#TechBlog | Blog 055 | How Not to Get Screwed Buying 2nd Hand Tech Off eBay

December 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I've been using eBay from the very beginning of its inception, when it was pretty much a badlands of 'buyer beware' and when people were quite happy to sell the packaging of game consoles to unsuspecting individuals who thought that 'The XBOX Box' meant the game console itself. I've steered through these murky waters without much incident, until recently.

Working in the pubs and clubs across Derry's music scene has meant that from time to time, I can't get into a decent position due to the internal layout of the venue, which happened recently at a 'Sundown Session' in 'The Grand Central Bar' in the heart of Derry. I just couldn't get the variety of angles I needed as the place where the musicians would be seated offered little to no room to sit directly in front of them. This meant that I had to put my cameras on the bar.

Not only does this pose its own hazards of drink spillage or the camera being accidentally knocked over, it meant that once the cameras were rolling, I also couldn't get back to them as this would mean either walking in to shot, or going behind an already busy bar to adjust them, which was not an option. I was essentially shooting blind.

I pushed all the relevant buttons on the cameras and hoped for the best, well, with one exception, that being the DJI OSMO. I've had this epic piece of equipment for a number of years and I simply love it. It's really good in low light, it has a small footprint and can be operated remotely by a mobile or tablet device. This gives me a view of what the camera can see, and the ability to pan the camera too, all from the comfort of my chair. The most important aspect of all its features is knowing with confidence that it's actually recording what's going on.

I got a couple of decent videos with the odd walk past, but one thing that you probably don't notice is, the absence of angles from the two cameras on the bar. It started off great, but unbeknownst to me, my JVC had either stopped recording due to a memory issue or, I had failed to fully push the record button. Either way, the JVC was just a bar ornament, with a bright LED on it.

That was it, it was time to get rid of this pre-DJI OSMO situation, and fully commit.

I had a wedding coming up in a few weeks, so a flush of cash was coming my way that would be just enough to buy the next model of DJI OSMO, and that was the OSMO+. The difference between the two models is that this new unit was only slightly bigger, due to the fact that it could optically zoom in. Was it necessary? I've no real argument on that, to be honest, but having been out for 2 years, and a newer model, I thought it better to have it and not need this feature, especially since it was priced around the same as when I first bought the previous model. The search began.

You can buy these new for around £650+, that wasn't gonna happen. On Amazon, they're roughly the same price too, so I headed over to eBay for a look at what was going on there. They ranged from £300 to £450 depending on the activity of my fellow bidders.

Being a seasoned bidder, I knew my budget and was going to stick to it. Nothing over £320 would be leaving my bank account in this endeavour. I had a video shoot coming up with my good friend Niall O'Mianain, and I was keen to have this new camera be the primary device, just to give some use in anger.

I started bidding on one listing, and as the deadline approached I set my alarm notification on my phone so as to remind me to come back to the listing in good time. My intention was to 'sniper' the other bidders in the last few seconds with a higher bid, which at that time was currently sitting at £280, this was perfect, as I still had a surplus for shipping costs. Unfortunately, someone else had the same plan. My final bid in the last 8 seconds was £300, and the other bidder must have had a higher proxy bid of £350 because as my bid went through it was accepted then instantly rejected by a higher amount and then auction closed.

Time to find another camera.

A gentleman called 'Paul' had recently listed his camera, and along with a few others, I added him to my watch list. A few days passed and a new alarm was set for an end of auction day. This camera was sitting at £260 in the final few moments and this time I thought I'd go just a smidge more in my £320 limit, just to be sure. I proxy bid the full budget thinking I'd worry about shipping later (it was only £8). This time, I WON..! The best part was, in those final few seconds of bidding into the unknown, I managed to snag it for £280 plus shipping. Now, one of the factors that played in my favour was the time of the closure of the auction, it was 10:30'ish in the morning. The other bidder must have placed their bid the night before and forgot about it, but I was on it!

I sent payment immediately and then the waiting game began.

To Paul's credit, the camera arrived within 48 hours with all the packaging, charger and a spare battery, as listed. I couldn't wait to get playing with it, to see what it could do, so whilst in the office I quickly turned it on, and the camera sprung to life (unlike the very first OSMO I bought, which had a gimbal fault, which resulted in me instantly returning it), happy days. I put everything back in the box and got back to work with a view to setting it up properly when I got home.

In anticipation of receiving this new DJI OSMO+, I'd made a few other ancillary purchases that I knew I'd need. Extension brackets, a base plate holder and even a new ZOOM H1N with additional leads, because I wanted to make sure everything was ready for this new poetry shoot in Derry.

I had everything laid out in the motorhome, which is essentially my home office these days. Switched the camera on, and paired my iPhone 7+ to it. The software worked fine, I could manoeuvre the camera as I can with my other OSMO, however, there was no video feed coming through. I couldn't see what the camera could see. I spent the next two hours going through various YouTube videos on this subject to find a solution. Stumbling upon a Russian YouTuber who didn't speak a word of English, but had attempted to put in clearly web-translated subtitles on the screen, repeating a process of factory restoring some OSMO's, with varying degrees of success. It's basically a combination of holding certain buttons on the camera, whilst restarting it a few times, or trying a different combination and removing the battery, putting the battery back in etc. It's a bit of a chore, but it did get the camera working.

During those two hours, I'd emailed Paul and complained that he'd sold me a dud. It was late in the evening, and after watching the Russian fella work his cold magic (for some reason he was wearing gloves in his videos), I got mine working, and then sent a follow-up email via eBay to state that through a combination of swapping handles with my own OSMO (the handles are identical) and updating the firmware and resetting the camera, I got it working and not to worry.

