Ethics - how bad is it out there?

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dankephoto's picture
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I just got off the phone with an eBay seller who shall remain nameless . . .

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dankephoto's picture
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am I worrying about nothing, or are we doomed?

I purchased several items from this vendor whose listings touted shipping discounts for multiple purchases. The items each cost $2 or so each, with $8/apiece shipping. I expected the shipping quote to reflect the 'multiple items shipping discount', but he baulked, saying he couldn't sell his stuff for so cheap. He said the part about saving on shipping had been a mistake and offered to cancel my obligations rather than actually charging a reasonable amount for shipping.

Sigh . . . one of -those- . . .

He ended up calling me and we had a chat. He seemed to feel it's OK to charge only a little for each item, and make up the rest in the shipping/handling. He said eBay makes enough money and he didn't see anything wrong with minimizing his eBay charges.

Now my question is this - In this day and age, is this sort of ethical dwarf uncommon? Or are we facing a future where most people see no problem cheating and defrauding as long as the 'victim' can afford it?

I was just so blown away by his apparent inability to see what's wrong with cheating eBay that I got worried, maybe he's not the only one, maybe most people nowadays feels it's OK to get away with whatever they can. I just hope this an isolated case of an ethical midget (no offence to midgets!)

dan k

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I take it as an extension of

I take it as an extension of the "screw corporations" attitude of the past 40 years. There are many people who can't look at the "big picture" and see how their "little theft" is what drives corporations to do some of the "draconian" things they do. Some people need to wake up from the 1960's counter cultural economical attitudes and figure out how to deal with the world as it is, not how they think it should be. When people deal with the world in a "should" attitude, they tend to get frustrated that things don't work out the way that they want. And they aren't living in reality, so they get mad and make a fuss.

Case in point: Some former neighbors failed to pay for their car and it got repo'd. They got mad when they found out they still owed a debt for missed payments on the car, even though it was taken back. If te rest of the world worked like that, you could just move out of your house after missing 6 months of mortgage payments and get another free and clear. Things don't work like that in the real world.

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A Little Right

I agree with you, Jon, that more people need to change their attitudes where their money is concerned. However, most of the 1960's "counter-culture" types I know are by far the most ethical people I've ever met. In the end, this issue comes down to humans doing what they know best, being human and trying to maintain a competitive edge over other humans at all costs. It's all about money. In short, were people doing this sort of thing prior to the 1960's? Yes, and based on the numbers, the percentages haven't shifted all that much.
However, what has changed is the marketplace and the way information moves around this planet. We hear more about it these days. I could bid on items from eBay Australia and chances are that I will still run into this sort of ethical pariah. The difference is that today we not only run the risks of dealing with these dirtbags on a global basis, we now have the ability to share that information on a global basis as well.
The Internet is particularly vulnerable. There is a great piece written by Bruce Sterling along these lines that appeared in the November PC World magazine and can be found online at "Is The Net Doomed?". While he goes more into a deeper criminality then just schmucks running eBay scams, you get the impression that this great, new media is just ripe with lowbrow unethical neanderthals (apologies to all the good neanderthals out there). It seems worse because the news travels instantaneously. All it's really done is shift the shell games from the street hustlers to hustlers working out of their parent's basement in Ann Arbor (or Minsk, or Belgrade, or London). It has made it easier, though, and that's where the risks lie. We have to be on our toes these days.

Peace,
Rob

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Ahh, the zomg-it's-one-cent-w

Ahh, the zomg-it's-one-cent-wtf-30USD-shipping ploys. I see it on eBay all the time. This is why I can't stress enough about "buyer beware". People need to be very aware about these things, as it is their money that's coming into play. eBay lists the shipping right next to the value of the item, pay attention to it. I feel that it's okay to do that, it's trying to trick less-savvy shoppers, and they have it coming if they fall for it.

Also, vaugeness is bad. I must know all details of a transaction before I agree to it, and stay in good contact with any buyer/sellers on eBay to ensure everything is going smoothly. I've bought about half a dozen things on eBay so far, and I've been none the worse, I've gotten my money's worth every time (even on that PowerBook 1xx power adaptor that cost more for shipping than the actual device). It's just a matter of what it totals in the end, and if you don't fall for ploys.

It's your money though. It's up to you to decide how much importance you place on how it's spent, and how secure it remains.

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dankephoto's picture
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don't get me wrong . . .

I'm not complaining about eBay, that's just where I happened to run into this schmuck. I have nearly 500 100% positive feedbacks, so I'm not an eBay newbie.

I just can't fathom the general ethical cluelessness, and it has me worried. Should I be worried about the bigger picture, or is what I saw only an abberation?

dan k

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jman's picture
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my outlook

In this day and age ploelp don't care as much about the others ploelp
(not all but some)will do anything to get what they wan't it starts with small
things like picking pockets and goes up to corprate sceames.It is sad we
have theeas issues in life but we over come and teach and forgive the wrong and
prase the right.if we don't the cycle will keep going and we will sink deeper in to
moral disalution.I don't think right and wrong are the best way to think about it
but I think the saying "do on to your fellow man as you would wan't on to you"
makes more sence to me Smile things change over time and we must you must notlive in
fear of the world but move on but look out for you self this is my outlook

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Hawaii Cruiser's picture
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nothing to get worked up about

