Buying Gear On eBay

Over the last several months, I have become a certified eBay drum junkie. I can go for days without looking at the site, but more often than not, find myself logging onto the percussion section daily to see what treasures I might score at a reasonable price. I’ve bought a snare drum, cymbals, old drum ads, a couple of drum books, albums and assorted other goodies, though as a novice, fell victim to some of the more common pitfalls one can encounter with online auctions. Perhaps this article can be of some help to you if you choose to become an eBay drum junkie too. I won’t go into a lengthy explanation of eBay’s rules and regulations. You can get that info from them.

Bidding & Overbidding: If you discover an item you want to bid on, first assess your need. Ask yourself if the item is something you really need or want. Then, set a dollar limit you are willing to spend and stick with it. DO NOT bid over that amount! If you lose to someone else, so be it. You’ll find another one. As far as overbidding, let’s say you come across the vintage drumset of your dreams and start bidding uncontrollably to the point where you’ve gotten yourself in trouble. I fell victim to this malady and got in way over my head on a 1967 Burgundy Sparkle Ludwig four-piece. By the time I came to my senses, I had bid just over $1600, money I couldn’t afford to lay out. Frantic, I called a fellow drum collector who knew the seller. With the seller’s phone number in hand, I called, explained my predicament and apologized. He was not at all angry and graciously allowed me to retract my bid without negative feedback. I was lucky. Don’t overbid and by all means, don’t bid at all if you have no intention of completing the transaction. In other words, don’t get involved if you don’t have the money! The key is to bid sensibly. Also, have a good idea of the going market value of the item you are bidding on. It makes no sense to overpay on eBay if you can buy the same item locally for less money.

Selling: I recently listed my first item on eBay, a set of hi-hats in excellent condition. I decided to sell them only because they didn’t work for the music my band plays. I listed them on eBay without a picture (we’re still trying to figure out our digital camera) and quickly discovered that people generally like to see a picture of the item on which they are bidding. After the usual seven-day bidding period, the auction ended with a bid that didn’t come close to my reserve (a reserve is your bottom-line dollar figure-the least amount of money you will accept to sell your item). Therefore, I was not obliged to sell them. I relisted the hats again, but this time with no reserve. After about twenty four hours, I came to the realization that I was bound to sell them for whatever the high bid was at the end of the auction, regardless of the price. Once again, I was in trouble. I ended the auction early, explaining I had decided to keep the cymbals. Next day, a young drummer from Florida who obtained my email address from one of the drum forums I frequent, expressed interest in the cymbals and bought them. I now have a better picture of how eBay’s seller’s rules work. Make sure you understand the rules before you get involved!

Sniping: Sniping is simply placing the highest last-minute bid on any given item you absolutely, positively must have. Here’s how it works; keep track of the ending time of the auction and stay at your computer, prepared to bid at the last instant. Keep in mind that eBay uses military time based on Pacific Standard Time. When there’s about three minutes left before the end of the auction, place a bid that is significantly larger than the current high bid. Keep in mind that the current high bidder may have a hidden proxy bid that you will need to top. You will never know the other person’s highest proxy bid. When you proxy bid, you tell eBay what your top dollar amount is and they bid for you automatically. If your last-minute bid doesn’t do the trick, eBay will tell you immediately, giving you another opportunity to bid again. Just keep track of the time and be prepared to act fast!

Selling: If you are selling something on eBay, the cardinal rule is to be totally honest in representing the merchandise for sale, communicate freely, and once you have received the winner’s money, ship the item immediately. If you have no experience in packing, take the item to a pack & ship store and let a professional handle it. Always conduct yourself in an upstanding manner as a buyer or seller.

More on Sniping: After writing the first installment on sniping, I came across a website called www.eSnipe.com that does your eBay sniping for a nominal fee. After registering, eSnipe collects all necessary information regarding the item you want, including your maximum bid and when to register your snipe bid, usually five to ten seconds before the auction ends. ESnipe will place the bid in as little time as three seconds before the end of the auction. I have tried eSnipe three times and lost twice due to lowball bids that didn’t reach the reserve amount.my fault, not eSnipe’s. Tonight, I tried eSnipe again on some medieval artifacts and won! Just keep in mind you are not the only one using eSnipe’s services. By the way, drums are not this writer’s only interest. I have collected historical and military relics and artifacts, 1940’s art deco neckties, records and CD’s, old headlines and auto ads and more, for years.

Feedback: Feedback can make or break you on eBay. Too much negative feedback can be the kiss of death. Let’s say you win a vintage snare drum and have carefully questioned the seller as to its condition, looked at the pictures and done everything in your power to assure a smooth transaction. When the drum arrives, you discover problems that the seller failed to tell you or the photos concealed. You contact the seller, who refuses to give you a refund. Your recourse is to contact eBay and begin what could be a rather drawn-out fight to get your money back. Of course, you can always keep the drum, repair or sell it, and leave negative feedback for the seller. In doing so, you have 80 characters or spaces to get your point across and leave a permanent record of your dissatisfaction. Too many negative feedbacks will damage a seller’s reputation so others may hesitate or refuse to buy from him or her. On the other hand, if you win an item and lack the funds to pay and stiff the seller, or wait too long to contact the seller or send your payment, you may incur negative feedback that will exclude you from certain auctions. All eBay sellers have the right to set their own terms and some will not sell to anyone with negative feedback. One way some sellers get around their negative feedback problem is to continually re-register under a new name. This happens occasionally, so you should ALWAYS check the seller’s feedback before bidding. Also, you must keep in mind that eBay is strictly a “caveat emptor” situation. In other words, let the buyer beware. You’re on your own, but as I mentioned earlier, eBay will moderate and help solve problems.

