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My 1st encounter with a bootleg figure & how eBay respondedMy 1st encounter with a bootleg figure & how eBay responded

vgadictvgadict8 months agoDiary
I recently had my first encounter with a bootleg figure obtained from an eBay sale. Fortunately, I was able to return it for a full refund. What I learned along the way may be of interest to anyone who uses eBay and is concerned about the risks of getting a bootleg figure by mistake, and how to use eBay's return process.

Background
I've been a buyer on eBay since the late 1990s. Over the years I've made hundreds of successful purchases of various collectible and hobby-related items, including dozens of PVC figures, gashapon figures, and some garage kits. There have been a few hiccups with delayed or slow shipments, one lost shipment which the seller graciously replaced, a mixup with combined shipping costs, and one unfortunate case where a seller mistakenly left negative feedback for me which was intended for a different deadbeat buyer several weeks after I'd paid for and received the item. Up until now, I've always gotten the items I'd intended to purchase.

Avoiding bootleg figures
When I first got into figure collecting in the mid-2000s, bootleg figures were not much of a concern, and most of the listings on eBay were for legitimate figures. However, within the past few years that has changed drastically, and now a significant number of figures being listed on eBay appear to be counterfeits. Fortunately, there are many ways to spot listings for bootleg figures, and I try to do a thorough check of the sellers and their listings before considering a purchase. Up to now, all of that screening has helped me to avoid buying any bootleg figures.

An intriguing sale
In early March, I'd spotted a new Buy It Now sale listing for the Limited version Cat Lap Milk figure: ITEM #450337 It was priced at $150 USD (with free shipping) and the seller had provided pictures of the box (which looked legitimate), paper insert (also looked legitimate) and a couple photos of the blister packaging removed from the box. The coloration through the blister packing wasn't clear but it looked somewhat bluish so it seemed like it might indeed be the Limited version as opposed to the normal black version. The seller stated the figure was new and had never been displayed. They also indicated they didn't know much about the figure as they'd obtained it as part of a toy lot.

A quick check of the seller showed they had over a 3000 star rating on eBay with 100% positive feedback, and a scan through their feedback listings revealed that they had sold a variety of non-figure items, along with some action figures or other toys. Based on everything I saw, the seller looked trustworthy and the listing appeared legitimate, so I placed a watch on the figure. I had a busy week and I didn't have time to look into any further at that time.

Using Ebay's Watch option
When I find a figure I might be interested in buying, I use eBay's "Add to watch list" option to track it. That provides a few conveniences including an easy way to find the figure later under the 'my Ebay' menu. It also sends reminders of when the figure sale is going to end. You can also gauge other buyers' interest to some degree as it will show how many other people are watching the listing. What some people may not realize is that this also offers the sellers a mechanism to offer special private reduced priced offers directly to potential buyers.

A better offer
On Monday March 18th, I received just such an offer. The seller was offering the figure for $125 for 48 hours. It also mentioned that other interested buyers (i.e. those watching the listing) had received the same offer, and if I remember correctly, there were about a half-dozen other people watching this listing at the time. Having missed some good buys on other figures over the past year, I was worried that if I didn't pull the trigger quickly on this offer, I might miss the chance to get the figure for such a low price. I spent a bit more time looking at the pictures provided and tried to detect any telltale signs that it might not be legitimate, but nothing stood out. On Tuesday March 19th, I bought the figure, and I promptly paid for it using Paypal.

Fast shipping
The seller shipped the figure the next day (Wed March 20th) from the West coast. It was originally estimated to arrive at my house in the Midwest by the following Tuesday. However, it made great speed and the managed to arrive on Friday March 22nd. Unfortunately, I was heading out that weekend, so once the package arrived, I only had time to tuck it inside the house before leaving.

I spent that weekend really pumped that I'd finally gotten this figure, and I was very eager to finally open it when I got back home.

