Audiogon Classifieds will have a new feature

Audiogon has always valued the feedback we get from our members. The more important the topic, the more essential this feedback is to us. Thus, we are extending an invitation to our members to use our new Offer System in its current Beta form.

We have prepared a special Test Area where you may post listings (for free), submit offers on those listings, and manage these activities in a special MyPage. These listings will only be visible in the Test Area.

Before commencing, we ask that you click on the following link:
Offer System Overview

After having read our Overview you will have an idea of our goals. Please take a look around and then post ads, submit offers, etc. After gaining some experience with the new system we would like to receive your feedback.

Testing Links:
Post a Test Classified
View Test Ads (make offers)
Test MyPage (manage offers)

Please feel free to post any feedback in this thread or send it to us directly via email .

Thank you,
Audiogon Management
This is pretty much what happens already. The difference is that most transactions do not become part of the Audiogon pricing history. I doubt many people use the Audiogon system that exists and simply do everything by email. I could be dead wrong but that is my guess.

This beta system seems like a good vehicle for getting this information into records for a database. More pricing history is always a good thing, though, in my book due to the limited number of transactions on rarer items.
The site just keeps getting better and better. Like this idea very much and you have my support. Will try the new system on my next for sale item.
Does the fact that an agreement will now be a real, binding contract mean that AudioGon will actually have a legal basis to pursue anyone who doesn't fulfill his side of a deal (as in simply dissapearing after he receives payment)? I would really love to feel safer sending money orders or checks, and this might be the first step.
Hopefully this system will be optional for participation. While it does allow for an email trail (and likely it is being implemented to assist in dispute resolution maybe?), it also adds a lot of complexity and unneeded overhead. What other things does it add that extend the useful buying/selling experience? I can't really think of any offhand. Many transactions dont' need this complexity - one round of email (or maybe two or three at most, for some people) should cover most things. How will the system handle offers via this system and normal offers via email? Seems there could easily be overlap.

A feature that I personally would find MUCH more useful, would be transaction-based feedback, so that feedback could be connected to a particular item listing.

I like what Ed_sawyer had to say. The one thing I would also like to see at Audigon sooner vs later is a transaction-based feedback system, so that feedback could be connected to a particular item listing. The current system at least to me, is flawed.

I don't mind the offer system but I think the above is far more important.
I have been with audiogon for quite a while now. They have made some changes that I like. This, I do not like. You are now binded into the purchase if you use this system. I'm a buyer and a seller, so I see things from both ends. We all get a little anxious at times, and possibly make offers we weren't sure we really wanted to agree to. OR, in conversation with someone about a piece of gear, end up agreeing on a price. I've done it myself with a little regret and I've had it done to me. I don't get mad, I understand that people do change their minds. With this system, you are locked in to the purchase. Unless I'm reading this wrong, you can now leave someone feedback even if money hasn't changed hands.

Change is inevitable. But...that doesn't always make it good. What's the problem with the way things are handled now?
I read the "Offer System Overview" in the post. It does something which is quite useful from a legal point of view.

A contract is formed when an acceptance is communicated to an offeror. This is pretty basic contract law. The AudiogoN offer system reinforces this point to people who are not otherwise aware of legal niceties. The e-mail confirmation of the negotiations also provides independent evidence of the contract should difficulties arise between the parties.

On the point of legal niceties, however, one point caught my eye. The proposed offer system requires that offers be held open until a time period expires. This is practical and beneficial in many ways. However, it is certainly not legally enforceable. In contract law, an offer can be revoked by an offeror at any time prior to communciation of its acceptance. The only way that you can legally force an offeror to hold an offer open is if the offeree provides legal consideration to the offeror, such as occurs in options or futures contracts in finance for example. If you want to make it a "rule" of participation in AudiogoN, as a matter of honour and etiquette, that's fine. It's your show. You can kick people out who don't play by the rules. But if a person chooses to revoke the offer for whatever reason they deem appropriate, they can legally do so.
This could, in the future, be a way we all pay sales tax on every transaction. In the News today, cigarettes brought on line our now being taxed. Billions of dollars our owed from online transactions. Websites such as this one could be asked to turn over all transaction records. WHAM we all have unpaid sales tax to pay. Just my 2 cents.
If you can implement it as you describe, I'd say that it would be the next best thing happened to Hi-Fi after itself.
Hi Markphd,

Though you're right about the specific application of contract law there, I don't think that's the important point in the transaction to consider when looking at new legal ramifications. As in, I don't think people who get wishy washy offers that back out generally feel like suing the person who made those offers.

