A Boy and His Bike That Wasn’t

This is a long story, and I don’t know if I’ll have the patience to get through it. I actually tried it last week, and gave up, so here it goes…..

As some of you may now, I’ve decided to take up cyclocross, an esoteric branch of cycling that involves riding around a circuit in the woods in the dead winter. What really makes it different from your garden variety mountain bike race is the fact that you are often forced to dismount and run (while carrying your bike) up steep hills, over logs, streams, or bogs. Again, all of this is done in the winter, when it is cold, wet, and muddy. Figures it’s a continental European thing….

So I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to use Jen’s commuter bike, which is a ‘cross bike fortified for urban assault. It’s proven to work okay, though it’s heavy, and the lack of any sealed bearings require me to essentially rebuild it after every hard ride in the woods. I’ve been looking at eBay once a day to see if there were any really good deals on used ‘cross bikes. I thought if I could find one, maybe I’d sell the singlespeed and buy it.

Well, about two weeks ago, the deal of the century presented itself. A Specialized CX, two years old, and in pristine condition. It looked too good to be true (note bitter irony here). The guy selling it was in Europe, so I send him an email to get an idea of what shipping was going to cost.

Rather quickly he got back to me saying he’d sell it to me right now for $200 plus shipping and insurance (an additional $100). Well, that sounded like a good deal, but alas, he didn’t mark it as “Buy It Now” so I’d have to fight it out with the other bidders, meaning the price would sky-rocket by the time the auction was over. I responded and said it didn’t look like we could do that. He came back and said he’d cancel the auction and sell it to me.

At this point, a few alarms went off. First, I thought, the bike was stolen. No way this guy (who said he was bike shop owner) would sell this ride for $200. Second, I thought, am I funding a terrorist cell? I mean, the guy was in Italy and who knows what those Italians are up to. Then I thought, how could I be funding a terrorist with $300? What’s he going to get for that? A few clips for his AK-47? I asked the guy a few questions about the bike, and he answered quickly and correctly, so I figured he at least had the bike, even if it was stolen.

So I said “hey sure, sell me the bike.” It took him about 5 attempts to cancel to the auction (further evidence will show he’s not all that bright), but finally he did it. So we had a deal…I wire him half the cash now, and half when he sends me the tracking number for the package. Deal. I sent him the cash, he sends me the tracking number, I send him the rest of the cash. Yay, Brian has a new bike!

Well….not so fast. After a few days, the package hadn’t moved according to UPS, and this guy wasn’t answering any emails. Uh oh. After three days, I knew I had been scammed. I didn’t really have any recourse through eBay, since the transaction took place outside of the trading area (and, I would have only seen a small percentage of my money if I could go through eBay). I tried to think of what I should do. Then….

I receive an email from another eBay member who asks if the seller of the aforementioned Specialized CX emailed me about buying the bike directly. I responded with a simple yes. This guy gets back to me saying he had been approached as well, and had purchased the bike too. REALLY?. He sent his phone number and told me to call him….

He gave me his story, which was almost identical to mine (down to the text in the emails from the seller). Suddenly, I knew I had been scammed, but also felt much better about it, since this guy (who seemed to be very very eBay saavy) was too. Misery loves company…..What next, I said. He had already contacted the tourism department in the town where this chump lived, and they were going to get in touch with the police (since the Italian police didn’t speak English). He would also pass along all of my information to help their case. We at least had a glimmer of hope that we’d see our money, or, in the very least, this guy would get his….

Skip to four days later. I’m looking at eBay, checking the listings for ‘cross bikes, when I see a Specialized CX that looks a whole like the one I tried to buy. Like I said, no one said this guy was bright. He listed it on eBay again with a different seller ID. I called my also-scammed friend, and we had a good chuckle, then he sent all of our information to eBay, and requested that they send any info they have to the authorities in Italy. Hours later the bike was off the listing, and all of this seller’s accounts were suspended.

So…hopefully some day, I’ll be able to write that I got my money back. I’m not terribly hopeful, but I have Learned My Lesson®. What really sorta sucks about the whole thing is that I’m out the money, I don’t have a bike, and I’m that much more in the hole before I can a buy a new one. Oh well…..live and learn, live and learn.