How to buy on eBay

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by classcamera, Mar 17, 2003.

  1. Hello All,

    I have noticed that many of the questions posted on the forum related
    to broken cameras purchased on eBay; so I thought I would give you
    people the benefit of my expierence.

    I have been buying medium format cameras on eBay since 1999, and have
    leared to filter what the dishonest sellers have to say, and what
    they actually mean.
    "I do not know anything about Cameras"--Check his feedback and see if
    he has sold hundreds of cameras in the past month, if not then maybe
    the seller is honest, and you need to ask the questions he did not
    have the knowedge to state.
    "As is no warrantee"--Check this sellers feedback and if there are
    any negative feedbacks for selling cameras, do not bid.
    "Everything seams to work"--enquire as to what seams means. Do not
    hesitate to ask the seller questions before bidding. I buy many TLR
    cameras and what is usually wrong when this statement appears is
    either a film advance issue or a problem with the hood, ground glass,
    mirror. Most sellers assume the only part of a camera that needs to
    work is the shutter. Remember to ask questions about what is not
    stated before you bid.
    "Take a good look at the picutes, because there are no returns"--
    Don't even bother bidding, if the seller won't tell you what is
    wrong, or stand behind what he sells, you shouldn't bid. Besides,
    since most of the mechanics of a camera are covered, all that looking
    at the pictures will tell you is that the leather is intact, and we
    all know how important the leather is to image quality.
    "Lens is perfect"--I like to see this statement followed by such
    thins as free of scratchs, fungus, dirt, finger oil, and the coating
    is exactly as it was when the lens left the factory. Without the
    other statements, consider it puffing up the sale and bid accordingly.
    Ommited information, and no close ups. When a seller omits such
    things as what type of lens is on the camera, or perhaps if it is
    coated or not; they are usually trying to hide the fact that the lens
    is not the most desirable available. This is often the case with
    Rollei cameras, when the Schneider product is on the fornt of the
    camera, most will never mention it; but you can bet when the it's
    Zeiss they put it in bold.
    Lastly, if you do not wish to spend cash on a CLA, never bid on any
    camera that is not warranteed. If the seller is not willing to stand
    behind his camera, forget about buying it.

    I would really like to here peoples thoughts on this subject, and
    maybe some of there stories.

  2. In the UK: if a seller sells a lot of a particular item, he is classed as a trader and not a private seller under UK law. At this point, the goods come under the Sale of Goods Act and must fulfill set criteria (as described, fit for the purpose etc.) and you have legal comeback if they don't. You can easily work out how much he's selling from the list of his previous sales.

    [It's a bit like selling used cars - once you are selling a certain amount you are a trader and not a private seller.]
  3. What method of payment have you been using?
  4. Good advice. From having bought far more cameras on Ebay than I should have, I would change the last paragraph to: "if you do not wish to spend cash on a CLA, never bid on any used camera on Ebay." I always factor the cost of a CLA into my maximum bid; I almost always need it.

    Also, check Keh or one of the other reliable dealers for prices; I am amazed how many people buy stuff on Ebay for more than they would pay a dealer with a reliable guarantee. OTOH, when I am selling, I appreciate it, at least when the high bidder bothers to pay me :-(
  5. With classic stuff like Leicas, all the internals can be sorted out during a CLA by a repairer, so it's the condition of the body that really matters and affects the value - a bit like secondhand cars. With some stuff like 70s rangefinders, they're uneconomical to repair and it's far more risky because you can't tell how well something works by looking at it.<p>I've never been burned on eBay - the feedback system is a pretty good deterrent. I've had a couple of refunds with no quibbles.
  6. Pretty good summary. As someone who has been selling cameras on Ebay since January of '98 I would say that if the seller is not willing to offer an unconditional return policy, pass on it, period!