Now a seller who gets your money order and never sends the goods? That's another story, and a binding contract makes it less likely. Better yet, if Audiogon had a monetary "guarantee", like an insurance plan, that guaranteed that you'll get your product/money/whatever, that would solve this whole money order/paypal/escrow debate once and for all! I doubt Audiogon would do that (I'm not sure it would be fair to expect them to) but wouldn't that be a humdinger?
These proposed changes definitely formalize the buying and selling process. The auit trail should help resolve some points of conflict. As a buyer, I like the fact that the seller must respond and the offer is time limited. On the other hand, as a seller, I don't want others to know how much interest my item is generating or how many offers have been made.

I'm getting ready to list an item and I'm probably going to go with the traditional method.
I don't buy anything without first talking to the seller. So, this doesn't work for me. Less is more. This is a friendly market place largely driven by honor system. And it has been working very well for me over the years. It is good to let the buyer back out of the emotional purchase decision. Let this free market be a kind and honorable and dynamic place. More we are governed by rules and regulations more we become mechenical and robotic. Let every buying and selling experience be as unique as it can be.
Seems okay to me but under payment options you should drop "personal check" and replace it with "electronic transfers" to allow for PayPal, BidPay, etc...
Electronic tranfer payments should include a drop down box specifying who pays the fees for the electronic transfer.

Oh, and include "Local Pick Up" in the shipping options too.
I am disappointed to see that we are descending to the depths of lawyer talk and points of contract law. We are not talking real estate here. While I only have a small number of transactions in the system, I've found that works quite well. Like S7horton, I too am guilty of making an offer I later withdrew. I offered the seller compensation for his trouble and he declined. His comment: "You're off the hook. This is a crazy hobby". I've found Audiogon tends to be somewhat anal - in spite of the fact that I have made about a dozen postings, everything I submit still has to go through moderator approval. What's up with that?
When did you decide to become eBay???

I personally dislike this system, and have never had a problem that would have been better where it in place. Please keep it optional if you are going to institute this system as I don't want to use it.

Ken Taraszka, MD
I agree with S7horton. This beta system has admirable intent but as a buyer and seller, I think it limits the personal negotiation and freedom that already exists in the system. I think it is good as a "suggested" form of transacting: I know I try to operate in a fashion similar to how this new system describes. But I do not want to be required to. Perhaps something more along the lines of a transaction based fedback system?
I recognize that large elegant solutions to large issues can be more interesting than small solutions to a single issue, HOWEVER, red font on the word "negative" would make it much easier to spot negative comments when there is only one such comment in four pages of positives. If E-bay can do it, surely Audiogon can as well.
As long as this "feature" is only invoked if you select "OBO". Otherwise you're implying negotiation...I don't always want to do that in my ads...
I would like to add my vote for a transaction-based feedback...
Showing how many offers have been made can be harmful to the sellers...If the classified ad has run for several days/weeks and there are not any offers made, buyers are likely to lowball and offer considerably less than they would have if they did not know that there is low interest/no offers for the item that is for sale. Please do not show the number of offers to anyone except the seller of the item.

Personally, I like negotiating via email/phone after reviewing the potential buyer's history/credibility.

I do like the idea of connecting feedback to a specific transaction.

I also like the idea of feedback showing up in different colors...maybe Positive=Green, Neutral=Yellow, Negative=Red.

I do not like having to log into the website to conduct business. It adds an extra step, in comparrison to the current system of just replying to an email inquiry.

