Given that we operate online its our business to know whats going on when it comes to vintage and antique tools. This also includes eBay where we also sell a few odds and ends by limiting what we list because of what happens there. All too often we see auction prices out strip what we would charge and more often than not the tools are inferior, it beggars the question why? It may simply be because there are so many people on there that don’t look any further online and search in a kind of gold fish bowl.
It’s a fallacy to believe auctions offer better deals but some people don’t look any further, even ignoring the ‘buy it now’ products. They get hooked up with the auction frenzy and bid far above general prices just for the thrill of winning but eventually these people learn by their mistakes. Yes, there are some bargains but more often than not these aren’t what they seem, or at least require work needed to get them right.
Many eBay sellers do tend to be opportunists and many see things online and find the odd tool or two to sell but they are no experts and it is more often than not solely down to images the buyer has to go on.
A buyers feedback simply states they are either trustworthy or reliable but given that many have so little knowledge or just copied descriptions from others, its not the same as being a reputable tool dealer. Those who sell on auction are either chancers hoping for more money than it’s actually worth or simply clueless to the vintage tool value.
It may not worry some customers to buy from someone with little knowledge but sooner or later they will get stuck with that dog of a tool, that has been described loosely to cover the seller erasing any savings they may have made in the past. I’ve been caught like this also on a compass plane with a title just stating ‘a plain’ and description saying how little they knew about the plane, no refunds, sold as seen, it turned out that it had it’s main thread was stripped on the adjuster and was useless, so had to be stripped for parts. I really thought i’d bagged a bargain but it wasn’t to be and since then anything spelt incorrectly etc seems to make ridiculous prices, probably prompted by the advert by Barclay’s bank.
Since then I’ve spoken to many customers who also had issues including extremely poor packaging, rows over broken goods and who is responsible, generally things not being as they seem, and common disappointment. It sounds a bit like the wild west with grovelling letters attached where sellers are more concerned about their precious feedback if things go wrong, rather than getting it right in the first place.
As I said earlier we sell odds and ends on there to try and attract new customers but always on buy it now prices and never on auction because when we did try one or two bits in the past but the prices were extremely high, we decided it was unfair because that would be taking people for a ride and we don’t operate like that.
I think the best dealers are those who are confident to price their vintage and antique tools who stand by their prices with service and knowledge they are providing a good package and service.
We are in this for the long haul and trust can only be gained by being respectful to customers and not jumping on the band wagon of profiteers who are in this for the money and people who take advantage of a craftsman’s emotional connection with tools. I understand this as I similarly have moments of desire to obtain tools because I know how important they are to me as I also use them.
I’d say you only get what you pay for but unfortunately it isn’t always the case on eBay. Is it worth a punt on eBay? Well I guess the question depends on whether you value dealers who are trying hard to keep valued customers interested in vintage old tools over those who just want your hard earned cash at any cost.
However much time is wasted by people having to return tools which have arrived broken, not as described, unfit for purpose, the list goes on and on, I don’t know about you but my time is precious and too limited to be wasted.
The amount of Non Skilled eBay sellers ringing here for advice (usually about prices) is getting more frequent, it only highlights the fact there are many who have little or no understanding about old tools, who simply sell for extra money. They scour the internet to rob descriptions and use dealers to value their tools but they have absolutely no understanding why we charge those prices in the first place. They have no relationship between themselves and the properties of the tool they sell, and unlike us couldn’t tell if a saw plate has been switched to a substandard one or could advise on the difference between makers and models. If it has a name it must be! Well NO it isn’t and buyers shouldn’t fall into the same trap when buying used tools online. Take a plane for example, a Stanley No: 4 does it have all the correct components, and how worn are they? Does it need replacement parts? How much work is involved in getting the plane to work to its optimum effect? DON’T FORGET TIME IS MONEY!
eBay has a reputation of undermining sectors as it doesn’t differentiate between those who do something for a living over those who just sell for some top up funds. What happens then is a total loss and appreciation for quality and time allocated to doing things right. Then there is the multinational company itself where it is quick to charge its selling fees but slow to pay its dues in fair taxes after legal but unethical avoidance. It’s no joke when some of the major global corporations have a turnover that are bigger than some countries have in GDP but pay significantly lower taxes in real terms than any SME’s.
We as a result are investing in youth, training, stock, equipment for the workshop and a website that will surpass what’s on offer there, without searching through the chaff. We simply want to avoid greasing the palm of eBay or other companies like it who have no respect for society or what it doesn’t do for it.