eBay Auto Buyers Beware: ZoomAuto New Jersey Scam, et al.

We’ve all heard the warnings and horror stories of purchasing vehicles online, but I always believed this only happened to naive people who didn’t read the fine print or stumbled upon some obscure email or auction. I honestly wasn’t afraid to purchase through eBay, because, well, it’s eBay, right? They can’t screw their buyers! However, my recent experience has left me with the knowledge of not only an unbelievable loophole (if that’s even the word), but also an apparent company policy of seller protection and complete buyer deceit.

The (not too exciting) Scenario:

I’ve been in the market for an SUV to cart my boatload of photo booth equipment for a while now. But unfortunately, Arkansas is not the premier state for vehicle trading- there are better deals elsewhere. So I turned to the reputable eBay, and found a seller with a pristine 100% positive feedback and what looked to be the deal of a lifetime- a loaded, low mileage, Audi Q5 Premium Plus for under $28k. After months of research, I knew a good deal when I saw one and immediately clicked the “Buy it Now” agreement and made my $500 deposit via Paypal’s / Bill Me Later “no interest for 1 year” credit agency. August 2nd, 2014. (of course this is a ‘what sounds too good to be true’ lesson if i’ve ever learned one… ) Shame. on. me.

To make a very long story short (as possible):

After several hours and attempts at communication with the “dealer” (ZoomAutoUSA), i was informed that the vehicle was actually not in their possession but already sold. However they did have several other vehicles, blah blah blah… Of course they had nothing even close to the car I purchased- especially not at that price.

At this point, I know I am “that naive person”, and I’m publicly admitting it here…

I was obviously quite unhappy but accepted the hard truth that I’d been scammed into a transaction with them just to talk me into buying something else and requested an immediate refund of my deposit. I then proceeded to leave Zoom Auto a negative feedback saying “they sold me a car they didn’t actually have”. After FIVE days, and numerous attempts at communication, I received this email on August 7th from the general manager, Allen Solts:

Your paypal deposit will be refunded in full ASAP. Ebay advised me to work on resolving the negative feedback first. If I send you a feedback revision request are you open to changing it?

I do sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. We work very hard to maintain 100% feedback and keeping it as such is important for our current and future business. One negative feedback (and even a neutral) is looked upon very poorly and hurts us tremendously. Truthfully we have never had a single instance of someone clicking “BUY NOW” without calling or at least emailing us first to confirm the condition, options, pricing, and ultimately the availability of the vehicle.

As far as the deposit you left for transportation, I will be more than happy to contact whom ever is necessary to make sure you are made whole and all monies are returned to you.

Again, let me know if you would like me to send you the feedback revision request.

Kind Regards,
Allen Solts
General Sales Manager
cell: 732-822-4556

(view actual)

No one has ever clicked “Buy it Now?” Then what is a description, photos and carfax for? But more importantly, eBay advised him to work on resolving the negative feedback??? I didn’t realize that was something to resolve

I informed Allen I would not remove the feedback unless he delivered the car he falsely advertised to me, and again requested he refund my deposit. I then called eBay and was advised to open a dispute against the seller. I followed instructions like the good girl I am, and was placed in the hands of an outside company called “Auction Insurance Agency”. I was put in touch with Clay, who assured me I would get my refund and not to worry. Within 2 hours, I received a notification that an “unpaid item” case was opened against me by ZoomAuto. (August 7th)

What?

I called eBay (again) and was told not to worry- that my case was being worked within the appropriate channels. At this point, the only thing I could take action on with the “unpaid item” case was to pay now or contact the seller, which had BOTH already been done. I added a note that the item had been paid, but that it didn’t exist, and attached my Paypal receipt just in case they (eBay) couldn’t see it… Then I just waited. A few days went by and I learned from Clay that Allen/Zoom Auto had agreed to send me a check for my refund, instead of clicking “refund” via Paypal and ending it all right away. I wasn’t really clear why they would offer this, but thought it sounded a bit fishy. Another few days or so went by with no contact, but when my boyfriend asked me if I’d received the refund yet, I started to get concerned. I again called eBay and Clay and was assured I’d done exactly as I was supposed to do and no further action was needed- my refund was on its way.

At exactly day 5 after the fake “unpaid item” case against me, I received a notification from eBay saying a mark had been put on my account for not paying and the case was closed. (August 13th)

What did that even mean?

Well, apparently it meant that eBay looked at me as not ever paying ZoomAuto- even though they clearly could see that I had (I had a documented, approved case against Zoom Auto with their third party collection agency!)- and because the case expired, my negative feedback was just DELETED. After literally HOURS on the phone with eBay- trying to understand what had just happened- I realized this insane loophole exists for the seller that allows them to get negative feedback removed, just by clicking a buyer didn’t pay button! Somehow, eBay’s “system” doesn’t talk to each other. It simply couldn’t see that I actually had paid, or that I had a dispute opened against the seller. So because “no action” had been taken with this case against ME, the feedback was removed and could not be reinstated. Even after every department at eBay acknowledged that yes, they actually could see that I had paid, there was just nothing they could do.

At this point, it really was more about the justice than the money. A buyer has to have the right to leave feedback on a seller- it’s what makes eBay legit. But the fact is: any eBay seller can stall a refund, file a false “unpaid item” case against a legit buyer, let it expire and get negative feedback automatically removed. And there’s NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.

So then I had to call paypal, and to their credit, they actually tried to help. I explained my case to John, who agreed it was “dispute worthy” and actually called Allen via three-way with me on the phone! Allen was the typical sleazy salesman, saying I was crazy and impatient and that he’d issued a check for my deposit and it should be on it’s way. John informed Allen that providing me with a refund via Paypal was a very simple and immediate action and that he should cancel the check (at Paypal’s expense!) and just issue my refund electronically. Allen said he needed to consult with his eBay “representative” before he did that, and that John could call him back later to get his answer. Does Allen actually have a representative that works at eBay who is advising him not to issue me a refund via Paypal? But more importantly, why does eBay have this policy that an actual electronic refund will show a buyer paid (and thus a feedback can be left), but a refund via check shows they didn’t pay, and it’s as if it never happened?

Click to hear PaypalVoiceMail

So it’s now 15 days later and obviously I have no check- if there even is a check- and I’m having to go through the very lengthy process (30-90 days) of faxing an actual claim through Bill Me Later (i.e. PayPal credit, i.e. eBay) to get a reimbursement of my deposit. It is shocking that so much work has to be done on the part of an innocent buyer who only trusted a well-respected internet giant to be honest and completely transparent with their customer’s transactions. While they have only made a couple hundred dollars off me over the years, I can’t even imagine how much they currently make off super sellers like Zoom Auto – and I suppose that’s why it all makes sense… I still believe that I will get my money back eventually- but I’ll NEVER believe a feedback review on eBay again.

Update:

Clay with Auto Auction Insurance company called me today and said the seller will cancel the check and they (AA) will refund me a check. Then ZoomAuto will pay AA back in return. I am to fill out a reimbursement form and a check will be sent as soon as possible. Still can’t leave feedback- but at least I am getting my money back. It’s a total injustice and I pray eBay will review this case and agree I have been totally extorted and reinstate my feedback on this seller.

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