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ONLINE BIKE PURCHASING & SHIPPING
#1
Just a cautionary note about the risks of online purchasing from the various auction and resale sites.

In general most sellers and sites are on the up and up, but there can always be problems which arise, and which are at times difficult to overcome.

If you can research a site for overall reviews that might save you some issues, but in general I have had the most problems (albeit fairly infrequent considering the amount of business I do) with the individual sellers. Always, if possible, vet the site itself and seller to determine how far they will go in resolving issues related to a bad sale (e.g. returns, refunds, etc.) and what is required by you to get satisfactory results. Most reputable well established sites will provide for the resolution of most problems, but even then what they will or can do is limited. I have found that ebay may try to help under their resolution protocols, but there many shortcomings to that site and others. Reputable sellers also generally will try to provide reasonable means to resolve a problem in most cases, since if a buyer feedback option is provided it would look bad to receive negative feedback which may influence potential buyers.

Be advised that sites like Craigslist, et al. are often populated by one time sellers who are trying to get rid of a single item or lot of items (e.g. selling my old bike to make space, moving, etc.), and most are not going to ship an item and the sale being "as is" so caveat emptor/buyer beware (this really applies to any purchase at anytime, anywhere)! If purchasing in this manner, the onus is upon you to inspect, test, etc. the item(s) in question before money exchanges hands; and best to do this in a public area with a witness at hand. This is not the type of sale I am really focusing on for this posting. I have had zero issues doing purchases or sales in this manner except that when an item is listed for sale but was already sold, and the listing was not removed; or the seller doesn't know/remember if the item was sold! Yes, some idiots out there; always verify that the item is available before travelling needlessly. I have also verified that an item was available at the time, but it was sold before I got there even though the seller knew I was enroute. There is no guarantee of "first right of refusal" so you need to emphasize to the seller of your intent and make them say they will hold it or at least contact you if they have another buyer and it is first come first serve. If it is an item you REALLY want then offer to pay a little more than the asking price beforehand. It might reserve it, but still no guarantee; just a "gentleman's agreement".

I am emphasizing online sales where you cannot physically inspect, test, or transport the item yourself. More specifically I am referring to complete bicycles, framesets, and/or multiple item purchases being shipped in a single container.

COMMON PROBLEMS (loosely in order from most to fewest from personal experience):

1) Damage from an improperly packed item by the seller (not due to shipping/handling).

I have had on many occassions received a damaged item that could have been easily prevented by having the item adequately packed in the first place. I have even told sellers in advance what to pay attention to, and to take specific precautions; but still received a damaged item. I have had many sellers state that they have done this before and did not need to be told how to package the item; still received a damaged item. Be adamant about your demand since you are the one paying for it. I have even offered a little more money for the time and material required to satisfy my request. I have had one seller actually blame me for the damage which was obviously not caused by myself or the shipping company. Again, provide adequate instruction to ensure you receive the item in the condition shown when you first purchased it; save copies of those photos (presumably the seller's own photos; but not always-beware of "stock" photos), and take photos of the package when first receiving it, be it at your home/business or if picking up yourself at that shipping office. DO NOT OPEN THE PACKAGE UNTIL YOU PHOTOGRAPH IT REGARDLESS OF IT'S APPEARANCE! This generally provides enough proof that neither you or the shipping company (if package appears intact) are liable for any possible damages occurring from poor packing. Take a photo or two upon intial opening of the package BEFORE YOU REMOVE ANY INTERNAL PACKING MATERIAL OR THE ITEM(S). If something does not seem right at the onset of unpacking there is a good possibility that damage may have occurred. Take more photos during continued unpacking and item(s) removal from container. I have had brand new saddles shipped while mounted in the frame, but were unprotected and had chafing/soiling damage to their surfaces in a manner which was irreparable. I have had frame parts removed and/or loosened for ease of transport only to become damaged or to cause damage. I regularly have items shipped from overseas travelling thousands of miles, and being transferred between multiple shippers with the seller being well aware of where the package's final destination was; but they packed it like it was on a one hour trip across town. Ridiculous! Items should always be packed for the worst conditions. I have had the same problems occur with locally shipped items as well as those travelling long distances; you cannot assume that everything will be fine regardless of distance shipped. I have had sharp steel items (e.g. freewheels) shipped with much softer alloy parts where during shipping the steel part readily cut through it's own wrapping and another part's wrapping as well, again causing irreparable damage (always happens on the most expensive parts for some reason). Even though you will more than likely get a total refund or partial refund, it does not really cover the time and effort it might take to repack (properly) an item for return shipping. Also, if you have gotten the item for another person, be it a friend or client, you may suffer their ire, a loss of money, and/or a loss of your personal or business integrity. Main packing problems: loose items not properly secured from one another; inadequate protection for sharp, heavy, protruding, and/or softer objects; applying adhesive tape directly on surfaces which when removed causes damage (paint, decals, original manufacturer's packaging/labelling); and my 'favorite', using a container that is too small for the item(s) (e.g. wheelset with unprotected hub axles protruding from an obviously inadequately sized box; damaged axle threads, etc.).
Even when taking all precautionary steps to provide as much instruction to avoid these issues you might still have damage, but at least you put the odds in your favor of receiving your purchase intact and in the original condition as purchased.

