Woes & hazards of eBay (aka flea-bay)

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I have a old Minitrix 0-6-0 old time lock that I converted to DCC this past year. Despite it being smallish, the DCC conversion was easy to do. There's even room to stuff it over the motor, under the cab roof. I was thinking about having another old time DCC loco. I found one on flea-bay almost like the one I already had, same scheme but a coal burner instead of wood (ya can tell by the some-stack) It was about $10 cheaper than Nscale supply, and the seller said he tested it and it ran good in both directions. These are pretty well made, especially for older Nscale locos.

I won(??) it since nobody else even bid on it. As usual when it cam I first placed it on my test oval. Would not budge a silly mm in either direction and the headlight did not light either, also claimed to be working by the seller. Thinking that it worked before shipping, I expected something broke in shipping. I took the boiler off and quickly discovered the motor was NOT even wired up at all. So far in my lifetime I have never seen an electrical motor run without being connected to some power source. I probed the motor on my train bench and the motor ran fine both directions when power was applied.

For a test I wired the motor up so it could get power thru the wheels. The contacts were not great, but it would run and the drive train worked ok. When handling it I found the smoke stack loose and held by some gooy glue as was the red plastic headlight. (the bulb was also bad, no big deal).

I photographed the fleabay loco showing what I found, NO wire to the top brush connection point. There were no broken or loose wires anywhere to be found, just completely missing. The quick question was OBVIOUS, how in the universe did the seller ever test run it and it ran w/o the motor even wired up??? Obviously he LIED!

When I acquire and new (to me) loco I always do a clean and lube (after the quick test run). I also found myself cleaning the gunk & glue and fixing what needed fixing. I tapped and threaded the smoke stack so it could be mounted firmly or unscrewed/removed at will.

Sad to say it was a loco I really wanted, and after lots of work it was good to go. I bought this loco and paid the min asking price based on the seller's lies. There was no way he did not know he LIED, but I took a polite stance, and offered to accept a partial refund. Problem is I had already invested both time and money to fix it, and now that it runs OK (but not quite as good/smooth as my other similar (exactly the same, under the hood) loco. He wants me to return it cleaned up, repaired and running and I still would have to eat the return shipping!

The seller is being a complete @$$ hole. I guess I will chalk it up as a loss in that I paid more than it was worth.

Today I got curious about the seller. I found that another buyer also recently had a problem with this seller misrepresenting his N scale goods. With that found, my next step was to check the sellers current auctions. He had about a dozen or so auctions for N scale stuff. NO one single person is bidding on his stuff, Wonder WHY? I am going to have to be more careful buying on fleabay.

I looked at his "KATO" trolley, it caught my eye as I do convert trolleys to Kato drive, I am like it's NOT a Kato, no way, its a Model power(btw not the greatest but not bad either). A steam loco he listed as a 2-8-2 is also questionable, some photos show the front/pilot wheels there and in some they are missing. The tender shows all 4 axels with power pick-up and complete and some show NO pick-ups and an axel missing. NOT one of the photos show a near complete 2-8-2. Another of his "Kato" listing is actually a Fleschman (spelling?) and says so right on the bottom in his photo. I was not shocked as I caught him in his email lies over and over. rockheadm**** (Eedensburg, PA) never seems to stop lying.

I wanted a Bachmann Peter Witt DCC trolley, but I decided to pay a few bucks more and ordered it from Nscale supply instead of buying one off eBay.


Staff member
What you have to remember is that eBay is composed of thousands of individual sellers. Of course they're not all wonderful. (They're also not all terrible). Sometimes mistakes happen. I won an auction for a G scale loco once and got a completely different (and less valuable) locomotive. I was irate and contacted the seller. The response was immediate, an apology for the mistake, the proper loco was shipped and she offered two options, she'd sell me the other loco for a reduced price, or pay to have it shipped back. My first thought is that it was a ripoff, but it was an honest mistake.

Sadly, this doesn't sound like it's the case on this one. That's why I use Paypal as well as look closely at feedback and ratings. Keep in mind that hardly anyone will have 100.00 percent satisfaction, don't reject a seller for a few negatives. But if you see a pattern of low ratings and dis-satisfaction, take it to heart.
Yes Bob..... There are great, good, bad and some very ugly sellers on ebay. One thing I failed to do was CHECK his recent FBs. Another ebay'er had also recently noted deceptive condition description and even noted a problem with brand name. I found a pattern of that even with this sellers current listings.

My first mistake was taking the sellers word he tested it & it ran "excellent" both ways. I popped the top/boiler off, thinking something must have happened in shipping. (can happen, even with good packing). I fixed one thing then found myself finding and fixing other problems. (something I just do when I start working on any loco).

