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Author Topic:  Why buy unseen?
Ken Byng


From:
Southampton, England
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 4:29 am     Reply with quote

I have read with some bemusement, tales of forumites who have shelled out considerable amounts of money to private sellers on pedal steels that they have never seen at close hand, or at the very least haven't even seen any high resolution photos. This is paramount to madness in my mind. OK, if you know the seller and the guitar well, then it's OK. But to buy a used pedal steel without at least playing it first doesn't make sense. I would no more do this than buy a second hand car without seeing it first.

eBay for a pedal steel? Not in a million years would I ever go down that route as a buyer. Even some guitars bought on the Forum have proved not to live up to expectations. I would rather pay a little extra for a second hand guitar, and buy from a dealer who gives an after sales service.
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Bill Hatcher


From:
Atlanta Ga. USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 4:51 am     Reply with quote

I have bought steels off Ebay with no problem as well as from here on the forum unseen with no problem.
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Brint Hannay


From:
Maryland, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 5:58 am     Reply with quote

Ken, I'm sure you've read also the basic explanation that with steel guitars and steel players being relatively few in number, scattered across the world, and even widely scattered across the U.S., where it's probably safe to say the good majority of them are, it's difficult for many to get to a dealer--they are very few and far between--and entirely impractical to "shop around" among private individuals who are selling, in person. Even if you were to get to a dealer, if you're looking for a used guitar, it's a crapshoot whether they'll have anything that interests you. If you call ahead and find out that they have one you may be interested in, and have to make an eight-hour drive the next day, or the next weekend, to get to the dealer to try it out, and in the meantime someone walks in to the dealer and wants to buy it, the dealer's not necessarily going to hold it for you. Buying from a dealer long-distance is probably the best scenario, but depends on a dealer having a guitar that fits what you're looking for.

It seems the only solution for many is to exercise sensible caution in evaluating a) the facts (photos, details, etc.) and b) the terms of a possible transaction, and c) the good faith of the person you're dealing with. eBay, I agree, seems like an extremely bad proposition, as such evaluation is really impossible, and the auction nature of the transaction is a temptation to unwise action.

On the other side of the coin, without long-distance transactions between individuals, how are many owners supposed to sell a steel guitar? Again, potential buyers at any given time are relatively few and widely scattered. Selling or consigning it to a dealer reduces the money you will get.


Last edited by Brint Hannay on 27 Apr 2007 6:39 am; edited 3 times in total
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Ben Jones


From:
Seattle, Washington, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 6:22 am     Reply with quote

I understand Ken. I would never buy a 6 string sight unseen. Even 5 les pauls from the same year will be very different to my ears and hands. The thing is..if i dont like all 5 les pauls, the next les paul is just a few blocks down the road at the next strip mall. Pedal Steel is a different beast. Even tho I live in a major metropolitan city, there is no where i can go try out a psg, there are very few players and even fewer sellers. I cannot even find a teacher. As a beginner it is especially hard because not only can you not see one or try it out, you wouldnt know a good one even if you did. It is a tremendous leap of faith that is required to purchase such a complex and expensive instrument without even knowing if its something you will want to pursue learning. So buying sight unseen from a far more experienced player/seller and one with many many years under their belt and a tremendous reputation on the forum...yes, thats the best i can hope for. Off ebay from a complete unknown...never.
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Morton Kellas


From:
Chazy, NY, Zephyrhills, Fl USA 1
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 6:41 am     Reply with quote

I believe that the vast majority of forum members are honest, have integrity and will list and describe items as they actually are. I have sold next to new steels as well as amplifiers on the forum and the buyers have have remarked how happy they were with the transaction as well as the items. Anyone who is willing to spend a fair amount of money on an instrument, has usually educated themselves in what they are looking for in quality and value. Several musicians buy from manufacturers all the time without playing or trying out the instrument. I feel the forum meets the needs of fellow musicians who are in need of purchasing instruments or accessories. There may have been a few transactions on the forum where a buyer was not completely satisfied, but that is rarely heard of. If I sell an item and the buyer doesn't feel I represented it correctly in the description, I would refund their money. I have always felt comfortable buying or selling on the forum and would like to thank bOb for the wonderful service the Steel Guitar Forum provides.
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Alan Kirk


From:
Paso Robles, CA, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 7:16 am     Reply with quote

Here we go again with forum members being granted automatic trust.

Not necessarily a good idea. There are scammers and people who come down on the shady side of truth here on the forum. Maybe you haven't been bitten yet. Just wait.

