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Has anyone else been bothered by the recent trend of sellers not stating anything other than the obvious facts? It's typically something like the following:

Mark VI tenor sax. Condition is used. Ships with USPS.

Seriously?!? That's it?? That's all someone has to say? Do they not realize that buyers have a chance to inspect an item once received, and if there are any undisclosed issues (which obviously there will be), they'll either have to negotiate a deal with the buyer, or they'll have to reimburse everything, including all shipping costs? Or, is it that buyers don't realize they have a right to inspect an item, so sellers do not state anything so they can claim everything was exactly as described: Mark VI tenor sax. Condition is used. Ships with USPS.
 

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Yes, and I wouldn’t bother to deal with them. They often will have more disclaimers in their e-mails “I don’t have any experience with saxophones, but this one looks great and is very collectible.”, or similar.

If you are a tech, and have the time to invest in a flip, they may be a swinging deal, but I’d stay away.
 

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Has anyone else been bothered by the recent trend of sellers not stating anything other than the obvious facts? It's typically something like the following:

Mark VI tenor sax. Condition is used. Ships with USPS.

Seriously?!? That's it?? That's all someone has to say? Do they not realize that buyers have a chance to inspect an item once received, and if there are any undisclosed issues (which obviously there will be), they'll either have to negotiate a deal with the buyer, or they'll have to reimburse everything, including all shipping costs? Or, is it that buyers don't realize they have a right to inspect an item, so sellers do not state anything so they can claim everything was exactly as described: Mark VI tenor sax. Condition is used. Ships with USPS.
That's the default description when you choose "sell something similar" and/or click on preset boxes instead of building a listing from scratch and manually filling in the fields. eBay auto-populates the fields and that is the auto-description that goes in the applicable box. It's not so much the seller stating it as the description as the seller being too lazy to be bothered to provide an actual description.

It is pretty stupid as it opens the seller up to all kinds of (real or bogus) claims.
 

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Jman, you're a lawyer aren't you? TM and I were debating this issue over text and we were wondering what kind of legal protections online consumers actually have for used items on ebay. Sure, there's the ebay policy, but if someone buys this horn that's described as "used," is it legally assumed that "used" means "as-is" and the buyer is only protected by ebay policy and not in a court of law?

I mean, in this case, I wouldn't touch the horn in question without getting a lot more information.....but we were wondering what the actual laws are on this.
 

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"As-is" doesn't really apply to transactions where the buyer doesn't have the opportunity to actually inspect the item being sold within a reasonable time. In other words, even if the transaction is subject to an "as is, where is" disclaimer the buyer still needs to be given the chance to physically inspect/do due diligence on the item. If, after such inspection, the buyer decides to proceed, then he can't come back later on after he subsequently discovers issues. Typically in purchase/sale contracts that contain "as is, where is" disclaimers, there is a provision where the buyer acknowledges/represents that he has had the opportunity to conduct his own due diligence and that he relied on the results of his own due diligence in making his decision.

Of course, the buyer can also waive his inspection rights, but I don't think there are too many buyers who are that stupid.

The bottom line is that the parties are entitled to get substantially what they reasonably expected to get based on information they provided to each other during the offer and acceptance process (the benefit of the bargain). The seller gets the money agreed on, the buyer gets substantially the item agreed on. If there are major defects in the item that were not disclosed, then the buyer did not get substantially the item agreed on and is entitled to either return the item or be made whole. Even if the sale is "as is, where is," the seller still has to provide a sufficient description of what he is selling. A seller is always required to disclose major defects that are known to the seller and in many cases, major defects that should have been known by the seller. Also, there is specific language required for an "as is, where is" sale to be legally binding (typically a couple of paragraphs in bold and all caps font). You don't really see that language in online listings.

In the case of online sales, the buyer only gets to conduct his inspection upon receipt of the item. Hence, any caveats RE: "as is, where is" or "no returns accepted" is still subject to the buyer's inspection rights. If buyer's inspection reveals major issues that were not disclosed, seller is not insulated by any "as is, where is" disclaimer. Buyer's claims may be based on breach of contract or fraud (intentional misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact).