I also cleaned and lubed it, cleaned goobs of goo/glue off it, actually cleaned up better than expected.
I had to fabricate a draw bar, since there was none. I replaced the bad headlight with a LED etc. It still needs a bell.

eBay is a mixed bag, very mixed. I slipped, as I usually look more closely at FB, I do not expect any seller to be 100%, very unrealistic. When I see negs, I look to see WHY and if it was resolved. Yes mistakes happen, and when they do, how the mistake is handled is paramount, be it eBay or anywhere or anyone.

Another problem is his other NEG FB was posted AFTER I already placed my bid on the loco. So all he had was one neutral FB, no neg and over a dozen POS FBs.

Yes Bob, there really are good sellers on eBay, met plenty of good vendors and even run into some at train shows.
Seller (Reply by rockheadm1947 (Jul-24-15 20:04):) responded, .."I have 3 n scale track set up tried n all 3 ran fine, I sad could send it back to him"..

Makes no sense to me, but I still would like to know HOW any loco could move or run without the motor even being wired in? He could have tried it out on 99 or a million tracks and it would never budge, not w/o repairs first.


Gomez Addams
Staff member
I have only had one bad experience on Feebay, and it was over 15 years ago. Currently, I seem to be having trouble getting the Post Office to deliver my stuff. I've been waiting a full month for something to come from California, to the point the seller refunded my money and sent a replacement for free. Currently, I've been waiting for two weeks for the Post Office to deliver a package of couplers. They have been at the DC 30 miles away for over a week, now.
I got sick of the lies so I just simply closed the dispute, and of course kept the loco. I had already repaired it anyway. The loco, while not any where near the claimed condition, had redeeming value, it was repairable.

This morning one thing kept bugging me, what if he is not the pathological liar he appears to be, but test ran it then opened it up and unsoldered & completely removed the motor wire to sabotaged it before shipping? After all I was the ONLY bidder on it and maybe he was disappointed & expected to get more for it.

I have not done much buying from sellers in PA, guess I will have to watch PA sellers more. Over the years I have noticed sellers in some states tend to be more honest that other states. I hear ya on the USPS in California. I have seen packages ordered from CA sit for long periods of time at the same place in the postal system for no apparent reason or logic.

I still remember my FIRST mail order I placed way back in -the 60s (pre-web, very pre-web). I responded to a mag ad, AHC/AHS (a train/hobby store, something like that), I think it was. Being a typical kid and not knowing better, I sent CASH with the order. After mailing it I learned that was not a good idea, and wondered if I would actually get my order. Well my order came and it was complete, just as I had ordered.

My very first purchase on eBay was from a CA seller. I had never bought anything long distance from a person (as opposed to a business entity) and wondered if my item would be what I expected. My item arrived and it was everything I had hoped/expected.

The WORLD, eBay included is made of a cross-section of society, with good, bad and even ugly once in a while.



New Member
I don't purchase anything on Ebay without first checking the sellers feedback. It doesn't matter how bad I want the item, if the seller has less then 99% positive feedback or consistent bad feedback I won't buy from them.
I saved about $10 buying it off fleabay, v N scale supply. I still saved a couple dollars, but PAID for it in other ways...

The seller changed his story some. Now he claims he bought it from anther seller that way....SO! He still lied about testing the loco I bought from him.

In the other recent neg FB a buyer said the passenger cars were dirty and some breakage, PLUS... get this...the auction was for a collection of "LIMA' passenger cars, the eBay listing says so and even the photos show ALL "LIMA" brand. What he got was a mixed brand collection of various passenger cars, NOT all "Lima" as listed and shown in the listing photos. So this guy has shipped people something other than the buyer was buying.

I took a peek at some of his other current listings. One item he listed as Kato even clearly said lifelike right on it if you look real close at the underneath shot. Another Kato listing of his is actually a Model Power item...

Buying locos or anything motorized is usually something of a gamble. They can run fine one day and not the next. Things can happen in shipping as well, even with good packing. Another problem is OPINIONS. What one person's idea of runs great might not be so great in another's opinion.

I might have bought it anyway if the listing said untested, My objection was the guy simply lied, there was no way the loco even ran at all, since the motor was not even wired in. The motor was good, just not connected. I bought a nice passenger train, complete with loco and matching cars, untested off fleabay, turned out to be a nice looking and good running loco and the matching cars were as described.

In a twisted sort of way, reading his excuses after changed excuses has been amusing. He kept digging his hole deeper and deeper with BS.

