Buyer Beware: My Apptopia Refund Experience

Return for Refund
Friday, Mar 14th 2014

Apptopia is a site where you can buy and sell Android and iOS applications. In addition to receiving the full source code, the seller transfers his actual app as it exists on the store to you. Think of it like buying an existing retail business. You get the current customers, the name, the trademarks, the branding and the physical location.

I first heard about Apptopia from a friend a few months ago. I immediately thought this was an awesome idea. I have been dabbling into app development for the past year or so and was looking to get more heavily involved. I figured purchasing an existing asset was a nice easy way to hit the ground running. I spent a month or two browsing the site until I hit upon something that caught my eye. The purchase price was right (under $1000) and I was getting an existing app with a solid userbase (~4,000 active installs). The application itself was pretty old and clunky, but I liked the idea. I figured I would purchase, completely redesign the app, throw in some ads and recoup my initial costs in a few months.

Apptopia's site acts as the middleman between the Buyer and Seller. They have a nice backend system where they login to your account and verify you own the app, that it gets transferred, etc. They hold the buyer and sellers hand pretty thoroughly throughout the process. To quote their site: "Apptopia is the marketplace that will broker the sale of these apps. We will manage the entire process through to completion. Starting with recommending app valuation & connecting sellers with buyers. Concluding with escrow services, code review, and interfacing with Apple & Google on your behalf until the deal is done."

With that sort of guarantee in mind, I figured I was fairly well covered incase something should go wrong. After a bit of negotiation back and forth, we set a price and I completed the purchase. The actual payment is accomplished through PayPal in 2 installments (50% up front and 50% at the end). I won't get into PayPal much here other than to say that while I use them I don't love them. Once I saw that PayPal was involved I was really glad this was smaller purchase and not some type of $15,000 app sale.

So fast forward a few days (after feverishly working over the weekend to update the iOS and Android version) I realize the seller has not included the Android private key for the Google Play Store version. The seller and I go back and forth over the next week (30+ emails) and while he seems like a nice guy, he has apparently lost the key. While frustrating, it's not the end of the world. I use Apptopia's built-in "Open a Dispute" option to get this resolved.

This is where things start to get annoying. As far as I can tell the Open a Dispute button merely sends an e-mail to someone, somewhere. After detailing my issues I simply got a popup that said Thanks. No e-mail or updated status message indicating that my dispute was open. After 2 business days with 0 response, I opened a second dispute (aka probably sent another e-mail somewhere). Another 2 days later and 0 response from Apptopia. So I decide to e-mail their support.

I woke up Saturday morning to an e-mail from support, so I had somehow finally managed to get an Apptopia human into the loop here. Support said (and I quote): "Please send us all the PayPal unique transaction id's associated with this purchase so we can work towards a resolution."

Ok easy enough, I immediately replied....and then waited. No response. After 4 more days (it was over the weekend) I again e-mailed support asking for a status update. Response: "We have already refunded our part. As the seller has not complied, I would suggest that you file a dispute with PayPal for the $XXX and $XXX payments. You can use the fact that we already refunded you the money and the purchase and sales agreement as help to your dispute."

Umm...uhh...but..ok well then. I guess they weren't kidding about managing the process "until completion." So this response caught me off guard and was bit unexpected. I replied to voice my displeasure, but didn't really push the issue. Luckily the seller was a honest person and after a quick e-mail to him, he refunded me the money. His response indicated to me that he thought it was resolved and that Apptopia had only contacted him one time, at the very beginning of the Dispute...

In the end it worked out, but only because the Seller wasn't dishonest. I don't know if I had misguided expectations (Apptopia "going to bat for me" and all) or maybe I'm just expecting too much? Either way, I just wanted to share my experience for others considering Apptopia. I would not go so far as to say don't use them, but just beware that your resolution to a problem basically boils down to "PayPal Dispute."

I loved the idea behind Apptopia and still do. To be perfectly honest, I still browse the site from time to time. If something interesting comes up, I might purchase. But this experience is definitely factoring in the price I'm willing to pay. At this point unless it's a steal of a deal, I'm not interested.

Has anyone else used Apptopia (successfully or unsuccessfully)? I would love to hear your experience. Add a comment below or shoot me an e-mail!