Monday, April 8, 2013

Ebay Ukulele Buying Tips

If you're into ukuleles, chances are that you have more than one.  UAS (ukulele acquisition syndrome) is a disease to which there is no cure.  If you're anything like me, you spend way to much time on ebay looking for ukes and trying to find a sweet deal.

Ebay (as well as other auction sites and online uke shops) can be a fantastic avenue to finding a great deal.  But if you're not careful, you can also end up getting burned. 

They say that experience is invaluable.  That's why I asked some of my fellow ukers on the Ukulele Underground forum to chip in with their experiences and advice.  Getting burned when buying online is something that is always going to be a possibility, but hopefully these tips will help you to better avoid that fate.

1. Buyer Beware
Common sense can go a long way in avoiding a fraudulent listing.  Just remember, if an offer sounds too good to be probably is.  When in doubt, just take a pass and save yourself the potential trouble.

2. Check feedback scores
One UU member suggests this simple piece of advice. 
A very easy way to protect yourself.  Have they made a lot of sales?  Do people have a lot of bad things to say about them?  Maybe people have a lot of good things to say.  These are all things to check out before you bid.  As a general rule of thumb, try to stick with seller's that have over 99% positive feedback.

3. Return Policy
Another forum member suggested giving the seller's return policy a closer look.  Will they allow you to return it for a refund?  How long of a window do they give you to return it?  Will they make you pay the return shipping?  Will they take it back for any reason?

4. The seller is probably not an expert ukulele appraiser
Remember, a lot of sellers probably don't know much about the uke they're selling.  Sometimes their info might not be correct simply through ignorance.  Another Ukulele Underground member suggests a few ways to protect yourself in these situations....

"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."

5. If possible, buy from a seller you trust
There are some very nice and trustworthy folks selling on ebay, as well as other sites like the Ukulele Underground Marketplace, Elderly Instruments, and a bunch of others.  If it's possible, buy from someone that knows their stuff.  Another UU member had very positive experience buying from folks that know ukuleles.

"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."

6. Look at the shipping price
Another forum member suggest this valuable piece of advice....

"Make sure you shop the total price with shipping. Some sellers like to pad the shipping portion to make it look like their item is cheaper."

7. Pictures, Pictures, Pictures!
Here's some suggestions from another UU member to protect yourself from a seller that's trying to "cover up" the truth about the uke they're selling.

"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."

8.  Knowledge is Power
As another UU member puts it..

"knowledge is your friend. Try to learn as much as you can about any instrument you wish to buy, before you buy it."

9. The unboxing process - More picture advice...

"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."

10. Sound Sample
Great advice here from another UU member...

" 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."

11. If all else fails...
Remember, you can report it to Ebay or Paypal.  They'll help you get your money back if your claim is founded on solid ground and the seller won't budge.

Hope these tips will help you out on future online uke purchases! 

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