$150 In Write Offs, And Happier For It


Kitty PoP’s not losing any sleep over sunk costs.

I give up. I held out hope for a long time, but it’s now been about a year and I’ve finally given in to the realization that we’re never going to get our $150 back. So I’m taking mental write offs – $150 down the drain.

Technically it’s been a sunk cost for a while, since we counted it as spending against our monthly income statements about a year ago. But in the back of my mind I secretly hoped that (justice would prevail! and) we would get our rightful refunds. You see, there were two instances around this time last year where we were kinda-sorta scammed… Either that, or very unlucky – you be the judge.


I Prepaid For a Local Event

Around this time last year I prepaid $80 for an event that was supposed to take place a couple of months later. Because it was a local event, organized by friends of friends of friends (who own an LLC), I felt comfortable paying by check and knew that I was saving the organizers from having to pay the credit card processing fees. I wasn’t worried about writing a check… who would be?

  • The family had an LLC set up to run the event.
  • The event had been run successfully in the past, no complaints.
  • Friends of friends of friends. That means they’re trustworthy, right?

Well, about a month before the event was due to take place, I got an email that “due to family circumstances” the event was cancelled. But don’t worry, “We will be sending out your refund to you.”

I waited patiently for my refund, and when it didn’t come by the date of the event, I emailed nicely. Then a month later I emailed again, nicely. After a third month, I tracked down her phone number via friends of friends, and found out the family that was organizing the event had MOVED ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

The phone number was now defunct, as was the address for the LLC. All I had was an email address that didn’t seem to be getting much response. But I wasn’t giving up. This was $80! And hell, kindof the principle of the thing!

So I added the email address (a gmail, thank goodness!) to my gchat contacts and set myself a calendar reminder to ping the gchat contact at least once per month. And I have… for the last 8 months.

On no less than four (4!) separate occasions I did actually reach someone. Well, either a person or a very convincing bot that passed my mental turing test. And you know what the person on the other end of these conversations has told me? The check:

  • fell behind a file cabinet
  • was lost in the mail
  • was marked undeliverable and returned to sender
  • is currently in the mail on its way to me.

Ha. I’ll believe that last one when I see it. At this point it’s less about the money than the fact that someone has been LYING to me for the better part of a year. I’m sorry that the family organizing the event had problems – this much at least seems to be the truth, but this entire episode has gotten pretty ridiculous. I know of at least a couple other people who paid with checks who are in the same boat as I am, but I believe everyone who paid with a credit card was able to get their refund via contesting the charge with the credit card company.

So even though this hasn’t taken up that much of my time (about 5 minutes/month of late), I’m writing it off. The mental energy devoted to being annoyed with someone once a month, even for 5 minutes isn’t worth $80 anymore. I’d rather not get annoyed and just be out $80 than keep dealing with this and thinking about it.

You see, because it also makes me think of another $70 down the drain…


We’re Never Selling On Ebay Again

Also about a year ago, Mr PoP was going through some of his old belongings and decided to sell something on ebay. It had been a kindof hand-me-down (someone had said “I don’t want this, do you?” years ago), and Mr PoP hadn’t used it in ages. He had no plans to use it, so he figured out how much it was worth and was pleasantly surprised that these items typically sold for about $350 on ebay. Nice! An easy $350!

Not so fast. Mr PoP listed and sold the item on ebay for $350 (shipping included), and we paid $35 out of pocket to ship it insured to the buyer. The buyer immediately told Mr PoP the item was broken and the manufacturer said it would be $75 to repair. Mr PoP said, “Ok. Either return it and we’ll cancel the transaction or we can take $75 off the total.” Very reasonable, right?

Instead, the buyer just kept the item. And cancelled the charge on their paypal (which meant we didn’t get paid for the item). And stopped responding to Mr PoP via ebay’s message service. And then ebay charged us a $35 commission for selling the darned thing. So now we have no item (which though originally free to Mr PoP, was worth $350!), and we’ve had to pay $70 out of our own pocket. And neither ebay or paypal would listen to a word of our side of the story.

I wanted to challenge this one to our credit card company – at least to get the $35 back that ebay charged us. How can we be expected to pay a commission when we never received any money for the sale!?! But Mr PoP wouldn’t let me – I think Mr PoP’s right that ebay’s TOS covers them for this situation. Also, Mr PoP is pretty convinced the buyer is a professional scammer and considering they have our name and address it was better to leave it be rather than to stir it up and invite more hassles.

While I agreed that he was probably right, it still bothered me.


You see, I lumped the events together in my mind, probably in part because they happened so close together and were for similar amounts. So every time I thought about the $80 lost from the cancelled event, I got a sour taste in my mouth thinking about the $70 (and $350 in tangible goods!) we were out from the ebay scammer as well.

But I’m done eating sour grapes over these. I’ve finally said my sayonara to the hopes and dreams of vindication (and cancelled that calendar reminder to inquire monthly about the status of my refund) because at some point, NOT BEING FRUSTRATED is worth money, too!


But There Are Consequences

I’m not writing checks for local service providers anymore unless they are written at the time of or after a service is provided. Honestly, this sucks for local service providers since it increases their overhead and they’re paying the price for someone else’s poor business practices. And we hope to never sell anything on ebay ever again. And that also sucks. We weren’t mad ebay sellers, but we sold something on it about once per year in previous years with good results, so it’s annoying. And disappointing since, again, one bad apple is ruining it for us.

But at this point, it feels like that’s about all we can do. They’re sunk costs – heck, they’ve been sunk for about a year now! – so I need to let go of them emotionally as well.


What do you think, were we scammed? How do you decide when to pursue a refund and how far to take it? Would you have kept at it on these?

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