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Author Topic:  selling etiquette
Joel Paterson


From:
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Post Posted 28 Aug 2007 5:29 pm     Reply with quote

I know this must be a common problem-
I just sold a guitar but I'm not sure if I followed the "right" forum etiquette. It's getting complicated with email, phone, and now private messages.
I got an email first from one fellow- but he didn't post on the forum that he was interested. I emailed him back saying he was first in line. He was heading home from work and we played phone tag, and I didn't get an email back.
An hour or so later I got a private message from another fellow who was the first to post a reply on the Forum. I reached him on the phone. He was anxious to buy the guitar. He was very nice and I wanted to sell it right there. I got off the phone and got a call a minute later from the first fellow. He was equally anxious to buy it. The were both very pleasant to deal with (as most Forumites are) so I was torn. I sold it to the first guy but I still feel a little bad about it. I feel like the private messages have added a monkey wrench in this process.
What carries more weight- a post on the forum or an email?
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Ken Crisp


From:
North Carolina
Post Posted 28 Aug 2007 6:10 pm     Reply with quote

Joel, The controversial viewpoints you've mentioned, I'd like to see worked out to diminish the confusion. I feel by posting a [forum] reply with certain details such as "I'm interested in purchasing I will contact you immediately", would offer some form of written documentation and a conveyed "notice" to forumites the intent of the [first] prospect. This would help to relieve the Seller in terms of "proper etiquette" and from the possible offense of forumites.

But mine is merely a suggestion. Any positive input or ideas to resolve the "For Sale" matters with regards to prospective forumites would hopefully limit the confusion and animosity.


Ken
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Chris LeDrew


From:
Canada
Post Posted 28 Aug 2007 6:17 pm     Reply with quote

When you have a hot item (such as the guitar you just sold), and people are coming at you left and right, I guess it's best to go with your gut. If the first guy you talked to commited to buy, then go with him - no matter who was in line anywhere else. It's totally up to you, as the seller. Some people run their sales directly through posts. First post gets first crack. That seems pretty civil as well.

But what if the second guy offered you more for it?? Smile Devil Embarassed
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 28 Aug 2007 6:29 pm     Reply with quote

I don't think there is a "right" forum selling etiquette. IMO, you should be (and I think, are) free to decide who you want to sell to, but should make it clear how you will make that decision. I think a lot of sellers are fairly unclear about this. I don't doubt most of them have something specific in mind, but seem to rely on some kind of "unwritten rule" that should be followed. For the life of me, I'm not exactly sure what that is in most cases.

So I really think this comes down to communication.

If you want to use a first-come, first-served method, I think that should be specified. Of course, this really forces you to specify how you're going to take offers - via email, private message, forum post, phone, or whatever combination you want to, and be very clear what constitutes a "clear offer to buy". Anything else, and you can wind up with the kind of ambiguity you had here, and that can cause the kind of animosity Ken mentioned in his post.

Of course, even this can't fix all ambiguity. How does one decide who to sell to when multiple offers come in with very small time differences, like seconds. You don't know exactly when someone made an offer to buy, just the time stamp on their forum post, email, or whatever. With email, different server time stamps may not be time-synchronized. And so what if there's a 2 second difference? Sellers have every right to make the deal that best suits them, IMO. A prospective buyer cannot force his or her terms on a seller, just as a seller cannot force his or her terms on a prospective buyer.

If you have some other method besides FCFS in mind, I think it's equally important to make those terms clear. I think a thoughtful, clear, and crisp approach to writing the ad can avoid most of these kinds of problems.

