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The tale of the stolen eBay listings

SCD columnist T.J. Schwartz shares his experience with an eBay listing that he felt was stolen and placed on another website.

By T.J. Schwartz

I’ve been selling on eBay and the internet for 16 years now and I thought I had seen or heard everything. I was wrong.

You see, I was representing the owner of a JSA authenticated, autographed Albert Einstein wirephoto, taken with his father-in-law in 1951 in Einstein’s home in New Jersey. It’s been in the family for 66 years. An Einstein autograph is by far more rare than a Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig autograph.

Anyway, I was selling it on eBay for them. We had pictures, front and back, the JSA LOA and the whole story up there. So imagine my surprise when my client called me one day and told me that he saw another similar piece on a website while trolling the internet. He was upset that we had competition. So I decided to check it out.

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Believe it or not, there it was. Yep, it was our piece. My photos, listing, verbiage, it was all there and at double the price. I called my client, who is older and never picked up on it. He was as stunned as I was. I then picked up the phone and called them. I asked for the boss, but was rebuffed. I instead unloaded on the rep and demanded the owner call me back and take it down. Neither happened.

I then called Alex, my right hand guy for 30 years and told him about this. He always seems to know everything eBay and is a practicing attorney now. He talks me down by telling me that this stuff has been going on forever. That was news to me.

He said, “How does this hurt you? If they sell it, they must buy yours. Happens all the time. You are not damaged.”

I thought a second and as much as it pains me to say, I had to agree. But to think there are owners of major websites who make a living stealing other people’s listings, doubling the prices making their site look like they have everything is amazing.

Just spend some money and build a great site. Then start searching the web, especially eBay for unique items for sale via “Buy It Now.” Load your site with these stolen listings after doubling the prices. Then spend more money to get your site to the top of searches. Kick back in your empty warehouse and wait. Someone buys and pays. Then you buy and pay. It gets shipped to them and then they ship it to their buyer. Keep the change and move on.

Pretty good deal, eh? Boy was I behind the times. How many websites have you seen that seem to have everything from Aaron Judge BGS 9.5 1/1 cards to pearly white Babe Ruth signed baseballs?

They look awesome, but have no inventory, just a lot of cash. What a legal scam this is. That’s right, legal. There are no damages to the party that had their listing stolen because they are getting free advertising and if sold by the other guy, they get paid.

Genius. Of course, I still think it sucks.

I am writing this during National Convention week. I had to miss only my second National since 1991. I’ve got one last surgery coming up, a skin graft, due to my diabetes wound on my right leg. I’m actually looking forward to getting this bandage off my leg where it’s been for the past two years.

I can tell you that my spies tell me that the National is still the Disneyland of card shows as I dubbed it back on these pages in 1991. I had some people there buying for me and I was getting what I needed. I’ve been chasing Cody Bellinger signed baseballs and anything else. I feel there is a lot more upside than Aaron Judge who is already in the stratosphere and can only move down, in my opinion. Buy Bellinger.

I’ll be back to the National next year. 

Behind the Counter

My store is in the wealthiest section of L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, Woodland Hills. But we, like all of L.A. and most major cities, have a homeless problem. For years, they have been building mini cities in parking lots, on sidewalks, behind supermarkets, and right in front of my store, Porkys. Imagine coming to work and seeing 4 or 5 homeless lounging out right there. I’m on Ventura Boulevard, the equivalent of Broadway or Main Street in any city, it doesn’t get any better, yet we have this problem.

I feel for them and always treat them with respect. They’ll move for me and have now stayed away from my storefront. In fact, they’ll come in every day and respectfully try to sell me something they found. I’ll buy a few dollars' worth and smile. It’s better than getting a rock in my window at 3 a.m.

One day this guy came in with some autographed photos and unsigned magazines they found in the trash. It was a bunch of crap except for the photos. Barry White and Suge Knight caught my eye. I took a shot along with the rest of the stuff and gave him a much needed twenty. I sent the photos to JSA and… lucky. They were authentic.

It pays to be nice. It would be nicer if the problem could be fixed, but at least I’m avoiding that rock.

Then there is Kenny, a nice kid who’s been coming to me since 1989. He doesn’t spend a bunch, but is so nice. You see, Kevin is a little slow, shall we say. I love the kid who is well in his 40s now. He always asks me for my autograph and smiles a lot.

Lately, he has been bringing me “presents” like a 1991 Pinnacle Football box or a 1990 Topps Hockey box. I put them out for a buck a pack. Ultimately, he’ll come in and ask what new packs I have. I’ll point to his stuff and he’ll grab some. I tell him no charge and he says thanks. My feeling is that since I stopped carrying wax years ago to focus on vintage cards and autographs only, that he wanted me to have packs when he came in. Great guy.

So what’s the motto of this tale? First, don’t get diabetes. Second, be good to kids, and third, be nice to the homeless. You won’t get a rock in your window at 3 a.m.

Three weeks ago I got a rock thrown in my front door at about 3 a.m. So did a dozen or so stores down the Boulevard. It cost a quick grand. And, oh yeah, get this … I have a planter in front of my joint filled with 8-year-old cacti. Someone stole my best and biggest cactus. That’s right, dug it out cleanly and is prospering on another’s property.

Just another day Behind The Counter.

Until next month, I remain…On Your Side.