It's hard to make money selling stuff on eBay at those cheap prices. Any small stuff I sell I will usually place a starting price of $4.99 plus shipping because that's about the minimum you have to make to break even, considering the fees and especially considering the time involved. It can be very time consuming to make a listing and answer email inquiries and figure shipping and all that, not to mention the hassle of packaging some items, so to me, $2 + $8 doesn't sound that outlandish, especially if it's a seller who's trying to actually make an income through auctions. When I sell on eBay it's usually just cleaning out my closet and it's more a matter of thinking that I shouldn't just throw something away if someone else could really use it, especially old computer parts. I don't know how anyone selling odds and ends and other small stuff on eBay can consider it much of an income at all. If you're going to do it conscientiously, then you're going to be putting too much time into it to justify it as viable income. There's really only one way to make money selling small cheap stuff on eBay--sell the exact same thing over and over--that way you don't have to write new listings, and it's common practice among retailers to lure you in with small prices and make it up somewhere else. It's like I heard Andy Rooney say once, if it's buy 3 for $3, and get one free, then actually, you're not getting anything free, you're getting 4 for $3, and you better keep your eyes open beforehand to figure out where that retailer is going to make up for that lost dollar if he has to, and if it costs another $5 dollars for shipping, then you're getting 4 for $8, not 4 for $3. It's just pure common sense, right? Yes, it is mildly unethical for him to not honor his combined shipping offer, but he did offer to rescind the auction--which is a time consuming process in itself--and he even called you! That's amazing in itself. Whoever this guy is, he's working for his money. If there's one thing about eBay you must always do, you must always NOT ASSUME. All the tools for contacting the seller beforehand are right there. Use them. It's a hassle to put up an auction listing, so people make mistakes trying to rush through it sometimes. Work out the details with them beforehand. There are criminals on eBay, but this guy doesn't sound like one at all according to what you've described, and even calling him an ethical dwarf seems a bit much. I've actually given sellers more when I thought the sale was too cheap. I won a Powermac 8500 once for $2 and actual shipping. I gave him an unsolicited extra $8 or something like that just to help ease the pain. I've done that on quite a few too-good wins. It's worth the positive feedback alone, not to mention the good karma. And on that one, I had instant karma returned. I was surprised to find that the 8500 had a 300mhz G3 processor in it which I assume the seller was not aware of or something like that. I didn't email him back and mention it to him after I found it in the machine, so who was the ethical person in that situation? Life goes on. We all fall short before the eyes of you know Who.

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Ebay constantly has thousands

Ebay constantly has thousandss of auctions where $1 items are accompanied with shipping fees up to $80, that I've seen. Ebay must be well aware that it is going on on a massive scale. As far as I'm aware, they've done nothing to combat it. From everything I hear about people who have gotten in trouble on Ebay, Ebay is much more likely to pursue questionable actions by buyers, and ignore unethical behavior by sellers, who are their real customers.

So it comes down to, do you pursue an attitude of ethical absolutism, or just accept that the sellers are acting within the bounds of permitted misbehavior on Ebay?

Put in other words, do you drive at the speed limit at all times? Or do you drive 5mph over, because you know the cops won't bother to pull you over unless you're over by 10?

Ethics are never absolute for anybody, and it's easy to point at other people and decry their own lack of adherence to ethical behavior while considering our own lapses to be 'normal.'

(That having been said, I now vindicate myself by saying I hardly ever sell on Ebay, and don't pad the shipping when I do...neither do I drive over the speed limit very often...my car is an '85 and I'm usually struggling to get up to the limit. Tongue On the other hand, I probably do other things that I take for granted, but might shock others with my lack of ethics.)

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I find it interesting in this

I find it interesting in this thread how ethical behavior seems tied to shipping charges, that there's some kind of unspoken ethical rule for shipping charges. When you work, time is money, right? If you are in a business, all time is money, all labor is time on the clock. How much time is spent packing and figuring the postage and taking an item to the post office or whatever. If you figure you should be making $20 an hour at this business, how much is that time spent on the shipping worth? Yeah, a lot of us sell on eBay just to get rid of stuff, but a lot of sellers are there as a business. How much would Macmall or ClubMac charge for shipping those same small items? They're not going to lose money on the labor cost of package and handling, why is it unethical for the small business owner to not add his time to the transaction. As long as the shipping charges are worked out beforehand, or there is some type of agreement with the seller about how shipping charges are determined, there is no question of ethics here. People are not getting away with a crime because they charge a lot for shipping if everything is out in the open and if the buyer does NOT ASSUME there is some kind of ethical unspoken understanding that everyone is supposed to adhere to. Business don't work that way, folks.

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low selling price + high shipping/handling = ripping off eBay

I'm not surprised people do it, just surprised the guy I was dealing with appeared to be oblivious to the ethical issue.

Again, my 'complaint' isn't against this practice specifically, but more dismay that many folks appear to think it's ethically OK to be dishonest if the only entity hurt is 'big and can afford it'. Hell, I'm guilty of things many folks would consider 'unethical', but at least I know it. And I don't do things that take something from someone else, big or small. That's just plain wrong, at least by how I larned it.

HC, do you think it's ethically OK to sell stuff for a tiny amount and make the real money from the shipping/handling charges? That denies eBay their fair share of the transaction, doesn't it? In addition, the IRS doesn't tax money received for shipping handling, so this sort of practice also shortchanges the USA treasury, right?

I've bought and sold on eBay long enough to know that people make a buck where they can. I understand this practice, even if I find it icky and dishonest.

dan k

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Re: low selling price + high shipping/handling = ripping off eBa

Matthew Chap. 20:1-16

I've been watching this thread the last few days... and I think most are way off trying to force ethical principles which simply do not apply.

Even if eBay had policies and rules forbidding the practice of jacking the shipping price to compensate for a low item price, I'm not sure that it would be unethical. Is it unethical to break the speed limit? It's just a rule... and just breaking a rule is not necessarily unethical. On the other hand, operating within rules could still lead to the unethical. Consider Freedom of Speech: it is very possible to make a statement that is protected by this liberty that is undeniably unethical.

Personally speaking, I think the practice of jacking shipping prices sucks... but it's certainly NOT wrong in the sense of good and evil.

