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Proposed Notice for Newbie Ebay Sellers
Old 06-10-2009   #1
john_van_v
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Proposed Notice for Newbie Ebay Sellers

I did a post mortum of my ebay buying, and the truth is sad.

I seperated my working cameras and lenses from my non-working, and the non-working pile is about the size of the working set.

As it happens (when bottom fishing), the freight costs are a significant percentage of the camera cost. Added to that is the time spent fiddling to try to get things working, and of course the processing time and expense.

Sellers think they are giving you a deal even if it doesn't work when they evade the question "does this camera (or lens) work?"

When you figure in the total cost (of bottom fishing), then it approaches the cost of buying new, which means abandoning film for digital.

I am proposing here that we write up a short but complete bulleted list of things to do to check out a camera or lens before posting it for sale as working, and that we post it on ebay and attempt to get ebay to make it an official guideline for "noob" photography sellers.

Despite the obvious checks, such as winding the shutter and releasing it, you can still get a clunker: I have a Minolta 202 that I got working right through "exercise," but ultimately reached the parts heap because of a clutch problem (that produced interesting double and triple exposures.)

Here is a start, and I would welcome your critical comments on making this understandable by the most (supposedly) ignorant sellers (I swear, nobody is as stupid as some sellers pretend to be--it is as if stupidity is an excuse to steal):

(Wording is important here)
  • Does the camera wind up and fire?
  • Look carefully at the lens with a magnifying glass. Does it have any scratches. It is dirty or filmy to tell? If so clean it by splashing water on it (to get loose particles off) and wipe gently with a tissue to get grime.
  • Does the lens turn smoothly, or at all?
  • Does the iris, called aperture blades, close properly? (Explaining how to test is problematic, M42 is cake--little silver pin in back).
  • If you don't now what camera it goes to, then can you show a picture of the back of the lens so we can figure it out?
  • And if you don't know, why in God's name don't you say so? (you f'n noob)
See, this is alreadly complicated, but it has to be done if we are going to effectively save these parts from a trip to the land fill.
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Old 06-10-2009   #2
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I doubt if ebay cares at all about these issues.
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Old 06-10-2009   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john_van_v View Post
(you f'n noob).
Why the hostility toward sellers? I feel this way about buyers who take a risk and then complain, or buy a 40 year old camera and expect it to work like brand new.
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Old 06-10-2009   #4
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To be honest, this tells us more about the buyer than about the sellers.
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Old 06-10-2009   #5
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
Why the hostility toward sellers? I feel this way about buyers who take a risk and then complain, or buy a 40 year old camera and expect it to work like brand new.
Here's the crux of the matter - these cameras are 40 or more years old. Over the years 95% of my selling transactions are flawless. Once in awhile something is wrong with the camera that I didn't catch, usually minor but it happens (self timer doesn't work, film counter doesn't work, etc.). Then there are those people who think a 50 year old M3 (or a Canon QL) VF isn't as bright as their brand new m7 and want their money back. And last of all is that percentage of people who think I'm Wal Mart and I should take it back because they can't figure out how it works or they just don't like it after two weeks. My best story is I sold an off brand Nikon mount lens that the aperature blades had fallen off. I described it as such and put it up for parts. Someone bought it for about $5. Upon recieving it they immediately posted negative feedback saying I was a crook. That, I think, is the only buyer that I did not refund his money. If he would have contacted me first I would have given him his money back and told him to keep it.

I'm sorry for the long winded rant but I've had way, way more problems with buyers than I have ever had with sellers, but hen again my expectations are fairly low. I assume most film cameras are in need of a $100 CLA. I only buy from people who have more than 50 transactions or so. I only buy if they promise to take it back if it doesn't work (which is rarely). I NEVER buy from someone who says he got this camera from his father/mother/brother/ long lost uncle and doesn't know anything about camera.

Over the last few years I don't even really try selling anymore. It's just too much of a hassle. Recently I responded to a WTB ad on this forum and ended up selling a Canon QL and Olympus XA for $80 including shipping. Ended up the Canon had a minor problem (took me 10 minutes to fix when I got it back), he never even opened the XA. I took them both back but do you really think it was worth my time and effort for a measly $80?

I'm sorry for the rant but I think eBay should post a warning for Sellers, not buyers.

