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Warning about Ebay UK seller 'smokeandpetfreehome'

DaanLC

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TL;DR - Summary
I want to warn people to be very cautious with Ebay seller ‘smokeandpetfreehome.’ I have reason to believe he is, at worst, a scam artist; at best, he is untrustworthy as he lies, bullies and deceives.

I was the winning bidder on a Landcruiser 80 (now relisted). I had all intent to buy this vehicle, as the ad appeared genuine and the seller trustworthy. I could not get the vehicle checked prior to bidding due to it being Christmas. However, I had contacted the seller on Ebay before bidding, to ask about the advertised ‘Returns accepted.’ Via Ebay messaging, I had him confirm in writing that I could get the car checked and returned if required, if I ended up winning the auction.

Once I won, I paid a big deposit, arranged delivery and insurance. But I ended up pulling out of the deal once it became clear that his return policy was a lie and he was trying to prevent me from having the car checked before finalising the sale. Also, I had found in the meantime that the vehicle was not accurately described in the advert - it stated things it does not have.


It appears he normally sells Land Rovers. If you intend to bid on the now re-listed Landcruiser 80 I originally won, I suggest you read the story below for all the details. Also, there are threads elsewhere online of people complaining about this seller (which I only found after I was duped myself). It has become clear to me that he is a scammer, but if not, then at least an extremely disingenuous seller - the 100% rating is a red herring, on which more below as well.

He still owes me a large sum I paid in deposit. I intend to take him to small claims court to get the deposit back.
However I will admit that I made a classic mistake: I trusted a person that I did not know.



----- Full story follows below. It is VERY long but I felt I had to tell the whole thing. ------



Bidding on the car
I was the winning bidder on a Landcruiser 80 he had listed on Ebay. I had bid on the vehicle without having seen it, because I had noticed his auction offered ’Returns accepted within 14 days.’ I also was not physically able to view the vehicle as I was abroad to visit family (the auction ran through the Christmas period).

Before placing a bid, I had contacted him via Ebay messaging to ask whether in case of winning the auction, I could take the car for a check and if any big problems were found, have it returned to him within 14 days. He responded, in writing, ‘I'd accept a return, yes.’ This, in combination with his 100% Ebay rating and an auction that featured many pics and a video, prompted me to bid on and subsequently win the auction.


Context
I should pause here to give some context about myself. While I’ve been driving cars for a few years, including 4x4s off-road, I’ve never before purchased a car and generally know little to nothing about vehicles. I have a plan to go for a long overland trip by the end of 2018 so this is why I have been looking around at Landcruisers for a while now.

I had been looking at ads for Landcruisers for ages but never felt like I was getting any closer because of my aforementioned lack of knowledge. I never went to see a 2nd hand Landcruiser for sale as, first of all, I don’t own a vehicle so going across the country can be difficult or expensive to organise, and second - even if I would show up, I’d just be a tyre kicker due to my lack of knowledge.

When I saw the ad for the red cruiser that ‘smokeandpetfreehome’ had for sale, its video and its plethora of pictures strongly drew my (newbie) interest. When I saw ‘returns accepted’ I got seriously interested. And when he confirmed that he would take the car back after a check and something bad would be found, I became truly seriously tempted.

Then all that was left for me to do was to find reputable people to bring the car to for a check. That is what led me to find this forum. I found a couple of forum members (who I will not name just in case they feel uncomfortable with being associated with this story), who have been extremely generous in sharing information, knowledge and their time with me. They also offered to have the car delivered to one of them so that they could do a proper check.


Paying for the vehicle & arranging delivery
So, I had now won the auction and had found some trustworthy people to get the vehicle checked by. Then as per the auction rules, I contacted the seller to arrange a delivery date and pay a holding deposit. This is where I made my one true mistake.

The mistake was that I agreed to pay the deposit via Paypal using ‘friends and family’ as the payment option, in order to avoid Paypal fees. I should have never done that but did not realise at the time that you cannot raise a dispute for these kinds of payments with Paypal (which in hindsight of course makes sense).

We then proceeded to arrange a delivery date. We agreed to have it delivered to my home on a Friday. In the meantime I arranged with the forum guys to have the car checked on Saturday. I was still thinking, naively, that if we’d find anything major, I could just call the seller and make use of his 14 days return.


When it started to go wrong
Then on the Wednesday of the delivery week, so still three days before actual delivery, I changed my mind and decided I wanted to get the car delivered on Saturday instead, and do the check straight away before finalising the sale. I did not think this would be a bad idea because I still thought the seller was genuine in his intent. So I called him and explained what I wanted to do.

