When buying items off the Internet, one must always be leery of the potential for something to arrive broken, grossly misrepresented, or arrive at all. Most buyers who regularly shop on eBay already know that they need to look closely at the seller's feedback, how long they've been in business, and the small print listed on the auction page, but even with that knowledge, if you aren't aware of how the complaint system works, then you still have the potential to lose an investment.
The first mistake most people make is believing the seller and waiting a long time before filing a complaint. Granted, there are some genuinely honest people on-line, but that one bad one can ruin your whole shopping experience. Most sellers, especially power sellers, know enough about PayPal's rules for filing a complaint to make them work in their favor.
For starters, as a buyer, you only have 45 days to file a complaint and trying to get PayPal to extend that is like trying to make pigs fly. It just won't happen. The very tricky sellers will promise refunds, exchanges, etc. right up until that 45 day mark and then when they are positive the time frame has passed, they cease to communicate with the buyer. At that point, the buyer really doesn't have any options, but to file a police report. By that time, the chances of actually receiving the item (as described) or the money are slim to none.
Let's say you haven't received your package. Do NOT file right away. Email the seller, keep checking that seller's feedback, and ask for a tracking number. A good time frame to wait is about 2 weeks before filing. If you notice the seller's feedback suddenly becoming all negatives, I would suggest filing a non-receipt claim then. Even power sellers go bad and when they do, they do it suddenly. Now keep in mind that if you file a non-receipt now and end up getting your item, you can't change the case type so you'll be taking a gamble, but in my experience, the seller would rather just refund then deal with shipping all the items out.
Now if you get your item and it's broken, doesn't work, wrong brand, etc., you need to file a not as described case, but you can only do this if you purchased the item off of eBay. You do not need to wait to file one of these. The way PayPal set it up now is that you can open what is called a dispute. Anything corresponded between you and the seller during that time can be used by PayPal as evidence to make a decision. It will also cover you if let's say the seller says they'll give you a refund and then they don't. Make sure to only email the seller through PayPal. Do NOT use eBay's messaging system because it won't do you any good to prove something that the seller said.
Before 20 days have elapsed, you will need to escalate the dispute to a claim. If you don't do this, the dispute will close and you won't be able to open another one. It will be seen as resolved by PayPal.
These cases can take a long time. The average length is 45 days. During that time, you will have to gather evidence to prove the seller's auction was misleading. If the case is decided in your favor, PayPal will more than likely ask that you send the item back with a tracking number. (If the item is worth more than $250, make sure to have signature confirmation as well.) You will not be reimbursed for shipping the item back to the seller. It doesn't seem fair, but those are the rules. When the item gets back to the seller, you should then be able to get your refund.
If you have any questions, you can always call PayPal directly and ask a representative. Just make sure that if you get into a situation where you need to file a complaint, that you follow the rules, ask questions if needed, keep a close eye on your emails and the case in your PayPal account (in the Resolution Center) and look through PayPal's user agreement. If you mess up, chances are you've lost either the money or the item so keep on top of it and understand this is business. If you don't want to lose your investment, you need to know the rules. Good luck.