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Monday, 12 May 2014

eBray

It's always painful enough having to part with typewriters, especially ones that are particularly cherished. But when needs must, the pain is all too quickly quadrupled by the necessity to subject oneself to the quirks and caprices of eBay typewriter buyers.
They are a breed apart, eBay typewriter buyers.
Is it just me, or do other Typospherians find themselves dealing with "typewriter enthusiasts" who expect to be able to buy pre-war, shiny black portables with chrome-rimmed keytops, in great working working order, fully serviced and with a new ribbon, for $25?
I am reluctant to use this blog to sell typewriters, although it has proved a fairly successful way of doing it. eBay remains, as a leading Typospherian pointed out on Facebook not long ago, probably the best marketplace for typewriters, both for buyers and sellers. eBay has certain advantages, of which the market range an item can reach is the most obvious. Its link with PayPal is another. Although it seems to me PayPal will usually come down on the side of the buyer in any dispute, it does offer much payment ease and some security, especially with international transactions. I still have my heart in my mouth whenever I post typewriters, internally or overseas. As Australia Post has finally come to appreciate its financial reliance on parcel post, things have improved, but only a little.
For a typewriter seller, undoubtedly the major disadvantage with eBay is having to deal with allegedly potential typewriter buyers who are simply rude or ignorant - or, in many cases, both.
I'M TOO CLEVER FOR MY SHIRT
As someone who has used eBay to (mostly) buy typewriters for at least 12 years now, and who has been involved in almost 2000 transactions in that time, I find the behaviour of some eBayers still beggars belief. Many people have become immune to it, I haven't.
When selling, I always initially list typewriters at what I believe they are worth, not a cent more, not a cent less. I also tell the truth about the typewriters I list. I have been known to drop prices, but only after a number of relistings. Naturally, I don't like having to do it. I don't want to sell my typewriters under their true value. But when I do list typewriters, I only do so because I must sell them.
Not long after I started listing some especially treasured typewriters, a month or so ago, I was reminded of what eBay buyers can be like.
Bryan Martin of the Inkling Bookstore in Biloxi, Mississippi, is obviously under the mistaken impression that he went to funny school.
After he had made some simply stupid offers on one item, sometimes at as little as a quarter of the listed price, I asked Mr Martin to cease and desist. He replied, "I didn’t know you had such delicate sensitivities.  Otherwise, I would’ve certainly offered less.  But your page said ‘Make an offer', it didn’t say 'Make an offer that doesn’t offend the seller'.
"I just thought that someone has to eat the cost of shipping, which is a whopping 125 dollars – might as well be you.
"So I thought, 'I would normally start the offer at about 400 dollars but since shipping is so much, I’m going to subtract shipping and see if he doesn’t want it enough to let it go for that price'.
"I thought I’d add a few more questions that were actually dumb.  They are as follows:
"Does it include a charger?
"Do you have the matching heels for it?
"Is it organic?
"Will it print in spanish too? [Bryan can't find the shift key on his keyboard.]"
Oh, Mr Martin, you are so hilarious! The customers in the Inkling Bookstore in Biloxi, Mississippi, must be just falling about on the floor with your wisecracks. By the way, your 10th birthday must be coming up pretty soon. One day you might actually start to grow up.
BACK DOOR BESSIE
I had another outstanding typewriter on eBay for auction last week. Days before the auction was due to end, and with one early bid at the starting price on it, I received an eBay-generated message from someone offering a figure well below the starting price "if the current bid falls through".
Now this worried me, deeply. Why on earth would this person assume an existing, legitimate bid would "fall through"? I had never seen such a suggestion before, in 12 years and almost 2000 transactions. I replied that the typewriter would not be sold at the lower price, regardless of what happened to the existing bid.
My worst fears were realised. This person then outbid the first bidder and won the item. There was no instant payment. I had a real, if unfounded, sense of having been "set up".The buyer then messaged me: "I didn't intend to offend you with my earlier offer. I simply noticed this is the only item you're selling [wrong], and in that situation sellers usually simply need money and fast. I have since discovered your blog, and am interested to know why you've decided to sell this particular piece?"
My worries were compounded. I had never heard of a seller asking a buyer why they are selling something. Or assuming "sellers usually simply need money and fast".
My response was to suggest that, once payment was received (and my fears were allayed) I would be happy to discuss the whys and wherefores of this sale.
The reply: "Why the hostility? I do find that very unprofessional ... " Me unprofessional? From someone who had tried the underhand tactic of an offer well below an existing bid? From someone making assumptions about selling, and asking questions about why the item was being sold?
Goodness! Where do these people come from?
THE OLD
'LIST SOMEONE ELSE'S TYPEWRITER'
TRICK
Jos Legrand has alerted typewriter collectors to a listing at 300 euros for a rare Emerson typewriter on Kalaydo in Germany, "an alarm to warn you against crooks", as Jos put it. He used the same word I have often used in such cases: fraud. "The offerer, Joasia Nowicka, from Warsaw in Poland, uses pictures that once were used by the Galerie Alte Technik."
Regular readers of this blog will know that this happens all too often on eBay, and eBay has seldom shown any inclination to act on it. A Cahill, an Optima P1 portable and a ABC-Messa-Lemair portable spring to mind. The last two may not be in the class of an Emerson or a Cahill, but this willingness by buyers to use images of machines they are not selling has been revealed far too frequently.
BAD eBAY
I know I'm not alone in wondering about eBay charges. I probably sold about five or six items last month, and was charged $99.99, after being told there were no listing fees. This is the second time in three months I have received an eBay invoice, the other being for about $66. Why are these invoices never itemised? On checking "My account", I cannot for the life of me find where these figures come from, what they are for. Can anyone help me fathom this out, please? Surely eBay can't be charging me as much as 10 per cent, or more, on the value of sales (including postage)? Or is it? And if it is, how does it justify such high charges?
GOOD eBAY

