What responsibility does a seller have to tell a customer an item has been serviced?

A few months ago I bought an expensive pre-amp from a dealer here on audiogon. This is a long time known dealer with an 100% approval rating.

I went to his home to listen to it and there was one quirk about the design I didn't like about it but I thought I could live with it. I had spent so much time and effort to get it. A pretty long drive. When I brought it home and within 24 hours by the afternoon of the next day I realized I couldn't live with it I called him to return it. 
He didn't want to take it back. On his website he has a 30 day return policy. Unfortunately not being an experienced buyer I did not know there is a hidden tab on audiogon saying no returns. Why is this not stated on the main page?!

I was furious and he said he would take it back if I forced him to but he already had another buyer for it. I felt bad and there was a (hidden) no return policy so I let it go.
I had given to him two excellent pieces, the pre and an integrated, and cash for it so I lost quite a bit of money on the deal. I'm obviously not an experienced savvy customer.
I asked him to just give me the pre back for the piece he sold me and keep the rest but no deal. And he told me the pre I gave him in perfect condition, the one I wanted back, wasn't working so he had to send it in for repair. But I shouldn't worry about it. What?!!! I drove it to him I didn't ship it! And why shouldn't I worry that I gave him a non working component when I told him it was in perfect condition?!

Then about a month later I saw he had it listed for sale. This was about 2 AM and I immediately wrote him asking for it in exchange for the item I bought being that the sale he had fell through. Early the next morning hours later he told me it was sold and he had taken it down.

He did list my item he sold to me on audiogon for a couple of months at his expense but no sale. I finally at an extreme loss as I said was able to use it for credit towards another item being sold by another audiogon dealer. This dealer told me he spoke with the American distributor of the brand who told him the first dealer had sent it to him for repair. This was not told to me. Of course I was outraged. But I hadn't asked. If I had known I would never have bought it.

So this is my question: What obligation does a seller on audiogon have to tell a client an item has been serviced if a dumb customer doesn't ask?

Still burned by the loss of so much money and the jerking around and what seems to be a couple of lies.

I think you need to put this down to haste and not clarifying the terms of the deal.
Caveat emptor. 
There may not be any legal obligations to disclose any previous service, however I do feel a dealer,or even a private seller should have the ethics to let any potential buyers know of any service done to the item. I for one,would be very leary of a dealer that feels the need not to be 100% transparent. 
I'm not understanding what the undisclosed repair has to do with anything.  It sounds like there was no issue with unit operation.  
This post is the definition of “caveat emptor,” or is it simply buyer’s remorse. In any case, the OP is expecting too much from a simple stereo transaction. We all have similar stories, but to answer your question, if the piece functions well then there is no additional guarantee. Things break, but how can the seller predict when that will happen? As far as allowing returns, unless specified in advance, nothing should be assumed to be returnable. Move on!
I think the seller in this instance had an obligation to disclose whether there was something wrong with the unit of which he was aware. Plainly, the seller here knew there was an issue with the piece since he had sent it in for service. Now, that having been said, it appears that the repair was effectuated properly and that there was no issue as to operation of the unit; rather, it seems as if you simply didn't like the sound.  In that circumstance, the failure to disclose the repair was inconsequential. You may just have to chalk it up to the price of an education and move on.   

There was no problem with unit operation however I was wondering if an item had an issue in the past and therefore more than likely have another issue in the future does the consumer have the right to know without asking.

Let's saying you are selling a pair of speakers and you blew out a driver and it had to be replaced. The customer comes to your house. They play beautifully. The customer does not ask you if there have been any problems and takes them home. Later he finds out from the company that a driver had been replaced on one of the speakers. If he knew he would have had more info on making a decision. This might give pause for the purchase or try to negotiate a better price. Is that simply a case of sorry Charlie you didn't ask enough questions? Why should the dealer tell you if he makes a faster better deal without full disclosure on his part. 
none....when buying a new car, the dealer often fixes scratches, et al. It seems your unit was delivered as advertised.
None whatsoever. It is a 'used product' and apparently works as designed.  Yep, it is 'sorry Charlie'. You really do need to work out all potential issues with the seller before you buy. Ignorance is a poor excuse I'm afraid. 
Imho, if the item was modified you have an obligation to disclose.  If repaired to factory spec, no obligation to disclose. 
If I have any reservations regarding the condition or past service of an item of interest: it's incumbent on ME to ASK, before I BUY.    Honest answers are the seller's responsibility.
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Used items typically are purchased on an "as is" basis. From a legal standpoint, there is no obligation for the seller to disclose; however, I think that members here should hold themselves to a higher standard given that we are an audio community. Now, if there was a problem with the unit that hadn't been repaired, but which was represented as functioning properly, then that would be fraud. Here, there was no problem with the unit and you just didn't dig the sound, money notwithstanding. 
Yes I admit he did offer to take it back if I insisted. But I agree everything he did on his part of the deal was fair which is why I didn't insist. And audiogon has a no return policy. This is just a post finding out how people feel about the issue and kicking myself for a made in haste not being a smart consumer decision.