Inspecting the figure
I arrived back home late on Sunday March 24th, and by the time I finally got the figure out of the shipping container it was past midnight. I inspected the box closely, and again, it looked completely legitimate. I carefully opened it and pulled out the blister packaging and started inspecting the figure. The first thing I noticed was the outfit was black, not blue, which meant it wasn't the Limited edition version of the figure. However, as I started looking closer, I immediately spotted something else - the eyes looked strange and the expression on the face didn't look quite right. I immediately began to worry that this might actually be a bootleg figure.

Identifying the bootleg
I promptly headed to MFC and tried comparing the figure I was looking at (still in the blister packaging) with various pics in the MFC gallery. It looked pretty close, but I started noticing a few other differences. It was then that I stumbled upon an entry in the bootleg photos that showed how to spot the differences between the legitimate version and the bootleg version, and led me to this article (www.nekomagic.c...) I wish I'd seen that earlier. To my dismay, I quickly realized I was looking at a counterfeit figure. Among the other give-aways was the wide rectangular body peg instead of two round pegs, the black triangles on the milk containers instead of red, and the shape of the shoes.

Realization sets in
Within a matter of minutes, I went from feeling elated at obtaining a wished figure to feeling completely sickened by the fact it was the bootleg version instead. Looking back at the listing and pics, there wasn't much there to tip me off that this wasn't a legitimate figure. If I'd had time to do more research, maybe I would have found that link showing the comparisons, and I might have noticed the body peg didn't look right or the few pixels for the triangles on the milk containers weren't red. I was upset at myself more than anything, and figured maybe the seller didn't know either.

Attempting to contact the seller
After calming myself down, I wrote a politely worded message and sent it to the seller on Monday March 25th to inform them that the figure wasn't the Limited version as advertised, and that it also appeared to be a bootleg instead of an original version. I also asked them how to proceed since I had never dealt with a situation like this before. According to the item listing it offered a 30 day return period, and I was hopeful that they could explain the steps to take.

No response
At other times when I've tried to contact eBay sellers, they've always gotten back to me with 24 hours. However, I got no response from this seller at all. I waited until Wednesday March 27th, and was growing concerned that I'd been scammed out of $125 + tax for a cheap bootleg version of the figure that typically sells for $30 or less.

Using the eBay return process
At this point, I began to search the eBay policy for returns and discovered there's an option to "Return this item" in the "my Ebay" list of recent purchases. I clicked that and proceeded. You get a list of options to select from for why you want to return it, and from that list I selected one about the figure not being legitimate. From there, it appears that eBay contacts the seller and they are given about 4 days to respond to your return request.

Seller accepts the return request
On the 4th and final possible day (Sunday March 31st), the seller finally accepted my return request. I have no idea what would have happened if they had failed to respond, but I suspect it's possible that eBay may have immediately offered me a refund without even sending it back. However, since the seller did respond, I was given another email providing me details for printing out a return shipping label.

Sending the figure back
On Monday April 1st I printed out the label, resealed the shipping container with packing tape and attached the label. I was surprised to find that the shipping was completely free! I figured I'd probably have to pay for the return cost myself. I dropped it off at nearest post office branch over my lunch hour and then entered the tracking number into the eBay form to indicate that I'd shipped it.

I monitored the tracking, and by April 3rd, it had arrived at the seller's local post office and was listed as available for pickup. Apparently they had a placed a hold on their mail since normally it would just be listed as delivered once it arrived.

I now encountered a new problem. The item was shipped, but since it hadn't been picked up by the seller, it hadn't reached the Delivered stage in the eBay tracking. The days went by and still the seller never bothered to pick it up. I now worried if perhaps the seller had found some kind of loophole where an item could get held indefinitely by the post office, preventing me from getting a refund. After a week, it said a reminder note had been sent to the seller to schedule a pickup. I checked the post office policy and apparently they can hold items for up to 15 days. At that point, I guess the item would get resent to me. I have no idea what would happen in that case. Would I still be able to get a refund?

Thankfully, the seller finally picked up the item on Thursday, April 11th.

Waiting for the refund
Once the seller had gotten the item, he was given 4 days to provide a refund. I waited, and waited and waited, but the refund never showed up. After the 4 day window, a new option appeared on my eBay page this morning (April 16th) where I could ask them to investigate. I clicked that option and explained that I hadn't gotten my refund yet. The initial response said that it could take up to 48 hours to resolve. However, they sent a reply within about 2 hours and provided me with a full refund. So after nearly a full month, I finally got back my money.

