Caveat Emptor

Discussion in 'Articles and Interviews' started by Bones, Mar 20, 2006.

  1. Bones

    Bones Member

    Below is an article written by Andy Derrick, a freelance trombonist and member of Musician Union Executive Committee. I am posting his article with his kind permission. The article is particular of interest to me as last year, my beloved Conn Elkhart Trombone was stolen as result of my car being stolen (and subsequently used in a ram raid). The trombone appeared on a well known auction site, and unfortunately Andy was the unlucky bidder for my trombone, which he subsequently and inadvertantly purchased. The article serves to remind us that there is no such thing as the perfect bargain and when buying goods and services over the WWW, more caution should be used.

    Hope the article is of interest......

    Buyer Beware!

    Most of you that are online cannot fail to have noticed how popular online auctions are becoming. Now used by upwards of 100 million people, the well-known site Ebay, is fast becoming a part of all of our lives.

    Buying and selling is so easy, especially as they also own Paypal, an online banking service that allows vendors to receive credit card payments on a pay-as-you-go basis without having to set-up a costly merchant account. I myself have been able to track down hard to find CD’s and LP’s as well as books and DVD’s. As a vendor, I have been selling my compositions for 6 months now and have a steady trade with many returning customers.

    To sell an item all you need is a photo, a clear description, a realistic price and then just sit back and wait for the bids to roll in. From cars and houses through to scalextric and monopoly, you can buy or sell practically anything.

    Given the ease of the selling system, it could be open to abuse. I had a recent experience with an online auction website that has left me tearing my hair out. In April this year, I saw a fantastic trombone for sale. It was quite obvious from the price and description that the vendor did not realise the potential value. I successfully bid £460 for the trombone, plus £30 for delivery. I later find out that the instrument was stolen from a friend of mine and that the vendor was also selling other items from the robbery. After Police statements were given, I was told to wait before dealing with the auction site regarding return of property and feedback to the vendor. Eventually the Police have decided not prosecute due to lack of evidence. It has also turned out that the vendor has stopped being a member of the auction site.

    In most cases of a dispute, auction sites rely on feedback given by buyers and sellers to police minor problems. For example, late delivery or incorrect goods can be handled by leaving a negative feedback. This then later hurts the vendor as the more negative feedback there is, the lower their score and the harder it is to be trusted. In extreme circumstances a dispute process can be initiated and compensation can be given.

    In my particular situation, the Police would not prosecute due to lack of evidence, although they had serial numbers, and the name and address of the vendor; I could not post negative feedback as the vendor had given up membership of the auction site; no compensation was available as the sale did not violate the terms and conditions of the auction site! So now I am left with an instrument that I can never sell as it is stolen, the original owner wants it back but is obviously not keen to pay and all the fail-safes from the auction site were useless.

    I believe that the auction websites are ideal places for unscrupulous individuals to deal in stolen goods. The websites are not doing enough to stop this illegal trade. Since my incident, I hear of more dodgy deals including the selling of bootleg CD’s and other stolen goods.

    I call for these online auction houses to change their ways. There is already a mechanism in place when selling cars and CD’s where you can enter serial numbers or registration numbers into a database. The database then provides a great deal of information allowing accurate description of your item. Certainly it should be easy to ask when anyone sells a musical instrument for example that they must provide a serial number. That would allow anyone to check out the validity of the instrument and avoid being party to a criminal act. Of course, this only works for instruments that actually bear a serial number, classic string and folk instruments are not so identified. However, an effort by online auctioneers to help stop the sale of stolen instruments, would, in my opinion, greatly increase the confidence of it’s users.

    Andy Derrick

    Andy is a 32-year old trombonist based in Birmingham. He works mainly as a Jazz trombonist but also freelances as an orchestral musician through the country. His group, the ADJQ have just released a CD, ‘Fancy Goods’. More information on Andy can be found at
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