19 comments:

Mark Adams said...

Buying and selling on eBay is an ugly business. I never want to sell an item for less than the fair price (usually high), and I never want to buy an item for more than the fair price (usually low). It's human nature.

The other problem is how to know just how much a machine is worth. Once two Emersons were on eBay at the same moment: one sold for $150, the other (if I recall correctly) for over $300, perhaps $400. Happily, I got the cheaper one.

Being more often on the buying end on eBay, the most frustrating aspect is when sellers simply place a typewriter in the case and expect it to survive a cross-country journey. It's gotten so bad, I've taken to video-taping myself opening packages, detailing the process as a crime scene investigator might!

Robert Messenger said...

These observations are all too true, Mark. I noticed last night on an eBay email alert a nice Hermes Baby listed for next to nothing and right next to it a crappy Nakajima for some ridiculous price, which strongly underlined how futile, how pointless it is for people to ask me to evaluate their typewriters.
Good idea about the video-taping. I have taken to photographing packed typewriters before posting, but happily haven't yet had to produce said photos as evidence of proper packing

Bill M said...

Ebay used to be a fun place to buy and sell. Over the past few years Ebay themselves generates some of the crud on the site. Especially the inflated fees, even fees on shipping costs thanks to the schisters who will sell cheap and then charge $100 for shipping.

Then there are and always have been the schisters both selling and buying.

I've run into many of the examples you stated, especiually stupidly low insulting offers. Many I ignore. Like the time I had a $700 radio set for sale and was offered $100 quite often. My replies are always if I want to give my things away I will take them to the local Goodwill store.

I could write a full post on Epay. I seldom use it any more preferring other sites. My best typers (except one H3k) have still come from yard sales and Craigslist.

Robert Messenger said...

Well said, Bill. People have suggested I use Gumtree, but I have had no experience with other auction or selling sites. I do ignore most low offers, but that Bryan Martin was persistent as well as insulting. I couldn't shake him off and in the end I barred him from any further contact through eBay messaging.

Miguel Angel Chávez Silva said...

I've been selling stuff, typewriters included, in Mercado Libre, the local version of eBay, for over 11 years now. I've also bought a lot of my machines from sellers in that e-marketplace site. And I can tell you, there are some types that are only trying to get a free ride there.

I don't really know firsthand how e-Bay charges for its listings, but, if it works anything like MercadoLibre, there are two different costs we, as sellers, assume when we use their platform: the listing price, and the selling commision. Sometimes the first cost is waived - MercadoLibre lets you post a certain number of free ads, but when you sell the item you have to pay a percentage of the amount you listed the item for, because it assumes that's the price you sold it for.

Then we have these characters. I blame this on TV shows like Pawn Stars; people think they can actually pull the same tricks the guys in that pawn shop do to lower the selling price of items they see on the Web to the bare minimum. Case in point: I'm trying to sell an antique, original condition, complete old Ikonta camera, which only needs servicing (I can't do it myself and don't have a service provider to do it). I listed it with all the details, plus lots of photos, on MercadoLibre. I checked the selling price of that kind of camera on the site and also in places like eBay, and came with an average that, I think, covers the price of such a desirable camera and still allows for the customer to spend a few bucks servicing it. Alas, I've heard things like, "I have to have it restored...", like you were going to actually use that camera for everyday photo snapping. This bloke was offering less than half the asking price, which was already low. Of course I didn't accept the offer, and the camera is still waiting to be sold.

On the other hand, I've sold some typewriters (mostly plastic-bodied post-1980s) and I've had some luck with it. And I've scored some good pieces through that site, though right now the prices seem a tad too high for my pocket.