That being said, I also personally believe that a corporation is not subject to the same ethical priciples to which an individual is subject. You can not apply universals to groups of individuals the way you apply them to a single individual. I've shared this viewpoint before, and most will argue that hurting a corporation hurts every individual in that corporation to some extent, large or small, but looking at the reverse reveals the error of this kind of thinking. Just as an example, take Big Tobacco and it causing the deaths of scores (hundreds? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands?) of individuals. Governments may force a company to pay restitution to families, but rarely (if ever) is any individual in a company held accountable for the unethical practices of the company itself. Without accountability, there is no quid pro quo (ug, not the right phrase, but similar) regarding the ethical rights of a corporation.

I put the link to the parable above to demonstrate that business is business... if you agree to something, then that is your deal... if not, then there is no deal (of course, this is not the true message of the parable, but, well... it still seems to apply to business).

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global purchases

According to the Mayan Calendar we are in a 20 year era of "ethics" (or lack of ethics.) This era will end sometime in 2012 when an era 20 times shorter will begin, this will be the era of "co-creation."

Payment: I stopped using bank cards at ATMs -- too many theft stories. And, the banks suppress the reporting of this type of theft, so we're only hearing of a few of the cases. I don't give out my credit card number over the internet. I may even get rid of the credit card, it is very inconvenient and a huge liability. When I make "remote" purchases, I make contact with the seller and trusting them, I send money via mail order in the currency of their choosing.

Speaking of shipping, fourteen train cars just derailed this morning. This is happening more and more as the railway pushes to ship things that can't be sent by truck quick enough. I've see miles long trains of container shipments, one long train after the other. The news media repeatedly reports that more truck drivers are needed. Few people I've met are interested in driving a truck, especially considering the danger, frantic schedule and the less-than-minimum-wage pay being offered. This "just in time" approach is dangerous. I am willing to wait and I buy local whenever possible.

I do think it is remarkable that we can make purchases globally using the internet. Interesting times. Be aware.

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Just like hackers?

Oh, that's very interesting. I wasn't catching what you were considering unethical. It's the fact that he lowers the price to avoid higher eBay fees. Is that actually what he's doing? Or is he lowering prices to attract the attention of buyers? Doesn't matter. That's not an ethical issue. That's an issue of the free market. Gee, I hadn't realized the correllation between high shipping fees to avoid taxation. That's quite an idea. I might start considering that angle myself. Sorry guys, that's the way the free market works. If there's an angle to exploit, then go for it. Sooner or later the system will bring in the lawyers to correct the bleed or the system will change. The hackers have a similar philosophy, right? They exploit the weaknesses in the system so the system can grow stronger, or so they say. Are hackers unethical? Business is all about law and agreements, but yeah, avoiding taxes is an ethical issue which the rich don't much worry about, which may be an illustration of why they're rich and I'm not, but who is it that moves the economy along, and as many of the rich will tell you, it's better to keep your money out of the hands of the government and collect it so you can donate it to a good charity or something. At least, that's how I'm sure a lot of them justify their behavior in their mind. Are they wrong? I'm not quick to say they are. You know, since we're getting religious here...render unto Caesar...Ethics may be about a whole different world.

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Re: low selling price + high shipping/handling = ripping off eBa

dankephoto wrote:

Again, my 'complaint' isn't against this practice specifically, but more dismay that many folks appear to think it's ethically OK to be dishonest if the only entity hurt is 'big and can afford it'.

I would agree with this basic point. Not only is stealing wrong, but 1) companies that are public are owned partly by non-rich individuals with small amounts of stock; 2) theft raises prices for everyone, even the non-rich, and 3) non-rich people depend on the company for jobs.

But while perhaps his reasoning is wrong, I don't necessarily think that this practice on ebay is wrong.

Quote:

do you think it's ethically OK to sell stuff for a tiny amount and make the real money from the shipping/handling charges? That denies eBay their fair share of the transaction, doesn't it?

Actually, eBay is choosing to take a diminished share rather than get nothing at all, and I'm sure they are smart enough to be aware of this. eBay's customers are the sellers. Keeping the sellers happy and selling is important to their business. If they came up with a way to clamp down on the "handling" part of "shipping and handling," these sales would essentially go away, rather than increasing the price (and ebay's share). Look at it this way; the low price/high shipping is designed to dupe buyers into buying; take that away, and less people will buy. And though there would be customers who would still buy, the people who sell this way will stop selling because it's no longer worth their time.

eBay knows people sell in this manner, yet I haven't noticed an effort to combat it. So they have obviously decided that a percentage of 1000 $2 sales is better than the same percentage of 100 sales at $4.

Quote:

In addition, the IRS doesn't tax money received for shipping handling, so this sort of practice also shortchanges the USA treasury, right?

I would say this is a bonus feature, not a bug Smile I was not aware of this and I'm not a tax lawyer, but if the IRS has decided that the "handling" portion of S&H is not taxable, than clearly there is nothing wrong going on here; the government is not making a claim on this money, so how is it unethical not to give it to them?

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dankephoto's picture
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ouch

Some of your responses are confirming my initial fears. A number of y'all seem to think that if you can get away with something, it's OK. That's not the same as being ethically acceptable.

I guess I'm crippled by my basic philosophical position against actions that consciously take something away from others. The way I learned it, that's called 'wrong'.

In the example I used, the vendor in question had no problem telling me that he set his prices the way he did so as to minimize his eBay fees. He set his price, but only part of the actual sale price is reflected in the 'selling price', the bulk of the sale price he gets from the S/H part. The difference between what he actually gets and the amount recorded as an eBay sale is the part where he is cheating eBay.

As for taxes, when you claim $8 shipping but really only spend $2, the remainder is untaxed income, and that's cheats the tax system. Plenty of folks do it, hell, I'm just concerned that in our modern world many people don't know that cheating is wrong, which underscores how little ethics matter anymore. If you can get away with it, it must be OK, right?