But then why the games? Why not say simply I'm sorry we made the deal I made my part of the bargain. What was up with him telling me it didn't work but don't worry about it? Doesn't this seem strange to you Elizabeth? Why tell me 'I have a customer' then a month later list it ,then when I notice it take it down when I ask can if we can still work it out. He could have simply said the deal fell through and now it's listed on audiogon accept it. None of this hiding stuff and you gave me a nonfunctioning piece of equipment that I had to return to the company for repair but it doesn't matter nonsense. If it's not working what seller would have accepted that when originally told it was in excellent condition? That's pretty insulting. This is ok behavior? 
I agree with Elizabeth; you even mention this morning that, "There was no problem with unit operation" - so just move on.  Sell the unit if you don't like it and chalk it up to lesson learned.

We've all made hasty decisions, those of us who have been in this hobby for a long time.  I still may make a hasty decision or two myself if I see something that comes up that looks interesting that I want - live with it and look for the silver lining in it.... I'll bet you can make a trade for it if you can't sell it.

I might want to trade you for it - What is IT?
The dealer sounds like a BS'er.  Personally, I wouldnt want to do business again with someone who gave me that kind of story.  You made the original deal in haste, of which you realize, but the rest of the dealers reactions seem off base... yes, why make up stories, why just not be truthful?  I wouldn't deal with him any more.
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In business we try to practice due diligence when faced with acquisition or divestment, not always easy, and other than face value and customer referrals/feedback, for a private company or dealership there’s not much else you can do. My hunch is that the desire for the component outweighed all other factors at the time and, later, buyer’s remorse set in.

I typically like that a unit has been serviced because chances are that whatever primary mode of failure was eventually going to surface has now done so and been taken care of.

But, to the buyer’s credit, he describes several things that the seller said and did that make me think he wasn’t working with someone who was competely honest. There is always the feedback option...

Just curious: was the preamp an earlier CJ model that audibly clicks the servo when adjusting the volume?
lou, thank you for your interest but evidently it's not a popular component and I was able to get a little bit of value out of it as a trade in with another dealer. I hope he can sell it or has sold it and make a worthwhile profit on it. But he's a smart no nonsense guy who has been in the business a while. He's the one who tipped me off on the repair. I was mortified. I'm the one who should have known and told him when I wanted to use it for credit.
Steve gosh no. He has an excellent approval rating with many encomiums which is why I did business with him in the first place. But not everything goes to one's liking.
Steve I just saw your last line. Wow. Are you a psychic? Not the brand but the quirk.
There is one silver lining, and it sounds like, given the trade for the unwanted preamp, perhaps you finally found what you were looking for. No longer wanting a component you bought means that the quest continues, and eventually you WILL find the holy grail that fits your needs. Let us know how whatever you replaced it with works out.
The reason I asked that question was because I home demoed a CJ 17LS preamp years ago from a dealer and, after one day, I realized I could not live with the banging and clanging from a high end preamp. It just didn't make sense, no matter how good the thing sounded. Yeah, quirks are hard to pinpoint and evaluate until they sit in our systems and not the showroom. I'll bet unwanted noise from a component is one of the "top ten's" of why we are disatisfied with a piece of gear. Maybe I should start a thread asking that very question, hmmm... 

