I have dedicated much thinking here of late about the scamming that has gotten such "Front & Center" attention recently on our forum. ConcernedMember has an interesting posting signature containing some sound advice in this regard and several of our moderators have seen fit to take various steps to eliminate some members with known abhorrant trading practices as well as attempt to minimize the occurrence of future scammers. These steps include (but are not limited to) several threads that hopefully will be both read and comprehended by everyone as well as enacting new rules governing thread creation and posting in the different Classifieds subforums. (see the stickied threads in the Classifieds for further details)
A random sampling (well, not really random at all...I just took the first twenty) of threads in the Buyer/Seller Feedback section reveals sixteen of the twenty threads used for this exceedingly unorthodox research to be traders on one side or the other of a transaction who were pleased with the results of their trade(s). This tells us two things: (1) There are some people who are inable to make negative trader feedback threads in the correct subforum. And (2) That equates to 80% or 8 of every 10. While not a horrible number it certainly leaves room for improvement.
The bottom line here is that what that tells us is that there are many more reputable traders who have solid selling practices to be found in this kind of setting than there are those who are just looking for a victim. A small amount of diligence on the part of the prospective buyer can help us improve that percentage considerably. Dont be a victim!!! So, I have decided to attempt to impart some basic guidelines for people contemplating a trade of any kind with someone from this forum or any other online person-to-person trade.
I know these guidelines to work from personal experience. I'm a bit of an addict on eBay and the only thing that keeps me from spending much more money there than I already do is the simple lack of discretionary funds to blow. I have yet to get scammed once on eBay or elsewhere and I genuinely feel this is due, in large part, to me being a stickler for certain things. If in any way a trade doesn't meet with the criteria that I require? Then I move on to the next deal. I'm sure over the long haul I have missed some if not many really outstanding deals. Fine. So be it. I would prefer to occasionally miss a great deal than have someone rip me off even once, wouldn't you?
Here we go ~ please excuse yet another of my overlong, uber-wordy posts. This one is for good reason, I promise.
1) Know your seller
Find out as much as you possibly can about the person you are considering making a purchase from. Doing business of this nature online isn't nearly the same as buying from the fella down the block who isn't incredibly (impossibly) inconvenient to go talk with if the item isn't all it is cracked up to be. If the trade you involve yourself in, whether it be borne from a post on www.CarAudio.com or elsewhere, fails to be what it is advertised to be your available avenues of recourse after the fact are considerably limited in comparison to buying from a local B&M store or something akin to that. Remember and believe what your grandmother likely told you more than once as you were growing up: "An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure." Sage advice, indeed.
Check their feedback. Talk to their previous trading partners to see how their experience with your potential seller ended up. If possible have a look at the kinds of things the seller has sold in the past. If someone has a history of selling $10, $15, or $30 items and all of a sudden they pop up wanting to move something that goes for $1,500 or more that could be good reason for a red flag to go up in the back of your mind. (Not all the time, mind you, but it would be good reason to be cautious at the very least)
Also research not only the feedback that has been left for your seller have a look at the feedback left by your seller. The things someone has to say about the people that have bought from them can be very telling about how they choose to conduct theirselves during a trade. If there are instances of negative feedback have a look at how the seller responded to said negatives and what, if any, resolution was reached ultimately. People are people. One of the unavoidable foibles of the human condition is an inability to please every person every time. Eventually one will run across someone who wants to whine and complain regardless of there being any actual fault that can be attributed to the seller. How situations such as this are responded to/resolved can also be very indicative of a person's true character. Hopefully you are getting the idea that doing as much homework on your seller as is possible can make huge inroads towards avoiding getting ripped off.
2) Do not be afraid to ask questions.
If there is anything about any given item that you are not completely sure about then ask! Ask 1 question. Ask 10. Ask 100. No, I am not suggesting that you be a nuisance and make the seller want to block your communications but as well do not be afraid to ask as many questions are necessary for you to completely understand what it is you're trying to buy. If your seller is legit and genuinely wants to make a sale they will be happy to give over any information they may have. An ethical seller wants the buyer to be as much or more happy than the seller once the trade is done. No matter how good a deal may be on paper if the item isn't something that truly fills the buyer's needs then ultimately they will still be unhappy. Ask as many questions as you feel are needed to ensure that what you're buying will do what you need done.
Bear in mind that if you do feel you need some questions answered regarding any given item(s) and your seller isn't forthcoming with the information then that should be a huge red flag to you and chances are it isn't a deal that you want to involve yourself in. Think: jeremyzach and the Viper monoblock amp he sold here on the forum. He repeatedly dodged requests for pictures of the amp he was selling. The buyer went ahead and proceeded with the purchase and eventually, upon taking receipt of the amp he had purchased, became exceedingly unhappy with the deal. Yes, the amp worked so that was a plus, but cosmetically that poor old Viper had seen much better days. It was considerably less than what it had been advertised to be. It's your money, after all. Do not feel as if you are being an imposition wanting to know exactly what it is that you are spending it on. Again, an ethical seller will not take issue with you wanting clarification on any of the details. A shady trader will give you the runaround if you are asking questions that will expose their lack of honesty.
3) Know your item(s)
This is just as essential to a positive conclusion being reached in any given transaction. Once you find something (or several somethings) that strike your fancy / suit your needs / whatever the motivation to make that purchase may be do all the research on that item or items that you can. Find out what it sold for new. Find out what its relative worth is now if it's a used item. Feeling as if you got a good (or at least decent) deal goes a long way to overall "transaction satisfaction." Be aware, however, that once the deal is sealed and/or finished your window of opportunity to complain about the price has long since been closed. Do not agree/commit to buying X item at the total cost of Y dollars and then later down the road complain that "But I found it for THIS amount over on so-n-so source ~ why did you rip me off?!?" If you initially agree to making a purchase at any price then at least in that moment in time you felt the cost of admission was fair. Please do not make your seller the victim of Buyer's Remorse once the deal is done. It isn't that seller's fault if you are a compulsive impulse shopper. Do not treat him or her like it is after the fact.
4) Use common sense and trust your gut
C'mon, guys and gals....this is the practice of free enterprise and open commerce, not quantum physics! If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and has water rolling down its back? Chances are it's a duck. On the flipside of that same coin, however, regardless of how trite it may be the old adage "If it looks/sounds too good to be true then most likely it is" still holds true.
If someone with no known history on the forum pops up with a JL 1000/1 for $200 but they have no references on here or any other forum, no eBay feedback, or provides no pictures of the amp to indicate that they actually have one in their possession then most likely it is going to be a really bad idea to send that person your $200. On the other hand if you need some wiring or related accessories then you can feel safe buying from FRITO. If you need a decent deal on an entry-level USAmps then flakko's your man. Looking for a Rainbow component set? Have a quick chat with 6spdcoupe. My point is that there are regular participants on the forum that you could safely place blind faith in and not get screwed over. Other instances should be evaluated on a case by case basis and see what your gut tells you. Remember what I said previously ~ I would rather miss out on a good deal several times than get completely ripped off even once. Wouldn't you???