  7. Another ebay "pearl" - This camera was my dad's. Before he died, he said "This is a very expensive camera"
  8. I've bought alot of camera equipment on eBay and I can tell you that you need to know what you are buying. I bought a YashicaMat EM that was in excellent condition. I eventually sent it to Mark Hama for a CLA, but the eBay transaction was great. You're right about checking the sellers feedback. This is a great way to determine his/her reputation regarding past auctions. Honest sellers protect their feedback rating as much as possible. When I bid on something, I always check their feedback and I never bid on anything if the seller has too many negatives. How many is too many? I would say it depends on how many items they have sold. If they sold 2000 items in the past, 5 or less negatives is acceptable to me. You can read the negative feedback messages that were left for the seller to help you decide if the guy was a jerk or the buyer seemed unreasonable. I wouldn't hesitate to give eBay a try. My 35mm system was built from eBay auctions and it was done at rock bottom prices. You have to be patient with your search...but it can really pay. eBay auctions has enabled me to explore the art of photography...which we all know can be very expensive. Do your homework and bid away. It's fun.
  9. Also look at the picture closelly, specially in the case of Rolleiflex TLR. I have seen two or three times some bids of Rollei 3.5 or 2.8 F with a picture( pirate) of a Rollei 2.8 GX . Contacted the seller to inquiry why the" mistake" and never received reply. ;)
  10. Remember that things that seem too good to be true usually are...although there are bargains and fair prices to be had.

    I have got some excellent deals in the relatively few times I have bought something.

    This did include some expensive MF gear that did not even need a clean. Such as a 1989 'blad CM that was out of the box, basically a 'collectors' toy not a tool (until my mitts were on it that is).

    Buying over a computer is the same as anywhere. The more information the better. If a person is not even prepared to picture an expensive camera with shots showing exactly what they mean (scratches, condition of lens etc) then be wary.

    Also, be in touch with a seller. If they are unavailable or won't give their real name in their communication, then add a bit of caution.

    I agree the feedback system judiciously used is good. Sellers with no feedback, glasses and a very expensive camera with no pictures - no thanks. Stolen goods? Rip off?

    Lastly, another good line is where a seller with a LOT of items states that the camera/other item was a personal item...I find this hard to believe sometimes.
  11. eBay is a system where you buy sight unseen from complete strangers, so obviously you have to exercise a healthy amount of caution. Knowledge is the key - you need to know thoroughly the item you want to buy, and you need to know that the seller is in fact selling precisely the item you want to buy.
    I agree that openers like "I know nothing about cameras" are a warning sign. Other than that, checking the feedback history is very important.
    If you don't risk large amounts of money in auctions, eBay can be fun and fairly trouble free.
  12. I'm a bit of a contrarian where eBay is concerned. I don't see the
    point of making small savings over list price or a reputable
    secondhand dealer, and my experience is that the real bargains
    are from people who don't fit the above profiles. My best buys
    have been from genuine private sellers with very little feedback.

    I tend to buy locally (N. Europe) and I make efforts to establish
    that the seller is a real person and has a real bricks and mortar
    address. I find that sellers' responses to email queries are a far
    better guide to their character than eBay feedback, and the 'offer'
    to pick the gear up in person usually sorts the sheep from the

    Mind you, I never bid more than I can afford to lose completely in
    a scam, and if I need something in a hurry I buy elsewhere.
  13. The ratio between honest folks and conmen in the time I've been dealing on e-bay has changed in favor of scam artists. I won't make a big ticket bid now without a return policy under any circumstances, I just think there are too many folks on e-bay that have developed 'dancing between raindrops' to a science.

    The last time I took a calculated change it was on a Mamiya 645 that was represented as like new/barely used for two weeks by a young woman who said that she only used the camera slightly for two weeks before deciding to turn digital, a camera that had a 'couple of scatches' she said, I took a chance on this camera.

    The 'young woman' turned out to be a man, who had his own photographic website, he was/is no newbe just starting out with his first MF camera and then deciding to go digital after two weeks since his website goes too far back, the camera I got from him looked like it did most of the work I saw on his website, the camera had black paint dabbed on several areas to hid scratches/and or damage, it was tired, run down, and looked raggedy. I was lucky to get my money back, it was not without a fight, but I suggest as I now do to take absolutely no chances.

    I knew who this guy was, had his e-mails, and tracked down his website on my own, and let him know that I already had several Mamiyas and that I would never let go of my money on a scam, this guy thought about it, and I was lucky that he decided that he couldn't go through with this, after getting my money back on the deal I promptly went ahead and got the Mamiya 645 through Robert White.

    I took several chances like this with no sweat a couple of years ago but those days are over, folks like Lawrence and some dealers and merchants who've developed a track record on are the safest bets, walk if you don't have detailed pics of the merchandise, straight answers to all questions, a warranty and return policy.
  14. I've bought and sold extensively on ebay, and I feel I've only been truly deceived 1 time...a graylab timer that has stripped gears...anyone know where I can get gears for one?

