With more members, more Classified Ad postings, and more deals being done, there have been more misunderstandings. I don't have the time to police transactions that went bad because people didn't keep records, or failed to ask for insurance, or failed to request an inspection period.
I have written an extensive guide to Online Classfieds that explains how to shop smart and avoid getting burned. I also explain how sellers can protect their interests, and avoid the common complaints that buyers raise.If you use our free Classifieds in the Marketplace section, please read this article from start to finish. http://bulletin.accurateshooter.com/2011/04/advice-for-buying-and-selling-products-in-forum-classifieds/Advice for Buying and Selling Products in Forum Classifieds
As the number of transactions in the Forum Marketplace has grown dramatically, we've seen some misunderstandings arise, despite the many guidelines we have in place. When there is a problem, most of the time it relates to shipping delays or damage in transit. But there have also been issues involving description of a sale item, or confusion over the terms of the deal.
To help avoid disappointments or misunderstandings when using the Marketplace, this article provides tips on buying and selling through the Classifieds. Follow our advice, and you should have a good experience with our online Classified Ads. And the steps we suggest should serve you equally well when purchasing gun stuff on other firearms forums.Five Most Important Tips for BUYERS
1. Don't buy expensive items if the seller does not provide good photos or a complete description. Copy the text of the ad and write down any additional communications with the seller.
2. Check the seller's feedback and ask plenty of questions. Absolutely do NOT purchase any item from a seller who will not provide a valid return address or phone number.
3. With rifles, stocks, and electronic items, insist on a reasonable inspection period. 3-5 business days is reasonable for a gun or stock.
4. Insist that the item is insured and tracked. Make sure you understand whether buyer or seller pays for shipping, insurance, and tracking.
5. Don't go ballistic if you post "I'll take it and you don't get the deal. The seller may have received other offers by Private Message, email or other mode of communication. The seller also has the right to evaluate details of the transaction (and your offer) before committing to sell. Remember, if you never paid anything you don't have a loss. Man up and move on.Advice For Marketplace BUYERSKnow What You're Buying!
Make sure there are good product photos and a complete description of the product. For example, with a rifle, make sure the chambering, twist rate, barrel length etc. are fully explained. Copy the text of the advert, and KEEP RECORDS of everything the seller tells you! That way, if the item you receive is different than what was advertised you'll have 'evidence' to support your return request. I would say that in two-thirds of the 'problem transactions' that have come to my attention, the buyer never saved a copy of the original advert, and failed, as well, to save his email interchanges with the seller. I've seen situations where a buyer claimed to be entitled to extra parts along with a gun, but he had no evidence that such items were ever part of the deal.Check the Seller's Credentials and Trade History
Check out the Trader Feedback on the seller of the product. In our Marketplace section, both buyers and sellers can leave feedback on a transaction. Check out the seller's credentials before you buy.Do Your Pricing Homework--
Find out the "ballpark" value of an item before you agree to purchase. That way you'll protect yourself from paying too much, AND you'll have an early warning on possible scams. The old adage is still true: "if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is".Ask for an Inspection Period:
By all means, negotiate an inspection period for expensive items. I personally would never purchase a gun, barrel, stock, or action without some inspection period. I cannot over-stress the importance of the inspection period. Most sellers will allow an inspection period on an expensive item. Just make sure you understand which party must pay return shipping if you decide to send the item back. The inspection period gives you a chance to take a close look at the product. That is key. I would say 95% of the disputes presented to me as Forum Boss (other than late delivery questions) would have been eliminated if the buyer had asked for an inspection period. I recall one situation where the buyer complained because a gun�s barrel turned out to be shorter than it appeared in a photo. With an inspection period, he would have protected himself.Insist on Insurance and Tracking --