He did not take kindly to the idea, and immediately the first red flags came up. He told me over the phone that the return policy is ‘just something that Ebay puts on the auction.’ That is a lie.

I also reminded him that I had contacted him before bidding about getting it checked and maybe returned, which he denied. I thought he simply had forgotten so reminded him that it was all in our Ebay messaging history. He then deflected and changed the topic to Saturday likely not being possible because the car was in a secure compound, and he wasn’t sure if it could be accessed. He wanted to stick to the original delivery date.

I tried to reassure him that I wasn’t trying to weasel out of the deal. In fact I was in the middle of arranging a very expensive insurance policy for this car, which I finalised the day after. I told him that I fully expected that there would be some small things that would need attention, as it is an old vehicle. I just wanted total peace of mind to cover against anything very major, as per the agreement.

He simply said that he would ‘try’ to get it delivered on Saturday.

I waited throughout Thursday for any news, contacted him a few more times, which he ignored. Then on Friday he finally got back to me and basically told me that it wasn’t going to happen on Saturday and I would have to take receipt the car today. I could not get the car checked on Friday and I think he knew that, because I had told him as much. He did not want to discuss any alternative arrangements, and when I insisted I would not receive it that day, he hung up the phone. He then opened an Unpaid Item Case on Ebay.


Fallout
At this point it was clear to me that he really did not want to have the car checked, and that the whole return ‘policy’ was a bad joke. It now became apparent that he was trying to hide something about the vehicle. Also, with the help of more expert eyes on the ad, I had in the meantime become aware that there were several incorrect statements about the vehicle. It listed things it doesn’t have, simply put.

So the combination of the seller lying about his ‘return policy’, trying to force me to stick to an ‘original delivery date’ even though I had given him 3 days advance warning that I wanted that changed, him not showing an inkling of flexibility to arrange something alternative, and the ad itself having factual inaccuracies - the conclusion was now clear. I was not going to go ahead with the sale, and I wanted my deposit back, minus reasonable expenses he had incurred in the meantime. So that is what I wrote to him in response to the Unpaid Item Case.

He never responded. I wrote him again, with no response. I was not surprised but I wanted to keep a paper trail. Then I eventually gave him one more phone call, just to see what he would say. He essentially told me that he did not want to discuss a thing, and ended the conversation with ‘If you want your money back, take me to court. Bye!’ - and hung up.

That is precisely what I intend to do.


Conclusion - and further findings
In conclusion, I admit I have been naive. And as I have mentioned, I made one crucial mistake if I ever wanted to get my money back the easy way: using friends&family as Paypal payment method. Not my smartest moment, but my best defence to making that mistake was that I was lulled into trusting the guy.

However, unlike the seller, I handled fairly. I had all the intent to buy: not just the deposit, but also my very expensive insurance policy (now cancelled) and the bank records of taking out the remainder of the money out in cash the day before I expected the sale to happen, they all prove this.

I contacted him before bidding to confirm his returns policy and to explain my intent to get the car checked - but he backtracked and lied about this after I had won the auction.
And then there is the fact that the ad is simply incorrect.


Furthermore, after all this I ended up searching for his Ebay user name online. Turns out there is a lengthy thread about this seller on a separate forum (for Landrovers) with numerous complaints of people who say he duped them. (Proof that it is him) An image of a scam artist is starting to form, whereas previously I just thought he was being an arse but not necessarily a repeating ‘offender’ with a certain modus operandi, so to speak.

So I now know I am far from the only one who has had an experience like this with this seller. This is why, after this super long story, I urge anyone who intends to trade with this guy to be very cautious.


Why 100% rating?
And finally, how could a person with a trail of complaints and who in my own dealings clearly appears to be a scammer have a 100% Ebay rating? The truth is that I do not know, but I have some suspicions. First of all, I cannot leave him feedback myself at the moment. This because I did not actually end up buying the car, so the option right now is not available for me through the Ebay back end.

Second, he has changed his Ebay name recently (around October 2017) - as is shown in the two links of the previous paragraph, which link to a Land Rover Defender owner’s forum. I don’t know if you keep your previous ratings if you change your name. It may mean nothing, but it appears suspect.

So while the 100% rating indeed looks very good, I know that there is at least one person (myself) who would leave a bad rating if they could.
 