Quote:

Actually, eBay is choosing to take a diminished share rather than get nothing at all,

Just because eBay has to tolerate the practice doesn't make it less odious. eBay has little choice, how can they practically challenge the price at which sellers sell and the prices charged for S/H?

As for 'ethical' lapses in other stuff - take violating speed laws . . . I challenge anyone to make a one or two sentence case describing how safely driving 65 in a 55 zone directly takes anything away from anyone else. That's not quite the same sort of clearcut ethical issue as is cheating eBay out of their fees. Or so I thought . . .

Sadly, I'm afraid many people today really have little idea of the difference between right and wrong. I guess I just better get used to it.

dan k

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On the contrary, driving 65 i

On the contrary, driving 65 in a 55 zone increases the danger to everyone else who uses the road, as well as using up gasoline and rubber resources at an increased rate. They also encourage other concurrent users of the road to do the same.

Just because you can't quantify it easily in cash doesn't mean nobody's losing out. You've merely justified your own unethical behavior by claiming it's unimportant.

And what about Ebay's own unethical behavior? They make vast amounts of money from the sale of bootleg, copy-right violating merchandise by its sellers. Asked about their policy on this, Ebay claimed it could not be held responsible, and that it was up to the original copyright owners to watch Ebay for violations of their rights.

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Re: On the contrary, driving 65 i

Quote:

On the contrary, driving 65 in a 55 zone increases the danger to everyone else who uses the road, as well as using up gasoline and rubber resources at an increased rate. They also encourage other concurrent users of the road to do the same.

I don't know where to begin... everything you've just written here is at best wildly inaccurate, and at worst simply false. Get it together, Inkwolf.

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Uh, it doesn't matter if driv

Uh, it doesn't matter if driving 65 in a 55 zone increases danger or diminshes anything. It's against the law. We live by laws. You break the law, you break the agreements by which we all live together. But yeah, who doesn't speed on occassion? It's actually often difficult not to speed, which goes back to the issue of making the system stronger and better. Laws are maleable by the legal process, so is it a question of ethics, or just the development of plain practicality that develops the laws? There are places where most of us think that it should be a 65 zone, so the ethical question might be why haven't we convinced the lawmakers that it should be so? Driving 65 is not in itself unethical, but breaking the law is (?). Killing your wife's secret lover because he's (or she's) her lover is always unethical, right? So which laws are based on ethical determinations, and which are based on the practicality of the current setup. It's legal to put your prices low and make up on the shipping. You've not convinced me it's unethical. If this is a problem for eBay, then they will fix it, but fixing it may require more investment than the revenues that would be gained, so for practicality, they don't bother fixing it. Business is practical. In the grander scheme of things, it may be no problem at all, at least not one worth a moment's attention. After all, so he sells it for $5 instead of $2, and charges $5 for shipping instead. How much extra fees is that worth for eBay? The insertion fee is the same. Paypal's fees include the cost of shipping, so Paypal's fees are the same. Only the final value fee is different. How much would it cost to try and regulate this? And another point is, if he didn't place it at the very low price, he might not have attracted the buyer, so eBay wouldn't have made anything except the insertion fee. Give and take, that's how it's worked out in business. Ethics, well, I'm not sure when and where they enter into the equation.

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laws/rules = ethics? surely you jest

You're kidding, right? I mean about equating laws/rules with ethics. Many things are legal which are plain wrong, and laws and rules prohibit many things which many would find ethically acceptable. While ethics and laws/rules certainly coincide, from the way I understand the world there are no hard and fast associations between them.

dan k

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Well, frsnkly, Dan, you're as

Well, frankly, Dan, you're asking me to be morally outraged at a maid for swiping a handful of pocket change off a Mafia boss's bathroom counter.

As for everything I'm saying being 'wildly inaccurate,' catmistake, I can't imagine where that's coming from. There's nothing in my former post that isn't capable of being backed up.

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Nope, there are definitely la

Nope, there are definitely laws based on ethics. Criminal law is all about that question. There is also Tort law, which is often more about playing by the rules of the game and how those rules are interpreted.

Think of the Gordian knot--the ancient knot that was so complex that it dared anyone to solve it's unravelling. Alexander the Great solved the challenge by slicing the knot with his sword. Was his action unethical? Remember, this was the mindset of the man who conquered the known world and spread liberal classical culture throughout, even if for a short period. Not playing by the spirit of the game, you might say. But is that unethical? Maybe there's something wrong with the game?

We are all annoyed by people who win games by doing something we personally would not do. But would we not do that something because we are morally superior, or because we have become fixated on a single interpretation of an artificial construct? Business is very much like a game, but certainly, there are questions of ethics too, as in the Enron debacle. But pushing the envelope of the spirit of the constuct of eBay--now really, is this an ethical dilemma?

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re: morally outraged

Quote:

Well, frankly, Dan, you're asking me to be morally outraged at a maid for swiping a handful of pocket change off a Mafia boss's bathroom counter.

Quite missing the point, are we?

Some people can't even see that stealing is stealing, however much the victim may (or may not) deserve it. They can't tell the difference.

Ethics are my point, not whether eBay can or cannot suffer the theft. I don't care about eBay, I care about the apparent lack of ethical sense in much of today's society. I care that most folks apparently see nothing wrong with lying, cheating and other forms of treating each other badly.

Great analogy BTW, the poor maid (small-time-vendors) stealing from the crime lord (eBay.)

sigh, I'm barking at the moon here I see.

dan k

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check

Quote:

There's nothing in my former post that isn't capable of being backed up.

except for what I didn't quote... you're just plain wrong... the facts bear out as being completely against this... and that portion sounds like current government propaganda in the "slow" states that have resisted raising their speed limits to former glory. Maybe some of it was true, once... but not any more.