If you're paying more than $50.00 or so for an item, tell the buyer to include insurance and insist on shipment tracking. It's a sad truth, but expensive stuff gets lost, delayed, and damaged ALL the TIME. Among deliveries we've received ourselves, we've seen damaged stocks, bent barrels, and broken optics. The process of package shipping can do some serious damage, believe me.Be Patient and Don't Freak Out if Items Are Delayed --
It is not that uncommon for packages to take as much as three weeks to make it across the country, even when shipped 'three-day' or priority mail. Unfortunately all the carriers -- USPS, Fedex, and UPS -- will have a badly stalled shipment now and then. I frequently get frantic emails from Forum Members saying "the item I bought off the classifieds hasn't arrived. The seller is a crook and I want you to burn down his house -- right now!" In some cases such messages arrive only a few days after the ship date. I tell these members to initiate tracking and wait three weeks before going ballistic. In 99.5% of these situations, the goods eventually arrived. Of course, once it appears an item is really delayed, get in touch with the seller and have him chase down the problem. If, after a month has passed with no delivery, instruct the seller to file an insurance claim. If the seller refuses to do so, or it really appears he failed to ship, contact the Forum Boss. He will contact the seller, and, if necessary, turn the matter over to the authorities.Use Secure Payment Methods --
Never send cash in a mailed envelope, not even certified mail. Certified mail is really not that secure. For major items, we suggest using postal money orders, delivered via Fedex. This does give you some recourse in the event of a fraudulent sale -- though it is certainly not easy to get the USPS to go to bat for you. If you purchase from a business, use a credit card if possible. The major credit card companies can reverse the charges if you fail to receive an item you've paid for, or if the seller refuses to take back a defective item."I'll Take It" vs. "Meeting of the Minds" --
Many buyers are disappointed when they post "I'll take it" and the deal doesn't go through, or the item sells to someone else. What buyers need to realize is that there has to be a "meeting of the minds" between buyer and seller on all the material (important) terms of the transaction before the seller is obligated to sell. Price is only one term. There are many other factors that may need to be worked out. For example, the gun may not be legal to ship to a particular jurisdiction. Or, the cost of shipping may exceed what the would-be buyer is willing to pay. While it is always disappointing to lose a good deal, shoppers can avoid disappointment (and keep their blood pressure at safe levels) if they realize that simply posting "I'll take it" does not, normally, close the deal.Five Most Important Tips for SELLERS --
1. Provide a thorough product description and multiple quality photos. Normally your ad should include an asking price. Always disclose any noteworthy flaws in the product before you take the buyer's money.
2. NEVER ship valuable items before receiving payment.
3. Always insure valuable items, and get tracking for your shipments.
4. Check out the buyer's feedback, and make sure you agree to the proposed method (and timing) of payment.
5. Reserve the right to evaluate multiple offers, and state clearly that you are NOT committing to do the deal until all important concerns are worked out. Tell buyers that you retain the right to say "no deal" if the buyer is not qualified, or if you and he fail to agree on essential terms such as method of payment, insurance, and inspection period.Advice For Marketplace SELLERSProvide Plenty of Good Photos and Disclose Defects --
Good photos are really important. Good photos will help you sell your product faster, and get the best price. Moreover, clear, sharp photos eliminate potential misunderstandings. You don't want to post a fuzzy photo and then have the buyer balk because the real stock appears different than the picture. If there is a major ding in the stock, show that in the photo. Under our Forum rules, you are required to disclose damage or defects that would affect the utility or the value of the product. Don't be sly and try to cover something up -- that's unethical and it only results in eventual conflict with the buyer.Qualify Your Buyers --
You are not obligated to accept the first offer, if you state you reserve the right to approve potential buyers. If an offer comes in, check out the potential buyer's feedback on the Forum, and you might check on other sites as well. A little research can save you big headaches later.Ship Promptly --
After receiving payment, try to pack and ship the item within four (4) days of the payment, an no later than one week. If you are paid by check, ship within four (4) days of the check successfully clearing your bank. The number one complaint among Marketplace buyers is that the goods they purchased did not arrive in a timely fashion. Insure Your Shipment --
