UTL's guide to avoid being burned.
So you've reached a deal. Now what? How can you be sure it's legit? I've noticed throughout the years that there are warning signs for being ripped off. I've also noticed that the scam or flim-flam artists on here are usually weaker at their craft than most professionals. Also, since the forums automatically record a user's full history, this is magnified. This being said, you can easily avoid most deception by just checking out the members history and character as well as judging the deal in question.
Obviously, the most secure way to trade over the Internet is to not trade over the Internet. You can't get screwed if you don't give them a chance. Of course there are many benefits to Internet trading as well, so you must ask yourself if the rewards justify the risks. By minimizing these risks, the answer is almost always a resounding 'YES'.
If you are not within travel distance of each other, the first thing you should consider is third party trading. There is very very very little risk involved if you choose the 3rd party carefully. Unfortunately, this is also the most costly choice. Safety costs money, that's why we have insurance. When picking a 3rd party, only trust established shops. Never trust an individual as a 3rd party unless you personally know them to be trustworthy or they are backed by a business you personally know to be trustworthy.
How to pick a shop:
If you are involved in a SALE, that is 'money for merchandise', pick a reliable shop close to the buyer. This way the buyer can evaluate the merchandise before making his final decision. This keeps you from buying a broken product. By having it at a shop close to the buyer, the buyer can show up, test the equipment (or hear the evaluation by a shop employee who has thoroughly tested the equipment) and exchange money (preferably MO) with the merchant right then. The buyer has the merchandise, and the seller will receive their payment soon. (It is up to the shop owner to verify address and payment amount and send letter, but be courteous and have an unsealed stamped addressed envelope ready.)
If you are involved in a TRADE, that is 'product for product', select a shop near either side. Courtesy is toward the one who RESPONDED to the post or F/T ad. (he takes the place of the buyer, and the customer's always right) This is trumped if either side is including a sizable amount of cash. (That way the more expensive item is tested more thoroughly by the other party before purchase. Cash can't be broken.) Once the shop receives the product through the mail, the other is brought in and both are tested. In this case, it's polite for the shop owner to e-mail a written evaluation of the product along with CURRENT pictures from all angels to the other party. When he/she gives the OK, the shop ships it out, and the nearby owner can stop by at his leisure.
If the shop is at the other person's home town, be sure to check it out. View a web page, call them, and check for reviews on here. If you aren't confident in the shop, request somewhere else! If both parties cannot agree on a 3rd party location near to one of them, there are several other options available. Palmer's Pursuit offers a 3rd party service that includes a checkup and testing. However, it's $35 per gun, but includes UPS insured ground.
The problem with picking a site out of town is usually shipping, not the shop charge. This can add up, as you should always ship INSURED. If you can't agree on one of the above options, you should rethink them.
Better or cheaper?
There is a better option than 3rd party, and much cheaper. This is face to face trading. This is of course usually not an option, but if it is you should jump at the chance to trade with someone near you. Both of you get your stuff that day, and if you meet at a field, there is nothing better than testing your new gun for a day of real play first. Many regional boards have trader sections, and if you have this available to you, at least look there first as it is your safest option.
OK, OK, what about the other person?
Characteristics of a flim-flam-man. If you see any of the following, halt all together or proceed with extreme caution.
Things to look for in a good trader:
What is this courtesy I keep hearing about?
There is some general courtesy traders should follow. These usually stem from common ways to be cheated, so they should be followed. If the other party insists on "break them or there is no trade", then don't trade. (or do 3rd party)
These are things I do for personal preference. It's a good list to follow as it makes both parties happier.
I'll probably come back and edit some of these later, so check back. Also, if you do happen to get reamed, check for a later post of mine. It will describe the process. Good luck, and watch your back!
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