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View Full Version : getting burned on Ebay - buying tips anyone?



UKEonomics
04-04-2013, 05:59 AM
I had an idea a couple weeks ago to write a piece on my blog about Ebay ukulele buying tips. I'm wondering if anyone of you folks have been burned on Ebay like I have and if you'd like to share your tips and/or what you learned from that experience to help me out.

I thought it would be cool to get people to chime in and tell others what to look for, questions to ask the sellers, etc.

The hope is that it might help our fellow ukers to avoid the same fate that many of us have fallen victim to. I'd very much appreciate your tips and story. Thanks!

I've only had this happen to me once...fraudulent pictures were the culprit.

EDIT: Used and Vintage ukes are really what I'm talking about. Something that you haven't had the opportunity to handle and play yourself but has been played and possibly abused. I guess it doesn't have to be exclusive to Ebay, but that's the site that comes to mind when talking about getting burned.

bnolsen
04-04-2013, 06:27 AM
Buy from reputable stores and dealers. Otherwise buy from the marketplace here or craigslist or MIM, etc. I'm not sure what to say about vintage/plastics since I'm guessing ebay is the best place to find those. And I'm sure you can find plenty of advice about EBAY anywhere on the internet in general.

UKEonomics
04-04-2013, 06:33 AM
Buy from reputable stores and dealers. Otherwise buy from the marketplace here or craigslist or MIM, etc. I'm not sure what to say about vintage/plastics since I'm guessing ebay is the best place to find those. And I'm sure you can find plenty of advice about EBAY anywhere on the internet in general.

For sure. There is a wealth of Ebay buying tips on the net, but I'm really talking about ukulele specific buying advice.

I agree though, a reputable dealer is always who you'd like to buy from! :)

hoosierhiver
04-04-2013, 06:39 AM
Be sure to check the feedback scores.

Dan Uke
04-04-2013, 07:27 AM
Check return policy

RichM
04-04-2013, 07:43 AM
In general, remember that sellers on ebay are often not players or collectors, but wholesalers, estate sellers, garage sale sniffers, etc, etc. Often the seller will not know a thing about what he is selling, and pass on misinformation due to ignorance. This can work in either party's favor; I once saw a fairly nice vintage uke listed as "cracked" when it seemed to have only a very minor finish crack. On the other hand, I have seen mahogany listed as koa, ukuleles listed as guitars, Mexican S-0 ukes listed as vintage Martins... etc, etc. In most cases, I don't think the sellers were trying to deceive... they just did the tiniest bit of research to figure out what they were selling and went ahead and listed.

pootsie
04-04-2013, 07:43 AM
And remember, "vintage" means 5 years old or more!

Mim
04-04-2013, 07:46 AM
Feedback score is good, but sometimes these ukes are coming from people who have bought an estate, or a box at an auction that had an ukulele in it and they are just selling it and know nothing about it. In that case, ask lots of questions. About cracks, etc. And yes, check return policy. And if there is a problem, let them know right away. The reason for wanting something back within a month is so when a transaction is canceled they get their money back or else the fee money is kept by ebay and they are out money for something that in reality did not sold. But no ebayer wants bad feedback, so usually they will take it back no problem and work with you! Just be open, honest, and always assume their intentions were good and they were not trying to screw you if something was misleading in the description. They may not have known.
(Speaking for vintage and used sellers)

I suppose I think of this because up in the mountains there are a lot of estate sales and people will buy boxes of stuff and just split is all up and sell it as pieces. On ebay or in little shops. They dont necissarily know about everything they sell. There is a local antique booth space renting type shop that has a Hilo with 1/2 inch high action at the 12th fret advertised as vintage and for $40.

Mim
04-04-2013, 07:46 AM
In general, remember that sellers on ebay are often not players or collectors, but wholesalers, estate sellers, garage sale sniffers, etc, etc. Often the seller will not know a thing about what he is selling, and pass on misinformation due to ignorance. This can work in either party's favor; I once saw a fairly nice vintage uke listed as "cracked" when it seemed to have only a very minor finish crack. On the other hand, I have seen mahogany listed as koa, ukuleles listed as guitars, Mexican S-0 ukes listed as vintage Martins... etc, etc. In most cases, I don't think the sellers were trying to deceive... they just did the tiniest bit of research to figure out what they were selling and went ahead and listed.

Hahaha... I was typing my stuff at the same time. Great minds think alike!

RichM
04-04-2013, 08:27 AM
Hahaha... I was typing my stuff at the same time. Great minds think alike!

Nothing could please me more than thinking just like you, Miss Mim!

Shastastan
04-04-2013, 09:57 AM
In general, remember that sellers on ebay are often not players or collectors, but wholesalers, estate sellers, garage sale sniffers, etc, etc. Often the seller will not know a thing about what he is selling, and pass on misinformation due to ignorance. This can work in either party's favor; I once saw a fairly nice vintage uke listed as "cracked" when it seemed to have only a very minor finish crack. On the other hand, I have seen mahogany listed as koa, ukuleles listed as guitars, Mexican S-0 ukes listed as vintage Martins... etc, etc. In most cases, I don't think the sellers were trying to deceive... they just did the tiniest bit of research to figure out what they were selling and went ahead and listed.