I just checked and a N scale of a '30s era, pre WWII German high speed train hit the local post office tonight, so I should get it tomorrow. Its a SVT-137 (3car set) with DCC already in it. A couple minor (I hope) issues are expected, but I bought it knowing that when I bid on it.

Even buying at train shows can some times be a gamble. Last year I went to one, a vendor (he has a real business) had brand new old-stock Kato steamers for $50/ea. I bought 2 of them and boy do they run great & QUIET.

Several years ago I went to the Wheaton ILL show, (every model RRer should visit it at least once in a life time) . A guy there had a old resin kit Pioneer Zephyr unassembled. Turned out ALL the parts were there, even tiny little parts, and had a nice Kato motor & drive. While I have had some very good finds at train shows, I have also gotten burned a couple times (minor), mainly things I failed to LOOK close enough (my bad).

IN my hobbies I have 3 people I need to please, they are me, myself and I, if they are all happy, all is well.



Whiskey Merchant
Years back before internet retailers came on the web, I did purchase a few items on ebay. Many times though, I have seen items bid way over retail price. Can't see getting into a bidding war. I was interested in trying to find some Shinohara flex track and turnouts and the bidding was crazy. Items going over retail and then shipping on top of it???

In a few instances I have found a couple of hard to find items by accident that I did buy, but always checked out the sellers history. Once in a while I may go sightseeing on ebay, but for the most part, I will purchase fro online retailers such as MB Klein. Thankfully I have no plans to buy any more locomotives. Just purchased a nice BLI heavy mike from Terry and see no more locomotive purchases for me in the future.
I LOOSE most items I bid on. I set my limit low and if I get it fine if not, so be it. A couple years ago I bid on THREE Kato locos, all the same big/narrow in the BN executive scheme.....Before all was said and done, I WON ALL THREE! I converted all 3 to DCC and even put sound in one. They are all great runners, most Katos are.

My pre-WWII German high speed N scale train came today. It was everything I expected. I bid the MIN and I guess no one else was interested. Speaking of PRICES & bidding wars; Model power, Korean made steamers (DCC ready and run very good) were about $50 or so, I see them now going for more than that used and quite a few OVER $100! For N scale I check N scale supply prices before bidding and I check KEH for photo gear prices.


Active Member
Overall I've had very good luck on eBay. Once in a while you get a seller that's slow to ship and doesn't communicate well, which is annoying but ultimately pretty harmless. I don't tend to go back to them, so they lose business, but at least I eventually get what I pay for. Only twice have I had a seller that's just been a complete jerk and waste of space, but luckily enough eBay's buyer protection kicked in and while you can occasionally get burned for return shipping, that's definitely better than being out the whole amount. They do refund your original shipping charges, so it actually costs the seller money to have it returned also. They just have to eat that postage cost. Most sellers know this and will offer to work with you rather than just lose that money. I've had especially good luck with a few of the bigger sellers that I tend to come back to for things like decoders and supplies, especially. They usually run very close to MB Klein prices on decoders and don't charge any shipping so it ends up actually cheaper unless you're buying a dozen or something. I also saved something like $7 over Klein's ultimate price on a shaker of ballast b/c Klein charges a LOT to ship those. So yeah, just like any other merchants on the internet or even around town, if you're doing business with someone new you never know how it'll turn out, but at least with eBay you do have some recourse through that buyer protection program.

It is crazy how much some people will pay for things, though, as gijoe noted. Some people just don't bother to research. Of course, there are rare and out-of-production items that more legitimately get bid up over retail because people really can't get them anywhere else. However, you can also find really good deals. I just bought a Pioneer Zephyr set with extra car AND DCC for $300. The only company website where I could find one still for sale wanted $337 (retail $449) just for the 3-car set alone, and the extra car is another $100 (retail $140). So even that isn't a horrible price, but providing this eBay purchase is new in box like the guy says, it's a steal even before you add in the DCC. I'll let ya know how that ACTUALLY works out in a day or two :cool:
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RockH is still digging his HOLE. I had already closed the return after he refused what I considered a FAIR offer, half of the auction price ($29.75); That way nobody would loose. eBay had set a date limit of July 24 (but w/option to request more time) to settle the dispute. I got tired of his continued lies, a loco with a motor that was not even wired in does NOT run, not even the best Kato!

I have gotten several eMails since this transaction and dispute was CLOSED. In one email he offered to buy it back for what I paid for the loco and shipping, plus $5 for my repairs. I had cleaned up the goo/glue, repaired the smoke stack, and of course connected the motor, which I did a clean & lube. FIVE bucks? NO WAY. I bought it because I wanted one to go with my Jackson Sharp excursion car. After giving up on the seller, and decided to keep the loco, especially after the TLC I put into it, I converted it to DCC. On reason I like this specific Trix model, is its easy to convert to DCC and the decoder fits well between the motor and inside cab roof.

