When Two Buyers Want the Same Item At the Same Time - What Would You Do?

This doesn’t happen often ... thank heavens ... but when it does, it sure can become complicated, even unpleasant. And that’s what happened with us recently when 2 buyers wanted the same item at the same time, but we didn’t know that and neither did they!

We listed a 14k gold dog pin that had a designer’s name on a plaque on the back. A buyer approached us with an offer several hundred dollars below our asking price. My partner countered the buyer’s offer with a price that she would accept. The buyer wrote back thanking her, not confirming one way or another if the counter-offer was acceptable, but wanting to know if she knew any more about the designer.

While she was researching the designer’s name (and finding very little information) the prospective buyer wrote again, this time saying he had located the exact same pin on auction at eBay, but by a different, very famous designer. Could she explain that? Well no, she couldn’t but immediately we all began to wonder if the item on eBay was authentic, given how much reproduction goes on these days using famous designer names. She suggested the buyer write to the eBay seller to see if he could shed some light on his item. In the meantime, she continued to research, now looking for a link between the two designers. Perhaps the dog pin she had was a piece farmed out to a lesser known designer by the famous one.

Over the course of several hours and continuing into the wee hours of the morning, my partner and the buyer continued corresponding. They chatted about their own dogs, the pins, and how often famous designer pieces are copied. In the meantime, the eBay seller got back to the buyer and unequivocally stated that his pin was authentic. My partner’s curiosity peaked. She asked if the buyer would send her the link to the pin on eBay. He said he would, provided she guarantee the counter-offer price she had quoted him if he were to go ahead and buy her pin. Of course she agreed. We don’t go back on what we say. He sent her the link and then confessed that he had a very high bid ... nearly $1000 more than what she’d agreed to sell her pin for ... on the eBay item. Okay. That’s fine she said. She looked carefully at both pins and indeed, they were identical. This wasn’t a situation any one of us could draw any conclusions about easily.

Well long story short, he told her he’d like to wait out the auction as he was a collector of the famous designer’s pieces and would prefer to win that one if he could. No sooner had she received that information but in came a purchase order for her own pin ... from a different buyer. This buyer wasn’t asking for discounts. He’d simply placed the order while all this was going on. My partner, confused at first, wrote the buyer she’d been talking with to determine if he’d placed the order after all under a different name. No, he hadn’t. He was waiting, as he’d said, to see what happened in the auction, and yes, he understood that the pin was now being sold to someone else. My partner issued the invoice to the actual buyer and went to bed.

The next day, when the new buyer had already put his cheque in the mail, the first buyer wrote. He had lost the auction. Was there any way now that he could still get her pin.

He’d even pay her asking price. She told him that wasn’t possible as a purchase order had been placed and payment was being made but she promised that if her buyer were unhappy or didn’t keep the pin, she’d let the unlucky buyer know.

This is where things became upsetting. The first buyer wrote, suggesting she was being unethical since she had been in negotiations with him when the second buyer placed the order. He felt she should explain the situation to the actual buyer and cancel that buyer’s order and suggest he put a stop payment on the cheque he’d issued. He pointed out how upset his wife was about losing out on both pins and repeated that after all, he was in there first.

Well, this is where we turn it over to you, the reader. What do you think? What would you do? Bear in mind that while my partner had made him a counter-offer (which he’d never actually said he accepted) he never placed the order and was simultaneously bidding on a similar item on eBay. If he’d won the eBay item, obviously, he wouldn’t have purchased her pin. But now he was saying she should cancel the order of a person who had already forwarded payment.

My partner refused to do as he asked. Was she being, as he suggested, “unethical”? What would you do?

By Viga Boland

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