All my opinions, of course.
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Jerry Roller


From:
Van Buren, Arkansas USA
Post Posted 28 Aug 2007 6:33 pm     Reply with quote

No matter how I get the message, I sell to the first one who actually says they want to buy the item. I have had times when I had to check the time an email or a post was made and even allow for time zones. I am for selling to the first one who states they want to buy and I feel very strongly against going to another buyer who was later but offers to pay more if the first one offers to pay the asking price. I have been in situations before where I was first to offer to buy only to see it go to someone who bought it out from under me by offering more. The first to offer to pay asking price should be the buyer. That is my opinion on etiquette.
Jerry
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Chris LeDrew


From:
Canada
Post Posted 28 Aug 2007 6:40 pm     Reply with quote

Yes, Jerry.....I was referring to another thread where the issue of offering more has been discussed. Hard call on that one. It is not morally right, some may think, to sell to another for higher once an agreement has been made with the first buyer. But how can the first potential buyer possibly know what's really going on in the seller's private emails? That's why some run the sale completely public, right on the thread. Having said that, a lot of forums do not offer the option of posting replies to ads. The Fender forum just allows one post, stating the equipment for sale, a link to pics, and contact. That's it. Kind of makes sense, really. That way, it's totally at the discretion of the seller to do what he wants.

Like I always say, I'm ambivalent about this subject. Oh Well
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 28 Aug 2007 6:59 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
It is not morally right, some may think, to sell to another for higher once an agreement has been made with the first buyer.

Let me be clear - I agree that it is not ethically correct - or even legal - to sell to another for more money after an agreement has been made with a buyer. The part where some people disagree is when there has been "agreement" with a prospective buyer.

To me, a prospective buyer making an offer to buy does not consitute a 2-way binding agreement. This offer must be accepted and consideration taken by the seller. That can be as simple as a verbal, or better yet, a written statement such as "I agree to sell the item to you and accept your promise to pay on such and such terms. As long as you pay within those terms, I will ship you the item."

But until that happens, I think a seller has a right to decide who to sell to. As I said earlier, I think sellers should explain their protocol for choosing the winning buyer. Leaving this to an unwritten and ambiguous rule is just asking for trouble, IMO.
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Ronald Sikes


From:
Corsicana , Texas
Post Posted 28 Aug 2007 7:31 pm     Reply with quote

I had a D8 Stringmaster I sold a few years back (that I wish I'd kept) and I knew it was going to go quick.So I stated in my ad that the first one to post on the Forum,followed by an e-mail,that they would take the guitar would be the new owner.It solved any confusion.
I sold another guitar once by just selling to the first one that notified me.I didn't give any specifics.I had a guy that wanted it really bad and offered me more money,but I'd already made a committment to the first buyer so he's the one who got it.We made an agreement, and we both followed through.
I think the main thing in question here is that we want to be as fair as we can to all Forum members.This is a great place to buy and sell and learn from some of the best players around the world.
I certainly don't see a need to try to impose any rules,but if someone wanted to be very clear about how they would decide who the buyer would be they could do so in their ad.But in the end it's really up to the seller.I just know that when I give someone my word and make a deal it's final,and so for,if I was the buyer or the seller it's been exactly that way. Very Happy
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Joel Paterson


From:
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Post Posted 28 Aug 2007 11:19 pm     Reply with quote

Everyone makes a great point- but the differing viewpoints show that there really is no system and the unwritten rules are vague. This was my first time selling something since the Forum was revamped and the Private Messages were added. It seems redundant to have email and the private messages. I think most people intend to sell their stuff to a forum member- so the email option seems obsolete to me. If you want to advertise to everyone including non-members you should include your email address in your post- but I definitely don't want to post that on the internet.
Is the first person to post a reply the first in line? This gets tricky because I think people don't always want everyone to know what they are up to.

Jerry Roller wrote :
No matter how I get the message, I sell to the first one who actually says they want to buy the item.

That's a good method- I think I'll follow that from now on.
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Mike Wheeler


From:
Delaware, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 3:51 am     Reply with quote

I guess I just don't understand the emphasis on "the seller can sell to anyone he chooses". Of course he can, if he says he's selling to the one with the best offer, or the highest bid. Then he can pick and choose between all the prospective buyers.

But when I say "I'm selling my widget for $12", I'm making an offer to sell to anyone who can come up with the $12. That, to my way of thinking, is half of a deal. If you are the first to say "I'll take it", that's the other half. We now have a gentleman's, or ladies', agreement...and to me, that is binding. It's like a gentleman's handshake sealing the deal.