Pictures and phone calls help weed out the sleaze.
_________________
Everyone in the world has two jobs: 1) whatever they do for a living; and 2) music critic.
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Ken Pippus


From:
Lake Oswego, OR
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 7:30 am     Reply with quote

I'll name names here: I saw what appeared to be a smoking deal on a Fessenden on Bobbe Seymour's site, and bought it. Guess what? It was a smoking deal on a great axe, and the service was faultless.

I saw what looked like a great deal on Fred Justice's site for a Hilton pedal. Guess what? It was a smoking deal on a great toy from a good man who is also apparently a great player.

Both were found on links from this site.

From other forum members here, I've been offered a deal on a guitar for about 60% more than it's worth, although it's possible the owner actually thinks it's worth that. More likely, I think he assumed I was green and didn't know better. I bought a DVD that I never received, and I'm still waiting for a refund. And I've had the opportunity to read about glowing deals available from Skip Keane.

On EBay, you at least have some concrete evidence of the person's past performance. Here, unless you have some knowledge of the person or their reputation, it's a crapshoot at best. And I can tell you that at least a couple of the people on this forum have lousy EBay feedback.

The steel professionals who are linked on this site are that: professionals. I think an extra 10-15% on the price to deal with a Bobbe Seymour or a Fred Justice is a bargoon. Ditto for Dick Meis and DeWitt Scott. And bOb.

I don't need adventure in my life, and buying used from somebody I'll never meet or hear of again is certainly an adventure.
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A. J. Schobert


From:
Cincinnati, Ohio,
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 7:50 am     Reply with quote

Ken B I am just wondering you live in england how do you buy a steel? I totally agree with you I would never buy something unseen or unheard! I know I put up post's on this but it is good to see some guys agree, I see pix's of gorgeous steels that I would love to have, and I can afford. but I can't stand the idea of being burned maybe if I had a disposable income well that would be different.
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Joseph Carlson


From:
Grass Valley, California, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 8:51 am     I was looking for a steel locally for months Reply with quote

I was looking for a steel locally for months. They just don't come up all that often. Finally decided to go through a dealer with a good reputation or I'd still be looking!

Ended up with a steel that's even nicer than I expected!
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James Sission


From:
Sugar Land,Texas USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 9:24 am     Reply with quote

I have been stung once out of 66 transactions on ebay. I have been stung 3 times out of 7 on the forum. You do the math. Of the 3 on here, one hung up on me as I was talking to him and two would not return my calls or emails. One of the three sells stuff on here all of the time. He never has returned a phone message or an email but is still selling with the same people praising him on his adds. What can you say, you take chance no matter where you try to do business....James
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Brad Malone


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 9:48 am     buying unseen Reply with quote

It is tough for most people to buy from a local dealer because the Steel is almost an unknown instrument to many dealers and the Steel players seemed to be grouped in certain areas of the country. The best solution is to buy new from a good builder like Mullen, Carter, Williams ECT. Those guys have established reputations and stand behind their product. Buying used, sight unseen, person unknown is an invitation to "anxiety"...just MHO.
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Keith Murrow


Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 10:01 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
I believe that the vast majority of forum members are honest, have integrity and will list and describe items as they actually are.


I believe that too, BUT I know from my own experience that problems can arise even when the seller is honest and well-meaning. "Mint condition" and other subjective terms can mean different things to different people. Pictures, even high resolution, can sometimes make something look better than it really is.

Asking very specific questions is important ("Exactly how long is the scratch?" instead of "Is the scratch very big?"), but the bottom line is, there's still a risk. Some people can live with that and some can't.
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Duane Dunard


From:
Troy, MO. U.S.A.
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 10:26 am     Reply with quote

My policy is to allow a 24 hour approval, after the item is delivered. If the product is not satisfactory to the customer,I refund full amount, less shipping expense and do follow up with e-mails to the customer. This creates customer confidense and is also good for my business in the long term.

Last edited by Duane Dunard on 2 Sep 2007 2:51 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Jack Stoner


From:
Inverness, Fl
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 10:30 am     Reply with quote

I've sold 3 things on the Forum (not a guitar) and tried to accurately describe the items and feedback from the buyers says they were exactly as described.