I, for one, wouldn't consider a serviced item to be a negative. Quite the contrary.
If I am selling something, and find an issue, I will have it corrected before selling. 
If a buyer finds the need to have an unserviced unit, then he/she should buy new.
I bought a Doshi modified amp here from someone with thousands of posts and perfect feedback.Turns out the amp had been back and forth for repairs more than once just before I bought it, which was not disclosed in the ad. When I got it, it stopped working after a few hours. I very well might not have bought the amp had the seller disclosed the repair history. I lucked out, as Nick Doshi agreed to fix it, and did not charge me for it, so I never confronted the seller about it.
Elizabeth- LOL would you suggest neon lights?

One thing to keep in mind is that this is a hobby for most people on these forums, but serious business for others.  As a hobbyist I'll pay extra to funnel through a few amps to find the right one, or sell an item cheaper because I want to get it out of my house.  Two years ago I made an offer on one Rel S3 sub.  The dealer wanted to sell the pair and wouldn't break them up- he was rude about it.  I bought one cheaper and in better condition, used  it for a year and resold it for about the same money.  The dealer is still trying to sell the same sub.  Different strokes for different folks.  Roll with it and don't make the same mistake again.
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Depends on the repair.  Some repair work that I do I know will last for ever.  Other components especially older ones with cheap circuit boards I know may have long term issues.  It does not always go smooth.  It depends on the repair being done,

It would have been nice to day that the manufacturer repaired the unit or is a local prepare person did the work.  But you heard the unit work perfectly so your only gripe is the issue that you now feel you cannot live with.  That person could have just sucked it up because you were a nice guy just like you were asking that person to do.  But that person is not obligated and you did not ask for a in home trial period.

If all it comes down to is a clicking in the volume control, that have someone swap it out for one that does not make any clicking sound.  Would that make you a satisfied buyer?

Anyway he is not obligated but it would have been a nice gesture.

Happy Listening.
So to all that disagree that a past repair need not be in the description, what if there was a chronic problem with a particular unit and the seller decides to fix it ONE LAST TIME, plays it for 10 minutes then puts it up for sale?  I think it should be mentioned whether it 1 time or 3. 

As a buyer I expect transparency and as a seller I do the same. I just feel it’s part of being a good trader.
Both sides have obligations.  
The Reputable Seller should clearly disclose the known history of the item.  
The buyer should ask and if need be reclarify both questions and answers.   
If the item is an older unit, I would prefer a professional open up the hood and take a look at least once. The sellers that irk me are the ones that claim their "tech" recently serviced the unit. When pressed for proof of work done, sellers rarely can cough up any information of any kind. Saying the unit was serviced and not having any kind of proof? Yeah, thanks but no.
'Anyway he is not obligated but it would have been a nice gesture.'
Yes and as I said he DID make the offer. But being that he told me he already had a customer for it I felt it incredibly unfair to take a sale from him when he kept his part of the bargain.

When I found out the deal fell through I decided to take him up on it. You know what happened next.

Then of course finding out from the guy I gave it too that it had been a serviced component was pretty embarrassing and it got my goat. Remember I was not being transparent with the guy I traded it to. I'm guilty of what the seller did simply because I did not do my homework. Just kicking myself that's all and wondering do you offer important information that can hurt a sale if people don't ask? Or do you keep quiet and hope you have a dumbo.
No, you ask questions next time around !!!  Caveat Emptor!  Before you drive all the way there, and trade him 2 of your units + cash for his unit, you ask questions, you find out about the gear you are acquiring!  Please stop driveling on about this situation!  
Honesty is the best policy - Full disclosure of all known faults to the best of your knowledge even if you sell it "As-is.  Where-is".  Protect your personal reputation, avoid possible legal claims, especially in this day when people complain about you on social media....and they are telling the truth.
Elizabeth’s suggestion of a plaque to commemorate this horrible transaction is hilarious (LOL)!
One good thing about this post is that it lets you know who to buy from and who not to.
Actually, this post reveals nothing (that’s right, nothing) about who to buy from and who not to buy from. After reading the responses, it seems clear that most believe that buying used equipment, especially vintage used stereo equipment is an “as is” transaction. We live in an imperfect world and things do break. That doesn’t mean that the previous owner was a scammer. It gets more complicated when buyers are not fully committed to the purchase, have buyer’s remorse, and look for ways to reverse the sale. That’s the basis for the phrase “caveat emptor” (buyer beware). Most, but not all, stereo equipment traders understand that.
If you look back at Audiogon's listing content from their "Seller's Description" it is pretty clear that Audiogon expects that the seller will provide an honest and accurate description of the unit's condition and working status.  It does not require that a seller reveal if the unit has been serviced...but certainly a buyer could ask and if the answer is yes, then could further ask for a receipt.