If I am after the highest dollar amount I can get, I will state that it's "an auction" or a "best offer" sale, then sit back and watch the offers pour in. I get to choose who the buyer will be.

If I'm selling outright for a set amount, then I state the terms for how the buyer can make the purchase...for instance, the first post committing to buy, or the first email gets it, or whatever. Then everyone has an equal chance at buying the item, and I feel ethically obligated to sell to the first buyer committing to the purchase.

The vast majority of forum sellers strive to be fair and honest in their dealings, and we should all be very proud of that. I don't want to see any rules either. Yet, I do think some guidelines, in the form of a sticky, to help guide new sellers, would be very appropriate. That would go a long way in preventing misunderstandings and conflicts, and would provide for a more common understanding of what can be expected during a sale.

That's my opinion, anyway. Smile
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 5:51 am     Reply with quote

Mike - the only thing we disagree on is that there is an automatic "agreement" when a prospective buyer makes an offer to buy. I don't think it's cemented until the seller accepts that offer and accepts payment or a promise to pay. Until then, it's just an offer to buy.

Of course, I think it's totally reasonable to use your method, but I think that method should be stated up-front, and not left as some vague "gentleman's agreement".

Of course, if one states in the ad something like "The first person to make an outright offer to buy gets the item.", then one is duty bound to follow that protocol to the best of one's ability. Of course the vagaries that prompted Joel to start this thread can indeed come into play unless how that will work is hammered down. But when this type of statement is not made, I don't think anybody should assume that's the protocol.

Remember - this isn't a brick-and-mortar store. Buyer and seller are separated by some distance, and both have reason to be cautious in deciding who they should do business with. My biggest concerns in a long-distance transaction are that 1) payment for and shipment of item will be carried out without incident, and 2) I am dealing with someone who I not only can trust ethically but that I have a "meeting of the minds" with.

For example, as a buyer or seller, I have dealt with people who I later realized had a completely different idea about the transaction than I did. Such a buyer will buy something, and no matter what, nit pick an item and want to return it, regardless of whether or not the item was accurately described. Such a seller won't carefully describe an item or give clear pictures - "Hey, it's in great shape. Pictures? Serial number? What kind of speaker is in it? I dunno, man - like I said, it's in great shape." Sometimes I get a gut feeling that I have not, somehow, fully communicated with a prospective buyer or seller, and I decide I shouldn't do business with them. It's not about "honor" - they seem like nice people. But for some reason, we just can't seem to get to a "meeting of the minds". In such a case, I simply won't do business, and I won't permit anybody's "Common Courtesy Rule" dictate that I should. We don't have any rules that suggest a buyer shouldn't turn away from a deal they don't feel good about. Why should we make such rules for a seller?

We have all seen the fireworks that result when a bad deal goes down. I agree, it doesn't happen often. But please - let's not gum up the works by interjecting any rules or guidelines that cause parties to be even less thoughtful about making sure there is a "meeting of the minds" in forum deals.

On the other thread on this, Dave Doggett suggested, with concurrence from several people with somewhat different views on this, a sticky post to remind sellers to write ads carefully with this kind of thing in mind. I also still think that is a good idea.

Since we haven't heard from b0b on this at all - and I can't imagine why he'd want to get into it - I think if we want a sticky, we'd need to write one and submit it to him for his perusal. But, I think it would be a mistake to have suggested guidelines for writing a clear and unambiguous ad turn into a set of default rules about how sellers should decide between competing prospective buyers. If it's not stated, then no assumption should be made. IMHO, of course, but I have tried to lay out a reasonable argument why this should be the case.
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Neil Lang


From:
Albert Lea, Minnesota, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 5:59 am     Reply with quote

Mike,
I agree that once a seller sets a asking price, it should be binding. I have seen a couple of instances here where after a buyer has comitted, the seller raises the price. Very unethical, to say the least. It would be nice also if the seller says who will be first in line, forum post or e-mail or phone call. The forum post is best as all can see who responded first.
Just my 2 cents.
Neil
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Brian J. Doyle


From:
Michigan, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 6:41 am     Reply with quote

Hey, Joel. I just started playing pedal steel less than a year ago on a GFI student model that I bought off a guy who said he knew you. I don't remember his name, but he lived in Pilsen and played in a band that was called High Hawk, I think. Seeing you play with the Western Elstons a few times is one of the things, along with a couple trips to Nashville, that really made me want to learn pedal steel. So, when I saw you on here, I thought I'd give you a shout. I just bought a guitar off the forum,'68 ZB, that I'd like to show you sometime.

