Getting Through Hurricane Wilma: How an eBay Buyer Rescued an eBay Seller

Sebastian Rupley, eBay News Team

Patty Whitlock, a veteran eBay seller, tips her hat to a buyer who went above and beyond for her.

Back in October of 2005, just a few days before Hurricane Wilma hit Florida, Patty Whitlock had been going back-and-forth with an eBay buyer who wanted a black Chanel dress that she had listed for sale. The negotiations were fierce, and Patty warned the buyer that she was under a hurricane watch and might not answer emails right away.

In a matter of days, Wilma hit Fort Lauderdale, killing 25 people in South Florida, including five people near Patty’s home.  The wind raged for hours. Patty lost power, her trees came tumbling down, and her metal shed was blown two blocks away.

As the intensity of the wind increased, Patty kept hearing strange noises near the back of her home. When she went to check on the noises, she was shocked to see that water was pouring in the house. She walked in the direction of the water to retrieve some documents that were getting wet, but her husband pulled her out of the room just as a large section of the roof came crashing to the ground.


After the storm, Patty was without electricity for three weeks, and she and her husband needed to secure the roof as quickly as possible. In particular, they needed tarps — and lots of them.  There weren’t any tarps to be had, though, and there was no food, gas or access to landline phones in Fort Lauderdale.

At one point, it struck Patty that she should notify her eBay buyers that she was offline and in trouble. (Her eBay store is found here.) She made her way to a friend’s house who had electricity, got online and sent notifications.

It was then that Patty got an email back that would lead to a  rescue from her situation. The message was from the prospective Chanel dress buyer. She wrote:

“Patty, what can I do to help? Anything you need let me know… are you ok?… please write back as soon as you can to let me know….”


Patty wrote back and explained that her roof was gone, that tarps were not to be found in Florida, and that she could not call anyone. She also told her that she had very little food and was looking for children’s pools and pumps to get water out of her home. She told her buyer that she was going to try to order the items on eBay and hope that they would arrive.

Soon after that, Patty got a knock at her door – outside was a huge box delivered to her by FedEx. In the box were tarps, inflatable children’s pools, pumps, goods, a landline phone, humidity bucket, batteries and much more. There was no note with the box, but the return address was that of the prospective Chanel dress buyer.

Patty’s roof was soon secured and she began the rebuilding process, but she has never forgotten the gratitude she felt when a member of the eBay community came to her rescue.

“I have been selling on eBay for 17 years, and my eBay business has paid my kids’ private school educations, many vacations, and more,” she said. “I later offered the Chanel dress buyer money in return for her act of kindness when Hurricane Wilma hit, but she wouldn’t take it. I am truly humbled by that.”

“eBay has a vibrant, organic and live community of caring individuals, and I am honored to be part of it,” Patty said.