Here is a question:  Would you feel better knowing that an item has been serviced and you were provided a receipt...or would you now feel like...wow, I wonder what is going to break next??

From Audiogon"
Listing Content Title

The title is what will drive users to click on your listing, and is created from supplying the brand and model of your item, but you are able to add distinguishing, relevant information at the end. Relevant Details To Include In Listing Title

  • Free Shipping
  • Item Condition
    • Demo Unit
    • Factory Re-Certified
  • One-Owner
  • Limited Edition
  • Colorway/Wood Finish
  • Tweaks/Upgrades

Use the official Audiogon Grading Scale for consistent grading compared to other users.

  • New: Unopened Factory shipment
  • 10/10: Mint - Essentially never used, factory fresh appearance!
  • 9/10: Excellent - Perfect physical condition, light use.
  • 8/10: Very Good - Perfect front face, 1 minor flaw on top or side is acceptable.
  • 7/10: Good - 1 or 2 minor scratches, looks used but well maintained.
  • 6/10: Fair - 3 to 4 minor scratches, or 1 major scratch, appears used.
  • 5/10: Average - Multiple scratches, including some on the front face.
  • 4/10: Mediocre - Rough physical condition, but all funtions work perfectly.
  • 3/10: Poor - Rather beat up, but all functions work, maybe a knob is missing.
  • 2/10: Very Poor - Beat up, bent knobs or switch levers, some functional problems
  • 1/10: Shot - For parts use only

So....it looks like unless an item is rated a 1...it is expected to work.

Therefore, if you make a purchase and the item doesn't work, report the problem immediately....and if you just don't like how the item performs....tough luck, put it back up for resale.

If something has been repaired, most times that means the unit has been shipped. I would want to know that. Don't ask don't tell is still lying through omission of the truth. Sellers should use full disclosure when selling.

You do realize that if a component has been repaired it's trade in value is less? How can you all not know this? And to find out from the dealer I gave it too?!!

The hysterical outrage and mockery particularly by the barking dog simply because I've questioned their finely honed used car salesmen tactics that they practice with such commitment is beyond the pale.
Look, once you buy used stereo equipment, you own it. Looking for a reason to void the sale, like the screws had been turned indicating that repairs had been done, is childish. If you think you made a mistake, or realize you really can’t afford it, then just sell it. Typically, unless spelled out in advance (probably in writing), stereo equipment is sold "as is." If this thread points out nothing else, it shows the disparity of opinions in regard to buying and selling equipment. I doubt that anyone is trying to cheat anyone here, but trying to speculate on whether a 20 year old piece of equipment that you own has ever been repaired is ridiculous, unless you have owned it since new. Personally, I have done many buying transactions here on Audiogon and never had a bad experience. I’ve probably just been lucky!
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I believe in transparency and disclose up front, no amount of $ is worth my reputation- I took back a rare phono preamp recently with an intermittent issue in one channel- shipped it back across pond to guy who built it - still not fixed- IF I ever list it, will be rated as a 1

btw OP is it the venerable Ayre KX-R pre ? A legendary transparent volume control, IMO worth the slight distraction of a thunk...
we live in the physical world of stuff that breaks
music should be our escape
absolutely do not memorize this with a bad karma placard but if ya do I would suggest a broken guitar string....
Looks to me like the retailer you purchased this from must have known there was something wrong with it.  Kind of like buying a car and then finding out it had been in an accident.  If the dealers states his return policy in writing, you have legal rights that can be enforced in a court of law.  This is why I would never purchased used equipment.  I don't buy used cars either.  I certainly would not purchase a used car from a private party.  You should disclose the name of the party you purchased from so this person should be removed from Audiogon.  You should also take him to court.  Sounds like he is extremely dishonest and a con man.  You also need to report him to the Better Business Bureau.  Hope you learned your lesson.  You should have demanded he write out his return policy on your invoice.

We are really getting caught in the tall weeds here.

The only responsibility the seller has is to list accurately the condition of the unit.  Does it work correctly?  What is the appearance? costs?

Whether a unit has been serviced or repaired?  That has nothing to do with the sale.  either it works within specifications or it doesn't. 

