10 Underhand Selling Practices to Stay Away From

It is not only sellers who have to be wary of scams and unethical tactics while spending time on eBay. Buyers are also kept on their toes by a small minority of unscrupulous sellers trying to make a few extra bucks or shirk best selling practices. Here are ten underhand tactics to stay completely clear from when selling on eBay.

Overinflating shipping prices

Ever since shipping costs have been included in the Final Value Fee calculation, inflated shipping prices have lessened. There are still, however, a fair amount of sellers out there who are purposely overcharging for shipping. eBay advises that shipping and handling costs should be ‘reasonable’ and clearly specified in the listing.

Best practice: Calculated shipping is a that allows eBay do the calculations for you using the package weight and dimensions plus the buyer’s location.

Selling counterfeit goods

Replicas, counterfeit items and copies are not allowed to be sold on eBay, with only a few exceptions. Selling fake items is not only an offence on eBay but is usually considered a form of fraud and is punishable by law in many countries. Buyers who receive items they believe to be counterfeit are encouraged to contact eBay and are eligible for a full refund without even returning the item.

Best practice: Inspect items for their authenticity before listing on eBay.

Misleading prices

Listings that have multiple items for sale can appear higher in certain search results if a seller includes at least one item that is very cheap. An example of this would be a listing that has four items priced at $89.99 and then one ‘related’ item priced at $19.99. Buyers searching for the item may be attracted at the low price (displayed as “$19.99 to $89.99”) only to find that the actual item they were looking for is much more expensive than the original listing made it appear.

Best practice: To avoid frustration from buyers, only group items together in a listing that are very similar.

Incorrectly describing an item’s condition

Buyers form their expectations for an item as per the listing description, photos and condition. For this reason, the condition of the item is a crucial part of a listing. An item described as ‘brand new’ or ‘like new’ is obviously likely to sell for more than a pre-used version, so it can be tempting for some to stretch the truth a little.

Best practice: It is important for sellers to judge the condition of their item objectively as not to mislead buyers.

Complicated terms and conditions

Some sellers prefer to include complex and lengthy descriptions within their listings. While this is not an underhand tactic on its own, a minority of sellers attempt to hide important ‘terms and conditions’ within this information. The intention is to then try and use these special terms and conditions against the buyer if there are any issues with the item.

Remember that while eBay is a marketplace of individual sellers, the rules and decisions made by eBay have superiority over all terms and conditions.

Best practice: Small print could put off potential buyers, so keep it a a minimum, or eliminate it altogether.

Selling items ‘as is’

Sellers should be clear on the condition and working status (if applicable) of items. It could be argued that selling an item ‘as is’ demonstrates a lack of responsibility and effort to describe the condition properly. The term ‘as is’ could also be used to mislead buyers into buying an item that is in a different condition than expected.

Best practice: Take the time to accurately describe the item to the best of your ability and knowledge.

Shill bidding

Asking a friend or creating a second eBay account to make fake bids on listings is a form of shill bidding. Illegal in many countries around the world, shill bidding is a way to artificially inflate the price of items. It may seem harmless (and it may also seem that everyone else is doing it), but taking part in shill bidding can grant you a lifetime ban from eBay.

Best practice: As tempting as it may be when starting out, don’t take part in shill bidding.

Refusing to ship items before funds are available

While it may sound reasonable to refuse to send an item before funds are available, doing so is actually against eBay’s seller practices. In certain situations, PayPal reserves the right to delay the release of funds to the seller. Often, this happens because the seller is new to eBay.

Best practice: To avoid breaking the rules, sellers should ship items as soon as possible after payment confirmation.

Not honouring the winning bid

Auction-style listings can be a bit of a gamble for eBay sellers. Sometimes, the final bid falls short of the seller’s expectations. In this situation, some underhand sellers decide to cancel the transaction with the intention of immediately listing the item again. This tactic is both frustrating and unfair to buyers. It also usually leaves the seller with a defect and negative feedback on their record too.

Best practice: Be a responsible seller and follow through with all transactions.

Selling items you don’t have

Most people know that there is a market for purchasing items online (even from eBay itself) to quickly sell again on eBay for a bigger profit. In rare occasions, this type of flipping happens even before the initial purchase is finalised. Problems or delays with the first purchase may cause problems with any subsequent sales and could negatively impact your seller account.

Best practice: To avoid problems, only sell items that you have in your possession.


Have you noticed any other unethical tactics practised by other sellers? Let us know!

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.