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Buying/Selling/Trading/Auction - PART II BUYING For Toy-related Newsgroups Frequently Asked Questions & Posting Guide Developed and Maintained by Eric G. Myers & Scott J. Gordon Version 2.0 - 6/98 This document may be reproduced in whole or in part as long as no modifications are made and the maintainer information and all acknowledgments are kept in tact as appropriate. For corrections, additions or questions, please contact [email protected].
FAQ Index | General | Buying | Selling | Trading | Auctions


Q2.1: Is it safe to buy toys over the Internet? A2.1: Generally, yes. The vast majority of transactions that occur in this forum go off without a hitch. Very rarely do we hear of deals gone bad. However, there are a few rules of thumb to help you minimize your chances of having a bad experience (see Q2.3 below). Q2.2: How should I respond to sales/auctions/trades? A2.2: Respond by e-mail only, do not post responses. Doing so is highly improper and discourteous to other Usenet users. Plus, replying by e-mail is more direct and will speed you transaction. News posts take time (sometimes days) to propagate so the seller may never see your response or the item may be sold by the time the seller does see it. Plus, some sellers don't even read the newsgroup so they may never see your response. Q2.3: How can I avoid getting ripped off? A2.3: Be informed. Know exactly what you want and exactly what you are buying. -Ask specific questions about an item you are interested in. -If the condition of the item and/or the packaging is important to you, ask for detailed information about any flaws or defects. -Be patient and shop around. You might find the exact same item in another ad much cheaper only a day or two later. -Ask for references if you are unfamiliar with the seller or have never dealt with this individual before (see Q below). -Never send cash. -Ask about return/refund policy. This should be absolutely clear before the transaction begins. - Ask for a full name, address and phone number from the seller. Some people use screen names or "handles" as their e-mail address. Always ask for a full, real name. Reluctance to give out that information is a red flag. -Above all, trust your instincts. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. Q2.4: What are references? Should I ask for them? How does it work? A2.4: References are endorsements from other individuals who have dealt with a seller in the past. By all means, ask for references from a seller if you are unfamiliar with the seller or feel in any way wary. No reputable seller will be offended by a request for references. Ask for references outside the seller's domain. For example, if the seller uses America On-Line, ask for non AOL references. It is far too easy for an unscrupulous individual to have multiple account names on some systems and thereby make false references for themselves. Generally, a seller will provide a list of a few people they have dealt with in the past (and their e-mail addresses). You should then write a brief, polite note to one or more of the individuals on the reference list. Explain that you are considering a deal with this particular seller (include the seller's name and e-mail address) and that the seller provided their name as a reference. Ask for a brief history and/or description of that individual's transactions with the seller. If you have specific concerns, ask about them now. If you don't get a response from any of the seller's references, do not continue to e-mail them. They are under no obligation to give a reference. And if they don't reply, that might be valuable information in and of itself. Politely inform the seller that none of his references replied to your query. You may want to be cautious until you are sure you are dealing with a reputable seller. As a seller, you should always ask an individual if it is OK to give out their name as a reference. If you complete a transaction successfully with a buyer, most times they are more than happy to give you a reference. But its always polite to ask first. Nothing is more disconcerting than to have a stranger ask you for a reference unexpectedly. Also, if you are selling something for the first time, so you don't have any references, don't be afraid to say so. More importantly, you can ask the person you're making your first deal with to be a reference if they're happy with the deal. That in itself should help to inspire confidence. Q2.5: Should I use cash, check, money order or some other means to pay for my purchase? A2.5: Never, never send cash. It doesn't matter if the seller is a complete stranger or your best friend. Sending cash through the mail is never advisable. Cash is easily removed from an envelope and is untraceable. There has been considerable debate between the use of checks and money orders. Some of the major advantages and disadvantages will be outlined here. Money orders have the advantage of being instantly negotiable. That means there is no need to hold items until a money order "clears." Items can basically be sent upon receipt. If a deal goes sour, Postal money orders can be traced after 30-60 days (or shorter periods for a fee). However, you do not receive a copy of your cashed money order for your records and will have to rely on the trace should things go wrong. Personal checks do provide a valid, legal receipt once cashed. However, many sellers dislike checks because of the threat of "bouncing" checks due to insufficient funds. Aside from this complaint, there is customary a waiting period for a personal check to clear both the buyer and seller's banks. This process can take several days (and in some cases weeks) depending on a variety of circumstances. Items are generally not shipped until a personal check clears. Another payment mode that has received little attention is the credit card check. Many credit card companies have begun to issue courtesy checks which can be used just like personal checks except that they are charged to your credit card account. Use of these checks has one major benefit in that a credit card company will usually withhold payment of the check if you file a complaint or dispute of the charge. In other words, if you do not receive your item from a seller, the credit card company may advocate for you in settling the matter and you won't have to pay the charge unless the matter is resolved. Bank transfers are possible but uncommon in domestic transactions. These may be more common in international deals, but there is little information on this issue at this time. Q2.6: What about International transactions? A2.6: International stuff is complicated! Getting a money transfer is easy--just talk to your bank (of course there are fees). Also, there are at least two different kinds of international money orders--one is good in Canada, and