And a lot of Pwn Shop dealers. I've seen it go both ways some over priced and some under.

chrimess
04-04-2013, 10:17 AM
there was this girl the other week that was selling a gen 1 Sapele KoAlana as a full Koa Koaloha and despite repeated messages and a report to Ebay it required the push of another few UUers to make her disclose these facts...

mds725
04-04-2013, 10:36 AM
I bought some ukuleles from MGM when he was an independent eBay seller and I was a beginning ukulele player, and I trusted him on the basis of both the wonderful feedback and love he got here and his feedback on eBay. Of course, I wasn't disappointed; MGM was as great to deal with then as he is now. I also bought a Pono second ukulele on eBay, but before I did, I learned that the seller was affiliated with Pono and that he had great feedback on eBay. I was very happy with that purchase too. The one time I bought an ukulele from a private party, it had an issue with the bridge that wasn't visible from the photos on eBay (in person, the bridge showed signs of having been reglued and, at least to my eye, looked crooked), but the seller was very nice about letting me return it. So my experience just confirms what others have said - buy from a reputable seller and, if you buy from a private party, check feedback but also ask about the seller's return policy.

Newportlocal
04-04-2013, 11:22 AM
Make sure you shop the total price with shipping. Some sellers like to pad the shipping portion to pay less ebay fees, or to make it look like their item is cheaper.

OldePhart
04-04-2013, 12:23 PM
Most of my tips come from actual experience though I've never been burned majorly.

Whenever I place a bid on something, I save a complete copy of the listing page to my local hard drive - pictures and all. This way I have proof if the user changes the pictures after the auction ends (they can easily do this if they are self-hosting the images). I started doing this after getting an effects pedal that was beat up and with no battery cover, when I went back to check the pics, they had been changed.

Look at all the pictures closely, and if one part of the item is not shown or a picture is out of focus or dark when others are fine - assume there is something being hidden. You will often be right.

Make sure that the pictures are hi-res, and that you click on them to enlarge them - hairline cracks often don't show up in the small image on the listing page but they are there when you enlarge the photo to full size.

NEVER pay an unknown seller using a PayPal balance or a bank transfer. ALWAYS use a credit card, and DON'T get the PayPal credit card! I was almost "burned" by PayPal several years ago (before eBay bought them, if I remember right). What happened was I won an auction and paid immediately using PayPal and a bank credit card. It very quickly turned out that the seller was very obviously fraudulent because his feedback went from low but positive to nothing but negatives, all for non-delivery and no contact. We're talking dozens of items pretty quickly. Then, eBay closed his account. I filed a claim with PayPal and waited, and waited, and waited. They kept showing "investigating" as the status of the claim in spite of the obviously fraudulent nature of the transaction. Emails to PayPal went unanswered. Finally, I called my credit card company and canceled the charge. IMMEDIATELY PayPal suddenly became very interested in contacting me and emailed me to demand that I not reverse charges on any more transactions without "giving them time to investigate." Personally, I can't prove it, but I suspect that they were just trying to draw things out past the cutoff date when my credit card company wouldn't have reversed the charges.

Do I use PayPal? Sure, but I NEVER use anything but a third-party credit card unless I know the person I am dealing with.

John

UKEonomics
04-04-2013, 01:43 PM
Very good information here ladies and gents! Keep it comin'!

I seem to recall one UU member on a different thread mentioning they always request a picture of the neck from the side (to make sure it was straight). Can't remember who it was though.....

Doc_J
04-04-2013, 02:42 PM
I've had great buying experiences on EBay. I only buy from folks with 99% or higher feedback scores, and must have been on eBay for at least a year. I also message sellers for information or more/better pictures if the ones in the listing aren't sufficient.

When in doubt about the item for sale or the seller, pass.

PayPal now has firm time commitments to help buyers when deals go bad. PayPal and ebay have come to my rescue more than once.

hmgberg
04-04-2013, 03:57 PM
I've had to rely on Ebay buyer protection as well. One seller, with 100% positive feedback at the time, listed a Gibson UB-3 at a very low price. I bought it. It was never shipped. I contacted the seller who told me that he was selling it for a friend and was having difficulty contacting the friend, who he said, recently experienced a death in his family. He asked that I give him a little more time to be in touch with the seller. The next day, the UB-3 was re-listed and sold again. Over the next week or so, the instrument was listed and sold at least half a dozen times. Each time, I contacted Ebay o notify them that this seller was perpetrating a fraud. Each time they said they would turn it over to their fraud division, but that they couldn't do anything else like take the sale down without the sellers consent. This was certainly frustrating. I even started a thread on this forum to warn fellow ukers not to buy this ukulele. In the end, I got my money back from Ebay, who then went after the seller. He is no longer a registered Ebay user.

