Written by 10:04 pm Digital

Another Cautionary Ebay Tale

Rules are made to be broken, right? But when it comes to Steven Stone’s “Five Rules For Ebay” breaking them increases the chances you’ll get burned. Steven waived one of his own rules recently and paid the price…


Several months ago I posted my own “Five Rules For Ebay.” Recently I re-learned why I had rule 3, which says “No international deals.”

If you check out the original post, you’ll see I caught
flack from several readers who felt rule 3 was overly restrictive. I agreed
that sometimes, for the right item at the right price, rule 3 could be ignored
“as long as you never risk more than you can afford to lose.”

I’ve been involved recording classical orchestras since the
mid 80’s. Many of these early recordings were made with Sony’s first digital
recording system, the PCM-F1. One of my long-term continuing projects is
transferring the Beta tape recordings to a more modern and hopefully more
archival medium. The best way to do this is via a direct digital connection.
Only one PCM recording unit that I know was equipped with a S/PDIF digital
output – the Sony PCM-601. Even it’s more expensive sibling, the PCM-701, lacks
this output option. Till recently I had been borrowing a PCM-601 from KGNU, the
local community radio station, but they needed it back, so I began a search for
my own unit.

Part of my daily regimen, along with my morning yogurt, is a
visit to “My Ebay” where I look at my saved “Sony PCM” search to see if any
PCM-601s have popped up. Most days the answer is, no. But about a month ago,
one appeared. It was $225 “buy-it-now” with a shipping charge of $50. The
description clearly stated that it was tested and working, so I pulled the
trigger. Only after Paypaling away $275 did I notice that the seller was from
Singapore. And so I broke rule 3, but good.

The seller emailed me several days after the auction to tell
me that they had shipped the unit, but it had cost $159, not $50, and they
would like me to cover the extra costs. I wrote back that I’d pay half the
overage if the unit was fully working.

Two weeks later I got a notice from USPS and I went down to
my local branch to pick up my package from Singapore. I was amazed how compact it
was. Then I realized the packaging consisted of the PCM-601 sandwiched between
two stiff pieces of foam board and wrapped with a boatload of cellophane
wrapping.  That was the sum total for
shock protection. Miraculously, the package appeared to be intact and nothing

When I got it home and opened it up I saw that on the piece of
foam that had been on the bottom, the PCM-601’s four large rubber feet had left
1″ deep indentations. That wasn’t a good sign.


It only took a few minutes to discover that this PCM-601
only worked partway. It turned on and its front panel changed when you pushed
the buttons, but it wouldn’t play back, record, or respond to its analog input.
It was dead, Jim. I had just purchased a fairly clean looking box full of parts
for the PCM-601 for $275.

If the seller had been domestic, I would have returned the
unit and received a full refund for my original costs (but not for my return
shipping fee, which would be my responsibility).  In theory I could get a refund via Ebay and
Paypal’s buyer protection policies even though the auction was listed as “No
return” because the description said “tested and working.”

But the gotcha for international deals such as mine is that
a buyer must return the item to the seller via a trackable shipping method to
obtain a refund. And Ebay doesn’t release any refunds to buyers until Ebay has
proof the seller received their goods. In my case, the least expensive
trackable return shipping option would cost $160. For the difference between being
out $160 or $275, I’d rather pay $275 and still have a parts unit for the day I
do find a working PCM-601. Next time I’ll wait for a domestic seller.

Lesson learned…

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