there's another kind that's good for other foreign countries. You need to let the P.O. know where your money order is going. Some folks get around this by finding trading partners in other countries, and just keeping up a balance sheet of what you've shipped each other (not recommended unless you find someone really reliable, but can be lots of fun). As for shipping out of the country, there are strict regulations about the size of a parcel you can ship overseas (I think it's the circumference of the box plus the length have to fall under a certain number of inches--the post office should have the regulations). And another thing to watch out for is import tariffs! This probably won't affect a little $4.99 action figure, but especially if you're shipping pricey vintage stuff, you need to be aware of how much value you declare, or the recipient might get stuck with a nasty tariff bill. Further information on handling International transactions would be welcomed. Q2.7: What should I do if I think I got ripped off? A2.7: There are many factors that can delay the completion of the transaction (e.g.,seller didn't receive payment, vacations, illnesses, etc). Not all of them mean you are being ripped off. Its important to check out all the alternative possibilities before you cry "Foul!" Above all, be polite and civil when making an inquiry. First, contact the seller via the e-mail address you originally set up the deal with. If you get no response after a reasonable period of time (and remember, not everyone checks their e-mail daily) send a letter (preferably registered or return receipt requested) to the postal mail address you sent your payment to. Request some resolution within a specified time period (in many states, 30 or 60 days are required before any legal action can be initiated). If you still do not achieve a satisfactory resolution to this situation, consider contacting the Postmaster (in your city as well as in the city you sent your payment to) in regard to Mail Fraud. Also consider notifying the system administrator of the Internet Service Provider the seller originally e-mailed you from (usually something like [email protected]). After you are absolutely sure that you have been taken, then you might consider posting a brief note to the appropriate Usenet newsgroup(s) about your trouble with the seller. Be sure to include the details of your deal gone bad, the steps you have taken to try to remedy the situation, and the seller's real name (and possibly postal address as it is easy to change e-mail "handles" or nicknames). Do not ask other people to mailbomb, harass or otherwise get involved in the situation. However, making this information public will help others avoid getting ripped off. Do not make public claims of being ripped off before you have tried all means to settle the dispute privately. These types of posts can be very damaging to a seller's reputation and you should be absolutely sure that you have actually been swindled before you take such a drastic step. If you are just impatient and the seller has been a little tardy in mailing your stuff, that is not a legitimate reason to post a public caution. John Gersten astutely notes: " [It might be worth mentioning] the Einsteinian relativistic effects of time dilation here -- that after you've sent your check and are waiting for your figure with great anticipation, it's very easy to feel the days stretching out like an eternity, and panic to set in, when in fact it probably took (a) four to seven days for your mailed payment to reach the seller, (b) a day or two before the seller got to the bank, another eight to ten days for domestic checks to clear, (d) an extra day or two to elapse thereafter before the seller checks his balance to see that your check has cleared, (e) and a day or two of boxfinding and packing before your figure actually hits the post, at which point you still have to wait (f) another four to seven days to receive it. Expanding these out to the fullest, it can easily be a whole month before a good, honest, reliable seller's figure actually gets back to you (of course, it can also go significantly faster, and some sellers will send sooner, not wait for checks to clear, etc.)." One last note: Reports from other newsgroups have indicated that some sellers have threatened legal action (libel) from public postings of "Bad Dealer" warnings. While no confirmed legal action has been documented to date, you'd better be able to back up your claims before going public. General rule: never assume malice until you have definitely ruled out every other possibility. Q2.8: I got my stuff but it {wasn't what I wanted, was damaged, wasn't in the condition the seller said it was, etc.}. What should I do? A2.8: This is a complicated question. In general, you need to decide whether the situation arose due to legitimate confusion/miscommunication or whether it was due to some type of misrepresentation or fraud. The former is much more common than the latter. This is exactly why it is important to ask specific questions about the item you are purchasing before the transaction begins. However, if you genuinely feel that the seller misrepresented the items they had for sale, follow the steps in Q2.8 above. If the situation was due to you own lack of information, you may still try to negotiate a refund with the seller. Most reputable sellers will give you a full refund (possibly minus the shipping costs) if you return the item in the condition it arrived in. If you open an unopened item, you are most likely out of luck. Secondly, many packages get damaged in shipping. Even the best packaging jobs can be defeated by any delivery service (e.g.,USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc). If your package arrives damaged, send a brief, polite note to the seller informing them of the situation. The best defense here is to have established some type of "money back guarantee" before shipment occurs to deal with cases such as damage in shipping. Most reputable sellers will bend over backwards to satisfy a customer. However, they won't be taken advantage of either. If both parties cooperate, the process usually goes off without a hitch. Q2.9: Can a seller raise an advertised price or refuse to sell me something they advertised? A2.9: Absolutely. Generally, Usenet convention has been that advertising an item on Usenet is not a formal agreement or contract to sell an item at a specified price. The price can be changed without notice. A seller (or auctioneer) may withdraw an item from sale at any time prior to accepting payment for an item. However, repeated withdrawals of items from an auction or sale will earn the seller a negative reputation. The best thing to do is just move on to the next post.
FAQ Index | General | Buying | Selling | Trading | Auctions

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