Monday, December 13, 2010

How to Shop on eBay

This may seem like common sense, but let me tell you it isn't. I use eBay on almost a daily basis and think it is a wonderful tool for buying and selling musical instruments.  eBay is a great website for values, but when shopping for musical instruments, it is best to be careful.

There are certain rules to stick to when using eBay that will make sure your experience is a good one.

#1 - The seller - when purchasing a musical instrument on eBay, make sure the seller is reputable. Does the seller have good feedback? Does the seller have a fair return policy? Can you easily communicate with the seller. These are really important things to evaluate because if the seller cannot be reached, a minor problem can turn into a major headache if you need some help and cannot get it.

#2 - Read the listing...carefully - Make sure that you read every detail in the listing. Make sure to look at the pictures to make sure all of the parts of the instrument are there. eBay has many music stores that sell online, but there is also a healthy number of people who have found an instrument in granny's attic and are selling it, maybe not knowing it is missing crucial pieces. Also make note if the seller offers a return policy or warranty.

#3 - Pay close attention to the payment terms - If any seller asks you specifically to go outside of eBay's established payment system, DO NOT BID AND IMMEDIATELY REPORT THEM TO EBAY. eBay has well established systems designed to protect buyers and sellers as long as they remain within that framework. That being said, if you are making an expensive purchase from a well established music store, it would be safe if you call and speak to a sales representative directly, but then you are at the mercy of the music store. If the music store has a good reputation and helpful service, I would feel comfortable doing this. I would not recommend going outside of eBay's system for any individual seller, only well established music stores with good reputations.

#4 - Beware of deals that seem "Too Good to Be True." - Chances are if a deal seems "too good to be true," then it probably is. If you are a parent who is online looking for an instrument for your beginning band student and you are looking for a cheap instrument, eBay is a good place to go, but be careful. There may be damage to the instrument that cannot be seen in the pictures or might be unknown to a lay person. A potential value could cost lots of money in the long run. Again, always check for missing parts, mouthpieces and the like.

#5 - Too Good to Be True 2 - Cheap New Items - If you are looking for a deal on cheap new gear, eBay can also provide good values. An area to be cautious of is inferior quality instruments being sold. These can be hard to spot so do not be afraid to call your local music stores or area band directors and ask if they have ever heard of the instrument in question. The trouble with inferior quality instruments is what initially seems like a good deal may end up costing you money when the instrument begins to give you trouble. Nothing is more frustrating to a young student than trying to practice with an instrument that is constantly out of adjustment. Try and stick to well known, established brands and consult your local music shop or music educators for assistance.

#6 - Pay attention to shipping costs - It doesn't happen very frequently, but sometimes there might be a seller who will purposefully overcharge for shipping to "pad" the cost of the order. eBay has done a fine job curbing this practice by instituting ballpark rates for what most items cost to ship. Sometimes shipping costs are too high because a seller doesn't really know how much it costs to ship an item. If you are ever concerned, don't ever be afraid to ask the seller about the cost.

I will post tips and neat eBay finds in the future. These are my opinions, your results may vary. If I left something out, let me know.

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