Jman, you're a lawyer aren't you? TM and I were debating this issue over text and we were wondering what kind of legal protections online consumers actually have for used items on ebay. Sure, there's the ebay policy, but if someone buys this horn that's described as "used," is it legally assumed that "used" means "as-is" and the buyer is only protected by ebay policy and not in a court of law?

I mean, in this case, I wouldn't touch the horn in question without getting a lot more information.....but we were wondering what the actual laws are on this.
 

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"As-is" doesn't really apply to transactions where the buyer doesn't have the opportunity to actually inspect the item being sold within a reasonable time. In other words, even if the transaction is subject to an "as is, where is" disclaimer the buyer still needs to be given the chance to physically inspect/do due diligence on the item. If, after such inspection, the buyer decides to proceed, then he can't come back later on after he subsequently discovers issues. Typically in purchase/sale contracts that contain "as is, where is" disclaimers, there is a provision where the buyer acknowledges/represents that he has had the opportunity to conduct his own due diligence and that he relied on the results of his own due diligence in making his decision.

Of course, the buyer can also waive his inspection rights, but I don't think there are too many buyers who are that stupid.

The bottom line is that the parties are entitled to get substantially what they reasonably expected to get based on information they provided to each other during the offer and acceptance process. The seller gets the money agreed on, the buyer gets substantially the item agreed on. If there are major defects in the item that were not disclosed, then the buyer did not get substantially the item agreed on and is entitled to either return the item or be made whole.

In the case of online sales, the buyer only gets to conduct his inspection upon receipt of the item. Hence, any caveats RE: "as is, where is" or "no returns accepted" is still subject to the buyer's inspection rights. If buyer's inspection reveals major issues that were not disclosed, seller is not insulated by any "as is, where is" disclaimer.
Thanks for the clarification!

TM - I stand corrected, I'll put some BBQ sauce on my crow and it will taste better.
 

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No worries. I updated my post to included additional info. Also, when it comes to allocating risk regarding defects, the person who actually has access to the item and is able to inspect it bears the risk. So as long as the seller has the item, he bears the risk that his description may not sufficiently describe the item and fails to reveal major defects. Once the buyer gets possession and has had reasonable time to inspect, the risk passes to the buyer. The item does not have to be 100% accurately described (from a legal standpoint, at least... eBay/Paypal have a higher standard it seems), it just has to be substantially what was bargained for.

Also, I don't know if you noticed, but Reverb last year changed the option to mark a listing as "As is" to "As described."

Thanks for the clarification!

TM - I stand corrected, I'll put some BBQ sauce on my crow and it will taste better.
 

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So in this case, the seller says it's a used Selmer Mark VI tenor with a certain serial number. What happens if the horn doesn't play and needs an overhaul? If the horn that arrives is actually a Selmer Mark VI with the advertised serial number, can the buyer take him to court because it needs an overhaul? If I'm buying this horn and it needs an overhaul, I would think that's reasonable because the seller didn't indicate the playing condition. Now, if I open the case and it's a Bundy and not a Selmer, then I'm crying foul for sure.
 

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If, based on the communications between the buyer and seller during the offer and acceptance phase, the buyer reasonably believed he would be getting a horn that plays without the buyer needing to incur substantial costs to put it in a condition where it would play, then buyer would win that case. Of course, the court will also look into whether the buyer did what a reasonable buyer would have done under the circumstances, and a reasonable buyer would have asked questions at least, right?

Also, the law does recognize the concept of "puffery" (e.g., "this horn is the best horn I've ever played," etc.) and distinguishes between mere puffery and actual false advertising/misrepresentation (e.g., "this horn is great mechanical condition and will need no substantial work done" or failing to disclose that it will require major work when the seller knows or should have known that such was the case).

So in this case, the seller says it's a used Selmer Mark VI tenor with a certain serial number. What happens if the horn doesn't play and needs an overhaul? If the horn that arrives is actually a Selmer Mark VI with the advertised serial number, can the buyer take him to court because it needs an overhaul? If I'm buying this horn and it needs an overhaul, I would think that's reasonable because the seller didn't indicate the playing condition. Now, if I open the case and it's a Bundy and not a Selmer, then I'm crying foul for sure.
 