Lastly, negotiating is an art and sometimes buyers and sellers just click when they communicate with each other, resulting in the closing of a "deal" that otherwise may not have occurred if the negotiating were cut & dry "accept" or "deny." The new system takes away the personal touch which often builds valuable relationships in the AudiogoN community.
I'm just reminded that the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

As I read MarkPhd's post I would ad that. The legalities and vagraties of each state's contract laws may be different.

I liked audio as a "gentleman's" hobby, and still believe that most audiophile's on this site are gentlemen and/or ladies.

I liked the fact that Audiogon was an internet "pennysaver."

I believe in cavaet emptor, but also in due dilgence and that if sounds to good to be true it probably is. That's why internet escrow services for larger purchases seem like a good idea to me.

I just hope A'gon does not become that cliche, by perpetuating some preconceived notion of fear and lack of trust in one's neighbors that has been feeding on itself more and more since 911.

I just hope we'll have a choice, and would like to know what evidence supports that there are enough botched transactions.

You could deal with a potential mess of revoking acceptance by email, that may have 50 different answers to it. One for each state.
The Offer mechanism is a first step towards a "transaction based" Feedback system. It obviously adds a tracking feature as to who agreed to what and when. Fortunately, Audiogon has always had an extremely low percentage of failed transactions as compared to the Wild West environment at other sites, but we are less the "Club" we were in the early days. When you factor in the statistic of approximately 100 new member registrations per day coupled with a general rise in transactions per member; the need for more accountability is of interest to us. Our goal as always is to provide as safe a harbor for high-end audio transactions as is possible. We believe that the Offer system is another step in meeting that goal.
I work in systems design & implementation. One of the first questions that needs to get answered when "new & improved" comes along is "what are we fixing?". Is the current system broken or is need of shoring up? If so, why? You mention "more accountability is of interest to us"...the Customer is does this new system serve the interest of the Customer?

I can see where data is entering a database & this info would be of value to someone...depending who has access to it. While I'm fairly new to A-gon, I have done a number of deals through A-gon listings & contacts and I've found the current system quite functional. Basically a person needs to locate an item of interest & make contact with the seller. From that point on email, telephones, and adults can handle the rest pretty well. The feedback system (transaction-based would be nice) is a definite plus.

One transaction process that was a bit (too) much, and seems to be very similar to what the system you're proposing, is the A-gon "sheparding" of closing out an auction-based purchase. I found the "you're here & now you need to do this" at every (every, every) step along the way annoying. If a person didn't know how to use email & communicate with people then the hand-holding might be helpful, however if that same person was so limited in abilites he/she probably wouldn't be on-line either. With this being my first auction purchase at A-gon I learned about the sheparding of every step after the deal was done, item was picked up, paid for, and feedback was in. About a week later I was cleaning up "My Page" and entered the "do this now"...series of events. I'm guessing the seller found it as annoying as I did as it seemed like we'd never reach the end of it. Since the deal was completed to the satisfaction of both parties long before we entered the "auction sheparding" routine...this data suggests the sheparding was fairly useless...and again...this auction sheparding seems like the system you're proposing for classifieds. I'll avoid it if possible.

As long as were offering feedback...I found the 5-minute wait at auction end for bids made at the last moment also a bit much. People "makes there choices & takes their chances". Proxy bidding handles last minute bids sufficiently...if your max$$ was too lose...pretty simple. The imposed waiting period just drives up prices by playing to people that are less clear in what they may, or may not, want to do. I'll still use the A-gon auction, but only as a last, remote resort in seeking a particular piece of equipment. I don't like the game aspect of the last minute bid wait.

