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Daniel Hersh

Ethics. protocols & obligations in buy/sell

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There's a difference between "expressing an opinion" and "trying to impose an opinion."

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I have been thinking about writing this post for several weeks and after reading a couple of things that were posted today I decided to go ahead.

...

I see the buy/sell forum a bit differently, as a discussion forum like the other forums rather than as an auction site. It's a place where someone can mention that something is available for sale without necessarily obligating themselves to do anything beyond describing the item as accurately as they can.

...

What do others think about all this? I'd be especially interested in comments from Ken and Paul, but I'd like to hear from everyone else too.

Daniel,

I have yet another take on the Buy&Sell subforum - based on my perception of it since joining Cnet.

 

For me it's a forum about buying and selling. Important topics are, e.g. "I'm looking for a beginner's anglo - what options do I have?" or "What would I have to pay for a decent English treble?" Or "Is this Ebay offering worth bidding for? Anyone got experience of this model?" Or "My granddad left me this old instrument - would it be worth selling?"

That's the way I've used the forum, and I've always benefitted from the collective experience here.

 

Of course I've come to regard the Cnetters as a circle of virtual friends, with whom I talk shop and engage in concertina-related repartee. Just like with my real musical friends. And it happens with real acquaintances that someone says he's looking for something, and another remembers that he has one in the atttic, and offers to let him try it out. And maybe this is just what the searcher was looking for, and they strike a bargain. Could happen here, too!

 

However, there is one aspect that requires earnest thought.

As soon as transactions between friends become business transactions, the friendship can suffer if anything goes wrong. That's why a lot of people who have a doctor, lawyer, plumber or PC expert in the family seek this person's advice, but actually have the work done by a stranger. A lot of law-suits concerning business transactions are not about deliberate rip-offs, but about unfortunate mistakes made with the best intentions. Any such transaction is fraught with the risk of damages. And with objects of the value of a good concertina, any damages can be worth suing for. If a mate sells me a kazoo for a couple of Euros, and it doesn't work, I can shrug it off - if it's a concertina for my entire savings, I can't. If the friend apologises, and genuinely didn't know that it was broken, and takes it back and returns the money, OK. But if he seriously thinks I broke it after buying it, and he's already spent the money - well, that could be one friendship that ends in court!

 

So transactions among friends and family must be considered carefully. With real friends, whom we know not only as fellow-musicians but as persons with all their personal and ethical qualities, we can pretty well estimate what could happen if the deal goes wrong. With virtual friends, whom we know only as concertinists, we are on less firm ground.

Even more dodgy is the case where I offer a concertina to the "The first person to offer me 2000 EUR." The respondent may not even be one of the regular Cnetters, whom I have rightly or wrongly assessed as a "good guy", but some newbie whose personality is completely unknown. Or if such a newbie offers the concertina that I've been looking for at my price.

 

There's nothing to stop people offering concertinas for sale here, or accepting such offers. Nor is there any sense in imposing auction-type rules on the Buy&Sell forum. The German Civil Code, and corresponding legislature in other countries, regulates transactions between private buyers and sellers - the difference is that auctioneers like Ebay offer arbitration as part of their service, whereas you need a lawyer if anything goes wrong with a private transaction.

 

Perhaps there should be just one rule in the forum: "Buy and sell at your own risk!"

 

Like me, you may regard the Cnetters as friends, or at least as known quantities. But that's deceptive. A forum is (as the Latin word says) a market square. You meet your friends here, but not all within earshot are your friends, some of them not even nodding acquaintances. It's better to exchange views and info with them, and buy or sell either among real friends, or in an impersonal auction.

 

My view!

 

Cheers,

John

Edited by Anglo-Irishman

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Here's my two-penn'orth:

 

1) It is up to the vendor to decide what price they want to achieve. If people choose to sell to players rather than collectors, or to accept a lower price to support a developing player, that's their choice, but it is not immoral to want to get the best price, and people shouldn't be criticised for that.