In another email he asked WHICH loco I was talking about, do WHAT? eBay includes auction info in ALL emails that I know of.

NOW HEAR THIS! IN yet another email, he is offering a partial refund (same as he had turned down before), in return for my withdrawing the well earned & honest NEG FB I left. I thought that transactions like this, buying back neg FB was against eBay policy??????

I took another look at his FB and... no surprise he has yet another new NEG FB. All his neutral & neg FB seem to be fairly recent, the past month and none in the previous 12 months. He has been selling a number N scale items but he not a big seller, total month FB total is 22 an only 45 for the past year. I have seen this before. Years ago one NY record had a great eBay FB record, so I bought a LP I wanted, Got stiffed and so did many other buyers by the same seller around the same time.

Anywho, back to rockhead, I have been ignoring his emails (via eBay), and while I would not mind a $15 refund, I have NO intentions to SELL him my FB. That would be OK for me, but what about OTHER potential buyers? Most eBay'ers rely to some degree in on the feedback they read to be HONEST and accurate. I say, he made his bed and he can LIE in it (pun-tended).

To be fair, MOST ebay sellers are honest and I have found great sources for hard to get items, often at attractive prices.
As the World continues to turn, (and rockhead continues his efforts to BUY my FB)

Got yet another email from rockhead today, he reminded me he changed his mind and wants the offer (I made earlier & he had refused) in return for me withdrawing my FB. Guess my silence (ignoring his emails) was deafening to him. I decided to respond to his todays email. I wrote him back, "NO", and that my FB was NOT FOR SALE.

Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, but no electric motor has ever ran w/o being wired up to a power source.



Master Mechanic
While I don't use e-bay as a regular source of models/materials/etc, I do peruse the brass section and if you know what you're looking for, you can find bargains there. I've bought to date 4 brass locos off of e-bay, got them dirt cheap, and they were also better than described. One than had been described as having an open frame five pole motor, actually had a rather hefty sagami can motor in it. It was also equipped with a new NWSL gearbox. To say that one was a bargain, doesn't begin to describe it.

I've always been very deliberate in my bids on what I would like to have. I put my Max bid in, and let the auction run its course. I also watch what other offers on the same model is from different sellers. I will check their FB and if it is good, I'll bid. I win about 90% of what I bid on, cause the model I'm wanting might be the worse looking of the other 3-4 models from different sellers. These will go at a much lower price than the other better looking models.
Some people have no clue about WEATHERING. I am not much better but I usually can tell weathering from crud, when I see it IN-PERSON. At train shows sometimes a nicely weathered item will have a LOW asking price just because it does not LOOK newer/cleaner/nicer. Sometimes I don't like the weathering job.

A few years ago I picked up a small box of stuff, 50cents per item. Some of it was pure junk, but among the junk/parts stuff was a BN GP loco that did not run. I had been told by the seller it did not run. I got home, placed it on my test oval and she was as dead as a doornail. Upon peeking under the hood (literally) I found the broken wire, repaired it (even converted it to DCC) and its been running ever since.

At a more recent train show a seller I ran into early on had a fair amount of N scale. I looked over what he had and picked up a few pieces I was interested in. Near the end of the show I went back by this seller. I made him an offer on what N scale items he had left. I got a good deal and he made a little more, plus he didn't have to haul it back home (and maybe yet another $how, read time and cost).

About 2yrs ago (maybe 3) I went to the huge Wheaton show. One guy there had a Pioneer Zephyr train resin KIT. Long story short, I looked it over and it appeared all the critical items were there. The seller made me an offer I tried but failed to resist, about $50. It was a lot of work, that is normal, especially a resin kit. EVERY last tiny part was there and the drive module was a KATO! It's still the only kit train I ever did, but it's also a pride and joy, runs great and yep I made it DCC.



I've had pretty good luck on EBay, but their shipping is a disaster. I just bought three Bachman trolleys from a dealer in the US. $22 each. Shipping - $12. Same thing on EBay, $16 for one, shipping - $22.


Gomez Addams
Staff member
I had a need for an inexpensive laptop, and found a deal on a Thinkpad, listed as being in perfect condition, just a little slow, for $53, shipped.
It does look good, but I don't know how well it functions, as there is a supervisor password locking it. The seller says it had no password on it when he shipped it, but it suddenly has one when I unbox it and turn it on. I've requested a refund, for "not as described", we'll see what Ebay says about it. He has already said he isn't giving me my money back. His deadline is the 27th, then Ebay can (and hopefully will) step in.

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