All that being said, A-gon is a great & civil oasis in a sea of sites that can have a snake-pit aspect to them. As I renew some old audiophile interests (fortunatley with a good bit more money than I had 25-30 years ago) I've learned ALOT in my relatively short time here. I've recently managed to assemble a great sounding all-tube system primarily through contacts, listings, & posts at A-gon. Thank You. This is a great place.
Just more "big brother" tactics. I have experienced only minor problems with the negotiating end of buying and selling and I see this as just a way of collecting data for the "blue book" service. If Audiogon were concerned about our interests they would ease the "heavy-handed" moderation policies and allow a freer form of communication in the forums. Please surprise me by letting this one by the idea police.
It would be nice to know if someones feedback is due to sale of many low priced items. If your positive 150 feedback is the result of selling 50 $5-$10 tubes or cartridge brushes, it tells me little about trusting you with a $1,500 purchase. You can run up great feedback pretty easily. I also look at how long someone has been at audiogon.
Also, flaking on a deal is bad form, you should be sure you want to follow through before committing and waisting a sellers time. Maybe a 24 hour buyer's remorse rule might be ok, but bad feedback should be the result if you promise to buy and back out...especially if you flake and never return emails or phone calls. This just happened to me on a speaker deal and I am reluctant to leave negative, but other members should know.
With so many newcomers to the site per your information, I get the feeling this is geared more towards helping make their buying/selling experience flow more smoothly but perhaps what is needed is a tutorial on how to conduct business the way it is? There's the possibility a lot of the first time transactions have complications arising from someone not quite knowing what they're getting themselves into & I see the proposed policy as that "tutorial" that takes away the job of one's doing their homework, so to speak. Of course it might help with those that have buyer's remorse & want to withdraw an offer to buy (or sell) but I don�t quite see how you can force someone to do something from a keyboard. Perhaps before registration can be completed, new members should be required to read through the current buying/selling procedure & acknowledge? Of course, other measures can be taken�

I would think making emails accountable would take away some of the tire kickers that just might come back & make an offer later and even though the initial emails are not part of the accountability process, they might be perceived as being so & might put off a potential buyer. It seems to me that the implementation of the proposed policy would take away some of the human factor that makes most of the dealings enjoyable & "making the deals" is part of the fun of buying/selling. Besides, if a deal is going to go bad, no amount of following procedure is going to change that. It might help assess blame but it won't change the fact the deal went bad.

I think the points that were brought up about having feedback transactionally accountable are good, as is the idea of changing the color of the neg & neutral feedback but overall, I'm against implementing such a structured plan. I emailed one "seller" who put up a test ad just to see how it would look & received no reply. I would think that indicates how some transactions might go & would increase the frustration of someone that feels they are obligated to follow the new protocol.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
I think I understand some of the hesitation in many of the posts so far, but in my opinion, this is a very positive step. I think that feedback MUST be tied to specific transactions, and allowed only if a deal is completed. With the current system, I don't really give any credibility to anyone's feedback rating (unless it is negative), because there is no limit on when feedback can be left.

I also like the idea of a transaction log, as a tool to help the buyer better understand who they are doing business with.

As it is today, the seller will still have the choice of who to do business with, but the buyer will have much more security. I have experienced, on more than one occassion, a seller who agreed to a deal, then backed out for whatever reason and returned my payment. My suspicion has always been that the sellers received a higher offer AFTER accepting mine, and ended up selling to someone else. If you agree to a deal, you should honor the deal, PERIOD!!!

Baddabob, for those of use who have been screwed out of large sums of money, this "lawyer talk" becomes important. You would be rasing the same issues had it happened to you.
But now that I've had a day to think about it, I don't think this is a good idea. There's something great about contacting someone in person to get an idea of what he's like. While people could still do that in this system, I think it would happen less.
Transaction based feedback can and certainly should exist separate from the offer system. Given that it will be impossible to require people to use the offer system (esp. for say, fixed-price items not open to negotiation for example), and that many folks will not want to use it for reasons mentioned above, I'd say start work on the transaction-related feedback system now. As mentioned above also, since the system is legally not enforcable via contract law, and also that is has no 'teeth' (e.g. if someone backs out, what happens? negative feedback? not much of a dis-incentive to someone who might not have any feedback anyway.) it seems a bit of a moot point. It might have been more useful to open up this discussion before building out the whole system and writing all the code...

