So, do any of you have adult children? My youngest son is 20 and I had a challenge this fall trying to stay out some of his stuff. So before I get to the story, let me share a card with you. I had two friends from church have surgery recently and I wanted to let them know I was thinking of them as they recover. I made two identical cards and dropped them in the mail this week.
I inked up Papertrey Ink's 'on the couch' set and had fun playing with lime green.
So on to my story. When Eric graduated high school he did all kinds of research to decide which laptop he would get. He decided upon a Hewlett Packard and headed off to Engineering school with a fine new computer. Well, there was an accident and the original laptop was shot. Let's just say that there was some horsing around in a dorm room and a bunk bed railing found it's way into the LCD display and it stopped working. Thankfully HP has a generous extended warranty program and Eric was given a replacement laptop under the warranty. Note - if any of you have college students - ALWAYS buy the extended warranty. Both Sarah and Eric got replacement laptops while in college. College students are HARD on those machines and it's worth the investment. Okay back to the story. Well I don't know why but Eric never liked his replacement laptop. He complained a lot about it and drove us all crazy with his whining..... it's so slow.... it's not as good as my original.... So when his birthday rolled around this year he asked for money toward a new laptop. We were happy to help him with that. He figured he could sell his old laptop (which was really only 6 months old) and use some of the money to help pay for the new mac. Sounded good to me. The first mistake he made was thinking that his 6 month old laptop was worth a lot of money. Sadly, in the world of electronics, these things get devalued very fast. He estimated it was worth 550.00. I told him I would buy it from him for $250.00 if he couldn't sell it for what he thought it was worth. He accessed this and decided to go ahead and get the mac. So on his birthday weekend he had a nice Mac computer and began the process of selling the old one.
I really wanted to jump in and help him out. I have sold a bunch of stuff on crags list and ebay and while I'm no expert, I'm not a newbie but he was in South Carolina and I was in MA, so I stayed out of it and only offered advice when he asked. I would have had him bring it home on Fall Break and I would list it on craig's list or ebay, but he wanted to do it himself and again since he thought it was worth more than I did, I figured it would be better to let him handle the deal himself.
So, a few weeks ago, he tells me he put it on ebay with a buy it now price of $550.00 and some guy bought it. Then the fun began. The guy texts him and tells him to ship it to South Africa. The guy was willing to pay him an extra $60.00 in shipping fees and that the computer was for his son. Both Eric and I were on alert. There were a number of things that seemed fishy. For one, the guy couldn't pay via paypal on ebay. Eric had not set up the listing correctly. Then the guy wants to ship it overseas. I was pretty concerned the deal was risky but both Eric and I wanted to believe the buyer was honest. I sent him info about ebay scams and warned him not to ship to an address that is not verified on paypal. I also said 'be sure to get a signature upon delivery' and get a tracking number. He calls ebay and discusses the situation with them on two occasions and they assure him the deal is fine, he was smart to be concerned but it was all set. So he heads to the post office and pays $77.00 to ship the computer to the South Africa address. He tells me that he shipped it and I ask him about signature delivery and a tracking number. He tells me he couldn't get either of those and I get even more nervous. At this point, I'm invoking my yoga breathing to stay calm but everything inside me is thinking - how could you ship something worth $550.00 and not have a signature, to a foreign company!!!!?????? but I did my yoga breathing and thought to myself..... if he doesn't get his money, it's bad, but it's not tragic. He won't be in the hospital or jail, the mafia won't beat him up.. he'll just have lost quite a bit of his hard earned money from his summer job. Sigh. So I try to encourage him realizing at this point, the shipment is on it's way and he's probably just as anxious as we were about the deal.
So today he calls me.... the paypal account that was used to pay for the item was phony. When he called paypal to find out why his payment hadn't cleared, they told him they had no record of his order number. He realized he had been scammed and was not too happy about it. Sigh. The worst part is that not only is out the value of the laptop, but he spent $77.00 to ship it! Bummer. Big Bummer. All he can do now is file a police report, which he did, but none of us think anyone will ever see any money or the laptop again.
He actually was pretty calm about it. He realized a few places he went wrong along the way. He talked to ebay twice about it and both times they assured him the deal would be fine. He never talked to paypal and if he had talked to them before shipping, he would have realized the account was phony. I think ebay should have been clear that from THEIR end the deal looked okay, but encouraged him to talk to paypal about the money part. I'm not very happy with ebay. If they are going to staff customer service, why re-assure a first time seller if in fact he is at high risk for a scam. Arghhhhh. My instinct was that it was a scam because the ebay buyer was willing to pay more than the market price for the product. As much as Eric wanted the computer to be worth that, it was probably only worth half that. So, tough, tough lesson learned. I don't think Eric is going to be doing a lot of high ticket items through ebay anytime in the future. Sadly, when I talk to people about this, others have similar stories of scams. One guy told of a $30,000 RV deal gone bad. Yikes. It's really a shame, because ebay and craig's lists are GREAT venues to sell unwanted stuff. A few bad eggs spoil it for so many others. Sigh.
As for me, I am doing just fine. I was proud that I stayed out of it and let him do it himself. I know maybe I could have prevented the loss by being ubber controlling mom and insisting on doing it for him, but he would have always felt that I cheated him out of the true value of the computer and wouldn't have learned this tough, touch lesson. I've heard it said, let your kids make mistakes when the stakes aren't quite so high. Who knows what valuable lesson Eric learned from this $550.00 deal that in later life will prevent an even greater financial error. A long time ago, Sarah made a very bad money decision regarding her clothing allowance and she learned at age 12 from that mistake. Basically she spent her entire fall clothing allowance on a 2 piece bathing suit (in October) but she learned to budget her money better when her spring clothing allowance came out. And yes, she enjoyed that bathing suit for many years, but how often can a 12 year old wear a bathing suit in New England. Luckily for her she didn't out grow her 2 pairs of jeans that she had from the year before. Lessons like that are hard to learn, but necessary.
Well, thanks for visiting my blog today and hearing our sad story. Do you have an experience with your kids of letting them do things for themselves, even when it may result in mistakes? How did it work out for you?