One has to ask the question, why would you want to know whether a piece was "service"?  and what does "serviced" mean anyway?  checked for operational capability?  repaired?  I may be concerned about upgrades and would want to know, but even then, maybe not.

For example, I own a pair of Martin Logan Monolith III Speakers.  years ago I sent the power supplies and passive crossovers in for repair.  So what?  I replaced the panels in 2006 with new ones and changed the woofers to the recommended Peerless woofers (much better bass response).  Martin Logan did the repairs to the crossover and power supplies, so do you really care about that?  I don't.  If I were to sell the speakers, I would tell the potential buyer that I changed the woofers and still have the original ones if he/she wants them also. 

But, what difference does it make that I had Martin Logan repair the crossovers and power supplies.  The fact is that the speakers work perfectly now.  I'm now using a Krell KBX electronic balanced crossover.  I also had issues with my system and thought the electrostatic panels may be at fault so I ordered new panels.  They are still in my office at home in the boxes because I found the real problem wasn't the speakers but a single tube in my preamp.  A single tube! 

So, in my opinion, no.  it is not the sellers responsibility to inform the potential buyer of repairs or "service" what ever that means.  It is, in my opinion the right thing to do to inform of upgrades done.  Which I do.

If a potential buyer asks, I will tell them about repairs or service done. 

All I care really when I purchase something on audiogon, is 1) does it work correctly?  2) what is it's appearance?  3) any upgrades done to it? 4) price

I'm finding that there are lots of lookie loos out there that want to treat a private sale like a retail store.  They want to look and listen before buying.  That is fine for new equipment, but really not cool for used equipment.  One should know what they want before purchasing.

I will accept an offer of purchase, then allow the buyer to come to my home to personally pick up the unit and pay.  Every time I've done that, I have the unit operating in my system so that the buyer can see/hear for themselves that the unit works and sounds correctly.  Also, that takes away any excuse later for them to say it didn't work.

Well, yes it did. You heard it for an hours and paid.

That is really why I don't like paypal.  It protects the buyer, not the seller.  I can ship a perfectly operating unit to someone, paypal keeps the money in escrow until the buyer says it is okay.  however, if the buyer was a lookie loo, they can say the unit didn't work correctly and paypal refunds the money.  the seller then gets the unit back and finds the unit works perfectly.

That sucks.

One reason why I like to converse with buyers/sellers before completing transactions.


For me it depends on the circumstance. If the item was dropped or mishandled and needed to be repaired I would want to know that. It would also matter to me who performed the repair. If someone had their buddy who thinks he’s handy with a soldering iron fix it to try and save a buck or two vs sending it back to the manufacturer, I would certainly want that disclosed. But that is not what happened.

Personally, I always disclose if an item has been in for service while i’ve owned it as well as who did the repair. However, if I purchased something and later found out it had been sent to the factory for a repair I doubt it would bother me that much. In fact as others have said I would probably feel much better that it had been in for the repair instead of having to deal with it on my dime later on down the road.

minorl makes a very good point about tire kickers and I get a sense that is the case here. Had you been happy with the preamp I find it hard to believe the repair would be an issue here.

“he said he would take it back . . . .”  I doubt you would ever be satisfied. 
if I buy a used piece of gear, it’s mine.  Especially if I got to hear and see it before I bought it. I would not even consider returning it. If I sold a item to a fellow audiogoner, I would expect that they would feel the same way. 
But I would also let the buyer know all I had done to the unit. But this is used equipment, who knows what the previous owners had done to it. 
As a seller where I’m the original owner, I point out if the gear up for sale has been serviced, explaining the details of the service. For example, getting a CD transport serviced for a routine tune-up (e.g., lubercating the sled mechanism, belts and the like, and cleaning and calibrating the laser lens assembly).
roxy1927 OP38 posts02-12-2019 10:04amYou do realize that if a component has been repaired it's trade in value is less? How can you all not know this? 

I wholeheartedly disagree with this proposition. Folks want to know what they are paying for. Disclosure about service work is more important to evaluating the value of the component in terms of updates and tune-ups. For example, nobody wants a sqeeky transport—it’s annoying. That alone would reduce its value if not addressed, because the eventual new owner would need to spend some $$ to get the piece up to an acceptable status for them.

Obviously, a piece with a lengthy service history raises red flags. But most pieces don’t have such service histories.