Members without scruples- a continuation

This is a continuation of a discussion started by Sagger on 01/11/02:
Regarding Audiogon's feedback policy, how is a potential buyer going to research a seller's (or vice versa)feedback rating to determine its validity? The very real possibility exists that an unscrupulous person could create multiple accounts, then leave positive feedback for a main account. Once that positive feedback is established in the main account, the person could use that account to hurt other members.
Your right--sort of. This happens on e-bay as well. However, if you see a member that has gotten a lot of positive feedback within say a month of each other, and no other history that's a little suspicious. Also, you can see who left the feedback. If all the people that left the feedback have no or very few other transactions--well that's a little suspicious too. It gets very suspicious when they can't give you a serial number and manufacturing date (you can usually verify this with with the manufacturer). In my view, these are not really members if they are drumming up a feedback for the purposes to rip someone off. These are crooks. More difficult to catch of course, but let's face it, dishonest people that care to steal or cheat others are looking for a place that has a good escape route--the internet often does this for them. It just means the rest of us have to be careful with our transactions and report these people.
When in doubt about a member who has become a potential seller of an item you're interested in, use AudiogoN's many features to check him/her out before taking it further. Do a "Member Lookup" to see if this person has ever initiated or answered any threads (Thread and Answers), or has posted Reviews or his/her System, etc.

Next, look quickly at the feedback of those who have provided feedback as a gague of their reliabliity. I suppose it's possible that somsone could create multiple accounts and false feedback, but they would have to develop multiple personas as well via the discussion forums to pull it off effectively. After a while, you get a good sense of who the regular A'gon members are, and I'm always comforted to see familiar monikers in my seller's feedback section, especially if I've dealt with some of the same members personally. If you do recognize a moniker, write to that person about your concerns. Most A'gon members would not be bothered by this at all. I've recently received an email from a member who was thinking about buying an amp. He noticed that I had provided feedback for his potential seller and knew me from a previous transaction that we had entered into. It took me 20 seconds to say, ya Brad's a great guy - no concerns there.

If you are still in doubt, send a detailed email to your seller concerning issues about the product that he/she is selling, but do not tip off your suspicions of the seller's legitimacy because 1) 99+% of all A'gon members are legitimate in my experience, and 2) if you do run across a fraudulent seller, your email exchange should be as drawn out as possible so that you can collect clues as to this person's identity, location, etc. This will allow you to alert other A'gon members and staff once you're established proof of the fraud.

Learn what you need to know about the seller through an email exchange, and then call the seller to get further comfort if need be. On transactions of $1,000 or more (or you can pick the threashhold) you should make it a point to establish phone contact for the mutual assurance of both parties.

As with many A'gon members, my experiences have been all good, and this has allowed me to a build system (several systems actually) that would have cost twice the price at retail.
It is very simple and possible on audiogon!
You can even use an alias of your e-mail and it will consume.
The verification process should probably be essential here especially in order to sell or buy.
Perhaps a way to combat fraudulent feedback would be for Audiogon to set up a system where feedback could only be left by the two transacting parties. As it is now, anyone can leave feedback. Not totally fail-safe, but it would at least discourage the casual crook.
Although the thread topic primarily addresses potential fraud, I've found that some legitimate dealers seriously inflate their own feedback. As you probably know, many dealers cultivate shills to sell for them. This way the dealer can unload a slow-selling product without incurring the wrath of that product's manufacturer. Many manufacturers do not like their products dumped as it devalues their product in the secondary market. The dealer's have their shills provide feedback for every item they've dumped. Normally I could care less, but some fairly sleazy dealers use this tool to provide themselves with huge amounts of positive feedback, and to bury any negetive feedback they may have.
This ongoing practice makes dealer evaluation tricky. It's better to ask about a dealer on a forum and have responses emailed, rather than depend on Audiogon's feedback.
It's worked great for me. I'm just about done; will start fleeceing suckers any day now.
Your so correct Octopus.
Audiogon feedback is one of the largest jokes on the internet.
It is totaly useless.
The bone heads who run this site need to put a proper system in place.
Rives on ebay you can only leave fedback on a completed transaction. The seller is charged for a sale. So if they do it on ebay they do it at a cost. Here its scam away for free. You dont even need to place a classified.
Feedback is only a start. You have to use common sense too. Can the person write a listing? Good Photos? Check the feedback if your buying an expensive piece. Do they respond promptly and intelligently to questions. And not finally Call the seller and talk to them ! Most sellers on audiogon are great! But you still have to do your homework and ask all the right questions.
Comment to Natalie: I have no personal or business connection with Audiogon, but I think your characterization of the Audiogon staff as "boneheads" is unfair and unwarranted. I also disagree with your comment that the feedback feature is "one of the largest jokes on the Internet" (can you quote some specific data to support this view?).