End of Chapter 1

More to follow, stay tuned.
Take care,
Jesper

"I am become Death, the destroyer of bicycles." NJS
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#2
I recently had just such a problem with a dealer in Cedar City Utah. He shipped the new custom Trike (not a bike this time) but it was inadequately packed and although he top of the fork was sticking out of the (used) box I opened it without taking photos. That was a mistake as it turned out the fork was badly damaged cosmetically and there were some other minor cosmetic issues.

Said dealer did send replacement parts, but it took much convincing on my end and again packaging was poor as was the labeling. The replacement parts went east instead of north and there was some confusion as FedEx couldn't decipher the label ending up in a 10 day delay receiving the parts. All of this time the trike was inoperable and I was not able to complete assembly.

After all that, he refuses to compensate me for shipping the damaged fork back to him, and he has accused me of lying about the damage and even accusing me of fraud! I am 71 years old and have never been treated so badly by a vendor. Beware!!!
  Reply
#3
(08-18-2021, 02:00 PM)Gunstock Jack Wrote:  I recently had just such a problem with a dealer in Cedar City Utah. He shipped the new custom Trike (not a bike this time) but it was inadequately packed and although he top of the fork was sticking out of the (used) box I opened it without taking photos. That was a mistake as it turned out the fork was badly damaged cosmetically and there were some other minor cosmetic issues.

Said dealer did send replacement parts, but it took much convincing on my end and again packaging was poor as was the labeling. The replacement parts went east instead of north and there was some confusion as FedEx couldn't decipher the label ending up in a 10 day delay receiving the parts. All of this time the trike was inoperable and I was not able to complete assembly.

After all that, he refuses to compensate me for shipping the damaged fork back to him, and he has accused me of lying about the damage and even accusing me of fraud! I am 71 years old and have never been treated so badly by a vendor. Beware!!!

Sorry to hear about your experience Jack; I can certainly sympathize with you. I am not as old as you are (but getting there), and back in the day before all this remote selling was going on, people and businesses generally had a high level of integrity (yes, there were, and always will be bad actors out there) and issues were taken care of with the understanding with whom the fault laid. I have just ended a situation with a seller (liar, deceiver, and admitted to such) who although he did not cost me money directly since I was completely refunded, did cost me a client at least related to the item in question (possibly forever, not sure yet); but certainly cost me my business integrity which I take as my personal integrity since to me it is one in the same for a one man show. Seller never apologized and it was all their own fault when it came right down to it, but I had no control other than to swallow hard and get on with doing my thing. If I did that with my buyers who are in general long time clients (or others referred by them), and are now considered by me to be friends at this point the word would get around that I don't honor my promises and my reputation wouldn't be worth squat. I am now left to try and salvage a business relationship that was never in question before dealing with the dishonest seller.
Take care,
Jesper

"I am become Death, the destroyer of bicycles." NJS
  Reply
#4
COMMON PROBLEMS (cont'd)

2) Wrong item(s) sent.