The one thing I could see being useful would be say if for the first year or so of its' existence, that all ads placed through the offer system were free. Otherwise, what's the incentive for using a system that takes more time and hassle?

Just how I see it,
-Ed Sawyer
Well, Audiogon, a lot of members don't agree with you, I being one of them. I agree with them, that less is more. As Zt000 said, "Let this free market be a kind and honorable and dynamic place. More we are governed by rules and regulations more we become mechenical and robotic.

This is way too complicated, and has way too many pitfalls, many of which others have already explained here.

Keep it simple -- there is no way to police everything, and people resent this type of intrusive stance.

(1) As a Seller, I don't want all my offers shown on the ad. Timing is everything, and what if you luck out on getting the cheapest lowballers on earth to make offers on your item? Then others will see this and think, "Oh, this isn't worth that much. Maybe no one wants this piece except for dirt cheap."

The result of this could that the value of this item on the Audiogon market is permanently lowered because of the lowballers' offers. Many A'goners study the ads for a while before buying, so what do you think will happen?

(2) As Barrelchief mentioned, I don't like having to log in to a website to get my offers and transact my business. The site is getting way too involved in one's business.

(3) What about the Seller who, for whatever reason, cannot respond to emails for a couple of days? Or the Seller who wants a bit of time to consider the offers that do come in? Savvy Sellers who have been around the block a while get a feel for who is likely to be a good buyer and who is likely to not be. It should be our perogative to reflect, consider and establish extended communication via email or phone with the potential buyers before deciding on who to sell to. This complicated system makes this only much more difficult or impossible to do.

(3) With all the man hours and work this will involved, don't be surprised if Audiogon then decides to raise classified rates again. I think we're paying enough now, and let's not upset the apple cart.

(4) I think Audiogon should reconsider a simpler way to achieve more accountability. If this system is implemented, I think there will be many users that will opt to not even advertise their goods anymore; indeed, there seems to be some indication of such in the posts so far.
Lousyreeds1 I am truly sorry that you got screwed. It diminishes a wonderful resource for us all. If everything is based on a system that quantifies our reputation, there will always be people who will try to head-fake (hockey term-don't get me started) the system and consider one transaction as the cost of a score. The suggested upgrade still depends on the online feedback. How can we deal with the scammers?
I agree with most others, and think this is a bad idea. Given the option, I think most peple will choose not to jump through these hoops. Please don't try to hold my hand or protect me from myself. I love the site, and I appreciate your desire to make things better, but this slows down the process and adds mor red tape. .
Two aspects of the proposed features concern me:

1. Offers can be forced to extend indefinitely, a ridiculous position to take. Sometimes two sellers offer products that can meet my needs as a buyer. If I tell them both that I'll buy whichever one agrees to my offer first, great. Proposed functionality does nothing to make the seller respond promptly, and takes away my flexibility as a shopper.

2. Making # offers(or not)available for all to see is WAY over the top, and a feature not offered elsewhere. There is no reason why potential buyers should be able to see how many offers sellers receive. This will drive down the value of merchandise across the board, hurting individual sellers. Of course, dealers could argue that they have offers originating thru other channels. End result: Dealers get an upper hand over individual sellers. Very unfair, IMHO.

I also love the trans-based feedback idea. Cheers,
First and foremost I have met and transacted with many wonderful people on this site. I fear the rote nature of the proposed new process will drive out the give and take of "making a deal" and getting to know other members. I personally like both of these aspects as much as I like getting new gear.

The upside:
Feedback linked to transactions
History of a transaction
Data for bluebook pricing
Binding agreement with accepted offer

Inability to withdraw an offer
Unnecessary structure in negotiating
Inbox full of extraneous email from unnecessary structure in transactions
Potential for records to be used for sales tax purposes
Sellers getting bad offers because a low number of offers is shown to potential buyers

