Before getting into the story, some phone numbers for Ebay customer support that I managed to find (they are not forthcoming with these):
General support: (800) 322-9266 or (408) 376-7400
Power seller support line: (866) 515-3229
Now, the story of what I consider to be some of the worst customer support I’ve encountered.
My mother, who died unexpectedly a little less than a month ago, was a power-seller of long standing on Ebay. For many years she ran a business selling antique postcards under the account AKDMNANA, clearing in the tens of thousands of dollars a year for the last several, reaching gold-level power-seller status, and having several thousand positive feedbacks.
When she died my mother had several open auctions. I’ve managed to get access to her email so have been receiving notifications from Ebay when those auctions close. Further, several of her customers have been sending queries, and I’ve been getting notifications of those as well.
I’d like to satisfy those customers. I really would. My mother was proud of her Ebay store and went to great efforts to make sure the customers were satisfied, and I feel I owe it to her and them to close out her last business dealings with her Ebay store in a way to do credit to her.
Unfortunately, I don’t have my mother’s Ebay password. And I can’t think of any way to get it – I’ve done the best I could to answer her account security question, but the answers I’ve tried just haven’t worked.
So I called Ebay customer support.
That alone was a challenge. Ebay does not broadcast their customer support phone numbers. (I found them, and they’re on the top of this post if you should have need of them. But they aren’t anywhere on the Ebay site.) And even then they want you to get a PIN to access customer support by logging into your account, which I couldn’t do in this case, so I had to negotiate around the phone menus to get past that. So as you see, just getting a person on the phone is a challenge.
But I managed to do so, first calling a couple of days after my mother’s death. I got transferred to someone in a special department (fair enough: while Ebay has to have encountered the deaths of sellers, it’s understandable that they would have special representatives for this kind of thing). The person was perfectly nice and told me that while normally they don’t normally allow survivors to take over an account, given that my mother’s store was so well established they would make an exception. All I would have to do was to fax a copy of her death certificate to a number that they gave me and they’d let me into her account.
I was quite busy with funeral planning at the time and didn’t have all the paperwork yet, so it took me a couple of weeks before I was able to get ahold of death certificates. Once I did, I called customer support again, got the fax number once more, wrote a cover note explaining the situation, and sent off the fax.
And got no response, even though I had included both phone number and email with the fax.
So I called again a day later. The phone rep told me that they hadn’t gotten the paperwork and gave me a different fax number to send to. (The first fax number was not the right one, at least according to this person.) So I sent the whole package to the second fax number.
And waited. And got no response.
I tried calling two days later. The wait on the phone was too long, so I decided to try again later.
Finally, I called again this past Tuesday. After spending almost an hour on hold, I finally reached someone. And got the fourth version of the story. This person told me that they could not give me access to the account, but if I sent the paperwork, they would close the account. Yes, they had a policy on what to do in these cases. No, she couldn’t tell me what the policy was. The people who managed that policy don’t do business over the phone, so there was no way for me to find out what the policy was. She had no suggestions on what to do about those open auctions. She had no way of telling if they had gotten the paperwork that I had faxed the week before. (She thought the right fax number was the first one I had gotten, but really, who knows at this point.) She said that she’d try to send me an email or phone me if/when the paperwork was received and something was done with the account. It’s now two days later and I haven’t heard anything and don’t expect to hear anything.
But just note what I said in the above: Ebay has a policy for handling the death of sellers who have open auctions. But she didn’t know what it was, and there was nobody I could talk to who did. That’s got to be about the lamest excuse for customer support I’ve ever heard of.
After all of this, it’s clear that I’m not going to be able to do anything to close out those last auctions. (And I should note that other than trying to do the right thing for those last customers, I don’t care about the state of the auctions. The amount of money involved is on the order of fifty dollars, which isn’t worth the bother of trying to figure all this out, find the product somewhere in my mother’s apartment, and generally deal with all of this hassle. I’m only trying to do the right thing here, and am stopped from doing so by Ebay’s Kafkaesque procedures.)
I’m going to send emails to those customers for whom I have email addresses letting them know of this. If any of them or any of my mother’s other customers ever manage to read this, I am very sorry. I’ve tried to do right by you, I really have. But Ebay has made it impossible. I hope the items you bought were not important to you, because there’s really nothing I can do at this point.
And here endeth the rant.