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The Dark Side Of Craigslist And Kijiji Buying

Kijiji-FailWhile the benefits of buying products on Craigslist or Kijiji are many, including a lower price, speed of getting product, and often a larger selection than most places – the dangers are also there. Buying and selling online can be a serious minefield – that’s why I created what I called “Laws” for Buyers and Sellers when navigating this complicated jungle. But, the more you do it, the more likely you’ll come across someone who does something so unbelievable and crazy that you just have to tell the story.

As you’ll see, the dangers of people that will sell and handle these sales unscrupulously are so very real. After this experience, I think I’ve learned that that buying a product that you can’t fully test (at the moment of purchase) is a dangerous undertaking.

Summary: Join me in this tale of an online purchase and the difficulty that came immediately afterward.

So, let me lay this out for you. I have an Apple Macbook Air that required a battery replacement. The model of this machine is the original A1237. The battery is a consumable item, insomuch as it’s very straightforward to replace the component. Apple’s replacement battery cost is a pricey $139 plus tax. So, I took to Craigslist and Kijiji to see if I can find a replacement for this part. I found on on Kijiji – here’s what the ad looked like:

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I thought, great – the battery is for the first generation Mac and it’s “Brand New”. This is going to work for me. After emailing the owner, I confirmed with her that this battery was compatible with the A1237 model of laptop. This confirmation was important because with the declaration of “Brand New” and working for A1237 model of laptop – I think it was reasonable to expect this product to be in working condition.

The Pickup
After negotiating a price a little lower (she was willing to accept $95), I drove to meet her at 1103 Leslie Street in North York to pickup the product. To be extra careful ( or so I thought), I also removed my currently-used battery and took it with me. When I arrived, the battery looked new and I was able to match the size with my old one. Besides installing and testing the battery on the spot, there wasn’t much more I could check, so I had to trust in the seller’s ethics.

Problems with the Battery
Returning to my office, I installed the battery in this computer. The good thing was that the Macbook didn’t consider the battery as “Replace Soon”. As I continued to charge and use the battery with a legitimate Apple 45W MagSafe wall charger, the battery appeared to function correctly.

Then, trouble. It occurred about an hour into charging. I noticed that the Macbook wasn’t recognizing the battery with an “X” and a “Battery not installed” message. I pulled the power cable, and the Macbook shut off completely. I re-seated the battery and started up the Mac again and then again (while on battery power), the Mac shut off.

I wanted to give this battery a chance, so I thought that there must be something else I could do. The first thing I did was to calibrate the battery. This extremely time-consuming process requires that you place the battery on a charge, remove it and drain the computer fully and then fully charge it. This process alone took me a few days – but I really wanted to be sure the computer was not the culprit. That’s the least I could do (instead of rushing back to the seller crying about it). After all that, I again left the computer on battery and it would just randomly shut off.

Thinking this was a heat issue – I connected a rather large fan close to the computer and had the fan blowing closely on the device while I used a temperature monitor on the system. I was able to effectively reduce the temperature of the the system by at least 30%, but again the battery would become disconnected and/or shut off the system at random intervals.

Even going further, I thought about resetting the actual battery (SMC) controller common on all Macs. This a rarely used tool that can sometimes reset battery connection issues and possibly fix the problems. Well, after a few resets using this key combination I again calibrated the battery to be sure. Again turning on the Macbook after all this and tried it on battery. It didn’t take more than an hour and the computer outright shut off again.

Now, I was getting seriously frustrated because it seemed quite clear that this battery was not working. I then returned the “Replace Soon” old battery into the Macbook and started the machine. It worked as well as it did previously. I charged the battery and used it for a while. No shut offs, I’ve actually been writing this article for the last half-hour on this, the previous, battery. I plugged in the power and let it sit. Never once did the battery indicate “Battery not installed”. Other than the “Replace soon”, this Macbook was operating as expected. Clearly not working, and with more than 10 hours of actual time spend in an attempt to get this working – it was time to immediately and unfortunately seek remedy from the seller. That’s where this gets crazy.

The Refusal
I went back to the owner and emailed her with a simple request (offering to outline the steps I took to find this battery defective. I wanted to be as simple and straightforward about this as I could and ensure that she knew exactly what I was asking. In addition, I wanted this to be as easy a process as possible – offering to bring the product to her (at my own expense, living close to $15 of gas away from her). Her response to this (two days later) was extremely unfortunate. She refused to take back the battery.

So, basically, she bought it from somewhere with no assurances and did nothing to asses the fitness of the product before passing it on to me? Then, she calls my request absurd because I have simply wish to be treated fairly for her error in selling this obviously non-working battery. Just putting aside all of the time and energy consumed in an effort to troubleshoot this battery problem, I have been thus-far extremely courteous and forgiving. So, I again respond to this saying I wasn’t trying to demand and that I want this solved as nicely a possible.

She talks about an idea of 0 cycles and that it should have meant something more to me than “Unused”.  If it’s not been used, it means it’s not been used – not “If it’s defective, it’s your problem”. The clear implication of saying unused is that it’s new and working. She then explains that if she “would have” known it was bad she “would have” returned it – implying that because I’ve figured it out, that it’s again, my problem.

She then concedes as if this was a negotiation and says that she’s “willing to play the middle man” to get this battery replaced, but she continues to refuse my request to take back her battery.

All that she needed to do was accept the simple return of something she sold DOA (Dead on Arrival). In recent messages she mentioned that it might be under warranty, if that’s the case, take it back and pursue a warranty claim – but don’t force the person you sold this non-working product to, to take on something that you should have done before selling in the first place. My guess if someone were to do this to her, she’d feel quite different about the circumstances. Given the nature of this sale, I could do no more.

Taking a Breather
Sometimes, just stopping and collecting your thoughts can be a productive thing on it’s own. So, after this craziness, I thought about what I had and whether there were any other options. Could this battery be incorrect somehow? I looked closer at the markings on the part and found something interesting (something I should have done when I picked up the battery). Take a look at these two pictures of my old battery, and the new one.

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My battery
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The battery I was sold

If you look at the markings on both batteries, they are both A1245 but the voltages are different. The battery in this Macbook is 7.2V, 37Wh and the new battery is 7.4V, 40Wh. Could this be the difference in why the new battery was not working correctly? Could this voltage difference cause the computer to loose connection to the battery periodically?

I had to know, and the best way I could test this is get a battery with the correct voltage. So, I ordered one online and waited for it to arrive. If this new battery (with the correct voltages) worked as it should, it it would seem to me that the Owner’s battery was just the wrong battery for this model of computer, not necessarily defective.

Final Thoughts
It’s important to note, we all make mistakes. Perhaps there was something I didn’t see about this battery or something I should have tested when I first picked up the battery. I’m a person who is considered an expert in the field of technology, but I didn’t once demand respect as an expert to her. No one is perfect. It’s a basic responsibility for all of us to make right one what we do – no matter what it is. I didn’t have to spend all those hours ensuring the battery was defective – testing all sorts of things and giving my valuable time to do so.

Did she intentionally sell me a incorrect product? Probably not. Is it worth it in some way to fight the sale of what is currently a large paperweight? Left with little recourse here, at the very least this is a huge cautionary tale if you intend to buy things online, be sure to get assurances in writing (or in-person) that  seller will back you up in the case of a problem.