I packed everything away, sorting out an old camera bag to carry all the relevant DJI OSMO camera gear into one handy backpack and went to bed.

A few days later, I met with Niall to start our shoot together. Out came the new and what I thought was working DJI OSMO+, everything set up, new extension brackets, microphones, and low and behold, the same fault, no video.

I didn't have time to sit through another 30 minutes of trying various combinations in the hope this thing would work, so I threw it back in its box and lifted by original OSMO and got about the task of shooting another great video with a great poet. I'd deal with this issue later.

I emailed Paul again through eBay and said that this camera isn't working as stated, and I wanted a refund. He wouldn't accept it based on my second email stating that I got it working and that I must have done something to it.

This just pissed me off. I started a claims procedure against him on eBay using all the correct procedures and packaged the camera up ready for shipping back confident that eBay would resolve this in a matter of days. As is usual, the seller gets 7 days to respond or they then have to accept the return. He challenged the claim, and to my absolute shock, I lost my claim due to the fact that I had technically tampered with the device by updating the firmware!

What I should have done, is simply return the camera as soon as I noticed the fault and done nothing with it. However, in my defence, I've seen the black screen on my own DJI OSMO, and usually just closing the programme on my mobile and restarting it fixes it, so I had sort of started this journey of going down the rabbit hole with the view that this was just a simple fault. My old trade skills of fixing computers had taken over me, and that inner core of "I will not be defeated by you" had kicked in.

I appealed the decision directly with a telephone agent, and explained that everything I had done was not a technical interference, as I had used the DJI website to update the firmware (as anyone who knows DJI products, they have a habit of updating their firmware a lot), and as the camera is technically a two-part device, swapping the handle is not interference either. They said they understood and they'd come back to me with a new decision once they'd had time to consider this new information. I even referred them to my first message to Paul saying that I thought he'd sold me a dud.

A few days later, they said that they were sorry, but the decision stands, this time it was coming from a new agent, again, I appealed and this time they said that as I had made the payment through PayPal, I should challenge the seller through this, as they have more power over the dispute, as they control the money, meanwhile they'd still investigate it further and give me a full and final decision. As instructed, I contacted a support guy at PayPal who was very sympathetic, I fully explained everything I had done, and how it was not technical interference, and they felt that yes, I should be refunded and they'd investigate. They left me with a sense that justice would prevail. It didn't.

The shites at eBay closed my case the instant I approached PayPal because they said if they'd made a decision to refund me, I could, in theory, get the money back twice as PayPal could conclude the same and also give me my money back. That was bullshit if I ever heard it. PayPal then came back and said that as eBay had decided in Paul's assertion that it was technical interference, they too would be closing the case.

I had just lost £288 to eBay in exchange for a DJI OSMO+ brick.

Having nothing to lose, I unpacked the camera and started back with the previous repairs. Having tried a number of times with resetting the camera I stumbled upon a solution. Keeping the gimbal lock when booting up the camera and listening to the gimbal alarm, after two seconds of it straining to move I released the locks and the camera started working normally. The downside to this was, that I had to repeat this process each and every time, meaning, eventually my gimbal motors would fail and destroy the camera completely.

A conversation with my wife was needed. Obviously unimpressed with my situation, the only option I had left was to raise this as a fault with DJI Support. At most this would cost me roughly €80 to investigate. With her blessing, knowing that I'm already nearly three hundred quid down, I filled in the online form. The site asked for proof of purchase, the only thing I had was the eBay receipt for what was obviously a second-hand camera, but hey, it's all there was so I PDF'd it and added it to the support ticket. Within hours of my submission, I was given a package label for a UPS pickup and I needed to leave it off at a local drop off point where it would be shipped out to Holland for assessment. The shipping costs? Free.

You can track it's progress online, first through the UPS website in terms of transit, which if I'm being honest, they're a bit relaxed about, there was clearly no urgency in this at all. After about 4 days it got there and an update on the DJI Support system said they had it safe and sound. I avidly watched the support status site probably 4 times a day to see what this would likely cost me for repair.

It had been a busy day in the office and I had momentarily forgotten about the camera until I got an invoice statement for the repair bill. €499. I gulped, and to be honest, I think my arse slackened a little.

Having read the email from DJI on my phone, I slowly just put it down on the desk and considered how I was gonna tell the missus. The camera was now gonna be more in terms of cost that if I'd just saved up and bought a new one. My phone vibrated again, another email. The original invoice was still on the screen, and I was wondering if the next one would be a follow-up to seek approval for the repair costs. It was, and it wasn't. It was an update to the original invoice and it referred to those two golden words "warranty repair". They were going to fix this issue 'under warranty'. What warranty? Had they looked at the eBay receipt and thought it a new purchase? It had the price I paid for the camera stated on it, there's no way they took this as an in-warranty purchase?

I was not going to argue. The status on the support website had changed once again, this time it was in the workshop getting repaired. I was over the moon! 

Within two weeks of submitting my repair request to DJI I was sitting with my fully functional DJI OSMO+ once again.

In all honesty, I've still not used it in anger, but I will, as my wife and I have a new project dealing with mental health issues, which includes learning the techniques to take back control of those thoughts that quietly steal your peace, more on that later.

What I've taken away from this whole experience is, when buying off eBay, do NOT ATTEMPT to fix anything if it arrives with even the slightest of faults, get straight back on to the seller and report it. Which is what I should have done, but I was blinded by a bargain and a need to have it, which is something I've now had time to reflect on, and will never do again.

What has been your biggest purchasing regret? Did you too experience purchasing a faulty item and not get the support you needed? Let me know in the comments section below, I'd love to read of your story and what you did about it.


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