    Anyhow, I've found that people who are relatively new to ebay usually are the most honest. They see ebay as it was intended, a garage sale, and have not yet learned the "tricks of the trade". Also, I've had good results with brick and mortar places which sell on ebay as a sideline...Cametta Camera in NYC has made some good offerings on ebay, and stand behind their stuff. I've got a perfect feedback rating myself...228 positives and 0 negatives. I try to be scrupulously honest and I have given refunds and exchanges that actually caused me to lose money on the deal, just to protect my rating. When the post office has lost items (it happens) I've given full refunds even on items they buyer failed to insure.

    As a seller, I might add to this discussion that you who buy should try to be patient and courteous with a seller that you feel has mis-represented something, or failed to note some flaw. Sellers often make HONEST mistakes, and it won't help your cause to dash off a rude email full of profanity and accusations on the day your item arrives. I've found that courtesy and patience are usually reciprocated if there's a problem on a sale. Think about it...he's got your money, you've got his junk. If you curse him on your very first contact, he may be more inclined to tell you to jump in the river...Be cool, not a fool...
  15. Here's another factor one should consider, especially if you're in
    the market for vintage pieces: the climate of the seller's region. I
    saw an old Agfa folder being offered from East India that looked
    like it had been through 50 years of extreme humidity. As I was
    able to discern this from the photos, I stayed away. More recently,
    I took a chance on a Bessa I from Australia that had mildew
    galore as well as probable lens fungus. (Luckily I didn't spend
    too much on it, and the leather cleaned up nicely with 50-50
    denatured alcohol/water )

    So only go to the tropics for vacation, not for cameras, sez I.
  16. Having just recently been burned with a purchase of a Nikon F4 I make the following suggestions.

    Very carefully check the feedback. Are there many good recommendations but they are all from people who are no longer eBay members? This should immediately throw up a red flag.

    Get the Serial number on the camera/lense and run it down for possible theft and or defects from the manufacture and or oem/gray market issues.

    Get a money back guarantee in writing from the seller.

    Purchase via eBay insurance and use Master Card and Visa to help protect against fraud.

    Make sure you have the brick and mortar address and the phone number. Then do a search via directory assistance and see if that person really does exist at that address.

    Watch out for wording such as "Works Perfectly .." followed at the end by "AS IS". This is the signature of the scammer.

    On expensive items know the main phone numbers of the police, bunko squad and sheriff in the area where the seller lives.

    If you are sold items shipped via the US Post Office or pay with a US Post Office money order then you may have grounds for charges on an Out of State Federal Offense.

    After receiving my camera I noticed right away that it didn't come on at first and when it did it was only intermitently. On contacting the seller he first tried to dodge with the "AS IS" quote in his Ad. I followed up with his "Works Perfectly" Quote in the same Ad. He then after quoting god and scripture offered to pay half of the CLA cost. Just a little too readily it seemed.

    Nonetheless I maintained civility throughout the entire phone conversation in our correspondances and even managed to compliment him on the pristine condition of the camera body externally and how well it had been packed for shipping. Thus I was perplexed how a camera can arrive in this condition from a Professional photographer.

    And there you have it.
    Buyer Beware.

    Ted C.
  17. to see a 1988 worn film back I got SCAMmed on in an eBay 2nd Chance Offer described as NEW.

    I was lucky. Primary winner received 1983 trashed one.

    I was offered an exchange. I pushed them to tell whether they actually had any new ones in their possession. They replied that they had many new ones of various years. It became immediately apparent the rating system this dealer posts on their site is ignored by them and at best there was a language barrier. Who knows what part of NEW they didn't understand. I guess it was new in a previous life.

    Someone gave me a good analogy...if you buy takeout food and it has green fuzz inside, do you actually want them to give you another? Is it worth driving it all the way back to the restaurant?

    By the time I pay return shipping and wait who knows how long for who knows what other piece of crap they might decide was NEW.

    I'll just lick my wound & cut my losses.

    Isn't it particularly despicable when it's a camera dealer who knows doggone well what's expected & what's meant by condition ratings?

    At least 'I don't know about cameras' tells you what to expect.

    'NEW', well, gosh, I thought that told me what to expect too...


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