Friday, February 22, 2013

Why Selling on eBay Often Scares Me

'eBay' photo (c) 2009, Kazuhisa OTSUBO - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/It's no secret that I've been using eBay for quite some time now. In fact, a quick search on my account reminds me that I've been using the site for more than 15 years! Over that time, I've both bought and sold items (mostly Transformers, but by no means limited to them) and feel that I understand the system pretty well. It has been of tremendous help to me in allowing me to cultivate my collection while keeping some semblance of financial responsibility. Yet most of the time I do try to sell an item, I'm filled with a sense of fear.

Now to be clear, I've witnessed a number of changes to eBay's policies over the years, as they themselves have tried to figure out how best to keep their business going while providing the service they provide. To say that these changes have not always been popular is an understatement, but I'm not looking to get into those debates here. My fear is not based on some sense that eBay's policies are buyer-focused to the detriment of sellers, as many contend the current policies are. Rather, my fear is based on knowing the nature of toy-collecting fans only too well.

Fans do not come in only one stripe, of course. We range from casual to obsessive, with many areas of grey in-between. Although I have always done my best to either sell items that are in good condition, or to be honest about any faults that the items have (and am proud of the 100% percent positive feedback rating I've maintained all these years, even before eBay changed their policy to reflect only the most recent 12 months in that rating),  I know that what seems to me to be a "perfectly good specimen" may not seem so to a fan who (for example) obsesses over the smallest apparent imperfection.

Of course, most sales go off without a hitch, but every once in a while those fears become justified, as I hear back from a buyer that something was wrong with the figure I sold them. Now, it's of course always possible that nothing was wrong with the figure, and the buyer is just trying to get away with something, but I've long since accepted that it is unhelpful to start with such an assumption. Rather, it is simply good policy to assume good faith and to offer a refund upon return of the item (I do not offer refunds before the item is returned. I'm not crazy!).

It's easy to hold to a standard of good behavior when nothing goes wrong. It is really only when things don't go as expected that one really gets to the true nature of one's character. I hope that my character has been demonstrated well when I've responded to sales that didn't go as well as I'd intended, but I expect that, someday, the difference between my viewpoint and the buyer's may become too great to reconcile amiably, and I've got to admit, the prospect still scares me all the time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When the Turtles Joined Starfleet

This post was inspired by a comment made during the live recording feed of Radio Free Cybertron this week (the episode should be available for download later this weekend. If you subscribe via iTunes, you can get it automatically). The hosts were talking about the current line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys, and remembering the line that came out back in the early '90s. Long before Transformers had launched the "Crossover" line, this figure of Donatello as Mr. Spock came out.

This toy, officially called "First Officer Donatello" ("The Subspace Shelled Science Officer!"), came out as result of serendipitous timing, as Playmates toys decided to capitalize on the fact that they held the licenses to make toys based on two certain popular television series. Thus, the "Star Trek Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" line was born.

The line featured all four Turtles as characters from the original series of Star Trek. Donatello is clearly Mr. Spock, Leonardo was Captain Kirk, Michaelangelo was Scotty, and Raphael was Dr. McCoy. Donatello is the only figure I actually own. Oddly enough, although certain Star Trek concepts are explicitly used on the packaging (The USS Enterprise, pon farr, the communicator, the tricorder, and the phaser, for example), none of the names of the actual characters seem to be used. Thus, while "First Officer Donatello" is said to have been "born on the planet Vulcan," Spock's name never actually shows up, despite the clear intention. I don't pretend to know why.
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