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So in this case, the seller says it's a used Selmer Mark VI tenor with a certain serial number. What happens if the horn doesn't play and needs an overhaul? If the horn that arrives is actually a Selmer Mark VI with the advertised serial number, can the buyer take him to court because it needs an overhaul? If I'm buying this horn and it needs an overhaul, I would think that's reasonable because the seller didn't indicate the playing condition. Now, if I open the case and it's a Bundy and not a Selmer, then I'm crying foul for sure.
Oh, you mean the Selmer Bundy ????
 

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Here';s an example. I recently won an online auction for a pre-war Conn 10M. It looked good in the pictures but there really weren';t any views of the left side. Also sometime had laid a a wooden ruler over the right hand side keys so I couldn'; really see all of them. I believe it was innocent enough and not an attempt to hide something.

When I got the sax my excitement quickly soured to disappointment. The sax had been modified for someone with either a crippled hand or missing fingers. The left pinky table was all custom and nothing like it should have been. It didn';t even operate the C# B and Bb. Not sure what it did now. Two of the right hand side keys were permanently closed because the key tabs you operate with the rt. knuckle were removed. There was a custom made key on the left side north of the pinky cluster that did lord knows what and the G# key was missing. And the right pinky keys were moved and the spatulas replaced with the tabs from the removed right side keys. In other words the horn was for me an unplayable mess. None of it showed on the pictures.

I contacted the seller, Goodwill Tresure Chest, and told them about it and forwarded some pictures of the bad horn alongside my 1956 10M and they agreed to refund my money because I couldn';t have known the horn was modified based on their pictures. I had paid $1750 for it thinking I';d need another $1000 in it to make it right. Still a reasonable amount for a relaquered 2631xx early 10M. I was very relieved that the seller was willing to take it back. Looking back I wish I';d have asked for pictures of the left side of the horn. And more pics of the right side too. I would have seen the funky pinky table and oddball extra key arrangement. Live and learn.

Edit - I just re-read my meandering Post and I don't think I was clear in my intention. The point is, shopgoodwill.com had a disclaimer that sales are as-is and not returnable. I was able to phone the seller and explain how the mods made to the horn weren't visible in their pictures. He checked it out and agreed. If you feel the horn has been misrepresented even if just out of ignorance you have to talk to them in a calm and reasonable way and get them to refund your money. If that doesn't work then it can get tricky especially if they're in Michigan and you're in Cali.
 

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My perspective/insight as a long-time ebay/amazon seller:

In my experience, selling "used" condition items has become more prevalent with increasing numbers of buyers expecting back-end price negotiation...no matter how well an item's condition is presented. I don't sell many musical instruments but have sold thousands of used camera lenses/bodies, including plenty that make anything but 5 digit serial number Mark VI's look cheap.

Buyers can complain about non-existent problems/issues, use feedback as a negotiating tool, etc... Generally, I try and overstate/magnify any found faults on an individual item or state that there are "dust particles present on front element" even if I can't find any, etc... Finally, as a practical unifying sales process/practice, I generally do not do any after sale negotiations and will simply offer to have the buyer return the item at my expense if there's a condition "disagreement." This is often more expensive than offering a concession/compromise.

These kind of disputes are not pervasive, and it is somewhat dictated on the quality of the listing description/photos, but have become more prevalent over the last couple of years on both amazon and ebay for me (from 2-3% of total used transactions to 5-7%).

My final solution is simply selling more new or unopened items; trading transaction volume for margin--New or as new/NIB items tend to be less profitable on an individual basis compared to used gear for my sales mix in photography gear but require less time to list and less time per transaction to provide proper after sales support/customer service.

I know this won't solve any issues but perhaps illuminates the rise of "used" condition items, sellers not accepting returns or even listing mint/freshly overhauled horns as "for parts only."

