PayPal instructs buyer to Destroy violin.

January 4, 2012 at 06:02 PM · Violinists, and String Players! Can anyone verify the veracity of this story? It's almost too ridiculous to be true:

An antique violin was sold online to someone who paid $2500 for it over PayPal. The buyer disputed the authenticity of the violin -- which had been authenticated by a top luthier -- and PayPal, rather than having the violin returned to the seller, instructed the buyer that he could have his money back if he destroyed the violin. He did, and sent the photo of the destroyed violin to the seller and PayPal.


See article at:

Replies (28)

January 4, 2012 at 06:24 PM · This is outrageous. They should have had the violin sent to a different luthier to verify it, or had the violin returned to the seller. It is a shame that the seller is out her money and no longer has the option to sell the violin to a different person.

Also, what kind of person smashes a violin?! I don't have respect for anyone who destroys a perfectly good instrument. There is absolutely NO logic in this. The seller should hire a lawyer and sue PayPal, especially if the luthier could testify that it was real and explain why.

Could a luthier tell if it was real by looking at the smashed parts of the violin that remain?

PayPal is responsible for the loss of this instrument and should reimburse the seller for the value of the violin. They should also change their policy. If it continues this way, dishonest buyers could buy expensive and good-quality violins and take pictures of smashed VOS's and have the money returned...

January 4, 2012 at 07:35 PM · Shoulda...coulda...woulda...I'm sure this seller will have a more gracious return policy in the future.

January 4, 2012 at 07:53 PM · It is very difficult to confirm a violin's provenance, and few of them have a squeaky-clean, documented lineage. Also, it is true that many very nice violins have fake labels in them. It's good to disclose that (if you actually know it), but it's not a complete deal breaker. Also, $2,500 is not expensive for a violin. The price is in student violin range. If it's actually a nice fiddle, that's a bargain, whoever the maker is.

January 4, 2012 at 08:01 PM · It doesn't matter if that is "not expensive for a violin."

I would like to know the whole story though, not just the little boing tidbit...

January 4, 2012 at 09:12 PM · Here's the original story:

January 4, 2012 at 09:28 PM · From the link, quoting PayPal, “PayPal may also require you to destroy the item and to provide evidence of its destruction” (my emphasis). It is evidently Paypal's optional decision. Perhaps they should carefully reconsider the in-house rules under which they make these decisions.

Ok, so it was a $2,500 violin, not a big deal in monetary terms, but nevertheless very much an object of value to the original owner, and doubtless would have been to later owners. Next time it could be a $25,000 bow.

January 5, 2012 at 04:25 AM · Honestly, Paypal has the worst policy. My friend had a similar incident where the buyer simply took back the money after a month without any reason and still kept the product being sold. I don't really like the system. And I feel so sorry for the just died for no reason at all :(

January 5, 2012 at 05:22 AM · @Jonathan,

I do not see anywhere the seller did NOT have the most generous return policy. I assume that like most violin transactions, there is a return policy.

January 5, 2012 at 08:46 AM · Of course, the smart buyer would hav smashed a $100 beginner model... ;)

January 5, 2012 at 04:13 PM · Useful comments from

January 5, 2012 at 05:09 PM · I like the way you think, Elise! :) :)

January 6, 2012 at 06:29 PM · This Economist article has more information and comments from a PayPal spokesman.

January 6, 2012 at 08:09 PM · Seeing that photo makes me want to cry...

January 7, 2012 at 12:24 AM · Well, I'm definitely boycotting paypal for that. I just closed my account.

January 7, 2012 at 04:35 AM · Is there no way for legal action for the seller?

January 8, 2012 at 01:59 AM · I find this story to be suspicious. I would think that Paypal could be held liable for the $2500. If the buyer willfully destroyed the instrument, he/she would have no recourse for getting his money back, regardless of what Paypal may have told him, and the seller would potentially have a legal claim against the company. Either the whole story wasn't told, or it's just completely apocryphal. Has anyone checked it out on Snopes?

