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I've never bought or sold anything that was misrepresented; I've always received the item as described and if anything the condition was better than advertised. 'Philes are fussy and tend to baby their toys, it's rare you'll see stuff banged up. Transactional frustrations on the buying end are priamrily shipping related: insist on NO UPS and the seller sends it by UPS anyway, poorly packaged stuff due to the seller being too lazy or cheap to package it up properly. Selling frustrations are primarily low ball offers, it's amazing the slime out there. I can live with the inane questions but the ridiculous offers (and the tone in which they are presented) are offensive.
I think the percentage is low, but it's high enough that if you do a lot of transactions, you'll run into it. I don't think there are very many people who are out to purposely (grossly) mis-lead anybody, but there seem to be a fair number of people who are, shall we say, optimistic about how their gear grades out.
For the most part, I find people (esp. on Audiogon) go out of their way to be explicit about what they're selling and what condition it's in. I've been very satisfied in most of my transactions. I've had minor disappointments in more than one transaction - gear that is a little more scuffed up than advertised, etc. I've only had one purchase where something that was advertised as "perfect condition" had a malfunctioning feature - I worked with the manufacturer and got the piece needed from them (for free) and a friend repaired it, at which point it was "perfect condition". I've never encountered the type of seller horror story you occassionally read about.
I find the percentage of the time I encounter this type of behavior to be small enough to not push me away from this type of transaction, but anybody doing this type of purchasing has to factor the possibility into their expectations because you can lose a lot of sleep if "minor" mis-leadings are going to really get under your skin. -Kirk
I have bought and sold over the past year and the only issues were " having the postal,UPS,FEDEX monkies deliver the goods as shipped". I have to warn all that you had better over box and over pack to have a chance that all will arrive as sent. I will agree that most true 'philes are very honest and are interested in passing on their equipment for others to enjoy. If the deal does not sound right at the get go, move along...
I have bought and sold here. My experience has been very good on both sides. As a buyer you need to be specific and knowledgble and ask the right questions. As a seller I try and go the extra mile to correctly represent and package my goods. I have found that "What goes around comes around" is true and that the "Golden Rule" is a good thing.
I have completed quite a few transactions over the past year and have had very few problems with the merchandise recieved, the merchandise sent, or the payment either way. I have a system that I follow that works for me. I think that most of us have a similar system because I have had no one balk at this when I trade.
If I am purchasing an item I do not make an offer unless I have the funds immediately available. If I propose a trade for an item I am conservative about its condition. If my offer is accepted I am prepared to send a money order Next Day air to the seller under the condition that the item will be shipped out within 24 hours of payment received. I have found that it is not realistic to expect someone to send out the day that the money comes in, but I make sure to do this on my end. If there is any issue, I have received components without power cords as an example, I immediately contact the seller and expect them to quickly fix whatever issue needs to be corrected. I have yet to be dissatisfied when I have followed this procedure when purchasing. That does not mean that I keep the component, it only means that the transaction went according to plan.
If I am selling a component I price it at the low end of the spectrum and I do not leave much room for negotiation. I respond to all offers and personally do not get offended by low ballers. Some of them have purchased at my asking price after trying to steal the component. I answer all questions that are accompanied by an offer for the equipment. I almost always, any transaction over $500 dollars and most others, speak to the person on the phone before commiting to the transaction. I actually do that if I am buying or selling. This gives both participants a comfort level.
Many will not agree with this, but I almost always go to a packaging store and have them double box any component over $500 and send out UPS from there. It is more expensive, but I have yet to receieve a negative feedback on these transactions. I do not ship out until I receive payment. I do not accept COD. I insure what I ship out and I demand that other insure what they ship to me.
If I do not feel comfortable with the other party I do not do business with the other party. It is a free market and we can choose who we purchase from and sell to. As others have noted in previous threads, the audiophile community seems to be a one comprised of decent people who are obsessive about their components. This helps to create a great market for buyers and sellers.
Over the past couple years i have purchased various interconnects and cables, more than a dozen electronic components (for several systems), and two pairs of speakers; i have sold only one set of speaker cables (need to start selling some of these treasures ;-). I have had only two problems:
-- A unit which arrived with some small nicks which hadn't been disclosed - it sounds so good that i let it slide (mea culpa).
-- A seller who never sent the unit at all (fortunately not a very expensive unit). He lived across country, so all i could do was complain to the 'gon and give flaming feedback.
Now when i buy i try to deal only with people who live close enough to me that i could drive to their house if i had to. Also talking on the phone can give a pretty good feel for a seller.
Although there are audiophiles who are obsessive about keeping equipment like new, there are a sufficient number of audiophiles who are not. I question sellers very thoroughly about condition, and have been told the unit is mint, no scratches at all, and then I get the piece and there are scratches and little nicks on the unit. This irks me to no end. If as a seller you are asked to LOOK for cosmetic flaws, and then you claim there are none, when in reality there are, you are dishonest. I think it boils down to two things: (1) the seller is afraid to disclose small flaws, fearing he will not get his price or sell the item; (2) the seller is not a very fastidious or careful person, and does not know how or even care how to examine a unit.
As a seller, I try to accurately describe my item, and if asked specifically, will detail to the buyer with a fine tooth comb everything about the piece. Sellers will use the excuse, "it's used; if you want new, buy it from a dealer." Sorry, that's a copout. There are audiophiles, like myself, you keep their equipment in brand new condition and pride themselves on doing so.
There are other situations, like noisy tubes, or other subtle problems, that I have encountered enough times. The excuse is always that "I didn't notice it," or "It didn't do that when I had it." Sorry, I don't buy that. Furthermore, as a seller, it is your responsibility to check your unit thoroughly as to its mechanical/ electrical condition.
How many of the Disputes in Audiogon's Dispute forum have this type of problem? A lot. Sellers try to get out of what is clearly their responsibility by lying.
Over many years of buying used guitars and guitar amps, the biggest problem is people being sloppy or careless. Most people don't understand grading scales; most people don't know how to pack well. Very, very few people try to take your money and run. Usually it's minor annoyances.
Think about all the bad drivers who share the road with you. They're not evil; they just don't understand that it's a problem for others when they suddenly change lanes in front of you without signaling. We share ebay, audiogon and the Internet with the same people. In most bad transactions, I have been able to work out my problems with the seller. People are basically good and willing to do right, but then, people aren't perfect.
Protect yourself by looking at feedback and reputation over past transactions. Most problems I've encountered seem to be new sellers who haven't learned to take the care that a good seller needs to. I find that experienced sellers who have done many deals with a particular type item, whether stereo equipment or guitars, "get" condition grading and appreciate the details.