StarCruiser

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Truly sorry to hear this Dan. You could report him to eBay, may not get your money back. Try PayPal, or if the PayPal money came from your credit card try them, not sure how it would work through a third party like PayPal. You can usually see previous names on eBay if you look at their profile.

Don't be afraid to use a friendly solicitor if you go down the small claims route. It helps take the pressure off and costs are recoverable IIRC.

Horrible, especially after your insurance nightmare.

Lesson learned the hard way it looks like.
 

clivehorridge

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I’ll get in before the ebay users do, because I’ve never purchased from eBay.

This is a sad tale from my point of view, not only have you been denied a vehicle that (as advertised) was suitable for you and at the right price and time, you’ve also now got a sizable deposit bound up, pending the outcome of a court case.

You admit your main error (as you’ll have realized, these things are for your protection and thus the fee is worthwhile added value), but otherwise you’ve done nothing wrong.

The seller, on the other hand, has the vehicle, the deposit, and (subject to evidence) has falsified the sale and he’s unreasonably and illegally holding your deposit.

The only consolation I can give is you should do well in the small claims court, and then put all this behind you.

What p!sses me off the most is that these types are rarely prosecuted, and just move on to do the same to the next unforunate customer.

I wish you luck, and lessons learned.
 

StarCruiser

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Thinking about this Daan, you're unlikely to get satisfaction in the small claims court. People like this are rarely decent enough to actually turn up or give the money back. It has to take place in his local court which is going to be difficult and time consuming for you to attend. He's probably not a particularly pleasant character either if you catch my drift, would you want to meet him?
 

DaanLC

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Thanks to both of you, I agree - expensive lesson. I don't feel sorry for myself, but yes I would like to try and get this sorted through the court route. We will see how it goes. At least I have levelled up quickly in the 'how to (not) buy a used car' department, haha! I will find the right Landcruiser sooner or later.
 

StarCruiser

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Thanks to both of you, I agree - expensive lesson. I don't feel sorry for myself, but yes I would like to try and get this sorted through the court route. We will see how it goes. At least I have levelled up quickly in the 'how to (not) buy a used car' department, haha! I will find the right Landcruiser sooner or later.
At least you've found this forum and the really helpful genuine members on it.
 
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Towpack

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So sorry to hear this Dan. I've bought (and sold) many items on Ebay but never a vehicle. I've always used Paypal and always got refunds on buying disputes but I didn't use the 'friends and family'option you describe so can't really comment on that. If you change your Ebay ID your feedback score is carried over to the new. The 'distance selling regulations' were replaced in 2014 with 'Consumer Contract Regulations" https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-contracts-regulations which give you refund rights if the vehicle was not as described. As above, the best advice is to see a solicitor, possibly one who specialises in such procedures. Good luck.
 

clivehorridge

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Very good advice TP, lawyers know their way about and around the law, and to enter a court without one is often the route to losing an otherwise open and shut winnable case.

In my experience, court procedures are far from a simple formality.
 

flint

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Sorry you ran into problems Dan. One thing that strikes me is that he is not listed as a business seller (which offers more buyer protection) on ebay, whereas he does seem to be doing this as a business. Might be worth getting in touch with his local trading standards office (http://www.wyjs.org.uk/trading-standards/) to see if they have any knowledge of him or his dealings.
 

Kiera Wells

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I watched a TV program about this scram a couple of months ago, there is no car only a photo (it could be anybody's ) they put a car on Ebay "sell it" but its delivery only, you pay with PAYPAL they say you can have your money back if you don't like it cos paying with paypal and from ebay you are covered NO. they open a new bank account each time get the money transferred into it, its opened in a fake name, they remove the money the minute its paid in so paypal and ebay can not grab it. the only way is to report this to the police as its a gang doing it. sorry for your loss. I think it was a Panorama BBC 1.
 

Chris

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Just make sure that the two who claim to he helping you aren't just helping themselves Daan. There's some right dodgy fe****s on here!

I know, I'm one of them. I know I wouldn't trust me. Ha ha.

Seriously fella I do hope you get some justice and we can find you a cracking 80 to get into. Good to meet you and you know we're here to help you in that search.
 

AndycruiserguyLomas

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Just make sure that the two who claim to he helping you aren't just helping themselves Daan. There's some right dodgy fe****s on here!

I know, I'm one of them. I know I wouldn't trust me. Ha ha.

Seriously fella I do hope you get some justice and we can find you a cracking 80 to get into. Good to meet you and you know we're here to help you in that search.

And I'm the other.

It was great meeting you Daan and I hope the afternoon we spent was educational.
 