Last edited by Beemermark : 06-10-2009 at 07:36.
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Old 06-10-2009   #6
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I'm sorry for the rant but I think eBay should post a warning for Sellers, not buyers.
So we agree... except I think the whining should stop and no "warning posts" to either buyer or seller are necessary or even warranted.
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Old 06-10-2009   #7
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So we agree... except I think the whining should stop and no "warning posts" to either buyer or seller are necessary or even warranted.
Ditto, my comment was more sarcasm than an actual suggestion
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Old 06-10-2009   #8
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I NEVER buy from someone who says he got this camera from his father/mother/brother/ long lost uncle and doesn't know anything about camera.
I have, and these have often been my best buys. One needs to be a "smart buyer" or they will be sorely disappointed. Knowing when to buy and when to not buy is a skill that is part luck and part experience. Only experience allows one to gain that experience

"Bottom feeding" is a skill that involves considerable risk. One who wants to bottom feed must be prepared to accept that risk and not complain when there is a loss.

Sorry to be so clinical about it but those are the facts and little sympathy is felt by me (one who has both won and lost in this game) for whiners.
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Old 06-10-2009   #9
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There is some risk in shopping on eBay. But eBay, IMO, provides some tools for mitigating that risk and the rest is up to you.

If you want a perfect camera, if you want to be sure of your purchase, than look for such a thing. Not only do they regularly come up on eBay, but you can get a deal too if you're patient.

If you're looking for the bargin/steal of the year, decade, century, or whatever, then you have to be comfortable taking the risk.

I agree with the posters above, that, on the whole, sellers have a more difficult time than buyers.
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Old 06-10-2009   #10
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I've been with eBay for, what 6 years now. <rant>I think it is starting to become too expensive to make it worthwhile selling - and if there is a problem I have found that eBay give NO support - and take increasing percentages. But, as a buyer, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find decent, legitimate items amongst the dross of chancers and (alleged) thieves </rant>
I still use it, mind, but I wouldn't like to be a newbie....
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Old 06-10-2009   #11
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Originally Posted by john_van_v View Post
I did a post mortum of my ebay buying, and the truth is sad.

I seperated my working cameras and lenses from my non-working, and the non-working pile is about the size of the working set.
No different here, but that is the price of bottom fishing. The cameras I buy for work do work, but are in a entirely different price range. And for fun items scored at below 20% market value, a 50% dud rate doesn't look that bad.

Nor do I care that the sellers are uneducated - the smart ones do sell at prices I won't buy for, while the occasional bargains can be had from dumpster divers that can't even tell where the front and back of a camera are. Over the course of time you develop a feeling for whether the seller really is clueless (and selling a random mix of trash and mint gear at equal price) or a cheat feigning dumb to offload his 100% broken ware...

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Old 06-10-2009   #12
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All cameras and lenses purchased on eBay are presumed to be broken. Bid on that basis. If you get one that isn't, bonus.
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Old 06-10-2009   #13
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There y'go, folks... the only rule one needs to know.
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Old 06-10-2009   #14
Jamie Pillers
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No... we buyers just expect it to work like the seller says it will!
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Old 06-10-2009   #15
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Selling a camera with a self-timer that doesn't work, or a film counter that doesn't work, in my opinion is NOT minor. These are the sort of things that drive buyers crazy... seller says camera works "perfectly" or "with no problems". When they do, then that is what we buyers expect... nothing more or less.
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Old 06-10-2009   #16
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No... we buyers just expect it to work like the seller says it will!
That's a reasonable expectation. But is it reasonable to expect a seller to do a microscopic analysis so the buyer doesn't have to ask questions if seller doesn't like the "One old camera... buy it or don't" description.
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Old 06-10-2009   #17
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I got your list.

With a bullet!

1. Don't buy on ebay.

How hard is that?
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Old 06-10-2009   #18
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I1. Don't buy on ebay.
Between Mattock's rule and yours I think all bases are covered!
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Old 06-10-2009   #19
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No... we buyers just expect it to work like the seller says it will!
The seller either does not know, or the seller misrepresents the equipment. Nothing else can be assumed. If the buyer is not willing to proceed with that assumption, the buyer is making an error in judgment.
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Old 06-10-2009   #20
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Selling a camera with a self-timer that doesn't work, or a film counter that doesn't work, in my opinion is NOT minor. These are the sort of things that drive buyers crazy... seller says camera works "perfectly" or "with no problems". When they do, then that is what we buyers expect... nothing more or less.
Buyer has an inflated sense of expectation. Caveat Emptor.
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Old 06-10-2009   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john_van_v View Post
I am proposing here that we write up a short but complete bulleted list of things to do to check out a camera or lens before posting it for sale as working, and that we post it on ebay and attempt to get ebay to make it an official guideline for "noob" photography sellers.
...