Speeding (and Speed) doesn't increase the danger that an accident will occur, and even if it did, couldn't possibly increase the danger for EVERYONE else that uses the road. I think one day it was true, but these days, in modern cars, you can actually achieve better miliage travelling faster than the posted speed limit (yes, Pres. Carter, its true). The point is, a 55 mph speedlimit is no longer necessarily the defacto best/optimum speed for conserving gas and getting the best milage. As far as encouraging other drivers... that's just sillyness. Does jumping off bridges encourage others to do the same? No. I don't know where you've been driving, but I rarely witness a "monkey see monkey do" in civilized adults. The closest you came to being correct was about rubber... but... what?! Is there some rubber glut that I'm not aware of? Rubber is a replenishable resource. If I want to burn my 40K mile tires out in 10K miles, what business is it of the governments? And how could it possibly relate to deciding the difference betweein good and evil (aka right and wrong, or that which is ethical)?

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re: better miliage travelling faster

Actually catmistake you're wrong, unless the speed limit to which you refer is 45mph. Any faster and air resistance begins to play a significant role in fuel consumption. 55mph will always yield lower fuel consumption than 65 no matter the age of the vehicle. Also, modern tires are largly a petro-product (ie not-replenishable), not natural rubber. And 'jumping off bridges'? Where on earth did you learn your debating skills? ;D

BTW, I withdraw speeding as my example of a defensable ethical lapse, bad choice. Resulting harms are not direct, but it's too much bother to defend that point.

dan k

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afraid not

modern engines will optimize fuel consumption at a certain RPM. Depending on the ratio of the highest gear you're in, what RPM you are rev-ing at, you can indeed achieve better milage regardless of wind resistance at a faster speed. Yes, consumes fuel faster at times, no doesn't decrease milage, but can sometimes be found to optimize it... because you go further in less time. There is another reason... harmonics. An engine can reach a certain harmonic where it is not wasting (as much) mechanical energy due to vibration. Again, depending upon gear ratios, this may very well be well over the saintly 55mph. That "55 saves fuel" is a lot of noise on the highway... esp. when you are driving 1000 miles in a modern car.

/edit/
oops, missed this one

Quote:

Also, modern tires are largly a petro-product (ie not-replenishable), not natural rubber.

agreed... most tires are made of synthetic polymers, and though being a petro-product technically, does not necessarily mean that they are made from crude oil. For a long time, there was a direct relation, because it was the cheapest available material. Now... not so much. When the barrel of oil goes up $10, you notice it at the pump immediately. I've never noticed tires increasing in price for any reason but inflation or what the market will bear.

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I'm still at a loss to see ho

I'm still at a loss to see how this eBay seller was cheating or stealing. He broke no rules. Maybe he is taking advantage of the situation, but that's not cheating or stealing.

As to the maid, what is your feeling about Robin Hood? And which side would you have been on during the American Revolution?

After the last thread that was painfully pulled by Tom, I swore off participating in these non-Macspeak threads. Guess I'm a sucker for a philosophical hook. So far this thread shows no threat of being pulled (knock on wood). Nice to see there's still hope for us hopelessly compulsive mental mastu...(oops! I won't go there! no sir! no way!)..for us hopeless philosophizers. But maybe I should quit while the quitting's good. Cheers.

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Re: I'm still at a loss to see ho

Hawaii Cruiser wrote:

As to the maid, what is your feeling about Robin Hood?

Or for that matter, taxing the rich at a higher rate than everyone else? Or with the tax situation in the current scenario, making an effort to not pay the government money (that it doesn't say it wants, I'll repeat), if I feel that taxes are put to use in ways I find immoral?

If, as many people argue, it is not unethical to steal bread to feed a starving baby (presuming other options have honestly been played out), or to steal a gun from a would-be murderer, wouldn't it also be ethical to withhold money from government that uses it to commit acts that I find morally wrong?

Quote:

After the last thread that was painfully pulled by Tom, I swore off participating in these non-Macspeak threads. Guess I'm a sucker for a philosophical hook.

As am I, I like this kind of discussion, even if it gets very "spirited", as long as it doesn't degenerate into name calling...

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Re: I'm still at a loss to see ho

dead_elvis wrote:

Or with the tax situation in the current scenario, making an effort to not pay the government money (that it doesn't say it wants, I'll repeat), if I feel that taxes are put to use in ways I find immoral?

If, as many people argue, it is not unethical to steal bread to feed a starving baby (presuming other options have honestly been played out), or to steal a gun from a would-be murderer, wouldn't it also be ethical to withhold money from government that uses it to commit acts that I find morally wrong?

I like you, dude! Laughing out loud But, see, that goes against my own personal code of ethics. The one which, like all codes of ethics, is actually socially contrived to prevent people from taking advantage of you in similar vein, whatever moral high tone we put on it. In other words, if I don't pay for the government I hate, how can I expect my political oponents to pay for the eventual, inevitable government they hate?

Catmistake, you are wrong about people speeding not encouraging others to do so. Any police officer or driving instructor will tell you that the safest speed to drive at is 'the same speed as everyone else using the road' and I have seen people use this as justification for speeding, as well as insisting that "I can't be pulled over for speeding because I'm in the middle of a long line of cars all going 95mph." As for safety, the faster you go, the longer it takes you to stop. Period. And if you don't stop, the faster you're going, the harder you hit. Simple physics. If you happen to see a tree run across the road in front of you, and slam on the brakes, you simply have a better chance of stopping in time, or of slowing down enough to make the collison less damaging, at a slower speed. (mini-rant) In this day and age of a third of the drivers talking on the phone, reading email and watching TV while they drive, the limit should probably be about 35 everywhere.(/mini-rant) And I'm not talking about the government caring how fast you use up petroleum products (the current govt. loves you deeply for it) but about the ethical responsibiliy of not wasting a non-renewable resource, which may not amount to much on just your account, but has a hefty cumulative effect.