Chris

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No! Was it you? Damn I thought I recognised you. Hey, where's my cheese?

See, I said we couldn't be trusted.
 

AndycruiserguyLomas

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You only get one chance with the cheese Chris. you came and you forgot, end of. It was Cyprus's best Halloumi. BTW its great grilled. Ha.

See, we can't be trusted.
 

Chris

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I didn't forget. You didn't offer after a very clear offer on which we agreed. I have it in writing. You'll be getting a letter in the post!
 

Scott

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An unfortunate experience, I hope it all comes good for you in the end.

Re not being mobile enough to be able to view 80s, I'd consider buying a cheap car to get you on the road, it'll start the insurance and allow you travel to view 80s. Viewing 80s will always involve a fair bit of travel, as they are thin on the ground and often owned by people who live off the beaten track. Once you've found the right 80 the cheap car be sold; if it takes you a year to find the right one you'll hopefully have one years no claims behind you.

Meeting Chris and Andy will have given you an invaluable insight into the 80 series Land Cruiser; another good step would be to get along to the club meet at Lincomb, it's the biggest gathering of 80's in the UK and the perfect place to pick owners brains and get more familiar with these great trucks.

Good luck with the search.
 

StarCruiser

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Maybe this is what 'karma' intends for you Daan? Scott speaks good sense.

I've still got the Smart car… :whistle:
 

AndycruiserguyLomas

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I didn't forget. You didn't offer after a very clear offer on which we agreed. I have it in writing. You'll be getting a letter in the post!

Going back to the cheese........ The important part of this thread which is relevant to the point of honesty and trust :lol:


An unfortunate experience, I hope it all comes good for you in the end.

Re not being mobile enough to be able to view 80s, I'd consider buying a cheap car to get you on the road, it'll start the insurance and allow you travel to view 80s. Viewing 80s will always involve a fair bit of travel, as they are thin on the ground and often owned by people who live off the beaten track. Once you've found the right 80 the cheap car be sold; if it takes you a year to find the right one you'll hopefully have one years no claims behind you.

Meeting Chris and Andy will have given you an invaluable insight into the 80 series Land Cruiser; another good step would be to get along to the club meet at Lincomb, it's the biggest gathering of 80's in the UK and the perfect place to pick owners brains and get more familiar with these great trucks.

Good luck with the search.

As these 80's get older the relevance of taking someone fluent in "80 speak" becomes more apparent when viewing an 80 for sale. Apart from the ones which are being positively maintained by enthusiasts (LC club members and the like) the rest are slowly corroding away and heading ever towards Wisbech:whistle:.
They aren't all as good as they look and photos are always flattering so as Chris said " don't be deceived".
Take this one as an example, its a known ex club owners Cruiser.

https://www.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C942589

It looks good and indeed was a Cruiser I, and Byron considered when it was for sale in Manchester. However on the discussion I had with Byron I didn;t think it would be as good as it looked.
Turns out Paul off the Forum ended up with it and in conversations with him I had about the 24V auto thing it turns out my suspicions were confirmed when he told me about the disappointing ammount of corrosion on the bodywork.
Sadly Paul passed away and the Cruiser was put on Ebay. Obviously this "known" trader went to view with cash and it was removed from the site and now up for sale at an inflated price but it doesn't take away the fact it needs remedial bodywork. Everything sells at the right price and that is why its sticking maybe.

Regarding the Lincomb weekend you are more than welcome to tag along with us Daan if you have a tent. Its the best way to meet Cruiser owners and absorb the wealth of information and experience out there.
 

DaanLC

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Chris and Andy you two have been invaluable with helping me out so yes, very much obliged - truly awesome.

Not only through various private messages and phone calls but also by inviting me over and showing me around a couple of Cruisers (an 80 and Colorado) to teach me a whole lot of basics as to what to look out for and pay attention to.

I was not expecting that kind of level of help at all when I signed up to this forum, and it's clear from the extensive responses and activity in general here on this forum that the place is full of super enthusiastic people who want to help out.

It's quite an intense community, in a really good way!

I'd love to come round to that Lincomb weekend, I'll search the forum later today for some more info (presumably there's a few threads about when and what).


As for buying the cheap car to view Landcruisers, I think that is a good idea and I'm thinking about it, but I'd have to get rid of it as soon as I buy a cruiser, because I don't have the space to park two vehicles. Luxury problems, I know; might be the best way forward nevertheless. Alternatively I may rent a car just for some weekends.
 
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