Mike Barber (zapatista on eBay)
 

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I use 'as-is' and also don't accept returns. That's because I know what I'm selling and more than adequately describe and picture it. Ebay protects the buyers from receiving items which are significantly different from the description. Since 1998 when I joined ebay, I have never been asked to accept a return, either by the buyer or by ebay. That's because they got exactly what they bargained for. When it comes to musical instruments and whether or not the buyer 'likes' it or whether or not it meets his artistic expectations, that is something that cannot be adjudicated, being entirely subjective, so I can't see ebay forcing anybody to accept a return in those cases when the item is demonstrably the item that was described and in the condition asserted. Otherwise, all I can say to those who want a trial period on instruments, mouthpieces or anything else is 'This ain't Walmart!' - its an auction.
On the flip side of that, I sold a tenor not too long ago to help an older friend who had to quit performing and needed the cash. I played the horn with my mouthpiece once and thought it was stuffy, but I couldn't really get my mouthpiece on it good because of the larger cork he needed for his mouthpiece so I didn't think anything of it. So the buyer loved it so much he had to ask me why I would get rid of such a horn. I told him #1, it was never my horn, and #2, I played it and thought it was stuffy. He then asked me what I had that could possibly be better, but I never answered that one - what could one say? 'I've fortunate in picking instruments and mouthpieces?'. So, you just never know what somebody is going to like or not like. I guess a business that sells horns can take returns, but someone like me who just uses ebay to dispose of things he doesn't want anymore, and once in awhile something belonging to a friend or family just can't get involved in sending items, taking them back, giving refunds, re-listing. If you buy something that you can't return and you don't like it, sell it yourself! That's what I do - you never know who might want it. Typically I'll take a loss on things like that just to liquidate them. As I say, I'm not in business so losing a few bucks on something is not a big deal - I look at it as a fee for keeping it and trying it out.
 

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My perspective/insight as a long-time ebay/amazon seller:

In my experience, selling "used" condition items has become more prevalent with increasing numbers of buyers expecting back-end price negotiation...no matter how well an item's condition is presented. I don't sell many musical instruments but have sold thousands of used camera lenses/bodies, including plenty that make anything but 5 digit serial number Mark VI's look cheap.

Buyers can complain about non-existent problems/issues, use feedback as a negotiating tool, etc... Generally, I try and overstate/magnify any found faults on an individual item or state that there are "dust particles present on front element" even if I can't find any, etc... Finally, as a practical unifying sales process/practice, I generally do not do any after sale negotiations and will simply offer to have the buyer return the item at my expense if there's a condition "disagreement." This is often more expensive than offering a concession/compromise.

These kind of disputes are not pervasive, and it is somewhat dictated on the quality of the listing description/photos, but have become more prevalent over the last couple of years on both amazon and ebay for me (from 2-3% of total used transactions to 5-7%).

My final solution is simply selling more new or unopened items; trading transaction volume for margin--New or as new/NIB items tend to be less profitable on an individual basis compared to used gear for my sales mix in photography gear but require less time to list and less time per transaction to provide proper after sales support/customer service.

I know this won't solve any issues but perhaps illuminates the rise of "used" condition items, sellers not accepting returns or even listing mint/freshly overhauled horns as "for parts only."

Mike Barber (zapatista on eBay)
Yeah, I always call the bluff when being asked for a partial refund and just tell them to send it back. So far nobody has actually sent anything back where they were requesting a partial refund, they just go away when I tell them to send it back for a full refund.
 

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I don't make my living off of amazon/ebay either, but in a good month I can make more selling than my full time gig as an accountant. Also, I want to stress that the vast majority of my interactions with customers are great.
 

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I don't make my living off of amazon/ebay either, but in a good month I can make more selling than my full time gig as an accountant. Also, I want to stress that the vast majority of my interactions with customers are great.
I'll have to check out what you have on ebay. I'm not even a hobby photographer, just a dude with a DSLR that gets used every now and then. I've always fancied having one of those Canon L lenses with the red stripe on my camera so I could look the part =)
 

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Ebay will side with the buyer every time. No matter how many times you say as-is or how many pictures or words you use to describe it.
 

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You haven't received a request for a return because you adequately describe the items you sell. But your "as-is" and "no returns" policy are pretty much useless in case a customer asks for a return in the event there is a material deviation in the description and the actual item they receive, and in eBay's and PayPal's adjudication process, pretty much whenever a customer files a case and asks for a return they will get it regardless of your own policy.

