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PayPal orders antique violin destroyed

Following the reporting of a dispute as to the authenticity of an antique violin, PayPal demanded the buyer destroy the item and provide photographic proof.  At least it wasn't a goldfish or a puppy.

Sometimes one's jaw involuntarily drops at the mind-numbing stupidity of those who are "only following the rules."

Over at Regretsy, there is a tale of a person who sold an antique violin via eBay; subsequently, there was a dispute where the buyer disputed the label (manufacturer's mark).

Allow me to quote the letter from the seller, Erica.

Dear Helen Killer,

I sold an old French violin to a buyer in Canada, and the buyer disputed the label.

This is not uncommon. In the violin market, labels often mean little and there is often disagreement over them. Some of the most expensive violins in the world have disputed labels, but they are works of art nonetheless.

Rather than have the violin returned to me, PayPal made the buyer DESTROY the violin in order to get his money back. They somehow deemed the violin as "counterfeit" even though there is no such thing in the violin world.

The buyer was proud of himself, so he sent me a photo of the destroyed violin.

I am now out a violin that made it through WWII as well as $2500. This is of course, upsetting. But my main goal in writing to you is to prevent PayPal from ordering the destruction of violins and other antiquities that they know nothing about. It is beyond me why PayPal simply didn't have the violin returned to me.

I spoke on the phone to numerous reps from PayPal who 100% defended their action and gave me the party line.


It seems that upon receiving the message from the buyer instigating the dispute, the PayPal representative quoted a little-known clause in their terms-of-service (in the 'Dispute Resolution' section) which states, "PayPal may also require you to destroy the item and provide evidence of its destruction."  Clearly the photo included by Erica on the Regretsy page was the evidence of destruction. 

However, even if it was a fake, there is a clear and screamingly loud conflict of interest to have the buyer (with PayPal complicit) destroy the item in dispute.  Where was the independent examination, the discussion with the seller; the agreement to return the item?


Interestingly, it seems that the equivalent clause does not appear in the Australian version of this agreement (thank goodness).

For the more musical in the audience, the label attributes the violin to Maurice Bourguignon.

This is entirely typical (if one is to believe the endless parade of PayPal-bashing commentaries) of PayPal's behaviour towards the relationship between buyers and sellers on eBay; in essence, if there is a dispute, the buyer is right, the seller is wrong.  And no correspondence will be entered into (as they say).  Indeed many comments to the Regretsy page have suggested that the destroyed violin may not even be the one dispatched by the seller, thus the buyer would be the proud owner of an antique violin AND a nice shiny refund.

Of course this is the same PayPal who's current President Scott Thompson will become Yahoo! CEO on Monday next week.

In an update to the Regretsy piece, the author noted that PayPal is now (finally) looking into the matter.  One assumes that PayPal will be requesting the buyer send all the pieces back to the seller (at the seller's expense, of course) and will then consider the matter closed.

 

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