January 8, 2012 at 03:32 AM · Just wondering, has any written to Paypal or started a petition in regard to this?

January 8, 2012 at 04:04 AM · Seller was bilking people. It's spelled out in the paypal agreement that anyone selling counterfeit merchandise could find themselves in this exact situation. Seller's stance was "not counterfeit, it IS a violin". Apparently the ticket and certificate were forged, seller admitted the ticket may have been a counterfeit placed in the violin, but not BY HER. If all that had been stated in the listing, that the label stated such and such maker, but might not be real, this would not have happened. She mislead buyers. I got rid of my paypal years ago, but this situation is not the tragedy people seem to want it to be, and I think the seller got what she deserved, and I am someone who has actually bought violins on ebay, just for fun.

January 8, 2012 at 06:29 PM · I guess now eBayer can't sell any violin with something like "Copy of Stradivarius" because it's clearly a counterfeit of Strad LOL

January 9, 2012 at 03:57 PM · As Jonathan pointed out above, it would be useful to know all the details of this story. I clearly do not advocate for the destruction of any violins (I'm a violin maker!), but there are a lot of fakes violins out there on eBay, and a lot of unscrupulous (to say the least) sellers who will very happily either knowingly lead sellers on to believe that something might be more than it is, or simply insert fake labels into instruments.

There is very little downside to this kind of practice because of the way feedback operates on eBay, and also because many buyers will not be sufficiently experienced or confident to challenge the transaction. For instance, I see many sellers there advertising an Italian violin, labelled Fagnola for argument's sake, saying that they are not expert and cannot attest that the label is original, but including a long narrative about Fagnola, when he worked, etc. and explaining that the violin displays all the charateristics of that maker. There is nothing you can dispute here, because the seller does not say it is BY Fagnola, but for an inexperienced buyer this could be misleading. Not sure if this the sort of thing we are talking about here, and whether there was any intent on the seller's part to deceive, but I wish more could be done to prevent these people from operating, and maybe the threat of their violin being confiscated would act as a deterrent.

January 9, 2012 at 06:24 PM · What else is PayPal capable of? What will it be when it's, "The Next Time?"

November 21, 2016 at 06:59 AM · Well, I just stumbled across this. I think I'm going to delete my paypal and ebay account now.

November 21, 2016 at 01:49 PM · Because of a 4 year old article of a wonky conflict?

Maybe just don't buy any violins from them instead, just in case it happens again...;)

November 21, 2016 at 02:40 PM · It would be interesting to find out if PayPal has changed their policy in the meantime.

November 21, 2016 at 03:56 PM · I've had a nightmare of problem paying for my viola, because I tried to enter a renewed credit card with them, and they couldn't register the card, because it was the same number, and "expired", even though the expiry date has changed with the renewal.

I am also not a fan of their customer service at that time at all. Basically "We'll get it done in the next 48 hours." Nothing gets done for 2 weeks, and I kept calling them every hour to ask them after the 2 weeks.

November 21, 2016 at 04:10 PM · Might I suggest some meditation? Calm, soothing, meditation? ;)

November 21, 2016 at 04:16 PM · You see, since my military time. I learned to enter this "panic mode" and get efficient. Meaning, if no sign of change has been detected after a given amount of reasonable time, I will keep pushing until something gets done within shorter period of time.

I do scuff many toes that way, but it does get things done.

It was necessary, if a logistics officer failed to re-supply a team for 6 days, and their food and water ran out in 7 days. I contact every channel possible, for the supplies to get there on the 7th day. If IT in my University pooches my account, and I cannot access my documents/e-mail for 2 months, it is necessary. If my apartment room floods due to plumbing issues, and I have to live in a room full of nasty fluids, it is necessary. If paypal turns me into a non-paying buyer for 2 weeks, it is necessary.(above are real examples)

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