This is another problem which has occurred on multiple occassions. I know some sellers are packing many items for shipping everday, but I have had this happen with small volume sellers more often than those who do higher sales. Sometimes this is a simple oversight; I have even blamed myself for not fully viewing an item's images and just going on the seller's description, but still the seller is responsible for sending that which they advertise.
I still have not received (and don't expect to) items won through an auction site and sent from the UK. I had expected to receive some very hard to find items I personally needed (1930's 3 speed Sturmey-Archer quandrant shifters), what I got was a barber's shaving cream brush converted into a corkscrew (yes, I got screwed literally and figuratively!). I contacted the seller and he stated that he sent my item to the person who should have gotten the corkscrew. I sent the item back at seller's expense and received a refund for my item. The seller told me that he would ship my items out when they got returned to him, and my cost would be less due to his mistake. Presumably the other buyer got their item, but I never got mine nor any further contact from the seller. Since I doubt that the corkscrew buyer needed very specific antique bike parts and returned them to the seller; I assumed that the seller was able to "resell" my parts at a better profit (and/or no further loss for giving me a promised discount; my auction cost was quite low considering the parts average separate values were 2 to 3 times what I paid). I am still waiting for another opportunity to find these similar parts at a similar cost to what I originally paid, and I have put 2 projects on hold for 2 years now because of this foolishness. I expect to eventually find and buy those parts at a much higher cost all because of an inept seller who probably lost very little to no monetary loss even tbough his fault. Thankfully those parts were not for any clients of mine.
Another seller sent items not matching his description, and although I was partially refunded (I could still use what was sent for future work), I again was left high and dry for the work which those parts were initially purchased for.
The main issue concerning this problem is that there is nothing you can do due to the remote location of the item. As always, take some photos as proof of what you received or didn't receive before, during, and after unpacking. Immediately contact the seller and attempt to resolve the issue before keeping or returning an item to avoid any other liability and monetary issues. Request something in writing as to what action you want the seller to take regarding compensation for the item costs and potential return shipping costs.
Take care,
Jesper

"I am become Death, the destroyer of bicycles." NJS
  Reply
#5
I've had great success with The Pros Closet, of course. Professional seller and packer. I even kept the shipping box for my next sale. I recommend establishing a set rule with individual sellers that the bike must be packed by a professional bike shop. Get the name and number. Work out the cost and perhaps split it with the seller. I did this as an eBay seller and posted the shipping would be an extra $ amount after checking with my LBS.
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#6
I feel sorry for everyone who's bikes/frames were damaged in shipment. For that exact reason, I tried to find a fat-bike locally in Boston area but none were in stock. So, I was forced to buy online and I could only find "Framed Minnesota" aluminum fat-bikes. This bike was for a once in a lifetime trip across South America and other parts of the world. I was glad to receive the bike in one piece, with no issues at all. I was ecstatic.

I assembled, rode the bike a bit before dis-assembling, packing and shipping it from Boston-Medellin. For the Boston-Medellin trip I re-used the original cardboard box and not a lot new packing material due to weight limits on international shipments. Fortunately, its first international trip was uneventful. TSA did open the box but left a note to inform me so. I have ridden the fat-bike, MisterGordo for some 2000 miles and have loved every bit of the journey.

In general, I am very wary of shipping my bike but cant live without it. Soon I will be flying back to US and then to India with MisterGordo.
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#7
thanks for the info, it was interesting to read cause I got the similar problems last year Big Grin
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