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I agree, the seller is responsible for the packing and obtaining insurance if need be. The buyer must accept responsibility for providing evidence and proof of damage to the seller so a claim can be efficiently processed. The shipper ultimately is responsible to reimburse the seller, that is their customer, then the seller must reimburse the buyer, that is his customer.
My take is if "buyer responsible" is a term of the sale, then the buyer either accepts it or does not purchase. Sometimes the seller doesn't want to be bothered with dealing with the paperwork and indifferent/self-serving shipping companies. Ergo, the "buyer responsible" terms.
Also, the buyer may have remorse for making the purchase and "accidentally" drop the whatever on the floor and make a false claim.
Any seller who puts this in an ad knows that the shipping companies will not deal with a recipient who claims damage. If a recipient claims damage they will schedule a pickup to send it back to the shipper and that's all they will do for a recipient.
The seller wants you to bet the entire cost of the equipment on UPS or FedEx getting it to you undamaged, a bet I wouldn't take.
All you can do is not buy from these sellers. Audiogon should make them take that stipulation out of their ads.
From the Audiogon website:
"Buyer Safety and Common FAQ's
What if an item is damaged in shipping?If an item is damaged in shipping, you should contact the seller immediately so that a Damage Claim is filed. The responsibility of pursuing a Damage Claim is solely with the seller, however, you will need to cooperate with the seller and the shipping company in any manner requested. Often, the shipping company will come back to pick it up, or inspect the package in your home.
Also I would not do item 3 on their list. I would not buy from a Seller that is trying to make me responsible for shipping damage. The Buyer has no control over how the items are packed. I received a VPI 16.5 that was destroyed in shipping due to a poor packing job. The Seller took the item back and refunded my money.
I believe that the shipper is responsible for shipping damages. Normally, the seller is the shipper. However, I have been involved in deals where the buyer is the shipper. The shipper pays for the insurance, only the shipper can file a claim for the insurance (with the exception of USPS as mofimadness points out).
Again, the shipper is usually the seller, but can be the buyer.
In some cases, usually when shipping Internationally, when the buyer wants me to lie about an items value, I have the buyer accept shipping liability in writing before I ship. In these cases, I can not insure for more value than I claim the item is worth on the Customs form.
If a buyer wishes me to claim 10% of the value of the item, to save them some duties fees, then I can only insure for 10% of the value. Then if anything happens, they are only due a 10% refund. They must accept the liability in writing before I will do this. Otherwise I claim and insure for the full amount of the item.
That said, I haven't seen any of these ads, but it doesn't surprise me. There are many comical statements in a lot of ads. I certainly wouldn't buy anything from a seller who posts in their ad that the buyer is liable for shipping damage.
Audiogon policy is as stated; shipper/seller assumes responsibility to deliver items in the condition stated at time of sale; just like with a retail purchase. That would make it a very straight-forward, except in the wild wild west, I mean internet, few things are straight-forward. Unless the parties agree up-front, the standard conditions apply, but there are legitimate reasons to make it part of the negotiation, as long as all of the conditions are spelled out in advance. A few points to consider before taking a blanket stance one way or the other:
1. Paypal buyer protection and credit-charge charge backs in general put the seller at substantial risk of fraudulent claims of shipping damage or non-delivery of goods.
2. The risk to the seller is made greater due to UPS/Fedex policy of denying virtually all claims, at least at first, due to "inadequate packing" or re-use of shipping materials, or some such nonsense. I had one claim initially denied by UPS because they said the item weighed more than the burst strength printed on the bottom of the box, even though the box DID NOT burst.
3. Some of the items for sale here are VERY FRAGILE, irreplaceable and/or difficult to value. For example, what about discontinued speakers where one of a pair is damaged and parts are no longer available. Even if you can get the insurer to agree that a 20,30, 40 y.o. speaker is worth more than 10% of original retail, they will most likely only pay you for one speaker even though a "half pair" has no resale value.
4. There is the customs/duty issue raised above.
5. There are cases where the buyer refuses to cooperate with the shipper's claim procedure.
Of course the "standard" policy applies in "standard" situations. But it's not unreasonable to make the "who takes the shipping risk" issue part of a negotiation or condition of sale. Just like the buyer is free to reject a sale on that basis, there are also circumstances where a seller might reject an offer that does not provide some protection to him or her on the shipping issue. If you're not comfortable as a buyer accepting shipping risk, then walk away, especially if there the seller cannot provide a reasonable explanation as to why you are being asked to assume that risk.
Just my $0.02. YMMV.
The accounting principles as per GAAP are, if seller pays the shipping, then the merchandise belongs to the seller until the buyer takes the possession. Conversely, if buyer pays the shipping, he/she owns it when the merchandise leaves the factory or warehouse. The ledger is entered on that basis and therefore, the responsibility for damaged merchandise depends on who pays the shipping. Having said that, many or most sellers will cooperate to settle the issue as they may have resources that buyer may not. It is always better to establish who does what in event of damage. Check with your accountant if you disagree.