In another instance, I bought a Martin Style 3 at a very good price. I then contacted a friend of mine to celebrate the purchase. He wrote back to me that the ukulele in question actually belonged to a friend of his, and that this friend was not selling it. I contacted the seller who replied that he did not have time to take his own pictures and so he just used pictures of a similar instrument he found on the internet. I asked him to refund my money, which he did. A few days later he listed the instrument again, this time with his own pictures, presumably. It was a Martin Style 1. This seller is also no longer a registered Ebayer.

I often write to sellers who erroneously describe their wares...ukuleles that are really mandolins or tenor guitars, Martin Style 1 ukuleles that are listed as Style 2s (a frequent mistake), mahogany called koa, mainland ukuleles described as Hawaiian, and so on. Most often, they thank me and correct the errors. On occasion, they write to me about other ukuleles they have and ask me questions about them. I don't always get pleasant responses, though. Sometimes, folks contest my assertions. Then, I don't pursue it any more.

The advice already given is excellent. Save pictures and descriptions to your hard drive. That's particularly important. Really, beyond this, I would say that knowledge is your friend. Try to learn as much as you can about any instrument you wish to buy, before you buy it.

Tigeralum2001
04-04-2013, 07:03 PM
I once bought a very early KoAloha from eBay. It had a round sound hole, so that is how you know it was early. The photos were slightly distant and low res, but looked great. Seller had good feedback and stated the uke was beautiful and had "no nicks, scratches, or cracks." I got a good deal on it and was so stoked. When it came, I opened it and took it out of the case. The top showed some age, but wasn't too bad, then I flipped it over. The back had 3 cracks about 4-5" long. I complained to the seller, but they didn't want to do anything about it, so I complained to PayPal with close-up pictures and the eBay description. PayPal refunded my money and the seller paid for return shipping.

Now when I buy from eBay, I ask for better pictures (if they aren't good). I also photograph the box, the unboxing process, and the uke as it comes from the case- front, sides, and back.

I have only had that one negative experience on eBay and it worked out in the end, but it was stressful thinking I was going to lose the money.

garyg
04-06-2013, 05:20 AM
I second the comments that lots of good information already has been posted, and Howard took the words out of my mouth below so I'll paraphrase this advice "Know thine vintage instrument" and communicate with the seller. If you know your instrument and talk to the seller about it, you will quickly be able to assess whether they know what they're talking about or not. I'm ambivalent about telling sellers that they've got a post-62 OM Martin when they've listed it as a 20-30's vintage Martin (always with a rare thrown in there for good measure). Most folks just don't know the instrument and list what they think it is (or what they think will bring the best price) -- if you tell them what it really is, I've found that many do not modify their listing, probably because they're too lazy to change it. And ignorance is really no excuse, I mean would you sell a car without finding out what year it was made? Okay with vintage ukes it's not that simple but there are some quick ways to either determine (Martin head stamp vs. decal, Made in USA stamp & decal) or at least estimate whether a uke is early or late manufacture, and if you're selling something for hundreds of dollars you should be expected to spend at least a bit of time finding out what it actually is. Just because many folks are lazy doesn't mean that we should excuse lazy sellers especially because the errors are almost always in the favor of the seller ("great condition for this rare uke, only 3 small cracks" "very early uke 20's" [for a 50's Favilla]) so it's definitely caveat emptor. Good advice already posted about pictures and feedback, and ensuring there is a reasonable return policy, but the good buys always involve a bit of risk. I also almost always ask for a sound sample and point them to soundcloud. Sometimes sound samples are goosed, so make sure you know if it was raw sound (via what mic) or "processed sound" (similar to processed cheese and with the same intent). Sometimes you get someone who knows what they have and have shaded it a bit so examine pics closely as previously mentioned, and ask questions. Just recently someone listed a nice looking Martin 2K for a reasonable price, when I asked if there were any problems there was not answer but someone with better eyes than me spotted what clearly was a small repair, but a repair nonetheless.



I often write to sellers who erroneously describe their wares...ukuleles that are really mandolins or tenor guitars, Martin Style 1 ukuleles that are listed as Style 2s (a frequent mistake), mahogany called koa, mainland ukuleles described as Hawaiian, and so on. Most often, they thank me and correct the errors. On occasion, they write to me about other ukuleles they have and ask me questions about them. I don't always get pleasant responses, though. Sometimes, folks contest my assertions. Then, I don't pursue it any more."

The advice already given is excellent. Save pictures and descriptions to your hard drive. That's particularly important. Really, beyond this, I would say that knowledge is your friend. Try to learn as much as you can about any instrument you wish to buy, before you buy it.

mm stan
04-06-2013, 11:02 AM
Like others have said cover your bases through out to mimnimize getting burned..if all fails ....you can report it to pay pal and ebay.... "USE PAY PAL" sooner or later we all get burned, but experience
will mimnimize that hopefully...

UncleMoon
04-06-2013, 12:04 PM
Make sure you shop the total price with shipping. Some sellers like to pad the shipping portion to pay less ebay fees, or to make it look like their item is cheaper.

Ebay charges on the full price including shipping now. It DOES make it look the price is lower, but doesn't have any effect on the seller fees.