Lack of seller response
During the whole process, I never got any kind of communication from the seller other than the automated system notices of them accepting the return or picking up the item. This seems unusual for a highly rated seller. I noticed they have no current eBay listings, so it's entirely possible they are on vacation or unable to easily respond. However, it would have been nice to get some kind of acknowledgement from my original request for return. Since they don't regularly sell PVC figures, they may have based their original listing on incorrect information they'd been given from their prior toy lot purchase. Based on their listing price, they likely were not aware it was a bootleg figure. Why risk a 3000+ star eBay reputation for a single figure sale?

Suspect the figure was switched
Based on the condition of the box and a sticker on it, I suspect that the box and included paper may actually have been authentic. The figure may have been bought and sold multiple times by now. The tape securing the blister pack looked like it might have been peeled back and resealed. Somewhere along the way, someone probably switched out the original figure for the bootleg version.

What I've learned
Prior to this, I thought my methods for avoiding bootleg figures were pretty solid, but this showed me that even trustworthy sellers should be given extra scrutiny, especially if they aren't familiar with PVC figures. It also taught me that I should try to do even more thorough research of potential bootlegs and look for possible articles describing ways to spot them before buying a specific figure. However, I doubt that every counterfeit figure has such a detailed page available.

I've also learned that eBay has a pretty solid return policy. It took a while to get my money back, but eBay finally came through and delivered my refund. That gives me added confidence that if I ever encounter another situation like this that I will be able to get my money back.

-vgadict
2,128 hits • 13 likes17 comments

Comments17

1pt
Yahoo Japan auctions are pretty legit.

I steer a mile away from eBay. What a waste of time/stress over a bootleg figure.
7 months ago
4pt
Glad you got your money back. I've not had an encounter with a bootleg figure yet but I have with BluRay series most recently. The case and flyers inside were all legit, but the discs were clearly burned and illegitimate. This was either them trying to scam through legit pictures and hoping someone ignorant took the bite or maybe someone jipped THEM and they didn't realize when selling it because they weren't selling it for very cheap at all (hence my guard wasn't that high).

Either way they refunded my money right away but didn't send a shipping label so I'm assuming I get to keep them. eBay is pretty good with returns.
7 months ago
1pt
agentmozell (7 months ago) #57208429Solaris, Hobby Search, AmiAmi all have their own forums since they're, I guess, "official" figure shops. eBay isn't, I've seen a lot of blogs about eBay stay because there's really no where to put them.Hmm I see, I've seen forums about Ebay but it doesn't have one specific forum like others I guess. Then great!
7 months ago
3pt
agentmozell nerd extraordinaire
Sakura0055 (7 months ago) #57193459Just a heads up, I wrote a similar article about solaris japan(sharing my bad experience) and it got deleted 2 days later because "I needed to post it on shop forums."
MFC might delete yours too so if you can, save the written post and if the article gets deleted you can always post it on the ebay forum page again.


Solaris, Hobby Search, AmiAmi all have their own forums since they're, I guess, "official" figure shops. eBay isn't, I've seen a lot of blogs about eBay stay because there's really no where to put them.
7 months ago
2pt
vgadict (7 months ago) #57203448This is a rather lengthy post, and it doesn't seem like it would necessarily be a good fit length-wise as a post within a forum. I don't even know where the shop forums are located for that matter. If someone wants me to move it I can, but this seems like a reasonable type of article for a diary entry, given it's length.I don't think the length really matters because mine was a pretty long written post with many photos and details included in it, it was labeled as diary too with 20+ comments and it was gone without a warning. I believe it's just about the topic and if it's mainly about a shop then it's likely to be deleted.
You can find forums under community label or in the home page then search any forum. Again, I'm telling you just in case you don't need to delete it yourself of course.
7 months ago
4pt
Sakura0055 (7 months ago) #57193459Just a heads up, I wrote a similar article about solaris japan(sharing my bad experience) and it got deleted 2 days later because "I needed to post it on shop forums."
MFC might delete yours too so if you can, save the written post and if the article gets deleted you can always post it on the ebay forum page again.

