WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT INTERNET AUCTIONS
by:© Steve Carmody|
The great thing about doing business over the internet is that its easy .
Just about any product you want is only a couple of keystrokes away. Web
commerce is also a plus for the environment. The natural resources expended
for any given purchase is vastly reduced when we let the UPS man do the
driving. And the variety of products at your fingertips is, well,
One of the more interesting presences in the e-commerce world is the
internet auction. And among auction
categories, musical instruments are right up there in terms of volume of
Auction buying can be an exiting atmosphere. If you've ever been to a live
auction you know about the adrenaline rush of being involved in a rapidly
escalating grab at a sometimes unique prize. And the auctioneers banter can be
mesmerizing. I'll never forget bidding on a French violin in a big warehouse
auction site a few years back. I had seen an ad mentioning "old violins"
amongst a sea of (in my opinion) more mundane items. So I went to the preview,
about an hour before the start. There were a couple of beat up fiddles, but
there was one very fine looking French labeled violin.
I casually examined it, continued on around the room, and then kept my eye
on it, checking out the other potential buyers. There were just a couple
people who seemed to notice it, so I was primed to pick it up at a bargain
I got my numbered placard and took a seat . The auction started and when
the french violin came up I got a little rush as the bidding started. 25, 35
,50, 75, 100, by the time it reached $200.00 there were three of us bidding on
it , by the time it reached $400.00 there were two of us and when it reached
$550.00 I realized that - 1. I had $600.00 with me and the buyers premium was
10% ( In other words, with the commission due to the auction house, I was
already overbidding my wallet) and - 2. I really didn't have a clue as to the
actual worth of the instrument, nor the amount of work it might take to make
it playable. While I knew guitars pretty well, I was neither a violin player
nor a violin repairman . So I got out.
Maybe I passed on a $20,000 gem or maybe the other guy got stuck with a
dog, but the reality was, I had no business bidding in the first place because
I didn't really know what I was getting into. And I had held the instrument
and examined it.
This gets to the "rub" of internet auctions. In a "traditional" auction
there is always a period of examination of the product on the block. And while
an examination period is still not enough to be certain what you are bidding
on, on the web the best you get is a photograph and sometimes not even that. A
description of an instrument could be , innocently , incorrect . And
ultimately, the quality and condition of an instrument cannot really be
evaluated until you pick it up and play it.
This distance between buyer and seller presents a challenge to a smooth
transaction. And ultimately, the onus (what a great word!) is on the buyer. If
you are the high bidder, you own it, for better or worse. Most web auction
sites state this in writing if you read the participation agreements.
This is not to say that internet auctions are , therefore, a waste of time
but ,rather, that the ease of participation belies an actual need to be an
even more informed buyer.
Within the last three weeks two instruments have come into my shop that
were purchased in "virtual" auctions. In both cases the owner thought they had
gotten a great deal , only to realize that each needed extensive work to be
Unless otherwise stated, an instrument purchased in a music store has some
sort of warrant to be a playable item . Any instrument you buy from a
reputable mailorder house entails a period to examine and reject the
instrument if you are not satisfied. You don't get that option at auction, and
that 's the understanding.
Why do we by at auction ? Well, for some, it's to get something we just
couldn't get elsewhere. But other times it is because we think we can get a
really good deal. And in both cases this is sometimes true.
Why do we sell at auction ? Sometimes it is because we just need to sell
what we don't need, and need to sell it by a date certain ( essentially
-now!). The other reason is that we hope we can get more than we would have
thought for what we have.
This is why when you buy at auction to get a good deal you have to buy
Here are some considerations.
1. If you are not very knowledgeable about what you are bidding on, and you
are paying cash (as opposed to a credit card) don't bid more than you than you
can afford to lose. That's just reality.
2. If you are not clear about the condition of an instrument - ask.. Most
internet auction sites provide the bidder the ability to e-mail the seller
with questions about the instrument. On an older instrument ask about the
playablity of the instrument if this is not mentioned in the description. If
the person say s they don't know , indicate that your bid will be contingent
on the playability of the instrument ( assuming you want to play it...). This
doesn't guarantee your satisfaction , but it gives you a leg to stand on if
you have a dispute with the seller.
3. Pay with a credit card if you can. You have some rights associated with
C-card transactions. Of course, if someone can accept a credit card they are
most likely in business, so you are essentially buying from a store ( nothing
wrong with that , but it takes a little bit of the potential for a " really
good deal" out of the picture ).
4. Unless otherwise stated, shipping costs are generally the responsibility
of the buyer, so calculate this cost into your final price.
5. Most items have a "reserve" amount below which the item will not be
sold. The "bidding" on a 1941 OO-42 Martin opening at $900.00 means nothing
until it reaches the $12,000.00 if the seller has indicated it as the reserve.
So don't be enticed by ridiculously low opening bids. Check back in the last
hour of bidding, these are the numbers that count.
6. Read the auction site's user agreement before you start bidding.
7. Buy smart. If you don't know what the item you are bidding on is worth,
As the popularity of on-line auctions increases buyer concerns are being
addressed. But, ultimately, auction buying is a game of skill, so learn the rules and buy