“Fun” with eBay

A couple of weeks ago, somebody posted to one of the rec.aviation newsgroups that he’d seen a Garmin GNS 530 on eBay going for $1000. Since we’re paying about $8,000 for the one we’re putting in our Dakota, it seemed too good to be true.

Examining the auction, it was too good to be true. It turns out it was so obviously a fraud that there was no way it could possibly be legit.

  • The seller requested that you email him before you bid (a sure sign that they want to sell it off eBay to avoid eBay’s minimal fraud protections.
  • The seller claimed to have 5 of them, and was willing to sell them for $1000 each (which is strange, because only one was up for auction, and had a minimum bid of $100 with no reserve, so how could he be sure of the price?)
  • All the seller’s other auctions were for high end electronic items, always with the same flags – always 5 of them, always stating a firm price, and always an admonition to contact him before bidding.

    I jumped through eBay’s stupid hoops to report the guy, and a few hours later, his auctions were all gone. And a few hours after that, they were back under another seller id. So I reported that one as well. Because I was also currently scanning eBay to see if I can get a deal on a new handheld GPS, I’ve been going back daily searching with a few of the fraud flags, and find the same auctions back again and again and again. I must have reported 15 of these things in the last week. Strangely enough, the sellers always seemed to have good feedback. And then I discovered why – every now and then the auctions will have, in the seller’s part of the html (as opposed to the bits that eBay controls) a “click here to see my other auctions” which takes you to a non-eBay address, but which requires you to log in with your eBay account and password!

    Now I’m really annoyed. Ebay is very fast at removing these auctions once you report them (although since it takes you about 5 screens to get to the part where you can report it, I can see getting tired of reporting these things pretty shortly). But why can’t they take some basic precautions before accepting a listing? For instance, the email address for these fraudulent listings hasn’t changed in a while. Why don’t they just block any account that tries to put in a listing with a mailto:XXXXXX@aol.com (I’ve redacted the actual address because I don’t want to appear in google searches for that address)? Or if the listing has an href tag, have the eBay software go to that link and see if it has eBay graphics either linked or embedded in it? Or if it has a form with a password type field, hold it up to some manual scrutiny? Some of these things would be easy for the scammers to bypass, but they’re not bypassing it now.

Not winning friends and influencing people

As I already wrote about earlier, when I went to fly it on Sunday, the Lance had a flat nose gear strut, and red hydraulic fluid oil all over the cowling. At least one other member expressed concern about the amount of grease leaking out of the prop as well – it’s been leaking for several months now, and we’ve been advised by the guy who did the annual to “keep an eye on it” but there is no urgency.

Being Sunday, there wasn’t anybody around to call unless I wanted to pay huge call-out fees. So Monday, when I went flying again with Jim, I called the local on-field FBO, Peidmont-Hawthorne, recently renamed “Landmark Aviation”. They don’t normally do our maintenance because they’re expensive and geared towards jets – we normally take our planes out to Batavia so that Jeff Boshart can work on them, as he’s been doing for decades. Anyway, I was hoping that somebody at Landmark could come over, maybe pump the strut up enough that I could fly it over to Batavia, or tell us whether it needed a full overhaul. But the guy there said he couldn’t look at it until Wednesday at the earliest.

Now here’s where things went wrong – I’m pretty sure I told him we were going to try to find another alternative, but evidently he thought he had the go ahead to take it on Wednesday if he didn’t hear otherwise, and I thought I’d told him to call me first on Wednesday, but I wasn’t 100% sure.

I talked to the Maintenance Coordinator for the Lance (I’ve recently become the assistant MC for it), and he said he was going to take it to Batavia on Tuesday, so I thought there would be no problem about the ambiguity with Landmark. But on Wednesday, he called me and he was extremely irate. Evidently he didn’t take it on Tuesday and when he came to pick up the plane on Wednesday Landmark had already taken it. Now, I’d taken a pretty good look at the plane on Monday morning, and the strut was utterly flat, leaving just inches of clearance between the prop and the ground. Even if he’d gotten it pumped up immediately before start-up, I had my doubts that he could get it to Batavia and land without hitting the prop, but he was determined to try. And he was pissed because once the Landmark mechanic had seen it, it would be a liability nightmare to take it out of the shop without the service being done. And he complained about me to the V.P. of Maintenance.

Anyway, I talked to the Landmark mechanic, and convinced him not to deal with the prop since Boshart has been monitoring the situation. But he confirmed my feeling that the strut was so badly gone that pumping it up wouldn’t work. He also didn’t have the parts, so he had to order them. They came overnight, and the plane was ready by about 1pm on Thursday. As soon as it was ready, I took it over to Batavia. Jeff Boshart looked at the prop and pointed out that the grease wasn’t as bad as the other members had thought – I figure it had picked up some dirt from the strut oil which made it look darker and more visible than before. He said the same thing he always says – we need to schedule a prop overhaul pretty soon, but we don’t need to ground the plane until it’s done.

Good news for me since I’m still hoping to fly it to Allegeny County (KAGC) on Sunday. Although there are isolated thunderstorms in the forecast – I’ll have to keep an eye on that, because dodging thunderstorms or waiting on the ground for it to pass can kind of suck.