However, I've bought 2 things from ads on the forum. One was a used item that was "used more than described" and the other (a recent purchase) was a new item that was a poor fit, but the seller promises to recalculate his dimensions and remake the item.
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Marc Mercer


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 11:02 am     Reply with quote

To respond to Ken's original speculation, I'd say that we're mostly governed by our own personal comfort level. I make purchases of all types online, and on the odd occasion that something goes amiss, I'm aware of what options are available to me. My own reasoning is that I want to be a part of the current technology, and it's probably not far-fetched to reckon that e-purchasing is going to be the preferred method of procuring all manner of goods and services in the future. Plus, it's one of those things that get more comfortable the more you do it. I recall my father telling me years ago "I'd NEVER give my credit card number over a computer." I replied with "What do think you're doing when you shop at Sears? They take your credit card (number) and send it out over the phone line, same thing." I guess I figure most folks who take the time and trouble to set themselves up to perform electronic transactions are genuinely looking for business and building a good reputation, not crime. By the way, the biggest online transaction I've made to date? My 2000 Ford F350 Diesel Crew Cab, from eBay Automotive. Great pictures, honest description, offered by a dealer with a CarFax vehicle history report. I'm real happy with it.
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Ken Byng


From:
Southampton, England
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 11:34 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
Ken B I am just wondering you live in england how do you buy a steel?


Well - England is a very small country compared to the USA, and you can just about drive from top to bottom easily in a day. Therefore buying a used guitar is not a lottery over here as you should be able to try it first before buying. It is different in very big countries like the USA and Canada. My pedal steels have all been bought new with the exception of my ShoBud LDG, and that was owned by a good friend who had looked after it very carefully.

Ben Jones makes a very good point when saying that there are differences in tonal qualities between guitars. Another good reason why it's best to try first. I'm not saying you should never buy unseen - there are always going to be those people who will say that they have been 100% happy with their aquisition. I just feel that buying a pedal steel (new or used) is a major investment, and I would never buy one on spec without playing it first even if it looks the part.
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Curt Langston


Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 11:35 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
Why buy unseen?


Because steel guitars are few and far between. They are not on every corner as the six stringers are.
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David Doggett


From:
Bawl'mer, MD (formerly of MS, Nawluns, Gnashville, Knocksville, Lost Angeles, Bahsten. and Philly)
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 11:38 am     Reply with quote

Well, the most surefire deal is from a manufacturer. But a new pedal steel is expensive, and for some there is a long waiting period. And unles you live near the manufacturer, you still have to buy without playing.

For a used pedal steel, the most surefire is to buy from one of the three or four dealers who regularly have a small collection to choose from. But they don't always have what you want, and you pay a little more. Unless you are lucky enough to live near one of these few dealers, you still have to buy without playing. For the cost of traveling to a dealer, I could buy a whole other pedal steel. So traveling there just doesn't make sense.

If you want a really wide selection of bargain used instruments, the Forum is by far the best way to go. If you watch for awhile, virtually every type of pedal steel pops up for sale here. Yes, they may have some cosmetic issues - but maybe that just gives them some character. And yes, they may have some wear and poor mechanical adjustment issues. But these things are not that complicated. With a little fiddling you can usually get them adjusted fine, and you can usually find replacement parts if you need them. These problems are minor for an experienced player, and the price is right.

A beginner can also do well with a used pedal steel from the Forum, but they need to seek plenty of advice from experienced players and mechanics. And they would do well to have the instrument sent to a good repair person to check it out, maybe clean it up a little, and above all, to have a standard setup put on it instead of the quirky, poorly adjusted setups that come with many used instruments.

So when you buy a used pedal steel you have to expect some refurbishing and adjustments, whether by yourself or a repair shop. The worst that usually happens is that the instrument is in a little worse shape than you expected - but you shouldn't expect too much from a used instrument. I don't ever remember seeing anyone totally stiffed for an instrument on the Forum. It's usually just some ruffled feathers because a 30 year old instrument turns out to look and play like a 30 year old instrument. Big deal. They can be fixed. With new pedal steels running in the $3000-$5000 range, a used one for half that is good deal, even if you have to spend a few hundred to make it what you want.

The U.S. is a huge country, and there is no cheap public transportation. And pedal steels are not stocked by music stores, new or used; and the owners selling used instruments are scattered across the whole country. It is just completely impractical to limit yourself to what, if anything, is available locally, or to travel to the seller. The Forum is a Godsend for steel shopping, and the risk is very low.

EBay is another story. On there the safest strategy seems to be to not bid higher than you conservatively think the item is worth, and not worry if you loose the auction. And expect the worst if you win.
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Ben Jones


From:
Seattle, Washington, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 12:01 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
I don't ever remember seeing anyone totally stiffed for an instrument on the Forum.


