Use eBay long enough, you're probably going to get ripped off somehow, whether you know it or not. I should probably know better, but I got burned three ways by a seller; you might find the story amusing.
Those who know me know I'm a huge fan of Klaus Kinski. I wanted to track down what is something of a holy grail among Kinski collectors, a copy of his self-penned, self-directed, self-worshipping biopic, "Paganini" (also called "Kinski Paganini"). Sounds like an ideal mission for eBay, right? Well, I won the auction, but what followed was one of the worst eBay experiences I think it's possible to have.You can look at the auction, which was back in August, here.
First, I overpaid (more than $30 -- "Paganini" frequently goes at auctions for around $12). Then I sent a note to the seller, Yesmovies, asking whether she accepted PayPal, which provides extra fraud protection. She wrote back to say she didn't, and in the note asked me to e-mail her my credit card number in an open e-mail -- then initiated a payment dispute after I didn't ante up within seven days.
It gets worse. I made the payment, telling her in seven years of shopping on eBay with a 100 percent positive feedback record, no one had ever started a dispute with me, let alone that fast. I asked her to remove it, and warned her to expect negative feedback from me. Sure enough, I left it, and she reciprocated by ruining my perfect 100 percent rating by leaving a nastygram for me. And, of course, the final insult was that Yesmovies sent me a bootleg, yep, that's right, a dub off TV or some other source. So not only did I overpay, I got ripped off, my reputation took an unfair hit and technically, I participated in a crime.
So how could I have avoided this, and how can you learn from my mistakes?
First, I should have read Yesmovies' feedback more closely and thoroughly. Though Yesmovies has thousands of positive ratings and a high percentage overall, reading through all that feedback looking for the negatives would have been instructional in this case. Let me emphasize that: A long list of positive feedbacks for a seller is great, but read the negative feedbacks if the site makes them available. At least one ex-customer wrote in to complain Yesmovies sent a bootleg, too. She responded to another similar complaint by saying that bootlegs are all that's available among certain rare movies. So there's yet another shade of caveat emptor! Yes, it's true, eBay doesn't make searching negative feedback easy, for obvious reasons (they should make the negative feedbacks searchable, for one thing, by clicking on the little red number in the chart). But do it anyway.
Second, if you look on the auction page, the words "this video comes in a plastic snapcase, with color cover art insert," is basically code among people who swap bootlegs. If you want to lessen the risk, look for the words "factory sealed" (though anybody can buy a cling-wrap machine), "never used," or "new." The "color cover art" insert I got was clearly output from a copier, and was all in German, though the tape was subtitled in English (an English-subtitled videotape is intended for an English-speaking market, and so, would have a cover printed in English).
Third, PayPal has its problems, but the best sellers accept multiple payment methods. Those that don't, probably don't for a reason.
Fourth, eBay is a notorious venue for illegal bootleg sales. There are better places to satisfy a jones for a rare or out of print movie: MoviesUnlimited or Critics' Choice. If that doesn't work, go to the IMDB chat boards at the bottom of the page listing the movie you're looking for.
By the way: "Kinski Paganini," the movie, sucks. Especially a second or third-generation copy. Even if you loved the master's dubbed performance in Star Knight.