Using eBay without PayPal, a credit or debit card, or even a clue

eBay calls them “Trading Assistants” instead of “Selling Assistants” for a reason. We’re expected to be able to help any user on eBay, whether they be buyer or seller. Of course, most don’t need help with buying stuff on there. The whole site is set up to make it easier for the buyer. This makes sense because there are more buyers than sellers on eBay. Although each of those buyers (obviously) buys fewer items on average than the sellers, buyers drive traffic on the site, and every effort should be made to make their experience better. Sellers have nowhere else to go; buyers can go to the store.
So when the fastandfriendlyservice hotline rang this morning, I expected it to be another potential client with a closet full of crap. Instead it was a woman with an interesting predicament: She needed a book in New York tomorrow. Oh, and she has no credit or debit card.
People have different ideas of entitlement. Some expect electricity. Others expect healthcare. But generally, being able to buy something online is seen as something that requires a little bit of buy-in, namely owning a bankcard of some sort with a Visa or MasterCard logo on it. Not this person.
Now, as a Trading Assistant, I have to evangelize the eBay brand, even if it results in my having nothing to show for it. Some call it karma; others call it trickle down economics. The truth is that you don’t know when these nutjobs are going to need you and your services in the future, and it pays to put on the right face every time, just in case. You’re doing it for you and for no other reason.
So the woman on the phone goes on and on about having trouble finding the book and then not being able to reach the seller because Amazon requires a credit card number, and her talking is like this sentence, only with less punctuation and perhaps a lot of capital letters, too. In the ’90s, typing in caps only meant yelling. Now, it really only sheds light on the writer’s intelligence.
She was all over the place. Finally, I interrupted her, and I asked her how secure she was in obtaining the book, because if she couldn’t do that, it did not matter how it could be paid for. Her response began to meander again, and I decided to use the time to pet the cat and think about what she needed to do. Clearly, her mind was a mess, for whatever reason, and what she needed was someone to come up with a plan for her.
Savannah started biting me, so I turned my attention back to the call. I had to interrupt her again, which I hate to do, but there was nothing new coming out of my phone. I explained the importance of doing this in the right order. I told her to look on eBay and Amazon for the book and to contact every seller she could find in any way possible until she received confirmation from someone (anyone!) that the book was ready to ship, by overnight mail, and at that point it would be time to figure out how to pay for it.
She had thought that picking a seller in New York made the most sense because that is where the book needed to go. The problem with this is the time difference. When you’re shipping something small (like a book) overnight, it does not really matter where it comes from, if you’re shipping within the company. It will cost the same and still get there. But here is the rub: It is three hours later in New York than it is here on the West Coast. If she wants to get that book there tomorrow, she needs to find someone with the time to do so, and if you buy here, you are giving the seller three extra hours to do this. It was already 2:30 back East when she called me, so this was key.
So I told her to focus on West Coast sellers but to keep e-mailing and calling people till she received confirmation. At that point, she can worry about how to pay, and maybe she’ll call me back for that. I do buy things for people if they don’t want to give out their information. (Don’t laugh. There are a ton of people out there like this. My mom is one of them.) It costs them $10 or 5%, whichever is higher. Even unemployed, my time has a value associated with it.
You never know what you’re going to hear when you answer the fastandfriendlyservice hotline!

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