 

2) It's up to the vendor to decide how they want to sell their instrument. It's no different from advertising in the local paper. All sorts of factors may influence the vendor's decision who to sell to, and it may not be the first person to make an offer, or the highest offer. Provided the reasons are not immoral or illegal (on grounds of race, for example) then that's the vendor's choice. Just because you're in the market and prepared to pay a good price, it doesn't mean you're entitled to buy the instrument.

 

3) Both parties should always act honestly.

 

4) At some point, the law of contract will apply (whose law, on an international forum, is another question). Once a deal is made, both parties have an obligation to complete it.

 

5) Both parties should act fairly. The problem is, different people may have different perceptions of what is "fair". If you feel you've been treated unfairly in a transaction, then I think it's reasonable to raise this on the forum, and for the other party to put their point of view. People can make up their own minds whether they'd want to deal with either party in future themselves. But at the end of the day, if more than one buyer is interested then most will be disappointed.

 

6) I think it's good practice for the vendor to clearly set out the rules for their transaction, and stick to them. But unexpected circumstances can arise eg a buyer willing to buy a job lot. Ultimately, it's the vendor's decision whether to sell.

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I think that's well put,Howard. All I would add is this...................

 

If you feel you've been treated unfairly in a transaction, then I think it's reasonable to raise this on the forum
............if you cannot resolve the issue by privately.

Robin

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...At some point, the law of contract will apply...

I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that, in general, a contract exists if there is: an offer, an acceptance of the offer and a consideration (e.g. money).

 

Of course, laws vary from country to country and may depend on whether the buyer/seller is a business/private individual, but I would guess that most contract law is built around a similar basic rule.

 

So, on this basis, it would seem that either party is free to withdraw from a transaction agreed as a result of a "concertina for sale" ad on this website, up to the point where money actually changes hands, assuming that the sale is not by auction. [Edited 7th December '08 to add: Based on the post by hcjones below and Wikipedia, it seems that my understanding of "consideration" was incorrect and that it is not necessary for money to actually change hands in order for a contract to be established, only that the price is agreed. This seems like common sense, so perhaps the law is not always an ass! I am leaving the original post unaltered, so as to give context to follow-up comments.]

 

As regards auctions, "official" auctions will presumably have rules which say that, by bidding, you accept the terms of the auction, which will generally have been written by a lawyer and will presumably legally bind you to complete the transaction.

 

I would see the greatest potential for conflict in "concertina for sale" postings, which follow the auction format, but without "proper" auction rules. It might even be possible that the operators of this website could be drawn into a conflict arising our of such a transaction, e.g. by either party claiming that the site is operating as an auction house. I don't know whether the obligation to complete an auction transaction is created purely by the rules of an individual auction, or whether there is general "auction law", similar to contract law - perhaps the concertina-playing lawyers out there can comment. If there is a real risk that the operators of this website could be drawn into such a conflict, then I guess the options would be to either leave things stand and hope it never happens, or outlaw auction-style postings, or employ a lawyer to write up auction rules and become an "eBay for Concertinas".

Edited by Gan Ainm

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Don't think that's really a problem to date Gan Ainm - what people seem to be more concerned about is someone selling an instrument but apparently not being clear or fair as to how they will sell it or who they will sell it to etc., being inconsistent with their proposed mode of sale etc.

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Don't think that's really a problem to date Gan Ainm - what people seem to be more concerned about is someone selling an instrument but apparently not being clear or fair as to how they will sell it or who they will sell it to etc., being inconsistent with their proposed mode of sale etc.

 

Yes, that's how I see it too, and that's certainly fair game for discussion.

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So, on this basis, it would seem that either party is free to withdraw from a transaction agreed as a result of a "concertina for sale" ad on this website, up to the point where money actually changes hands, assuming that the sale is not by auction.

