Warning: this is an ugly and heartbreaking story that shows a dark side of humanity.
While no one likes to hear about fraud or scams, this story is particularly disturbing due to the details of this case.
There are many campaigns in this country right now about helping out small local businesses, and we strongly support that sentiment. There are some things in place to help out these types of companies, from small business loans to tax incentives. There are also social programs to help those who are struggling to establish themselves. This is not true in many other countries. In other countries, if you don’t make money, you don’t eat. Period.
I was recently a casual seller on eBay who knows a man in Africa who is supporting a family after the death of his father. There is no food stamp program in Africa. This man found a way to make a small amount of money to feed and take care of his family. He learned how to make a beautiful and unusual instrument that most people can’t make. Few in this country have even heard of these instruments (Guembri). This man honed his skills, and used what little money he had to create a few instruments. Since I have a better marketing opportunity here, I decided to help this man by selling his instruments through my eBay account. I sent him all the money that I received from the few I sold, and made literally ZERO profit by doing so. The man is smart – he used almost all of the money he got to make more instruments, using as little as possible for survival, knowing that growing his business is the best way to provide for his loved ones. This tactic was working, and he was on the verge of being totally self-sufficient. I was very excited, and humbled to know that I was able to help a fellow human being.
Then something happened. A well off man in California ordered one of his instruments. The African man happily prepared one of his beautiful creations for shipment. He wrapped it in multiple layers of “bubble wrap”, and enclosed it in a strong wooden box as he had always done before. This technique had always been very successful and fool proof. The buyer started emailing soon after the item was shipped, asking very strange questions about the safety of shipping his purchase, and whether or not we would accept responsibility for any damages that occurred. I assured him that this hadn’t been an issue because of the amazing packaging technique that was used. These questions made me ill at ease, but the item was already on its way, and I wasn’t sure what to do. The man emailed me constantly, asking when the item was going to arrive and where it was. I explained to him that he could get the exact same information I could, by tracking the item online. I told him that we have no control over the post office or Customs, and that the item had been shipped within 24 hours of purchase.
The item finally arrived, and he emailed me to claim that there was some damage to the item. He sent pictures, and the damage seemed unlikely because of the shipping method (also, there was no mention of any damage to the box it shipped in). I advised him to file a claim with the post office (which is also what they advised), but he refused to do so, and told me that I would need to do it. This is impossible, since the post office requires that the recipient show the item and the packaging to them when filing the claim. Not only do I not have those things, but the buyer lives more than 2000 miles away. Also, since I was not there to see the item upon arrival, I can’t testify that the item was received in that condition. I advised the buyer to leave the item alone while I researched a solution. Despite this, he tampered with the instrument and admitted IN EMAIL that he further damaged the instrument. We even recommended that he return the instrument to us for a refund, but again he refused. I spent quite a bit of time contacting eBay and the man’s local post office. The local post office assured me that the packaging was completely intact when they received and delivered it (they remembered clearly, since the man constantly stopped there to ask if the item had arrived). This, as well as the man’s odd behavior, leads me to believe that he is a scammer who intentionally plays the system to get what he wants without paying for it. Unfortunately, eBay has assisted him with this. Despite my repeated contacts with them, providing all information and proof of the situation, they have decided to refund the man the ENTIRE amount of the purchase, while allowing him to keep the item. This is not a $5 item (although, even that would be unfair) – it costs $650, which eBay has now allowed this man to steal from a hard working family man in Africa. This poor businessman invested significant time and money into purchasing materials and crafting this item, and then shipping it, with the anticipation of it securing his future. Instead, he is now out his time and financial investment with no way to recover from this loss. I would love to give the creator of this instrument the full amount (since he fulfilled his obligations), but with a family of my own, I am unable to afford it. I would also like to show him that there are good people in this country, unlike the man who stole his livelihood from him and his family. I realize I can’t save the world, and I can’t right every wrong, but I am pleading with you to help me to help this man who was a victim of a dishonest scoundrel. It will make a huge difference, and restore faith in humanity for me, my family, the man in Africa, and his family. I don’t like when people such as this buyer ‘represent’ this country, when most people in the United States are honest and decent people.
As a side note, a customer service representative I spoke to told me that he knows that the eBay policies are completely unfair to their sellers, but that there is nothing he can do. After this incident, I have heard from others who have also been burned when selling through eBay.
Deuteronomy 15:10 You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him: because that for this thing the LORD your God shall bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand to.
May God bless you for your generosity.
Donation Link: http://www.gofundme.com/LoveForMankind