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TRADING SAFELY ON THE INTERNET



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Contents

  1. Buying
  2. What if I get ripped off?
  3. Getting your money back
  4. Warning others
The advice on this page covers most potential risks of buying online.
In reality he risks of trading online are pretty low.
If you never buy over The Net you will miss out on a form of shopping which can be both rewarding and fun.

The big corporations have secure servers and accept credit cards at the press of a virtual button, It's shopping made easy, but it is impersonal.
Many of the shops linked to in our directories are small affairs where your enquiries/orders will be answered in person.
They can also get the rarities that Cdnow won't have. They make mistakes...Give away bargains...They have a human touch.

If you follow the advise below, you can have the benefits of trading with small operators while minimising the risks.


The most basic tip...Keep a record of what you order and how you pay, and back it up onto a floppy disc regularly.
This may seem elementary, but it is easy to forget about things, particularly if you go on a spending spree!


Buying from a small shop

It is important to ascertain the authenticity of the retailer.
If someone has invested the time in building a website they are probably for real, none the less, feel free to run a few checks.
Checking a website
It is very easy to build an impressive looking front page, it is harder to give a site content.
Go onto the record lists..
Are the items accurately described?
Are they graded?
Grading can tell you a lot, if everything is described as "Mint" proceed with caution. When items are graded down see how well the damage is described.
A dealer should say to what standard his records are graded. There are two main grading systems used Record Collector in the UK and Goldmine in the US. Many Dealers also use their own grading criteria. If they do this, the methods they use should appear somewhere on the site.
Grading is discussed in more detail later.

Asking for references
You should not be embarrassed to do this, and you should contact the referees..

Establishing Contact
This is the important one, If there is no phone number on the website and they decline phonecalls/faxes look out..
If you have any doubts and there is a phone number, ring up!

Asking other buyers
The main forum for this is the newsgroups, post to these three:
rec.music.marketplace.vinyl
rec.music.marketplace.cd
alt.collecting.records

Ask anyone who has dealt with the shop to contact you, you might also ask how long they have been trading.
You can also search on Deja.com for the dealers name, and see what others have said about them. (remember to search all discussions).

Buy Small items first.
If you wade in with a huge order you are exposing yourself.
Buy one item first, this will give you an idea of the vendors reliability, the accuracy of their grading and how well the pack things up to post.

Buying from an Individual

The risks in buying from an individual are slightly greater but so are the rewards.
If you buy direct from fellow collectors you stand a good chance of getting your records cheaper.
The most likely way to buy privately is over the Newsgroups or an Internet Auction house, of these the Newsgroups are less safe as no registration is required.

The precautions you take are similar to above but are less effective.
The two main defenses you have are Establishing Contact and buying Small items first.
The latter is the most important, If you send large sums of money to an individual overseas and they disapear your chances of getting anything back are pretty limited.
The Effectiveness of Referees is not as great, the true fraudster will have email aliases and will act as their own referee!
On Newsgroups, Buying from regular contributors is safer, posting your wants list brings the greatest risk, replying to wants is a favorite trick of conmen.

Sending Payments

Here are the main methods, their advantages and disadvantages:

  1. Credit Card. If the seller accepts cards this is the easiest way, as the buyer you pay no fees and get a reasonable exchange rate. You will also benefit from very good legal protection.
    You should not email card details, Fax, phone or even send them by snail mail. Of course not everyone can do this or be bothered to wait for the post. For those of you that really have to email card details here are some hints:- | Skip this bit,

    Tales of Credit Card fraud are almost as abundant and apocryphal as rumors about new killer viruses that can be received by reading email. Fraud happens, but is not as common as many people believe. In fact it is more likely that someone will keep the carbon when you use your card in a hotel and then use your numbers to go on an internet shopping spree.

    The main method used by fraudsters online to get card numbers is the use of "sniffing" software, which scans email for the patterns of numbers used on credit cards. For this reason it is a definite No No to send your card number and Expiry date all in one email. You should:
    I once had an email from a customer that went something like this

    Last Saturday Me and four mates went downtown to the Cinema, when we got there the price had gone up to three dollars each, we only had eight dollars between us and could not go in.
    So we went and played Laser Quest, after haggling on the door we all got in for seven dollars...etc....etc

    Who said Internet shopping wasn't fun?

  2. Cheques Find out what cheques the seller will accept and if you are buying from overseas expect to pay extra charges.
    In the UK a Dollar cheque costs around 5 to cash, then the bank charges commission on the currency conversion. Think that's bad, I Had a customer in Estonia go to great lengths to get me a cheque in Pounds Sterling only to be told by the bank that because it was drawn on a bank outside the UK it would cost 11 to cash!
    On the Up Side Cheques are secure in the post and can be stopped if they go astray.