And, yes, Dan, a theft is a theft. But when small-time crooks are stealing pennies from big-time crooks...well, it isn't that I claim it's not wrong, it's just that I can't bring myself to give a rodent's rectum. When the Taiwanese bootleg video industry vanishes off Ebay, when I can buy an anime video series there without having to weed a genuine article out from a million knock-offs sold by big-time Ebay sellers, with thousands of feedbacks, who warn in their websites that if you make a large order from them 'it is more likely to be seized by US Customs', then I'll worry about sellers dealing fairly with Ebay. But when Ebay is happily making money from unethical and in fact illegal sellers, I don't see that there is any reason to be concerned that sellers are unethical with Ebay. Ebay welcomes unethical sellers, and therefore reaps the losses with the rewards.

Don't you think that's moral justice? Because frankly, I do.

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wow...

Dude, we've been doomed for a long freaking time. Morals, on the internets or elsewhere are going the way of the dinosaur.

It's not just eBay but it's exceptionally visible there. eBay did put out a memo that charging insane shipping and practically giving away products is against the policies, and that they were actively looking for it.

If you see that kind of thing going on, report the auction. Simple as that. Repeat offenders are banned.

Personally, I just set my starting bid high enough to cover eBay's fees, paypal's fees, my time, and set the shipping and handling reasonably. Yes I set it higher than just the cost of postage, but usually not by more than a few bucks. If I advertise to ship via UPS to continental US States, I calculate it for shipping to CA. If it's going from KC (where I live) to Saint Louis or Denver then yah, I make some cash on shipping. If it's going to CA or Maine then I eat the cost and time of finding and/or buying shipping materials.

As far as stealing from crooks, two wrongs never makes a right. It's not *THAT* difficult to make money on eBay doing the Right Thing.

If you tried to pass an excuse of "I saw 10 people do that last week!" to the judge when you get busted for something, you'd get laughed out of the courtroom, but some of you are saying that's the best excuse you've got for justifying it.

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Re: I'm still at a loss to see ho

Inkwolf wrote:

If you happen to see a tree run across the road in front of you

Is that a problem where you live?

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Re: afraid not

catmistake wrote:

modern engines will optimize fuel consumption at a certain RPM...

Not to perpetuate a stupid argument, but, please. The whole point of adding all those fancy-schmancy electronics and fuel injection technologies to modern engines is to *increase* the size of the power band in which they operate efficiently. (Carbuerators were sometimes better at maintaining optimum fuel/air mixtures at a certain manifold pressure, so to *some* degree you might find with a given transmission you'll get better fuel efficiency running at a slightly higher speed. Now that we have EFI which actively changes the mixture ratios as needed that argument is essentially kaput.)

For automotive purposes the rule is that at a given speed you'll save gas by running the engine at the lowest RPM that can sustain said speed without lugging the engine. Period. If your car hits some destructive fuel harmonic at the posted speed limit I'd suggest taking it to a mechanic. If you're really worried about the idea that you just don't have the perfect gear to run your engine at its theoretically most efficient speed, buy a car with a CVT transmission. With your conventional transmission the extra energy expended to overcome wind resistance will cancel out any efficiency gains you might get by speeding up. (If we're talking about one or two MPH, then, well, maybe, but driving ten over the speed limit to get into the engine's happy place is a losing battle.)

Anyway. Not to say you're necessarily an immoral fiend if you drive a faster then the posted speed limit, but justifying it by pretending that doing so just might help save Mother Earth is just plain silly.

--Peace

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Re: I'm still at a loss to see ho

BDub wrote:
Inkwolf wrote:

If you happen to see a tree run across the road in front of you

Is that a problem where you live?

You have no idea. Wink

Well, here's an interesting point. People seem to be misunderstanding one anothers' positions because of their own attitude toward ethics.

My own attitude is that ethics are something I apply to myself.

By saying that Ebay fosters the environment in which they are defrauded, I am neither justifying it or saying two wrongs make a right. I am merely saying that the circumstances Ebay has created lead to the situation, and that therefore I see no grounds for moral repudiation of the situation. No, I don't think the situation is ethically justifianble, but see no reason to care about it.

Some of us have the attitude that ethics are something you apply to other people, in which case, they feel justified in finger-pointing and declaiming the sad state of morals today, due to the refusal of the entire community to decry the actions of Ebay sellers.

The problem with insisting that our own set of scruples be rigorously applied to everyone else is that occasionally the people making the declamatory speeches forget to apply the same ethics to themselves. Frequently, in politics...

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Oh, Yeah, Plenty Of Snakes Out There

Just won an auction on eBay for $1, and for me it's local. I figure that I'll just go and pick it up, still pay the shipping and tax. Well, turns out that they charge a $10 local pick-up fee!

Someone's going to hear about this...

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Oh, Yeah, Real Snake...

So, I win this auction. Shipping is supposed to be only $7.75, making it a grand total of $8.75 USD. I emailed the seller and explained I'd like to do local pickup. Well, I get my invoice, and there's the additional $10 local pick-up fee. Nowhere in the auction does it state that there are any additional fees!
Suffice to say, I contacted eBay. Also thinking about contacting the state attorney's office, as I'm sure this constitutes fraud of some sort. I am pretty miffed about this... I needed that 64MB for my iBook.

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FOLLOW UP

After losing plenty of sleep about this, I discovered that this auction was removed this morning from eBay; multiple listing violation. Not what I turned him in for, mind you... but at least I don't have to pay now. Sometimes, the bad guys do get what they deserve...

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Ok, hold on...