If you do have a problem, it’s best to try and negotiate a settlement with the seller before contacting eBay, your lawyer, your father, your cousin Vinnie, the police, dogcatcher, or anyone else. Use negative feedback only as a last resort. The recipient just may give you a negative shot as a retaliatory measure, unfair as that may seem. Feedback is forever, although you have the right to respond to negative feedback whether you’re a buyer or seller.

On the flip side, positive feedback, like a good credit rating, will go a long way for you on eBay. Anyone in the cyber world can view your feedback as a matter of record anytime they wish. A clean record of positive feedback tells any seller or buyer that you are an honest, straightforward, conscientious person to deal with. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

eBay Common Sense & Etiquette:

OK, so you’re interested in that 16″ Paiste Signature Fast Crash on eBay. First, read the seller’s description completely and thoroughly. Make sure he or she specifies condition of the cymbal. If there are cracks, dents, dings or excessive keyholing, skip it and go elsewhere. If the cymbal is in very good to excellent condition, email the seller and ask if he or she is willing to play the cymbal over the phone for you. Pending results of this question, contact the seller again, request their phone number and most convenient time to call, then follow through in a professional manner. If the cymbal sounds good to you (keep in mind it’s very difficult to ascertain a cymbal’s true sound over the phone), thank the seller and place your bid accordingly. You can do the same thing with a snare drum as well.

Personally, I would never buy a cymbal on eBay without hearing it first, just as you or any other drummer with common sense would do in a retail store.

Some drummers who sell on eBay realize that buying cymbals is a risky deal, so some offer return privileges if you are dissatisfied. Determine this before you bid. Remember, once you have won an item, your bid is a binding contract, a promise to purchase the item you have won. We’ve already discussed what happens when a buyer stiffs a seller.

So, now you have won the auction and that 16″ Fast Crash is soon to be yours. Now what? Upon receiving winning notification, immediately email the seller acknowledging that you have won and ask for him or her to advise you as to shipping costs. After you have received this information, send payment out right away, always within three days of notification. By doing this, you will get a reputation as a fast payer, a trait every eBay seller appreciates.

Just about everyone on eBay accepts postal money orders or cashier’s checks, because they are as good as cash. Some accept personal checks, but you will always have to wait for the check to clear. Many now accept credit cards and PayPal.

Once your treasure arrives, look it over carefully, play and enjoy it. If there is a problem, contact the seller immediately and work out a return/refund if that is an option. I recently bought some “bar chimes from Bali” I thought would be a cool addition to my percussion arsenal. They were a steal compared to most pricey bar chimes on the market. After they arrived, I realized they were seriously lacking in volume and would never cut through the music I play. So, I contacted the seller, who cheerfully agreed to refund my money, minus shipping fees. I returned the item and got my dollars back fast. I left her positive feedback and she did the same for me. Everybody was happy.

After The Auction Ends:

The auction is over and nobody bid enough to meet or top the item’s reserve price. Now what? The seller is not bound to sell the item for the highest price if it did not meet his reserve. This is now a golden opportunity for you to contact the seller and inquire if he or she would be willing to negotiate a price beyond the confines of an eBay auction. The seller is most likely ready to cut a deal. Sometimes this can work out quite well and you can score the item for a price under the seller’s reserve when the auction was in force.

“Buy It Now” is a great eBay feature. This allows a buyer to win an item immediately by meeting the seller’s “Buy It Now” price, providing there are zero bids. Once a bid has been placed on a “Buy It Now” item, this feature becomes null and void. I won a cool DW drums banner using “Buy It Now,” for $19.95. “Buy It Now” takes the pressure off both buyer and seller with regards to the bidding process and makes the transaction easy.

One final insider’s hint; If you lose an item you really wanted, you may still email the seller and ask him or her to contact you should the winning bidder default for any reason. You may get lucky in the end.

Before stepping into the world of eBay bidding, make sure you have read and fully understand eBay’s rules and regs. Although I have attempted to give you some hints to help you win, it is not an excuse for you to ignore or bend their rules. In most cases, it is not kosher to ask a seller the reserve price, although some will tell you willingly. Likewise, it isn’t really proper to ask a seller to stop an auction and sell you the item, although this practice happens frequently. With the sheer amount of auction volume that occurs on a daily basis, it is virtually impossible for eBay to police all transactions. Believe me, there is a LOT of funny business that goes on, so be smart, sensible and enjoy the eBay bidding process, win or lose.