I think improvement in the system can be made but this system is a bit much. I would like to see a more incremental approach to improvement.
I believe this another attempt by Audiogon owners to interfere with what should be confidential transactions between buyers and seller. It seems that Audiogon is now more concerned with providing distributors and BaM retailers information than members. I agree with the suggestion to provide transactional based feedback. It does in fact show how a member works with high value transactions. As far as making deals binding, don't kid youselves. Ebay has been a total failure in enforcing "legal and binding" deals. If a member gets bounced for too many non-payments, they simply start a new user ID. Totally bogus and if you think A'gon is going to walk away from a potential seller to list and pay the fee, think again.
Something of real value would be a sorting function by catagory and by price. That would save time and effort. If someone has $1k to spend on a SS amp or other gear. Bang, put in the criteria and your on your way. But that has no intrinsic value to Agon, so that won't happen. The fees keep increasing and members are not getting any more service.
Audiogoner has a choice between Auction and Free Market. Let Free Market be free. Anything can happen in free market. And thats the beauty of it. Auction has its own beauty too. We already have a option.
I dunno about this change, I really like this system vs a ebay type, which promotes more fraud with 2nd chance offers, and like type eq. offers from unknown persons. I know to many people who have been ripped off. I came here to audiogon, to avoid ebay like bullshit. I agree on feedback, and maybe even tying it into a product. But I also value ananimity. JMO
The Offer system only kicks in after Buyer and Seller have agreed that they are interested in completing a transaction. In other words the Offer is really a confirmation of what they have concluded is an agreeable basis for going forward with a transaction. This Offer is the result of the usual contacts by email, and/or a phone conversation. In order to build a transaction based system, someone will need to sumbit the details of a transaction, and the Offer system is the easiest way to do so.

Benefits of the Offer system extend to the seasoned member as well as the newbie. Those that regularly scout New Today looking for the latest deal will be able to more easily demonstrate their seriousness to sellers by means of their transaction based buying history. Also, sellers will be able to make better decisions more quickly by following the data available in their MyPage. Newbies will be able to keep better track of their activities down to the finest level of detail.

Audiogon is listening to your complaints as well as your praise of the Offer system. As a consequence we are considering allowing sellers to choose whether to show (or not show) how many offers have been made on their item. Again, we thank those members who have taken the time to comment on the Offer system thus far.
This really is a poor idea. The system isn't broken right now, why try to "fix" it? Pretty soon you'll be thrashing around like eBay, destroying functionality, complicating procedures, and ultimately, raising the price for everyone. . .

My opinion.

Steve Z

I am with Entrope and the many others that feel that adding more unecessary process will deture from the fun of buying and selling gear. Since I work in DC at one of those 3 letter agencies that likes to monitor people and create watch lists and such, you might say I find any more process and profiling in my life to be a negative thing. That especially goes for my hobby.

So my somewhat jaded opinion is to sit back and count your now fat four bucks per ad and maybe make site faster, better picture format (the old one was better), etc..

That is my 3 cents.
Having skimmed over some of this, I am not sure what the benefit really is? If someone wants to buy something great, if the seller agrees to the offer, then they can work out the deal, no? Audiogon seems to work well for everyone as is, so unless this makes it really better for all, why bother. Who will pay for the lawyers, and retain them for these binding agreements. Unless this becomes a legal police type action, how will it work and be enforced.
I have been a member since 1999, one of the first, and have met and worked with many wonderful people here at Audiogon. While the system may over time be improved, its quite good as is, and we all enjoy it. So maybe we should not change it unless we are quite sure it makes it all better... I am open minded and will learn more of this,
but have not found a need for this kind of system being proposed. I think it may turn people off to audiogon in some ways... If someone is ready to sell and someone else wants to buy, then the buyers car gets totalled and he needs to wait on the deal, should that not be up to those two parties? Are lots of people having trouble at Audiogon now? just some thoughts, maybe I will see it differently at a later date, but if it works.... ever bring in a car that was running great for its scheduled tune up, only to find it ran worse after the tune up? thanks....
This has to be ditched. Audiogon has been a great place to buy and sell in a fluid, dynamic manner. These proposed changes will suck the life out of the site. And it will probably ultimately drive business to ebay.
Ditch it.
Audiogon, I think your plan assumes a level of consideration and patience by both parties that will -not- be around once this thread dies off. When an offer can be made without any personal contact, simply with the click of one button, that will -encourage- impulse offers that can't be kept, not discourage them. It means that you don't even have to go through the trouble to compose an email and present yourself. That's a bad thing.