Now let me get this straight. You won an auction for a 64mb RAM stick at $1. It would help if we could see the actual auction. In the auction listing it stated clearly that shipping would be $7.75, right? Nowhere in the auction did it say that local pickup was possible, right? Did you contact the seller beforehand to ask him if local pickup is possible, and if it was possible, that there would be no extra charge beyond the $1? No, right? Did you ASSUME (!!!!) that local pickup would be possible and there would be no extra charge?!! Do I have to repeat the old addage about assume? You're young, so maybe you've not heard it. When you assume, you make an a** of u and me! Repeat: never assume on eBay! You have the tools to contact the seller if you do not read all you want to be assured of in the listing. Use the tools.

You need to understand what a hassle it is for people to come over and pickup merchandise for some businesses. When people come over it often requires more time than simply slipping it in the mail? Someone has to break off from what they are doing to go help you. Again, in business, time is money?

He lured you into bidding with the $1 opening bid, right? Do you think he can actually afford to sell anything for $1? If he sells it to you for only $1, he loses money. He'd be paying you to come over and take this gift from him. Who are you to him? There was the chance that there could have been multiple bids on the item, which might have driven the price up to an acceptable price for him, but he didn't stick the auction up to lose money, so he assured himself some profit by putting it in the shipping cost. An old 64mb stick of RAM is not likely to sell. He may have had to put that auction up a few times before it sold, which cost him multiple insertion fees possibly. His setup in this auction allowed you to get a 64mb stick of RAM. This setup allowed him to put it up on eBay and make it worth his while. When you bid, you accepted the setup. That's the deal. If you are opposed to the practice of assuring some profit by including it in the shipping price, and find it unethical, and this auction was an obvious example of that practice, THEN WHY DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN THIS AUCTION? There's the real ethical question.

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Wait One Second Here

Wasn't the $1 that lured me in; it was the fact that he was local. He actually has a business, real metal, real roof, real shelves, by-golly even a real door that has the business name on it. What kind of business, you ask? So happens... brace yourself... he repairs computers! Go figure...
Nowhere in his eBay posting did he say no local pick-up, nor did he mention the $10 fee. He chose to break their rules, his loss.
At 43, I'm not young, either. Just naive enough to want to accept people at face value.

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oops, sorry, I was mixing you

oops, sorry, I was mixing you up with someone else on AF. My mistake. At 43 though, you should know better than to ASSUME. How big of letters do I need to make that word?

And please, if someone knows where in the eBay rules this "unethical behavior" is clearly denounced, please put a link to it here.

And again, please tell me what rule he broke?

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Ah, Where To Begin...
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ebay fees

(edit) oops...Astro-Rob beat me to posting links, but here's the bit of policy in question:

Quote:

Unreasonable shipping or handling costs - Listings with low prices but unreasonably high shipping or handling costs.

I would say that a surprise $10 pick-up fee is an unreasonable handling fee, especially as it exceeds the shipping cost.

Regardless of whether it's breaking ebays policies or not, it's still unethical, IMHO, to have an unmentioned pick-up fee.

And let's just take a few deep breaths, ahhh...remember this is a discussion, not finger pointing.

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It's Not Just Money

It's not just money. It's time. The money I earn is because in my jobs (writer/ illustrator/ astronomy educator/ day-job-keeping-computers-running-at-a-check-collection-company), I invest a certain amount of my time to earn it. Thus, while $8.75 (or even $18.75) is not a lot of money, it is a little of my time that I have converted into funds, and that is very valuable to me. I bid on this, again, not to save money but because it was local. Again, I was willing to pay his initial shipping of $7.75. I can buy the same memory from PBFixit for the same amount, or a little more, but I'm impatient; I want to repair my iBook! So, yeah, for me, money is time.
Besides, I need more time to goof off here...

You're OK, Hawaii...

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All rise, court is in session...

Ok, I'm not a lawyer, but it seems pretty clear here.

The first link you provide does not apply. That is only about tagging on fees for using certain types of payment. The local pickup fee does not apply to this. It is not a tag to the payment type.

The second link has only one part of the Tutorial that applies (hope I'm not breaking AF rules about copywrited material here):

Question 5:

"Ben is listing an item with a $0.01 Buy It Now and plans on making a profit by putting a $5 handling charge in the handling fee section in excess of his actual shipping and handling costs. Is this allowed?"

The answer is no.

The key words here are "But It Now" and "handling." If it is a normal, non-buy-it-now auction then this is not "legally" enforceable. There is the chance that the auction will climb in price through bidding. It is only the use of immediate sale through buy-it-now that the seller is abusing the system. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to see the actual auctions. Were they buy-it-now auctions? If so, then clearly the intent was to avoid fees and abuse the system. As long as it is a normal non-buy-it-now listing, then it is UNPROVABLE that abuse is the intent.
"Handling" of course, is a completely amorphous term. How one determines handling is probably not legally established anywhere.

So if these auctions you are griping about were not buy-it-now auctions, then the above does not apply.

The third link only states, "Offering low item prices but unreasonably high shipping or handling charges." This of course, is a completely subjective judgement, and only in the most obvious cases would be enforceable. EBay has the right to kick anyone off who they think abuses this. The question of the "handling fee" portion of the cost comes into play here big time. Maybe you don't think handling fees are reasonable, but again, how is it determined?

So, as far as I can see by what you've provided, none of this will successfully apply to the cases here stated, except in the original post where the seller actually admitted to purposely avoiding eBay fees. That's hearsay of course, your Honor, so objection is confirmed, and will only be admitted when the witness takes the stand under oath. And if that auction was not buy-it-now, then only witness testimony can lead to prosecution.

In the end, all I'm saying basically is, there are perfectly reasonable handling charges. The reasonableness is subjective. If you don't agree with the reasonableness, then why are you bidding? You're greatest power against the "unethical" in this situation, besides reporting obvious cases, is non-patronization.