I agree with almost everythng you said david, but Ive been here only about 18 months and have already seen two whoppers, one just last week that was beyond competely misrepresented. just sayin..it does happen here apparently, albeit rare.
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Tom Jordan


From:
Clovis, CA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 12:04 pm     Reply with quote

well said David...you kept me posting the same thoughts.

Tom Jordan
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Ian Finlay


From:
Kenton, UK
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 12:55 pm     Reply with quote

Ken Byng wrote:
Quote:
Ken B I am just wondering you live in england how do you buy a steel?


Well - England is a very small country compared to the USA, and you can just about drive from top to bottom easily in a day. Therefore buying a used guitar is not a lottery over here as you should be able to try it first before buying. <snip>


Wow Ken, you must drive fast! I have a Porsche and I can't get from one end of the country to the other in a day!

Seriously though, I bought my Fender 1000 from a chap in Belgium, and with enough pictures and many emails and phone calls we established a trust and were both very happy with the transaction.

I think asking the right questions is key, together with lots of photos. It helped in my case that the seller was vouched for by someone I trusted.

Ian
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Brad Malone


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 1:31 pm     Steel repairman Reply with quote

To all, Is there a list of qualified, experienced Steel repairmen?...that would be handy to have if one would buy a used steel and need difficult repairs.
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Ken Byng


From:
Southampton, England
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 1:40 pm     Reply with quote

Ian
I have hit Edinburgh from Southampton in a day. Mind you I was knackered when I got there. Smile
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David Doggett


From:
Bawl'mer, MD (formerly of MS, Nawluns, Gnashville, Knocksville, Lost Angeles, Bahsten. and Philly)
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 1:50 pm     Reply with quote

Ben Jones wrote:
Quote:
I don't ever remember seeing anyone totally stiffed for an instrument on the Forum.


I agree with almost everythng you said david, but Ive been here only about 18 months and have already seen two whoppers, one just last week that was beyond competely misrepresented. just sayin..it does happen here apparently, albeit rare.

Ben, by "stiffed" I meant the buyer pays his money and nothing ever arrives. The recent bruhah over the Sho-Bud with the split apron is a good case in point. The seller misrepresented and maybe overcharged. But the buyer got the guitar. He will just have to lose some money fixing it or reselling it at a loss. In that case it is hard to tell if the seller was completely dishonest, or just dumb. The apron split was repaired in the past, and we never saw a photo of the front to see whether it affected the front cosmetically. It would have no effect on how the instument played. The parts had some rust, but so would almost any 35 year-old instrument from the Gulf Coast. The split between the necks may have been damaged in shipment (as the seller claimed), or maybe the seller was unaware of it. Or maybe he just lied. But how bad that split is and whether it can be fixed was never discussed. I'm not defending the seller, he should have been honest about the poor condition of the instrument, and he should have refunded the money. But it was not a complete loss for the buyer. He basically has a much sought after Sho-Bud that is somewhat worse than the average Bud from that era. It can probably be restored to any degree the buyer wants. In fact, if the seller had represented the problems honestly, he still would probably have found a buyer for near the same price. People seem willing to pay good money for a Sho-Bud in almost any condition. The old ones are almost always a project. They are not for beginners (unless they have been well refurbished or modernized). But that buyer was very experienced. He can probably fix that Bud up and get all his money back, and maybe some profit.

What I'm saying is that even this worst case is not a total disaster. And it is the exception. Hundreds of instruments have been sold here on the Forum, and mostly people get good bargains and get what they pay for.
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Ken Byng


From:
Southampton, England
Post Posted 27 Apr 2007 2:12 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
But the buyer got the guitar. He will just have to lose some money fixing it or reselling it at a loss

David - this is exactly my point. To buy something that is an unknown factor is a gamble too far. I don't think that paying out to fix a substantial fault or selling at a loss is acceptable. It would be like buying a secondhand car and immediately having to replace the engine or gearbox.

Paying a slight premium through a dealer has to be a far better bet, and at least if the guitar was damaged in transit most dealers worth their salt would have insured it on behalf of the buyer. Many people have bought pedal steels through the Forum have got exactly what was described and better in some cases. However, a few have had their fingers burned, and I couldn't envisage laying out serious money on an instrument that I haven't had the opportunity to evaluate or have someone I trust to evaluate on my behalf. It doesn't make sense.

I have to make the point that my original post was not having a pop at the Forum's For Sale facility. I think it's great for the community to buy and sell from/to each other. However, there has to be some kind of safety mechanism built into the transaction.
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