My thoughts here is that maybe you should consider selling your machines through your blog. You'll still have an international scope, and there are ways to include Paypal in your site. That way you'll reach only to people who know your blog, who are your readers, and who, I hope, will not try to pull such immature and offensive stunts as this guy you write about.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you, Miguel, this is excellent advice and useful observations. I think I will have to use my blog to sell, and I am mightily relieved to hear that followers such as yourself would be tolerant of that, and not find it an intrusive or off-putting.

Donald Lampert said...

I will never use Ebay again myself. I bid on and won a 1920's dictaphone, paid for it, and waited. After a month, and several messages to the seller, with no response, I filed a complaint with Ebay. They investigated, and ruled in the sellers favor. Bad enough, but then when I posted my complaint against the seller, it only dropped his satisfaction % by 2 points, so he was still in the high 90%'s - I think the whole % thing is rigged, too. If somebody isn't 99 - 100%, watch out!! Read the comments about any seller that you deal with - first!
It's a shame there are so many selfish idiots out there, most of us are honest, and trying to do the right thing.
Thanks Robert, and good luck!

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you for your kind words, Donald. That is an amazing story. Was any excuse ever offered? Did you ever see the item?
You have touched on what I am afraid of here, that I will loss my 100 per cent eBay feedback record because of this woman who tied on what I consider to be a highly unethical move.
Happily, I had a second model, exactly the same, and have since sold it to the young woman who bid first. I felt awful about the other woman's underhand tactics and her calling me "unprofessional" for questioning her motives, prying etc.

Toronto Guy said...

I think that the best way to avoid drama on Ebay is to list your item as an "auction", start it at $0.01 and take whatever you can get. That should avoid the low-ballers and if the buyer bails on you, you can always offer the item to the second highest bidder.

But like Miguel said, I think you would be much better off selling your machines on this blog. You seem to have very high traffic here and anybody who is interested typewriting collecting, and has access to the internet, either has you bookmarked in their browser or they subscribe to your RSS feed.

Ebay would, in that case, only be used to get rid of the stuff that doesn't sell on your blog and for which you would be "happy" to get whatever the market deems it to be worth for that tiny slice of time.

Miguel Angel Chávez Silva said...

I agree with Toronto guy. Maybe you should consider selling your beautiful prewar typewriters through your site, which is read by people who love typewriters and who would be honored to give one of your machines a new home, and use eBay to sell the cheaper, plastic-bodied machines.

And don't let people like these characters get to you. Selling stuff online requires a bit of a thick skin, a bit of ingenuity and enterpreneurship, and a lot of patience, particularly when you're selling collectibles.

Scott Kernaghan said...

This might sound stupid. But why aren't we co-opping this process? Why doesn't the typosphere have a 'For sale' page, moderated by a reasonable member, and linked to by all of our pages.
You don't get to advertise unless you have a Typosphere blog to link from that brings business.
You could even take the pain out of it and list the items on etsy, so people still have an online payment option, and just link the item through the page.

Steve Snow said...

I believe eBay does take around 10% commission and that your $99 and $66 invoices are likely to be almost all commission. I reckon they must be making an absolute killing.

Ted said...

I like Scott's idea, and it's similar to something I've considered adding to the Typewriter Database galleries. Basically a simple "for sale URL" textbox you could fill in for the gallery. You'd fill it in with the URL of whatever online storefront you're using to sell the machine, and then the machine would be classed as "For Sale" and could appear on a page just for machines that are up for sale.

It appears to me that many collectors are looking into reselling through Etsy/Ebay/whatever and are setting up storefronts that handle the ordering and payment, so a simple linking arrangement would probably work well.

Donald Lampert said...

Thanks Robert, No I never got my Dictaphone, or my $ back. I was so disgusted and had put in enough time that I let it go. In their judgement of the situation, Ebay said that their decision was final and I had no other recourse, at least with them. Of course, as on many internet sites, ggod luck ever reaching a real person, it's all done through emails, so they have the advantage right there.
As I said, I will never use Ebay again! Maybe different countries Ebay have differing rules and regulations, - the best to you and others.
Some cooperative typosphere selling site sounds good!

Richard P said...

Sorry to read your stories. It is very upsetting to me to get into nasty fights with strangers. I use eBay frequently to buy things, but it's always a risk, and selling things is even riskier in some ways.

Yes, eBay does charge 10%. For the whole complicated fee structure see http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/fees.html

Way back when I started the Classic Typewriter Page in 1995, one of my main ideas was to create an online marketplace for typewriters. (This was before eBay.) That was the Classic Typewriter Classifieds. It got to be a bother to maintain it, but Tony Casillo took it over and you can find it at http://www.typewritercollector.com/classifieds.html

Now, Ted would be able to create a more sophisticated system -- with photos, etc. -- and if we all knew about it and checked it regularly (or if we were automatically alerted when someone listed a typewriter for sale), it could be great.