On this topic, I'd like to add one comment that may or may not be relevant. When I am interested in buying something off of a forum, this one or any other, I never reply on the for sale thread. I ask any questions and make any offers through PM or email. This is primarily so that the thread doesn't get bumped back to the top and attract attention from other buyers. Sometimes a popular item might have several replies stating interest posted on the thread with no indication from the seller that a deal has been struck. This is inviting a serious buyer to offer more than the asking price and possibly buy the instrument, which I think is totally fair if the seller hasn't agreed to sell to anyone else.
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Russ Tkac


Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 6:55 am     Reply with quote

How many of you have seen the "I'll take it" post only to find that the buyer got cold feet or second thoughts and backed out. I just bought a steel seat that had an "I'll take it post" that backed out.

Personally, I'd rather see an ad that can not be replyed to on the forum and have the purchases done by PM or email.
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Mike Wheeler


From:
Delaware, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 7:28 am     Reply with quote

Dave Mudgett wrote:
Quote:
Mike - the only thing we disagree on is that there is an automatic "agreement" when a prospective buyer makes an offer to buy.


Dave, I believe the seller, by stating his intention to sell his item at the stated price, when he places his ad, is the one making the "offer"...an "offer" to sell. When I respond with "I'll take it", or some similar commitment, I'm not making an "offer to buy", I'm committing to make the purchase based on the seller's terms. Therefore, I see the sale as being confirmed, and the only details left to be discussed are, basically, payment and shipping methods.

Of course, if I'm not certain of the seller's conditions, or intentions, or am simply uncomfortable with something, I should ask questions and not commit to buy until I'm satisfied. If that means I miss out on the sale because someone else commits first, so be it...I lose.

Maybe our terms are at the heart of our disagreement. I see the "offer" to buy only being involved when an auction,an OBO sale, or a "for trade" sale, is being conducted. In that scenario, there is no firm commitment on anyone's part until the seller and a buyer agree to complete the deal. Then, the "meeting of the minds" is, of course, a requirement.

As far as the sticky goes...I see it as merely a means of informing new sellers of the various ways in which they could conduct sales. I don't want rules either, but why not help out our fellow steelers avoid the pitfalls associated with poorly constructed ads. We seem to have a fair number of new members, and I think this would be helpful. The wording would have to be constructed carefully so as not to convey the impression that this is a forum mandate, or rule, but that can be handled without much difficulty.

I might try to put something together and send it to b0b for his input.
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Joel Paterson


From:
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 8:00 am     Reply with quote

I should have asked for $3,000 and I wouldn't have had this problem. My guitar could sit on the forum unsold for two years like all the other vintage guitar websites with ridiculous prices. I think the Forum is great because supply and demand still keeps the prices fair. The guitar websites just want to wait 5 years until the world catches up to their crazy prices. Steel players want to play their instruments. I don't want to get started on that tangent- that's a different thread sometime.
Hey Brian- nice to hear from you. I hope you know Ken Champion for lessons. He will get you started the right way. I would love to see your ZB- I've never played one.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 8:07 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
When I respond with "I'll take it", or some similar commitment, I'm not making an "offer to buy", I'm committing to make the purchase based on the seller's terms.

Yup, that's where we disagree. There's no contract until the seller accepts your offer and your consideration - generally a payment or promise to pay. This is totally trivial when it's face-to-face - the seller takes your money immediately and it's done. But on long-distance unsynchronized transactions with time intervals between communication, I really think there has to be a two-way handshake.

