Online auction and shopping websites are active marketplaces with countless items in transit between buyers and sellers, so both should choose the proper shipping method with all of the right assurances and insurances.
Most of the time, items are shipped and received with no problems. But when there is an issue, its best practice for sellers and buyers alike to protect themselves ahead of time.
Longtime eBay user Jason Worley learned that the hard way. He had never had any issues with shipping until he sold on eBay a Breitling watch that he said would retail for about $5,000.
"This is literally the first problem I've had, you know, in over 1,200 transactions over 14 years," he said.
He sold the watch to a buyer in New York for $3,000 and shipped it overnight. He said he got a confirmation that the package arrived.
"I fulfilled my end of the deal," he said.
But 10 days after he received confirmation the package arrived, the buyer claimed he never got the box, Worley said.
eBay refunded the buyer because of protections in place and told Worley he would have to reimburse the $3,000. He contested the decision.
"In my opinion, once it's been delivered, it's out of my hands," Worley said. "How am I supposed to control what happens 2,000 miles away whenever something's been delivered by a third party?"
Mindy Loll, owner of SavoirLuxe, a luxury shopping portal on eBay that sells designer items, faces the dilemma on a daily basis.
The items she sends -- everything from $10,000 Hermes handbags to Oscar de la Renta clothing to Christian Louboutin shoes -- don't belong to her. They're on consignment, so, if they're lost, it can be a major issue for her and her clients.
"Every single thing is about your protection. You're protecting you. You're protecting your clients," Loll said. "If you're a consignment store, it's even more important, because this merchandise is not yours."
And Loll takes shipping seriously.
"When you're shipping a high-dollar item, the first thing you want to do is, you have to have delivery confirmation; not just delivery confirmation -- signature confirmation," she said. "And it's worth the extra $2.50. I would rather pay $2.50 than lose $10,000, so it's a must."
Her policy is to ship everything with signature confirmation, and she insures all packages, too.
Lawanna Warmbrot, who owns a Pak Mail in Dallas, ships everything from taxidermy to fine art to antiques. Shipping is a science, she said.
"No. 1, it needs to be packaged properly, insured and on the road [in] as little time as possible," she said.
She also said that customers can ask for direct signature, an additional level of protection that means the package can only be signed for by the person on an address label.
As a buyer, consumers can ask for these protections too, even if it may cost more. However, every online outlet has different policies, so consumers need to read the fine print before they buy or sell.
eBay requires signature confirmation for items worth more than $750. The policy is buried in pages of fine print on eBay's website.
Worley said he was unaware of the policy. While eBay confirmed Worley's package was delivered to the buyer, the company still suspended his account and sent it to collection.
"I really have no intention of paying it unless a judge orders me to do so," he said. "I'm just not going to be bullied by eBay. I disagree with their conclusion in this case."
The NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit contacted eBay, too.
Shortly afterward, the company changed its tune, citing Worley's excellent track record.
In a statement eBay told NBC 5:
"eBay is committed to providing a fair and safe marketplace for all buyers and sellers. We want to ensure a trusted marketplace for our customers, where they can buy and sell with confidence, knowing that eBay has the people, policies and processes in place to protect them. We provide updates to our buyers and sellers regarding the protections we have in place on a frequent basis. This includes online guides and tutorials, monthly newsletters, local seller meet-ups, dedicated discussion boards and direct emails. We also solicit seller feedback on our protections and policies in a number of ways, which includes interactive online workshops, in order to improve our communications with the eBay community.
After careful review of this case and recognition of both the buyer's and seller's history with eBay, we will be reimbursing the seller for the full value of the lost item, as well as ensuring that the buyer is refunded for the purchase. Although occurrences like this are rare, we always endeavor to do the right thing for our customers."
Worley's account is back in good standing, and all collection efforts were stopped.
He said he will start using eBay again, but probably won't sell any high-dollar items anytime soon. When he does, he will use signature confirmation, Worley said.
"It's an additional level of confirmation," he said.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Jason Worley's last name. NBC 5 regrets the error.