Just underscoring the importance of making sure the descriptions and photos are sufficient to inform the customer as to what they are actually going to get so that if they do decide to make the purchase, the item they get is what they thought they would get. The key is to preclude, as much as possible, a situation where the customer asks for a return in the first place by making the description and photos as thorough and detailed as possible. Writing lazy descriptions is asking for trouble.

There are of course unscrupulous buyers who are just out there to scam sellers (as the inverse is also true) but in my experience the percentage of such buyers compared to the general pool of buyers is very low. In over ten years of buying and selling on eBay (not for business, just for personal use), I've only ever been asked by a buyer to accept a return once (it was for a high-end/hifi speaker that crackled when he played certain classical songs -- turns out it was the recording quality of the songs that were an issue but I accepted the return anyway and promptly resold it to another buyer who was very happy with it).

I use 'as-is' and also don't accept returns. That's because I know what I'm selling and more than adequately describe and picture it. Ebay protects the buyers from receiving items which are significantly different from the description. Since 1998 when I joined ebay, I have never been asked to accept a return, either by the buyer or by ebay. That's because they got exactly what they bargained for. When it comes to musical instruments and whether or not the buyer 'likes' it or whether or not it meets his artistic expectations, that is something that cannot be adjudicated, being entirely subjective, so I can't see ebay forcing anybody to accept a return in those cases when the item is demonstrably the item that was described and in the condition asserted. Otherwise, all I can say to those who want a trial period on instruments, mouthpieces or anything else is 'This ain't Walmart!' - its an auction.
On the flip side of that, I sold a tenor not too long ago to help an older friend who had to quit performing and needed the cash. I played the horn with my mouthpiece once and thought it was stuffy, but I couldn't really get my mouthpiece on it good because of the larger cork he needed for his mouthpiece so I didn't think anything of it. So the buyer loved it so much he had to ask me why I would get rid of such a horn. I told him #1, it was never my horn, and #2, I played it and thought it was stuffy. He then asked me what I had that could possibly be better, but I never answered that one - what could one say? 'I've fortunate in picking instruments and mouthpieces?'. So, you just never know what somebody is going to like or not like. I guess a business that sells horns can take returns, but someone like me who just uses ebay to dispose of things he doesn't want anymore, and once in awhile something belonging to a friend or family just can't get involved in sending items, taking them back, giving refunds, re-listing. If you buy something that you can't return and you don't like it, sell it yourself! That's what I do - you never know who might want it. Typically I'll take a loss on things like that just to liquidate them. As I say, I'm not in business so losing a few bucks on something is not a big deal - I look at it as a fee for keeping it and trying it out.
 

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Hard to believe that people who buy retail and sell retail are still using eBay in hopes of deriving profit. Give some thinking to your business model.

You want a hobby buying/selling instruments so you can try a bunch at comparatively low cost, fine. Like to be entertained by classified ads, have at it. Enjoy hunting for 4-leaf clover, carry on.

But eBay is like Vegas. You play, you lose. Eventual but inevitable.
 

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I think if you're a business that deals primarily in low cost, high volume goods, eBay is still a profitable marketplace. I just don't see any other marketplace that has the same reach as eBay aside from Amazon, and Amazon charges some pretty hefty fees, too (not to mention the hoops you have to go through to register as an "authorized dealer" if you're reselling branded products -- in fact, even if you're just reselling a single such branded product that didn't quite work out for you).

However, if you're dealing in higher value items, I think the new sales tax policy will really hurt you. One of the primary draws of eBay to buyers was that it was a great place to find bargains, and a major component of finding bargains was that you typically did not have to pay sales tax. That will change now that even sales of used items by non-business individual sellers are subject to sales tax. If I'm a buyer and I'm going to pay tax anyway, I'd probably prefer to buy it directly from an authorized dealer's online store. I'd probably be able to get it for cheaper there because the online store doesn't have to factor in the eBay fees to the selling price.


Hard to believe that people who buy retail and sell retail are still using eBay in hopes of deriving profit. Give some thinking to your business model.

You want a hobby buying/selling instruments so you can try a bunch at comparatively low cost, fine. Like to be entertained by classified ads, have at it. Enjoy hunting for 4-leaf clover, carry on.

But eBay is like Vegas. You play, you lose. Eventual but inevitable.
 
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