It was the Summer of 2020. Sad girl summer. I had been saving over a year to update my old digital camera. I could not really afford a new one but I had seen some pretty decent ones over at Ebay Kleinanzeigen.
When I first found that website, it blew my mind. In Colombia that would never work. There‘s also ebay there and other auction websites but all transactions always go thru a middleman that gets the money and does not give it to the seller unless he delivers the goods. This classified ads website, where people list items to sell and then actually post them after getting the money without big brother micromanaging every transaction can only work in the global north, where people actually follow thru, or so I thought.
After a few days of looking I found a good camera that was a bit cheaper than the rest of the cameras offered, not that much cheaper so I thought nothing of it. First red flag. The seller looked legitimate. Account created 5 years before, good reviews, several items posted. I contacted him asking about the camera. He said he lived in Leipzig and could post the camera to me, no problem. Signed Dirk Constantin. We even spoke briefly on the phone and he sounded like any other guy. He accepted Paypal but only with this option called friends and family which is like a direct deposit. Friends and Family has no purchase insurance. Second red flag. I transferred him the money and 5 min later he took down all other items he had for sale. Final red flag. I started panicking and realized I had made a huge mistake. I tried calling him again. No response. I wrote to him again. No response. The next day I knew i was not going to get the camera and had wasted my savings on the most stupid con imaginable.
I had to tell someone. I reported him to the admins at ebay and wanted to get his personal data if possible but they told me that information was confidential. I called the bank and they said they couldnt reverse the transaction. I called pay pal and told me to contact the bank which I did, again, and they said I should call pay pal. The most boring game of ping pong.
My German is very basic so having to make these phone calls and explaining my situation to the incorporeal corporate rep on the other side of the line was quite an ordeal in itself. I would just sometimes default to one of the questions I dread asking the most: Do you speak english? I could just hear so many „Wie Bitte?“ In a single day.
My wife advised me to go talk to the police. They do their job here in Germany, she said. I went to the police station behind the atrium and had to wait a few minutes until someone came to the front desk. I once again explained my situation and she told me to wait in a little room that had a window to the street. This was such an odd room. I inspected it thoroughly as I was left there waiting for 45 minutes. I read all the posters on the walls, checked the wanted list on a cork board, looked through some outdated magazines with scribbles on them. I imagined other people waiting in that same room before me. Also bored, also waiting, also in for a little disappointment.
A police officer arrived in the room and asked me what my problem was. I explained everything again the best I could. As the story progressed he looked more and more annoyed. He lowball told me I was just too gullible and that it was basically my fault for not being safe when buying things over the internet. Fair but not really what I was expecting. The officer then went away for a few minutes and when he came back he handed me a letter with the Bundespolizei letterhead and told me to write down all of the details i had just told him. He said I could just bring the written statement the next day. I was cleaning my desk drawer last week and found the letter, still unfinished.
Sarah Ahmed writes in Complaint! „Complaints often end up in filing cabinets or dustbins“. I just didn’t realize that sometimes they belong to the person complaining.