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Safe Buying Tips

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How can I avoid getting ripped-off when buying vinyl on the net?

Answer to Frequently Asked Question: How can I avoid getting ripped off when buying vinyl on the net? -- made possible by the contributions of the following rec.music.collecting.vinyl contributors:

backtrac45@aol.com (Tim at BackTrac Records) doowoplvr@HUB.ofthe.Net (Paula, Oldie But a Goodie) VinylOnly@aol.com (Fred Walker) vinylot@panix.com (John Hall) normk@cts.com (Norm Katuna) rldarrah@unity.ncsu.edu (Randy Darrrah) toka@druuna.tky.hut.fi (Tomi Kause) steves@pluto.njcc.com (Steven Szep) cyteen@ix.netcom.com (Susan Murray)

We hear too often accounts of unsuspecting buyers being taken for $100s by unscrupulous individuals posing as dealers. If you follow the suggestions below, your chances of getting ripped off will be greatly reduced.

  • Before buying from someone who represents themselves as a record dealer, ask for references -- and check them! This is the most effective safeguard recommended.

  • Ask for opinions from the readership of rec.music.marketplace.vinyl and/or rec.music.collecting.vinyl of the dealer you are considering doing business with. Does the dealer come through with good products in a reasonable amount of time after payment is received? Are the records packaged and shipped with care?

  • Check the dealer's return policy and make sure that you may return damaged or misgraded product within a reasonable amount of time. Don't expect a dealer to accept returns weeks after the fact or accept returns simply because you don't like the record you ordered. The buyer has a resposibility to do his/her homework.

  • Dealers who regularly post are a safer bet than those who simply lurk and respond to WTB (Want to Buy) advertisements. If you are posting WTBs for pricey LPs or memorabilia, be particularly careful of lurkers.

  • If you are the least uncertain about a dealer's authenticity, get their phone number and speak to them. If the record in question is expensive, ask the dealer to play it on the phone for you. Trust your "truth-meter"!

  • Pay by credit card if possible. You have recourse with your credit card company if you are defrauded. Remember, however, some smaller dealers do not accept credit cards, and that fact does not imply they are dishonest. Just be sure to follow 1 through 5 above. Checks are easier to trace than money orders, and it is worth the extra wait (usually a business week) for the check to clear. Tracing a money order can be difficult.

  • Dealers who have permanent web pages or space provided by "malls," are a safer bet than those who don't. Setting up shop on the net indicates a degree of permanance and commitment.

  • ALWAYS send checks and money orders using the postal system, rather than Federal Express or UPS overnight. You have recourse with the postal inspector using the USPS; otherwise, you have none. And never fall into the trap of using someone else's FedEx shipper number to send funds. If you are in a hurry, then use Express Mail or pay by credit card. Most credit card transactions clear within 48 business hours. If a substantial sum is involved, spend the extra $2 plus change and send the payment "certified mail, return receipt requested." If you are outside of the US, please check with your postal service for details on your country's laws covering postal fraud. It is beyond the scope of this FAQ to cover every country's postal regulations.

  • If you still have some doubts, ask that your package be shipped COD, either with UPS (preferrable) or the USPS. Don't expect the dealer, however, to pay the COD charges.

  • While there are many reputable dealers using America OnLine (aol.com), AOL makes it very easy for anyone to hide behind "screen names," and it is almost impossible to uncover the identity of an AOL user. "Starshoppe@aol.com" is a known scam artist.
Shipping Considerations
After your've done your homework and feel confident you are doing buisiness with a reputable dealer, then you need to ensure your package arrives safely.

  • Always buy insurance when using the postal service. This small investment (usually $0.75) is prudent. Don't assume the dealer will automatically mail with insurance. Always specificy insured mail.

  • You can avoid the "I shipped it!" claim from a dealer (who may or may not have done so) with a request for shipping with a "merchandise receipt" from the postal service. The dealer will receive a card back from the post office with a signature indicating who received the package. This extra protection costs $1.20 and can be used with international orders also. Alternatively, you can have your package shipped UPS groundtrac. This option includes $100 of insurance and the ability to track the package. Expect to pay $5-$6 in shipping charges per order for these extras within the US. Most dealers will ship international orders with the USPS as UPS simply cannot compete in price.

  • Make sure your packages are being shipped in appropriate sized mailers with pads. Mailers are a cost of doing business and a professional dealer would never dream of not using one. 78 rpm records must be shipped with additional protection in the form of shredded paper, styrofoam peanuts or other packaging material. Air-popped popcorn makes a cheap and enviromentally-friendly stuffing between bundles of 78s!

Final caveat: There's really no recourse against dealers who have not come through with a "bootleg" record. (The use of the term 'bootleg' implies a record which would be illegal to sell in the country of origin because of copyright infringement or other reasons.)

By following the sage advice outlined above, your risk of being ripped off when buying vinyl on the internet will be greatly reduced. Thanks to all of the regular contributors to r.m.c.v. whose ideas have made this FAQ possible.

Copyright 1996 Susan Murray. This FAQ may be freely distributed without modification. Additions, corrections and comments may be sent to cyteen@ix.netcom.com.




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