This is a rather lengthy post, and it doesn't seem like it would necessarily be a good fit length-wise as a post within a forum. I don't even know where the eBay shop forum is located, or if it has one for that matter. If someone wants me to move it I can, but this seems like a reasonable type of article for a diary entry, given it's length.
7 months ago
3pt
Just a heads up, I wrote a similar article about solaris japan(sharing my bad experience) and it got deleted 2 days later because "I needed to post it on shop forums."
MFC might delete yours too so if you can, save the written post and if the article gets deleted you can always post it on the ebay forum page again.
7 months ago
1pt
Truthfully I think if the seller may have not known that much about PVC Figures and thought it looked legitimate cause of the box, I do think that what you say makes sense in a way - that someone along the way of the figure's lifetime, switched the legitimate version for a bootlegged version and sold that on, It can happen on Ebay and it happens alot! Unfortunately even in the figure collection world there's some dishonest people :(

I have had hit and misses on Ebay as a seller and a buyer but not with PVC figures, with PVC figures I tend to stick with AmiAmi and Manda, maybe cause there's so many bootlegs on ebay now and some look so much like the legitimate product that it scares me off buying figures from there!
I did sell some figures on Ebay though and always state where I bought them from, I try an add as many photo's of the Figure and box as possible, though I did make a mistake when I had to sell my Yu-Gi-Oh Bakura scale - I forgot to add the photo of the extra parts he comes with into the listing luckily the buyer was quick to help with that and understood that small mistake! Suffice to say they were happy with Bakura and also extremely happy that the duel disk was not broken!!
8 months ago
3pt
I'm wary of items that were obtained in job lots for this reason - a good chance of the item being counterfeit or being broken/poor condition.

If I can't tell near-100% certainty if the item is fake or real in such an auction I'd generally ignore it. If it was a grail item, I'd hunt around for a tell and message the seller for an extra photo or two, including the 'tell'.

Thankfully eBay will usually rule in your favour for such things if the seller drags their heels. If the item is significantly not as described, then yes, the seller is on the hook for the return postage. It not being the limited edition, if it was advertised as such, would be enough.

I guess the seller was hoping you'd go away if they dragged their heels enough :/. If a seller dragged out a refund like that for me, they'd definitely not be getting positive feedback from me.
8 months ago
3pt
agentmozell nerd extraordinaire
I would've asked for a photo of her out of the blister, or at least with the top part taken off (I often do this to show all parts for a nendoroid).

But as a few people pointed out, the ebay system is mostly automatic.

I recall a time (as a seller) I sold a cute music box. It was in the shape of a ceramic piano and very cute. I sold it and made sure to pack it well, in fact, the post office helped me with it since I was still new to selling so it was all on camera. Looking back I should've been alerted by the fact the account had been created the day of the purchase...I've since blocked these accounts from buying with the selling tools ebay has. Anyway, a day after it arrived I left feedback (something I never do, if they want feedback they leave it first) and an hour later they opened a case saying the item was damaged.

I replied and asked several times for them to show pictures of the damage. No reply. A few days later I got a package from UPS and it was the music box, completely shattered. I uploaded the photos of how I sent it versus how they returned it and said I wouldn't give a refund for something they damaged.

They escalated to ebay and it was automatically turned in their favor and closed. So I called ebay and explained the situation. I even told them the packing was caught on camera at the post office and after a bit she reversed the case and I got the money back and the buyer was banned from ebay.

Thankfully I've only had this situation happen once. Another time as a seller was when I sold a souvenir book for a musical and the tracking never updated. After about a month (since the area was having severe blizzards I waited a bit longer) I messaged the buyer if they had received it. No reply. After another month I asked again. And again, no reply. I ended up opening a lost item case with USPS to be on the safe side, but it was automatically closed after two months and the buyer never replied. It's been almost a year since then and I always wondered if it arrived or not. But I can't do much if the buyer doesn't reply to my messages... I reached out four times unsuccessfully.
8 months ago
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