It was recently brought back to my attention that communication between eBay buyers and sellers in order to trade outside of eBay is against eBay rules. As a seller, I had pretty much forgotten about this rule so when a buyer recently e-mailed me becaused he had missed an auction and wanted the item- which had not been sold- I went ahead and tried to accommodate him...
Why this was a BIG mistake
Lets be honest: Although a lot of people are unaware of this particular rule, many sellers dismiss it because it would mean waving a sale away. I know of some sellers who believe this rule is merely eBay trying to keep it's finger on top of them and make sure all proper fees are applied- In short, many sellers think this rule is in place to protect eBay, not them. WRONG. Truth is, as a seller, you have no protection whatsoever when you sell 'under the radar', particularly if the buyer pays via Paypal. I discovered it the hard way:
After setting up a deal and fair price with the above mentioned buyer, I sent out the items only to watch the buyer, after only a few days, issue a complaint with Paypal and asking for a refund claiming he had not received the items. The buyers had not paid for express shipping: There was no way those items could have made it to him under a week! The really bad part was that Paypal would only protect me if I could provide a tracking number. Of course, the buyer had requested the cheapest method of shipment which did not cover registered mail. The buyer also vehemently refused to sort the situation out and stopped communicating.
So I helplessly watched as the buyer not only got his full money back and- I am reasonably certain- enjoyed a nice, carefully packaged shipment of free items. At first, I was extremely shocked by the buyer's pushy behavior and complete refusal to deal with me amicably. Then it became clear that this was probably a very sleek scam to get free items while keeping a blemish free record on eBay: While the buyer's feedback was 100%, there is no telling how many transactions he requested outside of eBay. I most certainly would not have given this buyer very kind feedback given the opportunity- which I had myself waved the minute I decided to sell outside eBay!
It's not worth it
While sending a buyer and potential sale away is not palatable to a seller, the effort and risks are simply not worth it in this situation. The paperwork and coverage you would need to keep in check to cover yourself are just not worth the time and effort.
The simplest way is to refuse to make any transactions outside eBay. Period. Of course, I am not saying every single buyer who requests such a transaction is automatically a scammer: Many are merely unaware of the rule, so don't be defensive. Just kindly remind them of the rule and how it protects both parties.
Another way is to offer to relist the item for them, in your store-if you have one or at a fixed price. You can arrange a time and date so they get a chance to buy the item they want from you through eBay. Try your best to accommodate them that way and if they refuse, get upset or try to bully you with their business, it probably means they had something fishy in mind; why else would they not want you to obey the rules? Let those go. You don't need their business that bad.
I hope my little experience can be helpful to anyone out there- I know it helped me get a better understanding of eBay's rules and policies and how most of them are a justified part of doing safe business.