ebay account under another name. This is common among shady "power dealers" on ebay. Do not be deceived by the fact that a dealer has made hundreds of sales OR the fact that they appear to have few complaints against them. Just like yard sales and local auctions the best deals will come from individuals that are disposing of property, not dealers looking for a sucker.

Photo Copyright (c) 2002 Robert Nichols, anvlifire.com

Case II

It was brought to our attention that someone on ebay was selling new anvils using a photo from one of our articles. Sure enough, it was the image to the left from our article on Cheap Russian Anvils. I confronted the seller (Flaky8lots) who first claimed it was HIS photograph. Then he back peddled and claimed is was a "common" image from the Internet that didn't belong to anyone. When both I and the photographer confronted him asking to have the images removed he was insulting and said "prove it". I responded that it would be easy since we had the original images before the background was cut out and he DID NOT. He responded with more insults and abusive language saying that "all you guys sound alike". This seemed to indicate that he had gotten caught stealing copyrighted materials before.

We had to report the problem to ebay which is no easy thing. They were also no help in the matter. However, after numerous anvilfire readers who were registered at ebay also complained, ebay finally confronted the seller ebay finally inquired into the matter. The sales using this image and text from our article stopped.

The next day someone under ANOTHER ebay ID selling a load of anvils he "found" in a garage. Another whopper of a lie along with the way he described this "professional, heavy duty" anvil. Three years later he is STILL selling the anvils he "found". . . The scam includes a "buy now" price much higher than retail PLUS a flat shipping price on which he makes a profit. Ask if you are close by and could pick up the product to save on shipping and you will be pointed to the terms of the sale "NO PICKUPS".

These fellows have proven to be liars and thieves. Some bid on their own auctions (a felony in most states and against ebay rules) using yet another ebay alias to be sure the prices are never less than what they want. Complaints to ebay do no good.

In Conclusion: These are examples of small cases of fraud. However, these dealers and others also sell much larger items the same way and sell lots of them. AND they get away with it. They are not the only ones.

There are both good dealers and bad dealers. Most are good honest folks. However, it is difficult to tell on the web and the anonymity of doing business on ebay is very attractive to crooks. ebay has setup their system to make it very difficult to complain AND they do not properly police the fraud on their system. There are dozens of other crooks out there making a living on courses, books and seminars on how to deal fraudulently on ebay. These include how to setup multiple ebay and Paypal IDs and accounts, making profit on the unrefundable shipping, and where to buy cheap imported goods of dubious quality.

If you do not know what it is you are buying and the possible risks then avoid ebay and auctions in general. On average prices on ebay for good old anvils have been about double what you would pay from a tailgater at a blacksmith meet. They are often more. Good deals are rare on anvils unless YOU find one from an original source. If you are going to buy an auction item, set a price you are willing to pay and stick to it. Always look into what the shipping is going to cost. Beware of dealers with high fixed shipping costs or who will not give you a quote prior to the close of bidding. Do not purchase items that the seller refuses to let you pick up and insists on shipping. THINK about the fact that this person may disappear after the sale and you will have no recourse if the product is not as advertised OR if it is not delivered at all. DO NOT expect ebay to help with a problem dealer.

BUYER BEWARE!

Since writing this ebay has added complaint links to all pages. They still make it difficult to report or do anything about copyright infringement.


References and Links


Copyright © 2004 Jock Dempsey, www.anvilfire.com

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