Having a list here is a good idea for buyers to ask questions, but I wouldn't bother sending it to eBay for sellers.

As for buying on eBay, information and seller reputation affect sales price. An "inherited" camera from someone who "knows nothing" and selling the camera "as-is" won't sell for nearly as much as something from a reputable seller that can provide clear information regarding the item. People are pricing in the risk of needing to pay for a CLA.

I won't spend a lot of money if their feedback is low. Even if their feedback is high, if they don't sell many cameras, I'll consider that.
There are a lot of honest sellers on eBay.

That withstanding, here are my eBay seller gripes:
  • Calling something rare that clearly isn't, or the rarity isn't valued. i.e., a rare Zorki.
  • Saying something mint that clearly isn't. I also hate the word "minty." It sounds like a 2 year old is talking.
  • Blurry photos. Why even bother posting them?
  • People who call things "Leica Copy" that clearly isn't (like a fixed lens rangefinder).
  • Saying "worked when was last used". That doesn't mean it works now.
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Old 06-10-2009   #22
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Wouldn't the Mattock rule only apply to situation "a"?

Would a resonable/prudent buyer ever assume in situation "C" that the camera works perfectly?
I would assume that the camera is broken in every case, and on average least broken in case C. There is a minor chance it might not be broken at all in A and D, but it will just as often be completely corroded to bits. As far as B is concerned, anything "minty" is almost inevitably a non-working display piece, externally polished but internally gone missing or BER.

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Old 06-10-2009   #23
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d. Old camera. I think it is a Leica copy because I think a German person once used something like it. I read that on the internet. Looks good for a 50 year-old camera and worked good the last time my long-dead uncle used it. He told me recently it took good pictures, too! This is a rare camera and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the lucky bidder. I'd call it "minty" and I'm sure that you'll agree that this blurry picture depicts a "like-new" condition. The only problem I see is the chip in the front lens. I don't know anything about cameras but I don't think this is a problem. As is; all sales final. No refunds in any case.
Very funny, except that they wouldn't mention the chip on the lens.
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Old 06-10-2009   #24
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I would assume that the camera is broken in every case, and on average least broken in case C.
... but would you complain if you bought a camera described in example C and it arrived:

aa. with a non-functioning self timer and slow shutter speeds?
bb. with a big chip in the front lens?
cc. and worked perfectly?
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Old 06-10-2009   #25
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Why is it so damn hard for a seller to point out these kinds of flaws? I certainly don't expect every scratch or nick to be pointed out. But I think buyers definitely should be able to expect that a camera that is described as "fully operational" or "operates perfectly", etc., does so. As I said in my earlier thread, "caveat emptor" should NOT be an excuse for buyers to 'forget' to describe things clearly and honestly. Using the phrase "caveat emptor" to excuse abuses by sellers is irresponsible and lazy.
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Old 06-10-2009   #26
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No... no microscopic s**t! I agree absolutely. But I think we all know that there's a LOT of MACROscopic stuff that gets passed off by sellers as "I didn't notice that" or "caveat emptor", etc.
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Old 06-10-2009   #27
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Why is it so damn hard for a seller to point out these kinds of flaws?
Re-read post #20.
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Old 06-10-2009   #28
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Yes... blame the buyer for seller's ineptitude or dishonesty!
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Old 06-10-2009   #29
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Yes... blame the buyer for seller's ineptitude or dishonesty!
Hmmm... this is my opportunity to bid this discussion a fond adieu.

Fond Adieu!
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Old 06-10-2009   #30
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I take calculated risks on eBay and haven't been seriously burned yet. Overall, eBay has been berry, berry good to me, too!

I was going to use the berry, berry phrase.

Well ebay has been pretty good except for the crappo (non working) flash I probably should not have purchased. I got a refund from the seller.

The stuff I buy from ebay is retail store cheap, not usually ebay cheap. If you get my drift.
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Old 06-10-2009   #31
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When I read "looks great for a 50 year old camera" or "seems to work", I see danger and I start asking lots of questions. But when the description is "operates perfectly" or "is in pristine condition" I certainly expect that to be so... 50 years old or 1 year old. Period!

Your argument that "one man's working may well be another's unusable" stretches this issue beyond reason. Working is working... Working means to me that the camera takes good pictures. If the shutter doesn't work properly, you cannot make a good picture. There's not gray here!

