A Farmer’s Reputation

Trustworthiness is a quality we strive to cultivate in every aspect of our lives here, and that represents values that were important to us long before the farm started, but it is also part of our efforts as farmers. In order to be trusted by customers buying the food produced on our farm, we need to uphold standards and behavior that reflect our integrity, thus building our reputation as a credible source.

This is something we hold dear.

It’s disturbing, disappointing, and exasperating when we have dealings with those who do not hold to these standards. It’s especially distasteful to us when it is another farmer behaving in a shady, dishonest manner, because it creates the possibility that it will tarnish the reputation of all farmers in the minds of those who fall victim to their ploys.

Unfortunately, we are in the position of having been victimized by one such farmer ourselves, Mr. Tim Devine, of Devine Farms, LLC, Canastota, NY, who has been refurbishing and selling milking machines on eBay for the past several years under the username ddevine72. We are in the market for just such a thing, given that our goat does are ready to give birth starting at the end of the month. He was the only seller offering rebuilt Surge milkers when we did a search on Friday, March 11th, and we were a bit concerned about his 96% feedback level, as there were several negative feedback comments regarding tardy deliveries. However, it did seem that those deliveries had happened in a particular time frame, so we thought we’d give him the opportunity to explain. I contacted him via eBay’s messaging system and told him I would need the item to arrive within a week of purchase, and if that was going to be a problem, I wanted to know prior to committing to the purchase. He assured me that there was a snafu during a move of his shop, some eBay items were moved to the new location rather than being shipped, and it would not be a problem moving forward.

We did a “Buy It Now” and paid $182.00 via PayPal to Tim Devine on Friday, March 11, 2011. I gave it about a week, but the machine never showed up, and I never received any shipping information or other communication. So I contacted him again on March 17th, looking for shipping information. He informed me that he was out of town. I replied and asked when he would return, and had it shipped yet? He seemed unsure about the status of the shipment, but said he would return on Sunday and “make sure things were all good” then.

Sunday arrived, and I received no information from him. I contacted him again, looking for shipping information. His response? “OK thanks.” That caused my blood to boil, as I’m sure that any right-minded person can imagine. This was starting to smell like an eBay scam to me, and I told him so.

I contacted eBay customer service this morning, and they informed me that I had to wait until the 26th to file a claim. I told them it seems like a scam operation to me, but they would not budge.

I did some digging and discovered that the Devine Farm LLC has had plenty of financial woes over the past several years, starting with a fire in 2002, the FDA issuing a warning letter in 2004 regarding antibiotics detected in animals they had sent for slaughter, and Lansing Grain Company, LLC winning a ruling against the farm in an arbitration case in 2007 regarding animal feed they had not been paid for to the tune of over $176,000. I guess I should have done my homework, but I took the man at his word. A person’s word used to mean something.

eBay assisted me in looking up his phone number on their system, which I attempted to call several times today, but received a generic voicemail message, with silence in the space where the person is supposed to record their name. I left a voicemail, which unsurprisingly has received no response. I even attempted to contact him via Facebook (yes, I am relentless!) with no response. No shock there, given his track record.

It really makes us wonder about the reputation of that family and their farm. It’s been in Canastoga, NY since 1850, and from the sounds of the New York Times article, prior to 2002, they enjoyed a good standing in the community. It makes us wonder if the sons are running the farm now, and effectively running it into the ground, requiring them to scam others online to continue funding their own pursuits. How disgraceful.

This evening, I checked in on eBay and discovered that his account, ddevine72, is no longer a registered user. Wow. Getting more crimey by the moment, this.

I called eBay again and insisted on speaking with a supervisor this time, and was put through to a Lawrence, who promised me that he is going to file a claim on my behalf for my item (360350883436). I’m supposed to get something in my eBay message box soon (I hope!) and then he assured me that once the claim is filed, it will only take 24-48 hours for my refund to process.

Now, I understand that we all go through our troubles in life. But this goes way beyond that. Instead of taking responsibility and trying to deal with folks honestly, Tim Devine has been trying to scam honest folks out of their money. Hopefully, we will remedy this through eBay’s buyer protection program, but these sort of cases mean that anyone using eBay has to pay more in fees to cover the losses resulting from this sort of disgusting behavior on behalf of shady sellers. That’s because if Tim has drained that money out of his PayPal account, then eBay covers the refund and then attempts to pursue him for the money.

Also, let’s not forget the fact that I still have nothing with which to milk my goats. And we are on a very tight budget here, so until we get those funds freed up, I won’t have anything with which to do that. We have five does that I’ll be milking, and I have carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. So hand-milking is not a viable option for us. But I guess there will be lots of painkiller and icing my wrist/elbow in the near future, thanks to Mr. Devine!

I’ve written this in the hope that if Mr. Devine decides to try and start selling on eBay again, or moves on to other sites trying to run the same scam, folks will take the time to do a Google search on his name and find this page. Perhaps it will save them from the trouble we are going through now ourselves.

And please, remember, farmers are individuals. Even if you have the unfortunate experience of running into a shady one, it doesn’t mean the rest of us are jerks!

UPDATE 3/22 8:40 AM: I heard back from Mr. Devine on Facebook. He claims that I have the wrong guy, and that he sold his farm two years ago. He suggested that his ex-wife has “an eBay thing” but disavows any knowledge of it. Given the level of deception I’ve been dealing with in this situation, I am not so easily swayed into believing this, particularly because he is listed as the contact on the eBay page. Which, of course, I can no longer get to, because the user is “no longer registered” on eBay. I do still have the contact phone number from the eBay profile, though, as much good as it will do me, given that nobody answers, there is no ID provided on the voicemail message, and nobody returns messages left on it.

eBay has opened a case about this, but there is a discrepancy between what I am seeing on the site and what I was told by Lawrence at eBay customer support yesterday. He said that because of the situation, I should have my refund 24-48 hours after the case was opened. However, on the site, it is telling me that the seller has 7 days to respond. So it appears Lawrence misspoke yesterday and I will have to wait 7 days, and if the seller does not respond, then it will be 24-48 hours from the CLOSING of the case that I will see the refund. Great. And of course, I guess it’s possible that this scumbag might tell eBay that they have or are going to send it, which could extend this process even longer. Or, if they do send something, they send it broken, causing the need for yet another claim. All the while, holding up our refund.

In the meantime, I am scrambling to try and figure out how to milk my goats, and that need is going to arise sooner than we will see the return of these funds that were stolen from us. I am feeling a combination of furious anger, and disappointment in the reprehensible behavior of some people. I have been on eBay since 1998, and remember the days when people didn’t try to work the system to scam others. It’s deeply disappointing to realize what a “hive of scum and villainy” it has become.

Whoever you are, ddevine72, you are a despicable sack of flesh. Shame on you.


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