Let me go further. As a seller - if a prosepective buyer offers to buy, I accept their offer, and then for some reason the buyer has genuine remorse about it or some problem comes up before they send the money or I ship it, then I think it's better to just let it go. This happens every once in a while, and the seller cannot reasonably force the buyer to go through with the deal. It works the same way in both directions.

I think this "you gotta do it by these default terms or else" is a real bad idea. Long-distance commercial transactions are hard enough as it is - we should be trying for an atmosphere where we all feel safe in conducting business on the forum. To me, it's better to encourage - and at least allow - buyers and sellers to err in the direction of conservatism than have bad deals and the resultant fireworks.

I also think those of us who think some guidelines on writing a clear and unambiguous ad would be useful should get together and draft something, and even more importantly, open it up for critical review on an open forum thread, before passing anything on to b0b. I also really think this should be done in "Forum Feedback", not here.
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Jerry Roller


From:
Van Buren, Arkansas USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 8:14 am     Reply with quote

My word is my bond and I am very proud of that fact. If I offer to sell an item for a stated price and you are first to say something to the effect "I would like to purchase that item" there is no remote chance that I will sell it to someone who comes in behind you with a larger offer. I offered, you accepted, thats the done deal.
Jerry
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Alan Kirk


From:
Paso Robles, CA, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 8:35 am     Reply with quote

First come, first served. If the first guy who contacts me (by any means) wants it, he gets it. If he is dragging his feet, I give him a deadline, then offer it to the next guy after the deadline has expired, and so on. Not complicated. Entirely fair.
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Joel Paterson


From:
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 8:42 am     Reply with quote

now we are getting somewhere!
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Mike Wheeler


From:
Delaware, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 9:08 am     Reply with quote

Of course, there can be extenuating circumstances that can cause a deal to fail. I don't think there's been much of a problem with that, and I'm also not suggesting anything written in stone. My focus has mainly been on the initial, unequivocal, commitment to buy, in a straight ahead sale format. Barring any extenuating circumstances requiring the buyer or seller to back out of the deal, I think the buyer who commits first should be the one who gets the item, not whoever the seller "chooses" to sell to...that would be an auction, and could potentially introduce a degree of unfairness to the straight ahead sale process.

Yes, we are, Joel. Jerry, I wholeheartedly agree.
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Ken Crisp


From:
North Carolina
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 11:08 am     Reply with quote

Joel Paterson wrote:

Jerry Roller wrote :
No matter how I get the message, I sell to the first one who actually says they want to buy the item.

That's a good method- I think I'll follow that from now on.


I'm not going to write a thesis or 10 page report on this subject [whew] which seemingly only muddies the water. I will give this simple statement;

Joel, I appreciate yours and Jerry's sale method as well as other forum members who support this good ole' "common courtesy". In terms of ethics, it is the best, and the "old fashioned" way of doing business.

Sincerely,

Ken
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Fred Shannon


From:
Rocking "S" Ranch, Comancheria, Texas, R.I.P.
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 12:14 pm     Reply with quote

"No matter how I get the message, I sell to the first one who actually says they want to buy the item. I have had times when I had to check the time an email or a post was made and even allow for time zones." Jerry Roller.

Can't go wrong with this one. Whoever gets here first via email,telephone, or forum gets the prize. And there will seldom be any "ties", you can bet on it.

phred
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Al Risbeck


From:
Castle Rock, Colorado, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 2:11 pm     Reply with quote

I have sold only one item on the forum, but feel for the good of the forum and bOb we should keep it all on the forum, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to buy an item and find out it was sold off forum days before, with no notice posted. bOb depends on the donations to keep this thing alive and well so lets be out front with what we sell. Please don't take this as an accusation, I only mean that way bOb sort of knows whats coming in. At least that's the way I did it and will in the future.
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Mike Wheeler


From:
Delaware, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 29 Aug 2007 3:15 pm     Reply with quote

I like to sell that way too, Al. Everyone sees the process happen, and I think that's a good thing.
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