A few months back I tried something a little different to land a card. I took to Twitter and tested the power of social media.
I'd checked eBay and none were available in my price range.
So I took to Twitter's public feed and put out an APB for one. It didn't take long to get a hit. Within a couple of hours and a handful of direct messages a deal had been hashed out. I'd landed the card and stayed within my budget of $50.
Or so I'd thought.
They'd been on Twitter for a while. I followed them, they followed me. I think we'd been in on some chit chat. Things seemed like they were on the up and up.
Fast forward to today and the card isn't in my collection. And I'm out the $50. And while, I'm pretty ticked off about it, I have myself to blame, at least in part.
Before I go any further, I will say that this piece is not a witch hunt. I'm not going to name names and call on the masses to raise their pitchforks against them. There are two sides to every story. This is mine. It wouldn't surprise me if the person I dealt with has strong feelings towards me. I wasn't the easy customer on this occasion.
Without a card and out the $50, I've been pressuring them for the past several weeks, threatening to press mail fraud charges unless a refund or partial refund was issued. I wouldn't blame them if they thought I was a jerk. I wanted them to hold up their end of the deal or to fix it. When that didn't happen, I got more direct. No name calling, but frustrated.
I promised yesterday that I'd be taking action unless I received a partial refund by today.
If you're reading this, the refund never arrived. And this is my action, an outline of the mistakes I made buying a card on Twitter. Take it as a warning so that you won't make the same mistakes and experience the same frustrations.
Mistake #1 - Dealing with a Stranger Among Strangers
One of the biggest benefits about buying on eBay is that you have a certain level of protection. If something doesn't show up, you have a recourse.
On Twitter, there's no such protection. I bought something without any real protection. Yes, I could go the mail fraud route, file lots of forms and probably get told the relatively small amount isn't worth their time. And you know what, it isn't.
Unless you actually know the person you're dealing with on Twitter -- personally, through past trades or a handshake at the National -- be extra cautious. Just because the person has a few hundred followers doesn't mean you can trust them. If you've shared laughs over an ugly card, it doesn't mean you can trust them.
The mistake I made here was trust. That's not to say that the person I dealt with was out to make a sucker of me. I really believe they weren't. Under normal circumstances, I'm pretty sure this person is legit and fully intended to be.
But they're still a stranger, which has made it a lot tougher to get things resolved. I made a deal with a screen name. I kind of know where they live, but I have no mailing address. I know their real name, but there's not much I can do with it.
The solution here is an easy one. If you're going to make deals on Twitter, don't do it with strangers. Get a name, an address and a phone number. Give them a call and chat. Become acquaintances.
Even over the phone you should be able to get a sense of whether the person's worth dealing with. If you get a red flag, it's an easy place to decline finalizing things. No hard feelings.
But if you proceed and something goes wrong, you not only have a number to call but you've got a friend who will be easier to work and relate with.
And if things still go bad, you have information to pass on to the authorities. But my guess is that it will only go that far in extreme circumstances if both parties have established a formal rapport.
Mistake #2 - Keeping It on Twitter
Twitter is great because it's easy and it's convenient. Even when I'm not on it, it's running in the background or on my iPad.
The direct messaging system can also be great simply because they're out of sight. With email, my inbox gets clogged. Then I get stressed out because the messages are piling up.
With Twitter, I can let the direct messages sit. They can pile up all they want and I don't care, probably because the conversation's over or I've responded.
However, there is a major flaw to Twitter's direct messages. They can be deleted by either party at any time.
At some point, the person I bought the card off of deleted the messages. Uh, oh. All the communication and dealings that were so nicely threaded together, gone.
All the iron-clad proof I could have taken to the authorities, gone.
Yes, I had email notifications. But the only thing more cluttered than my inbox is the trash. At least it was until I accidently cleared them instead of my junk folder last month.
Twitter emails aren't nicely nested. Even with one missing message, the dialgue would be broken and there's not much recourse a third party can do with that.
To make matters worse, the person I was dealing with mislabeled the card the first time they sent it. Then they forgot who they sold it to so it was up to me to get back to them and start the process over again.
Had I taken all the dealing to email, things would have been much easier. We both would have had easy reference points. And messages would have been saved. A paper trail would have been made.
