If you deal with a reputable nationwide chain store or well-known individual, evidence of their trustworthiness should be readily available. On eBay, you can check the seller’s feedback to see if they’ve been ethical in past transactions. If they haven’t been on eBay long enough to have any feedback, ask them for specific references from individuals who they’ve done business with before. If you deal with an unknown person with no verifiable reputation, you’re asking for trouble.
The final step in any online deal is to form a contingency plan for problems that might occur when the merchandise arrives. For example: You’ve made the deal, checked the references, paid with a credit card, and just opened the incredibly well packed boxes that just arrived on your doorstep. But there are several problems with the merchandise that weren’t revealed in the photographs and the seller didn’t disclose. It could have been ignorance on the part of the seller or intentional fraud. Either way, you’re not happy with the deal as it stands. Without a contingency plan, you’re stuck. Technically, the gear is everything the seller said it was, but the problem is that he didn’t say what it wasn’t.
Unfortunately, buying anything that is older or not totally new depends on two sets of perceptions: The buyer’s and the seller’s. It’s an extremely rare occasion when any two humans who are separated by a significant distance would come up with the same descriptions after looking at the same object, much less a picture of that object. Don’t wait until something bogus arrives, then try to call the seller back and return it. Negotiate a return policy in advance. This means that you need to decide:
1. Who pays for the shipping?
2. Who pays for insurance to cover shipping damages?
3. How soon must the item be returned in order for you to get a full or partial refund?
4. Will the price drop if the merchandise proves to have lesser value than the seller’s description? This is even more important when dealing with individuals who don’t really have a working knowledge of the product they are selling.
Now that I’ve convinced you that everyone on the web is out to get you, let’s look at it from another perspective. If you’re selling on the web, you need to protect yourself from unscrupulous buyers as well. One strategy I have used to protect myself is to sell used items “as is.” Know enough about your product to describe it in a clear and concise way. But make sure everyone agrees that at the end of the deal you will accept only the negotiated price for the transaction, even if the buyer’s perception of the drum is different from yours. Since it is a common practice to try to talk the seller into a partial refund on a deal when the merchandise arrives, you’ll want to make this policy clear in advance. Price negotiation is not an option to me unless I have truly misidentified or omitted an important detail on the item sold. If the buyer doesn’t like it, for whatever reason, they have 48 hours to contact me and tell me that they want to send the drums back. If the buyers adhere to the return policy or call to make reasonable alternative arrangements, I’ll agree to refund the purchase price in full, minus any reasonable expenses that may have incurred in packing and shipping the drums to the customer.
Of course, if you’ve unintentionally misrepresented the merchandise in the first place and your buyer is not satisfied with it, your negotiation skills come into play in a big way. The bottom line is that your buyer is your reputation. A reputation for good service and fairness in dealing will result in steady growth of your business through recommendations from satisfied customers. This is just honest, up-front dealing and it depends largely on your powers of description and knowledge of your product to be successful. As with any business transaction, a satisfied buyer will tell a friend or two about you, but a dissatisfied buyer will take the same amount of pleasure in telling everyone that he meets what a schmuck you are!
To make your item available to the most active buyers, use terms that really describe it well. Research what you have and use the best descriptive terms to list it. Check the spelling! It can mean the difference between a wasted effort and a successful auction with heavy bidding.
Aside from writing a good, searchable text description and title, a picture of the instrument is the next most critical factor in selling over the web. Many Internet hosting services allow you to post graphics for auctions. You can find a few by looking at other auctions and noting where they’ve stored their pictures. Many times, this service is free simply for allowing the hosting service to put a banner under your pictures. Try to offer several views of your item so that the buyer can see it from all angles. Take detailed photos of any damage or alterations that might cause the buyer to want to return the merchandise. Most people will still buy an imperfect item as long as they know where the problems are in advance. People don’t like surprises. Don’t try to be sneaky. Save yourself a headache and put as many photos online as possible.
If you don’t know the value of an item, overshoot it by a large margin. If it sells for the reserve price, you’ll be delirious with happiness. If it doesn’t sell the first time you put it up for auction, a high reserve will allow bidders to show you what they’re willing to pay for it. You can then either list the item again with a more realistic and educated reserve, or simply call the high bidder in the first auction and offer the item at their bidding price.
I would recommend to any seller, whether they’re an individual or business, to invest the time that it takes to enable your customers to pay you as easily as possible. If you can accept credit card payments, you’ll have much less difficulty with customer trustworthiness. You will also get the money faster!