Robert, no one will mind if you advertise typewriters on this blog.

Steph xxx said...

Robert you have a 100% fantastic reputation with the scrapbooking community on Facebook's Australia/New Zealand Project Life Page! Your name often pops up when members ask where they can get a working typewriter for a fair price. I am the extremely happy new owner (just before Christmas) of the Tippa cursive font machine and the envy of most members!

I had planned to use ebay to sell my complete nursery set but the 10% fees put me off. I decided to go with Gumtree which is fee free unless you opt to add extras like having your advert at the top of the page or other such things. Even then these fees are only a few dollars. However, I think you can only ask a set price rather than auction but there is a choice to make your price negotiable. I was not very optimistic about making a sale to be perfectly honest but within 2 days it was a done deal. This won’t help with your problem of low offers but you could always counter offer with your lowest price. There is no seller or buyer rating which I think is more of a risk for buyers. But as mentioned above, when your items come up the Scrapbooking group always notify each other.

Also, I agree with others who have posted here in that I would happily browse your blog for items you are selling. Most of us, I believe, would rather pay a fair price for a great machine than $20 or $200 for a piece of junk. We know when we buy from you quality is guaranteed. And, unless the AUSPOST truck catches on fire, delivery is also guaranteed! AND your postage and packaging quotes are more than reasonable!!

Should you choose to continue with ebay what name do you sell under?

Wishing you the best of luck!

Steph xxx said...

Robert you have a 100% fantastic reputation with the scrapbooking community on Facebook's Australia/New Zealand Project Life Page! Your name often pops up when members ask where they can get a working typewriter for a fair price. I am the extremely happy new owner (just before Christmas) of the Tippa cursive font machine and the envy of most members!

I had planned to use ebay to sell my complete nursery set but the 10% fees put me off. I decided to go with Gumtree which is fee free unless you opt to add extras like having your advert at the top of the page or other such things. Even then these fees are only a few dollars. However, I think you can only ask a set price rather than auction but there is a choice to make your price negotiable. I was not very optimistic about making a sale to be perfectly honest but within 2 days it was a done deal. This won’t help with your problem of low offers but you could always counter offer with your lowest price. There is no seller or buyer rating which I think is more of a risk for buyers. But as mentioned above, when your items come up the Scrapbooking group always notify each other.

Also, I agree with others who have posted here in that I would happily browse your blog for items you are selling. Most of us, I believe, would rather pay a fair price for a great machine than $20 or $200 for a piece of junk. We know when we buy from you quality is guaranteed. And, unless the AUSPOST truck catches on fire, delivery is also guaranteed! AND your postage and packaging quotes are more than reasonable!!

Should you choose to continue with ebay what name do you sell under?

Wishing you the best of luck!

Brian Brumfield said...

What can you say? As a relative newbie collector/trader, I have avoided selling on eBay - I listed my first machine LAST NIGHT! :-) And I am awaiting the slings and arrows that are to come.

Still - Ugh!! eBay and its users are an imperfect means to an end, but you have to admit that it's a brilliant idea, which is why it has persisted so well. How else can you perform a global garage sale, connecting people with stuff with the people whom want that stuff!? That said, John Lavery and I conducted a transaction 100% via direct communication, across the globe, thanks to online groups, email and Skype.
That said, the Internet also breeds the contempt that anonymity affords. One glance at comment threads in online forums will tell you everything you need to know about the character of these folks. Even though you may learn the name of some annoying, belligerent and offensive bloke, they are still insulated by the buffer of their virtual anonymity.

I have seen "barterers" in person who are obscene in their attempts to badger sellers into dropping prices, and it is these types who have no compunction in their lack of civility IN PERSON, and so when they are high on the "heroine" of the Internet -- which seems to live up to Bill Cosby's assessment of the effects of cocaine on the user ... okay, it amplifies your personality, but what if you are a (BLEEP!)?! :-) -- it just seems hopeless.
On the other hand, there's Etsy. I have, thus far, had fairly good luck there, but you miss out on the "excitement" of the bidding. It's more matter-of-fact, in terms of pricing and payment.

I have yet to try the Yahoo "typewriter swap" group ... I guess that's next. I have been hunting for a couple of machines without much satisfaction, and need to move a few of mine off my shelves as well.

Hang in there, Robert!! At least we know that it won't ever really get any easier, so we have that knowledge working in our favour. :-)

Ellie Kincy said...

I've been buying typewriters at local antique stores which are usually in nice working condition and the same price as the shipping on some of the typewriters on ebay. Also one of them did come with an newish ribbon for super cheap! Which may be a luckier find than a rusty hand crank kiddie sewing machine! Also it's nicer to see the condition in person, than in pictures (which may not be of the actual machine!)