For any item worth more than $50.00 we would insure the shipment. This will protect against a lost shipment and will compensate for damage that may occur in transit. Recently we've seen too many rifle stocks damaged in shipment. You can safeguard against this by double boxing and carefully padding the item, but your ultimate recourse is via insurance. Be sure to insure for true replacement cost.Include Insurance Costs --
Because we consider insurance essential for nearly all items, you should include the cost of insurance in your asking price. This way, if the buyer foolishly refuses to pay for insurance, you can still afford to purchase coverage. If you don't include insurance in the asking price, have a statement such as this in your ad: "Buyer is responsible for actual shipping cost, including insurance and tracking fees." Get Tracking for Your Package --
With some modes of shipment, tracking is an optional extra. Fedex tracks everything by default. But if you ship USPS, you may have to pay extra to get tracking. Again, we recommend you always get package tracking for items worth $50.00 or more. Include the price of tracking in the statement of shipping costs. If you don't build that into the asking price, then at least include the following in your advert: "Buyer is responsible for actual shipping cost, including insurance and tracking fees."Pack the Item Securely --
If you want to avoid disputes with purchasers, pack your items very securely. You should pack items to survive a 12-foot drop and an afternoon in the rain. If you are sending extra parts (such as scope rings) with a gun, bubble wrap them separately and secure them in the box so they will not shift around. I had one nice blued revolver come back from a smith. The smith had placed the gun in a foam-padded box with the old trigger parts he had replaced. During shipment, the trigger parts scraped back and forth on the gun, ruining the high-gloss blued finish. Stocks are particularly vulnerable. We suggest placing a stock between heavy form layers, or make a cardboard "splint" to protect the exterior, and to shield the forearm tip and the vulnerable wrist area. Then bubble-wrap the entire stock and put it inside a heavy shipping box. When sending a rifle, we strongly recommend you ship the gun in a plastic hard case, then place the case inside a second, heavy duty-cardboard box. Before shipping, make sure the buyer understands who is paying for the shipping box. We recommend stating right in your advert: "In addition to actual shipping costs, I will charge $XX for a shipping box."Disclose Concurrent Listings --
Buyers get upset if they see an item, post "I'll take it", then find that the item has already sold. For this reason it is MANDATORY for all Marketplace sellers to disclose if the item is for sale elsewhere. What does that mean? Well if you are listing the gun on GunBroker.com, or on another shooting Forum, or if you even have it up for sale in your local club newsletter, you need to disclose that. This eliminates misunderstandings.Reserve the Right to Say "No" to Any Offer
Even if a buyer posts "I'll take it", there are many potential reasons why you may not want to sell to that party: 1) he may not be eligible to own the item; 2) he may not agree to an acceptable mode (and schedule) of payment; 3) he may have negative feedback, or otherwise have a bad reputation; 4) after discussion, you may conclude your product is really not suitable for the buyer, despite what the buyer may think; 5) the buyer may try to change the terms of his offer during negotiation. As the seller, you are entitled to say 'no deal' in these (and many other) circumstances. But this will upset some buyers and they will complain. To avoid complaints, you should include language in your advert that gives you an 'out' when the offer is flawed or the buyer is not qualified. In your ad you should include a line saying that you reserve the right to consider multiple offers, and that no deal is final until you review the buyer's qualifications, and until both parties agree to all important aspects of the transaction.
Here is language you might use: "This item remains for sale until ALL arrangements are finalized with a buyer I deem, in my sole discretion, to be qualified. I reserve the right to consider multiple offers, and no offer will create a binding contract until I am satisfied with buyer qualifications, mode and terms of payment, and until all details of shipping (including insurance, packaging requirements, shipping costs, and risk of loss) are worked out.
[Optional ADD: This item is offered for sale on other internet sites.]"
Or, if you want something less legalistic, you can simply state: "No deals are final until we work out all the details over the telephone. Be aware there may be multiple offers on the table