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I thought this was settled

Quote:

then why are you bidding?

exactly...

Lets say I put up an auction that no one would disagree breaks and abuses EVERY SINGLE ONE of eBays rules. Unethical? NO. Business is business... has very little to do with ethics (unless the auction is for specific unnamed though illicit acts, or participating in slavery or something, or I am Eric Cartman unloading aborted fetuses, in which case, I think most would agree, its a grey area (and there's 40 different shades of black)).

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A thesis

Let me tell you the impression I get from what's going on here.

You might want to divide the population into two different types of persons, the business people and the artisans. The business people are always calculating costs and profit. That's what they do. The artisans are concerned with producing their art. Applefritter is populated mostly by artisans. You're all a bunch of computer geniuses. You spend your mental time figuring out how a 133mhz bus is going to optimize with a G4 processor rather than how you're going to mass produce it and make a fortune. It's a noble art. Artisans by nature form guilds and co-ops. There's a certain socialism in the artisan community, out of a certain necessity. They're too busy doing their arts to also be doing the macroeconomy thinking. They want to create a sortof walled community within the jungle--walls that keep the jungle out. Within these walls they expect people to behave cordially, and as you would say, "ethically" with each other. Everyone is somewhat equalized by this expected social behavior, and everyone in this type of group expects to be treated as an equal in the level working community. So artisans are annoyed when someone doesn't play by the level community "rules."

Socialism, in spite of Keynes, is anathema to the American free market business philosophy. Unlike the Japanese credo, the nail that sticks out is not hammered down, it is glorified and inspires all others to find a way to stick out in glory as well. That's the way the American business free enterprise system drives our culture forward. The jungle is not outside walls, it is all around and within us and provides the energy of society. Survival of the fittest, that sort of thing. You know, the Nietzche/Conan axiom, what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. What keeps it under control and human and humane is the legal process. Ethics comes into play when writing the laws, but only until the law is written is ethical behavior enforceable. The other way to respond with ethics is to not patronize the "unethical." That's what the general populace, the artisans, use their pocketbook power to do.

You all seem to want an ethical law in place here, something that will manipulate people into performing in a predetermined type of behavior based on the force of shame. A shame of making a profit. That's nicely Marxist. Let me assure you, if eBay is detecting a major bleed here, they've got the lawyers busy trying to figure out a way to stop it. They're business people, they know that's the only way to deal with it. They know shame is not a good manipulator of the desperate. Business people know if they can't get the law to work for them, then their investments can be fodder for the aggressive. That's why there's a legal profession. Every aspect of our lives is lassooed by laws. In American business society, we are all at base, wild animals lightly lassoed in the arena. Shame can be useful, but it is not ultimately effective. Better systems and better laws are.

These sellers you're griping about are business people. They're not like you artisans. They've got no time for socialism. They're busy calculating costs and profit. They know that if there's no law against it, then it is ALLOWABLE. Shipping charges can always include handling charges. The time it takes to write a listing is a handling charge. The time it takes to collect the payment from Paypal is a handling charge. The time it takes to answer your email inquiries is a handling charge. The time it takes to print out the shipping label and get it to the postal carrier is a handling charge. EBay probably won't think many of these are handling charges, but many of the sellers do. These people are in it for business, not for art. They think differently from you.

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One More Time...

There was an additional $10 local pick up fee that was not mentioned in the auction; that was my gripe. I could have had him ship it, but since I drive by that place once a week, I figured that I'd just swing by. The fact that eBay suspended his auctions for another reason (multiples) is another issue.
Maybe I'm a square. I do the speed limit, use my turn signal, pay taxes, trust that the final amount I've been given is the final amount. God forbid I assume.
At this point, I've had enough of this whole !@#$ing thread...

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No need to get upset. I'm jus

No need to get upset. I'm just throwing out philosophical challenges. Removed ~BDub We all have our own personal code of ethics. Like I stated earlier, I find it unethical to pay so little for an auction win. I have some compassion for the seller. I'll give him more even if he doesn't ask for it. Do unto others... Many people claim Christ was essentially a Marxist, except for the opiate of the masses part. Sorry, not trying to point fingers, just trying to engage in conversation.

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Hawaii Cruiser - If there'

Hawaii Cruiser -

If there's a remark you think we'll pull the thread on, don't just post the first part and then joke that we'll pull the thread regarding it.

Thanks.

-BDub

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Final Thoughts...

I was willing to give the seller $8.75, only slightly less than PBFixit charges for the same module ($9.95). I'm not anti-capitalist, and I wasn't looking at saving a buck. If the $10 fee was listed, I'd have the RAM right now, and that'd be that. It was his not mentioning it that is my issue. If I'd had it shipped, that'd be, what, three days to ship something 8 miles?
Pull this thread. I'm done.

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scummy behaviour = crappy ethics

Why is business an inappropriate place to apply ethics? If someone we knew treated us like astro_rob was treated, we wouldn't want to be that person's friend. Why is it unreasonable to want to deal with others who are straightforward and honest?

I'm still weirded out by the inability of some of you to appreciate honesty and fairness in business.

dan k

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Um, how was astro_rob treated

Um, how was astro_rob treated badly? Because he felt he had the right to demand that he be able to pick it up in person without having to pay the clearly stated shipping price? The shipping price had handling fees included, right? Is there no handling fee for dealing with someone in person? Maybe the seller determined it costs him more to deal in person than through the mail. There are ethics in business. They're a little different from personal ethics. The first rule in business, don't assume, get it in writing. You don't know what the other guy is contending with on his end. That's business ethics. Sorry.

And sorry also that I've indulged so much here. The surf on the south shore is flat. Too much time on my hands, I guess. BIG waves on the north shore tonight. Eddie would go.

Aloha.