Friday, 19 April 2019

HAL's (Indian?) Sister works for EBay, Says they Have "Dedicated Team" Scanning Antiquities Sales

A reader has sent me a copy of an exchange he had a few days back with eBay. Hougenai was annoyed by finding a lot of supposedly ancient lithics being sold on EBay by people posing as knowledgeable sellers, who in fact are either woefully ignorant, or simply charlatans. He decided to try and do something about it. He wrote to EBay Live Help:
2019 - 04 - 15 I am concerned over the number of Lithics (stone tools and implements) offered for sale via ebay that are not as they are being claimed by the vendors.
he did not have long to wait for a reply (one suspects outsourced to a SE Asian helpline):
11:04:57 UTC Pradnya   Welcome to eBay Live Help, my name is Pradnya. I would be happy to help you today.
11:05:11 UTC Pradnya   Hello Hougenai
11:05:30 UTC hougenai2011   hi Pradnya
11:06:44 UTC hougenai2011     I should be more specific. this relates to uk sales and adverts
11:07:07 UTC Pradnya  In this case I would need to connect you to our dedicated team who looks into such cases. May I go ahead and connect you to them right away?
11:07:26 UTC hougenai2011   by all means, thanks
11:07:32 UTC Pradnya    Please be connected, while I am transferring this chat to our relevant team.
11:07:42 UTC hougenai2011    ok
That took just two minutes:

11:09:43 UTC Vini
Welcome to Community Watch Live chat. My name is Vini. Please allow me 2-3 minutes to go through your previous chat.
11:10:17 UTC hougenai2011
Hi Vini,
11:10:25 UTC Vini
Hello Hougenai
11:12:12 UTC Vini
I can see that you are concerned about sellers on eBay who are listing misleading items on their account. Am I correct?
11:13:11 UTC hougenai2011
Yes. Items are being described as things they are not.
11:13:56 UTC Vini
Thanks for confirming and sharing your concern with us.
11:15:09 UTC Vini
Rest assured, we have a dedicated team who is already in the process of reviewing all such listings and take appropriate action on them in accordance with the policy.
11:15:59 UTC hougenai2011
This has been an ongoing problem over at least 12 months, the time i have taken an interest
11:17:14 UTC hougenai2011
I recognise Lithics is a specialist field but there are experts who can be consulted.
11:17:55 UTC hougenai2011
There are certain vendors who seem to be turning the representation of wholly natural objects as man made.
11:17:55 UTC Vini
I completely agree to your point and as I said, our team is reviewing all such items listed on the site.
11:18:44 UTC hougenai2011
Is there any way i can be notified of their findings?
11:19:52 UTC hougenai2011
Or could i and my various archaeological contacts notify you of particular problems with artefacts or vendors?
11:20:13 UTC Vini
Due to privacy policy we cannot disclose what action we will be taking on someone else's account.
11:20:54 UTC hougenai2011
ok i understand and respect that
11:21:06 UTC Vini
Thank you for your understanding.
11:22:23 UTC Vini
Also, you can surely report such items to us using the "Report Item" link, so the report will be reviewed by the policy team and appropriate action can be taken on them.
11:22:31 UTC Vini
Please let me know is there anything else I can assist you with?
11:24:11 UTC hougenai2011
I don't think so. Thanks for your help.
11:24:24 UTC Vini
You're Welcome.
11:24:27 UTC Vini
Thank you for contacting eBay Live Chat. Have a Good day!
11:24:33 UTC Vini
Bye. Take care!
11:24:56 UTC
Chat ended by Vini
Now, who thinks 'Vini' is a pre-programmed AI robot?

Now, what's all this nonsense about "Rest assured, we have a dedicated team who is already in the process of reviewing all such listings"? That is obviously a corporate lie, because these 'lithics' that have raised these red flags have consistently featured on the EBay portal for at least the last two years - time enough for the most laid-back Californian "dedicated team" that is "already in the process of reviewing all such listings" to react. Where is this specialist team based, how were the lithics specialists in it educated and selected? What are the ethical problems of archaeologists working in such a position?

Or does such a team exist at all? Do EBay actually give a tinkers whether the 'antiquities' sold through its portal (sales from which EBay gets a cut of the profits each time) are authentic or not? If 'no [US] law is broken', is it actually a problem for eBay? Or is it just a problem for the clients who get stung through their own ignorance? If it was fake Gucci bags that Baz Thugwit was selling, a quick note from Gucci's lawyers mentioning lost profits and a court case threatened would probably get a reaction, but knobbly stones sold by one guy to another who obviously wants to buy a knobbly stone that has a good story to it will carry on being sold there. As well as the fake ancient Greek coins, the souk shabtis, and the other bizarre 'bazaar archaeology' items that abound on EBay, for does it not say in the template of every single page on that canny site "Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing"? That's because the Corporation just offer a venue, but it is the individual seller that is responsible for accurately describing what they sell. There is no corporate responsibility that places the onus on EBay checking how honest, or informed, those random sellers are. It is the same on Facebook, or whatever social media platform somebody chooses to sell 'antiquities' on.  The message is simple, if somebody buys antiquities online they'll most likely not be buying what they think. 

Thus fake antiquities will continue to be sold, the ignorami and deluded sellers will thrive, and buyers will continue to be ripped off. And Vini will continue to inform us all  "Rest assured, we have a dedicated team who is already in the process of reviewing all such listings".


Philip de Jersey said...

hi Paul
I used to spend an inordinate amount of time reporting fake Celtic coins to ebay and/or trying to help out sellers who had purchased fake coins. Nine times out of ten I got nowhere, because the ebay system is weighted so much in favour of the sellers. In the period I was doing this - say late 90s for about ten years - ebay made it harder and harder to do what I was trying to do: making it nearly impossible to contact buyers unless one was actually involved in a transaction with them, and making it harder and harder to actually contact a human being at ebay rather than an automated response, as you've shown here. And even back then, 12 or 15 years ago, the routine response was 'we review all such items', which was patent nonsense.
Having changed job in 2007 I don't keep on top of Celtic material on ebay as I used to, but my impression on a quick glance at what's on offer is that the quantity of interesting/quality material (leaving aside for a moment the question of whether it has been recorded with the PAS or elsewhere, or should even be on sale) has diminished dramatically since, say, the late 1990s, when genuinely interesting or unusual coins did appear fairly often. Now it is flooded with low grade material, fakes from eastern Europe, and sellers who evidently have either no knowledge of what they are selling or who are simply trying to defraud.
In these circumstances as with the 'lithics' you've been highlighting, it is impossible to keep tabs on everything being offered on ebay and perhaps regretfully I think we have to default back to 'let the buyer beware'. One interesting thing I found in alerting people who had bought fake coins was that quite often they were not pleased to be told they had fake coins, sometimes out of a sense of embarrassment rather than anger with the seller. Quite honestly if you are daft enough to buy a funny-shaped piece of stone from somebody who can barely string a sentence together, well, you deserve what you get. And the people selling these items are never going to listen to a word that the PAS says - or somebody like you or me - in a million years. There are other battles to be fought.

Paul Barford said...

Thanks for that comment Philip

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