  3. Money orders. Pretty similar to cheques, some banks don't charge fees for these others do.
    You will probably have to pay your end to get the Money order. Find out all the details before using these.

  4. Cash. Cash is not safe, but for small transactions it makes sense.
    Consider a situation where you are buying a low value item and cannot use Credit Cards, the bank charges could well come to more than the value of your purchase.
    In these circumstances it is worth risking your cash and it does generally get through.
    When Posting cash, use a dark envelope, and wrap the money on something opaque such as carbon paper.
    Many dealers around the world will accept Dollars as they are easily used for future transactions or exchanged at the bank.
    Also worth asking about are Stamps, I know a couple of people who accept stamps from other countries and then use them to buy things they want.

    Check with your post office if you can insure cash in the mail, in the UK there is also recorded delivery, which does not insure you for cash but requires a signature on delivery...Well worth the extra if you have any doubts about the honesty of the seller.

There are other methods, such as Postal Orders Eurocheques, Western Union and Girocheques, most are not available in the U.S. If you want detailed notes on any, feel free to email us.

It All Went Wrong...What Now.

Getting Your Money Back

Don't fly off the handle when something goes wrong.
Contact the Seller Politely and explain the problem, this will often be enough. If they fail to respond to email, try phoning, some people read their email only occasionally, or they may have computer problems.
It is important to get in contact before you assume the worst. This is particularly true where the records may be lost in the post. Post Office investigations into such events can take months.

Once you establish contact you must consider the logistics of your case, If you have the item, but are unhappy with it, it may cost a lot to post back.
You are entitled to a full refund if the seller is at fault, however if the dispute is over condition, the seller may decline to pay your postal costs..
The seller may offer a part refund or credit on their website, take the time to consider such offers, they may not be ideal but could You save a lot of grief.

Remember that a seller is unlikely to be deliberately defrauding you. Most people in Mail Order make mistakes, send the wrong record, describe it incorrectly, even forget to post it... It's human.
That said, if you seem to be getting nowhere, take a firmer stance, inform them that you know all about your rights as a consumer and will use that knowledge. Also tell them that you will warn other collectors that they are disreputable unless the dispute is satisfactorily resolved.
Warn them that you will post a Bad Dealer Alert (See Below). Say also that you are considering complaining to their internet service provider (ISP)
Do not take such action against the dealer without warning them and giving them time to respond.

Your Legal Position
OK, You have tried being nice and it's failed, where now?
If you paid by Credit Card you very good protection. Contact the credit card Company, and inform them that you have not received the service you used your card to pay for. In the UK they are duty bound to refund you, it is their responsibility to pursue the seller. This is unlikely to work if you are embroiled in a dispute over condition, but if the goods fail to arrive, you are covered.
Collect all the information you can about the person, their email, website, the address you sent payment to.
Try giving this to your local Police, they may be willing to help.
If you have paid by personal cheque, you may be able to get a trace on their bank account, your bank will not give you this information but may hand it over to the Police if they start an investigation.
If they have been abusive, this will help your cause, print out the emails and hand them over as well.
If possible contact trading standards officers in their country. Your local Trading Standards/consumer protection agency may help you with this.

Warning others

The first place to go is The Newsgroups
rec.music.marketplace.vinyl
rec.music.marketplace.cd
alt.collecting.records


It is not off topic to post warnings on the collecting newsgroups.

rec.music.collecting.vinyl
rec.music.collecting.cd


If you made contact with them on any other newsgroup, post to that also, it may seem off topic but if this person is using a Newsgroup to find their victims other readers should know.

Before You Post a Bad Dealer Alert, consider the following
  1. Have you given them EVERY opportunity to respond and explain themselves?
  2. Have you turned down a compromise offer, which it would actually make more sense to accept?
  3. How strong your case is. If your dispute is over minor details you may end up getting flamed1 on the Newsgroup by others who feel you are being petty.

You still want to post it. The main thing now is to be factual and not to resort to abuse.
in the Header put "BAD DEALER ALERT".
In the message lay out the whole sequence of events, include all the information you can about the person, where you came into contact with them the name and address you sent payment to. Their email and Website should also be included.
This is not about sweet revenge, you are doing other collectors a favour.
You might also want to email this alert to other collectors and post it to any discussion groups you know they frequent.
Also post it to the Bad Traders Page

Feel free to email us and other directory webmasters to request a dealers removal from the listings. We only do this when there is irrefutable evidence that a dealer is bad.



That's it, except to say that most transactions go smoothly, If you are just reading this page out of interest, don't be put off shopping!





GEMM is your best source for impossible-to-find music!




Notes

Flamed, Flaming
refers to disputes on newsgroups, there is a tendency for people on the newsgroups to single out individuals who have made foolish or inaccurate posts and have a go at them.
The best way to avoid getting flamed is to post carefully and within the Newsgroup charters.






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