SUGGESTION: have the seller add prospective buyers' names to a special list on his MyPage after they've emailed him and shown serious interest. The only people who can post an official offer are the ones from that list. This gives the seller a degree of control that is lost with your system. It also limits the number of offerers, so it's not such a rat race for the buyer.
Clarification of my last post:

"The offer system only kicks in after Buyer and Seller have agreed that they are interested in completing a transaction" says Audiogon.

No. That's simply not true given what you've told us. Offers can be made at any point, at any time, by anyone. Unless you introduce a mechanism as I described in the last post to enforce those "usual contacts by email and/or a phone conversation" as you've stated, no one will use this system as intended.

After reading everyone else's interesting posts, I now think this would be a very, very serious mistake unless you introduce some sort of system as I've outlined above.

Please be careful with this.
I don't see any advantage to the users of
audiogon,and agree with all of he negative statements made about the proposal. As far as making a transaction secure, the seller/buyer can agree to some kind of deposit system, even ESCROW. In some instances I have even shipped the component so the buyer could try it out; buyer paid shipping if item returned; etc., etc. Keep the system the way it is. If the system changes as proposed, I will use one of the other audio markets.
In my opinion the a new system is not warranted. If someone wants to rip someone off then they are going too regardless of the system by which they transact business. We all need to conduct business in a fair and just manner and treat eachother with respect. No system is going to ensure this if it isn't genuine at the outset. We already have a legal system in place called contract law that adresses what defines a legal binding contract. And audiogon can not rewrite contract law. If the only purpose is to keep a transaction / communication history then I guess fine but for what purpose? Just my opinion.

What we really need on this site is a damm spell checker.
In the world of sales where there is no written contract a buyer may make and retract offers at will. For example, in any store you may take an item to the sales counter have your money in hand and change your mind about buying. At any flea market or swap meet the same applies. No deal is made until the money and product changes hands. This allows the buyer maximum flexiblity in getting the best deal. The seller still has the product if the offer is withdrawn and is free decide to sell, keep, or change the price of the item to attract more offers.

Having sold items on Audiogon, I understand the nature of offers, counteroffers, and withdrawls. It causes me no problems and I have never left negative feedback over a withdrawn offer.

Your new system allows a seller to lock in a buyer for an extended period of time destroying the flexibility of the buyer looking for the best deal and the item they really desire.

Perhaps the system should allow a buyer to cancel an offer at anytime before it has been accepted. Once accepted it is then a binding agreement.

I would find this more palatable as it would allow a greater latitude in shopping for items. It would also encourage more offers especially on items that you would not normally consider if you knew you were locked into a purchase over a given time frame simply by offering. This is the antithesis of "free market".

The dynamic circumstances of life sometimes means an offer must be withdrawn (read: "spousal approval", the same item appears at a lower price, unexpected car repair, broken glasses, broken furnace, etc...).

If Audiogon kept a status of offers withdrawn then the seller has a better idea of the veracity of the buyer and can consider them accordingly.
While the current system has worked fine for me, I am generally supportive of the proposed changes. I do suspect the proposed system may offer a higher level of protection to newer members, or those who do not trade often. It adds structure to the process, and does provide more clarity for those cases where there is suspicion of wrong doing. A comments:

1. I agree and support the transaction based feedback proposed by Ed Sawyer.
2. I agree with the comments by Markphd, that a buyer or seller should be able to revoke an offer to sell or purchase at any time until a firm offer is made and accepted.
3. I would like to see more discussion, or guidelines, regarding shipping. This seems to be a consistent problem when damage occurs. Shipping should be in the seller's court. The seller/shipper should be encouraged to fully insure items, and the buyer should not have any responsibility for an item, until it shows up at the designated location in "as described" condition.

my 2 cents. - Tim