From my perspective, I think the audiophile community has been very well served by this site and by the staff who run it. Over the past several years, the A-gon staff has made a number of improvements to the site, often in response to requests from members.

Further, there are many members of Audiogon who have been diligent in building a positive reputation as both buyers and sellers, and to characterize the resulting feedback as essentially pointless is neither useful no accurate. I agree that there is certainly room for abuse in the feedback system, and perhaps 10-15% of the feedback is inflated, so I'd like to hear your specific ideas about how it can be improved (without instituting an additional fee). It's much too easy to simply be negative without offering a better alternative.
Sdcampbell, perhaps Audiogon can set up the feedback system so only the seller and buyer can input comments after both close the transaction. The feedback links could be contained in the transaction history page. Another thing Audiogon could do is insert a link to previous auctions, so members could gauge based on what was previously bought and sold. E-bay has a function like this.
Greatpooba: Good suggestions, and ones that Audiogon should consider.
I agree that there would be value added in being able to view another member's transaction history. I've built a couple of systems from Audiogon transactions as a buyer and have spent big chuncks of money in doing so. More recently, I've bought a lot of CD's and SACD's in small transactions (in some cases $10 or less) that rate equally in the feedback system with large dollar purchases ($4k was my biggest). The Ebay system allows one to delve further into the details of transactions, which is helpful in evaluatng members without much feedback.
I would say that on Ebay about 15% of the sellers are either non-professional or thieves. I have seen many auctions go down, most good, some not so good. Of course on Ebay, you have a lot of pawn shops listing, who not have a clue about their stuff. A problem the Ebay system however, is that people are afraid to bash sellers because the feedback is usually sent back at them!

I am a big fan of TALKING personally, with anyone with whom I am looking at a potential large purchase. GOOD LUCK.
Perhaps I am naive, but I most people to be honest.
Here's a tip on how to post negative feedback on Ebay without repercussions:
Auction feedback can be posted up to 90 days after the close of an auction. If you were screwed by the seller and want to post negative feedback, but fear an unwarranted backlash, then just sit tight for the 90 days. About 5 minutes before the deadline runs out, post your negative feedback. By the time the seller notices it, it's too late to post any back. Works like a charm.
Octopus, nice "reverse snipe" move wtth your negative feedback strategy on Ebay! I love it...

In my post above, I mentioned the lack of value weighting of the Audiogon feedback system (i.e., there is no way to differentiate a $10 transaction from at $4K transaction). Ironically, as I logged into my A'gon account tonight, I discovered that I've received 4 identical positive feedback posts for the purchase of 4 CD's listed for $9.99 each, which I paid for in one effortless PayPal transfer. No offense to the seller in question, who in fairness did list each CD in a seperate ad and was only trying to be nice... but would Audiogon, upon request, remove positive feedback that a member has received that he/she does not feel was warranted? Similarly, can a member who has inadvertantly posted feedback twice for the same transaction recall his/her message? The A'gon feedback rules do not seem to allow for such circumstances, but perhaps someone knows better than I.