As clean as the Twitter direct messaging process is, it's not safe. It's actually very archiac in how easily things can be deleted. If you insist on using Twitter, be sure to keep all the email notifications and set up a folder dedicated to that specific deal. But even then, you're relying on email. Why not go to that step as early as possible.
Mistake #3 - Not Knowing When to Throw It In
For the past few weeks I've been stewing. I don't like to stew. I paid a good chunk of change for something and I never received it. It's understandable that I wasn't feeling all unicorns and fluffy bunnies. But that didn't get me stewing.
Broken promises did.
When I brought up that I wanted a refund (about two months after we closed the deal), the seller was good with it. They just needed some time as they were waiting for a transfer. No problem. That seemed fair. We agreed on a date.
And the date passed.
So when I checked in, the seller told me that he and his family were going through some extremely tough times.
I'll be honest, I found this hard to believe at first. At this point the deal had gone pretty south. Neither of us were going to be pleased over the lost card. And for anyone else who has been in a similar position, getting the hard times speech is used so much that we're all pretty much numb to it.
See where this ties into the relationship thing? Had we established more of a rapport, I wouldn't have questioned it in the first place.
I was in a tough spot. You don't want to call someone out on family stuff. Cards are about the last thing to worry about. But at the same time, there were enough red flags before hand, part of me was wondering if this was some sort of Hail Mary to buy some more time.
I feel bad for thinking that way in the first place. It was a defense mechanism.
I believe the seller that they're going through a rough period.
I tried to work with them in a way that seemed fair after another missed promised refund. Looking back, this is the point where I should have thrown in the towel and moved on defeated.
But I didn't. While hardships are one thing, I also feel strongly about one's word. When someone says they're going to do something, I hold them to it.
We agreed to a payment plan to break the refund down into more manageable chunks. This seemed like a reasonable solution and one that shouldn't have led to more broken promises. Things didn't change. "A couple days" turned into "the end of the week," which gave way to "next week, for sure."
Each time that broken promise came and went, I stewed a little more. Here they were talking about wanting to buy things, retweeting case breaks and showing off $500 cards while I was waiting for a $10 payment.
I realize now that at this point, it wasn't about the money anymore. I was holding out faint hope that I'd get a refund or a partial refund. Deep down, I knew that wasn't the case. But I wouldn't let it go because it had become a matter of principle, of holding someone to their word.
I should have walked away. The more I stewed, the more direct I became in my messaging. I didn't resort to name-calling or anything like that. But I was looking at the clock, pondering whether I'd get that email from Paypal or another excuse. I getting worked up when they tweeted some of the big pieces in their collection. I mean if they have a $500 card, shouldn't that be considered an asset that could be sold to pay off debts and add some cushioning to get through the tough times?
Basically, I was kind of pathetic.
I do stand by my firmness for calling the seller on the lack of backing up their words with actions. At the same time, I should have let go. Stewing caused stress and tension. Had I let go, I would have moved on sooner and this would all be over.
So that's what I'm doing now. Moving on. To the seller, I apologize if I came across as a jerk. I don't believe you were out to scam me. I hope things work out for you and your family.
When I messaged you yesterday saying that I would take action if nothing was received by today, I have. This article is that action. Yes, I followed the first message up with a link to the mail fraud form. Maybe that wasn't the coolest thing to do. I was hoping you'd come through as we agreed but it didn't work out.
I wish things went smoother but at the end of the day, this is about a baseball card. A baseball card shouldn't be a source of stress. Unless you're a dealer, it's a hobby. If a hobby is a source of stress, it's time to reevaluate.
That's what I've done by writing this. As of now, I'm letting go. Get things stable at home again. I do believe the honorable thing would be to follow through on the refund, but I'm not going to hold you to it any further. No postal forms, no more messages about updates, no more stress. Things didn't work out. Let's learn from it.
To everyone else, if you've made it this far, don't make the same mistakes I did. If you're going to deal on Twitter, do it smart.
Will I buy cards on Twitter again? Honestly, I don't know. It seems like a simple way to get things done. But it's not. It is a "social" platform that relies on screen names and thrives off of teenagers begging Justin Bieber to have a concert in their city. Is that the safest place to buy, sell and trade cards?
Related Topics: How To | How To: Buying