I think many people ,including myself, would disagree with this. And this was the nub of my earlier posting.

If someone says to me "Yes, I will buy your concertina", then I want to take them at their word ( of honour). The exchange of money is not the point at which the deal has been cemented but when you say "Yes, I will buy it". It should be a statement of intent nothing else.

 

Regards

Robin

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So, on this basis, it would seem that either party is free to withdraw from a transaction agreed as a result of a "concertina for sale" ad on this website, up to the point where money actually changes hands, assuming that the sale is not by auction.

I think many people ,including myself, would disagree with this. And this was the nub of my earlier posting.

If someone says to me "Yes, I will buy your concertina", then I want to take them at their word ( of honour). The exchange of money is not the point at which the deal has been cemented but when you say "Yes, I will buy it". It should be a statement of intent nothing else.

 

Regards

Robin

I would agree Robin.

 

When someone says ~ "Yes, I will buy your concertina", surely that amounts to an online handshake & a handshake is the equivalent of a signature on a contract .... between gentlemen of honour.

 

The point when the item changes hands, or money changes hands, is surely just the fulfillment of the earlier promise.

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If someone says to me "Yes, I will buy your concertina", then I want to take them at their word ( of honour).

Yes, most people will take them at their word and, in the vast majority of cases, the word will be kept and everything works out fine.

 

Rules and regulations are generally written to cater for the small percentage of cases where everything does not run smoothly. For example, there may be situations where either the seller or the buyer genuinely needs to pull out of a transaction due to unforseen circumstances, or an item may get lost/damaged in the post, etc. In these small number of cases, an agreed set of rules might help to avoid embarassing character assassination type flare-ups. As a last resort, where agreement cannot be reached, either side may revent to looking at their legal entitlement and it was in this context that my earlier posting was written, in response to the comment:

"...At some point, the law of contract will apply..."

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With the usual I-am-not-a-lawyer disclaimer, my understanding of English contract law is that if someone has said "Yes I will buy your concertina" AND the parties have agreed the price, then a contract will arise. Offer, acceptance and consideration. I suspect that other legal jurisdictions work in a similar fashion. If one party then fails to perform, there is a breach of contract - whether that can be effectively enforced is another matter.

 

However, if all you have done is expressed interest in the instrument then there is no contract and the vendor is free to deal with someone else. How they go about that may be more or less ethical, but that's how a free market works. It may not always be pretty, but on the whole it's proved to be better than the alternatives.

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... if someone has said "Yes I will buy your concertina" AND the parties have agreed the price, then a contract will arise...

Thanks, I had misunderstood "consideration". I have updated my post above.

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If someone says to me "Yes, I will buy your concertina", then I want to take them at their word ( of honour).

Yes, most people will take them at their word and, in the vast majority of cases, the word will be kept and everything works out fine.

I did have a situation recently where we had an agreement to buy, an agreed price and a day that the money would be sent. Then all of a sudden the deal included "if I don't get this other concertina". Generally though people are good once a deal is agreed. Mind you, I also had a recent case where I had a deal, I had the concertina, but my bank seemed determined to scupper the deal by bouncing my cheque for reasons that still make no sense as all the money was in place.

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...Mind you, I also had a recent case where I had a deal, I had the concertina, but my bank seemed determined to scupper the deal by bouncing my cheque for reasons that still make no sense as all the money was in place.

 

Maybe the seller had an interesting history with your bank?

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I was the seller! We were both mystified, bank told me the cheque was not signed. When they returned it was signed.

 

I think this is just another item of evidence that shows that banks can make a mess of small things as well as large ones.

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I was the seller! We were both mystified, bank told me the cheque was not signed. When they returned it was signed.

 

I think this is just another item of evidence that shows that banks can make a mess of small things as well as large ones.

 

Maybe you should have told the bank that you were selling a house in stead of a concertina, until recently it seems that they have not been checking signatures at all for that...

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