As I've said before, minor scratches, dings... these I could care less about. I'm not a collector of MINT stuff. However I think a collector that reads MINT expects MINT and that means no scratches or dings.

So I ask this community again... why do we buyers accept "caveat emptor" and let the sellers get away with this s**t???
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Old 06-10-2009   #32
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I know you are right. As a matter of fact, I got called on this very thing once a couple of years ago. I didn't notice that the light seals were 'mushy' and should have been replaced before advertising the camera as "in perfect condition". I learned my lesson and paid to have them replaced.

However, this inability to see the true flaws in equipment is no excuse for not taking responsibility for it if its pointed out by the buyer. I've been lucky over the past few years to have dealt with honest thoughtful sellers in nearly every case. I've had to return a couple of things and once had something repaired at the sellers expense with no complaints on either end. Its when the seller claims no responsibility by saying "I sent it to you in perfect condition... you must have done this." Thats clear dishonesty, and I think it happens a lot more than I think we want to admit. Some of this gets swallowed by buyers that are too tired of dealing with sellers like this, or it just doesn't seem worth the effort to deal with it. But that doesn't make this behavior acceptable, and certainly should not be covered up by "caveat emptor"!
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Old 06-10-2009   #33
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Your argument that "one man's working may well be another's unusable" stretches this issue beyond reason. Working is working... Working means to me that the camera takes good pictures. If the shutter doesn't work properly, you cannot make a good picture. There's not gray here!
So how does the average seller determine that a camera makes good pictures, if he himself can't, not even with a AF point-and-shoot?

Besides, a growing number of sellers is firmly convinced that film is not manufactured any more (as evidenced by it having vanished from every local drugstore) and that "working" for film cameras accordingly means "fit for duty as a display piece".

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Old 06-10-2009   #34
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I know that its not true that "all cameras and lenses purchased on eBay are presumed to be broken" because I've sold many things there that buyers were VERY happy with. Why? Because I described them exactly as they were. I do actually try very hard to "treat others as I'd have them treat me". So I believe I have the right to expect the same in return. And when I don't... I complain. And sometimes I even ask a community of buyers and sellers to think about possible incentives that could entice people to be honest! :-)
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Old 06-10-2009   #35
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How about RFF? It would be interested to see the statistics of percentage of inaccuracy in product desription for eBay, RFF, photo.net, craigslist, etc.. I bet the percentage is about the same at all places. Human nature?
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Old 06-10-2009   #36
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One has no choice but to assume the worst case scenario as a buyer. One cannot assume honesty or correctness of description on the part of the seller for a very simple reason - there is no objective standard which can be applied.

A lens, for example. If a seller says it is free of scratches, what does that mean? If they are honest, it means free of scratches as they define it. Is it the same standard the buyer expects? That is not known. Perhaps and perhaps not. Every buyer has their own standard of what they think 'scratch free' means. Each buyer thinks that their standard is objective, and each buyer thinks that their standard is reasonable.

The seller cannot know what the buyer's expectations and standards are, despite the fact that the buyer thinks their standard are both objective and reasonable. Therefore, the chances that there will be disagreement concerning the scratch-free quality of a lens is high.

Assume the lens is scratched and bid accordingly. Failing to do so indicates an inability to apply logic in order to solve simple equations. If one prefers not to assume the lens is scratched, then Caveat Emptor applies correctly.
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Old 06-10-2009   #37
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If you bottom buy from Ebay from an "I know nothing about cameras, but can see no reason why this will not work perfectly", buy it for parts.

If I died and someone inherited my collection, and had to sell them on Ebay, some good looking parts cameras would be on auction. So would some perfectly good cameras. Who would know?
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Old 06-10-2009   #38
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Originally Posted by Jamie Pillers View Post
How about RFF? It would be interested to see the statistics of percentage of inaccuracy in product desription for eBay, RFF, photo.net, craigslist, etc.. I bet the percentage is about the same at all places. Human nature?
I think I've bought 3 things here and was happy with each purchase. As a matter of fact the only item I have ever purchased , ANYWHERE, in which I was a little disappointed (besides a non-working flash) was a [BGN condition] lens from KEH. For some reason I was expecting "minty" cosmetics.
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Old 06-10-2009   #39
Jamie Pillers
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I've had one bad experience on ebay regarding product description, and one here. I've conducted many more transactions on eBay.
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