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This guide discusses etiquette from both a buyer and seller perspective when purchasing and selling stamps with faults through Ebay or other mail order system. Several aspects will be discussed as this Guide grows based on my experience and feedback/comments for improvement. Those Guides will be listed with the heading Etiquette Series.
ETIQUETTE WITH REGARD TO FAULTS
A key aspect discussed is how to handle stamps that are faulty. If you wish to see a discussion on faults, there are several available or you may see my guide "Stamp Condition : Ways to Detect Most Faults".
As a seller of stamps one should make an honest effort to describe stamp condition with a fairly high level of accuracy. In the current Ebay community, there are a wide range of collector and seller experiences ranging from novice to professional. Because novices may not be aware of how to detect faults, it is important as well as honest and ethical, to describe a stamp's condition accurately. Although selling undescribed and faulty items to buyers who do not know better may bring higher selling prices in the short run, it is not healthy for the hobby in the long run. Ultimately, collectors end up selling their stamps and although the hobby is meant to be an enjoyable passtime rather than an investment... any hobby suffers when collectors learn that they "were aided" in making uninformed buying decisions. Building a level of trust with buyers through accurate stamp describing does do well for the hobby and the seller too given time. There are definitely many collectors and a strong market for those who do not mind faulty items so long as they pay fairly for them.
So what does a buyer do when he or she receives a faulty stamp and it was not described or pictured as such? Well, if you do not mind the fault given the price paid then there is not much need to do anything! A positive and 3/5 star on feedback accuracy may be appropriate and the seller will note and correct this over time. However, if one feels the stamp value is significant and the fault, trivial or not, decreases the value to a smaller fraction of the price paid, then a dialogue should be opened with the seller.
Feedback for the transaction generally should be placed on hold as dialogue occurs. One side note on feedback, please do not immediately leave neutral or negative feedbacks without first having a dialogue. Feedback reputation is critical to business on Ebay, and there are separate guides one can read on this topic....
Before contacting the seller, review the listing and be sure you did not oversight a fault mentioned by the seller in the description or photograph. If no faults were mentioned, and a satisfaction policy is described, email the seller with a description of the fault and that you are not completely satisfied. Be brief. You may wish to offer the seller a chance to keep your business by requesting a fair-to-both-parties partial refund. Returning items does incur a waste of time and money to both buyer and seller, so sometimes this is acceptable to both parties. Be aware that some sellers will dislike partial refund offers (especially if you contact them on multiple occasions for oversighted faults). In some cases, a seller will block you from being able to make future purchases from them. Remember, feedback is gold in Ebay and if you are perceived as a risk, a seller can appease you and then refuse to do further business with you. It is within the seller's right to do this. However, this is one reason 100% positive feedback does not mean a seller describes stamps with complete accuracy.
Often the seller will reply, with either a partial refund accommodation, or he/she will request you return the stamp for refund. In general, a seller with a "satisfaction policy" will work with you, a seller with a "return policy" should have the stamp returned to them. Be courteous and patient. Assume positive intent with the seller. When the transaction is completed to satisfaction, leave an appropriate positive feedback. If you return the stamp, package it very well. If the item's value is signficant then return the item with Delivery Confirmation, Certified, or Insured mail so you have proof the seller received it. The seller may also send you a returned item email through Ebay. Completing this quick form allows the seller to be reimbursed the Ebay fees associated with the sale. The courtesy of completing this email if requested helps keep dealers' costs to collectors down. I will often complete this request if the seller reimburses my return shipping fees. However, if the seller lacks the courtesy to reimburse my fees in returning their misdecribed item, then I will often refuse to reimburse theirs when asked! This is my own matter of principle.
With the above approach to dealing with faulty stamps both buyer and seller should be satisfied with any transaction.
The above describes when you have already received a stamp and it is faulty or not as described. But what if you are interested in a more expensive stamp before making bid/purchase? One can ask the seller to "dip" the stamp and carefully comment on any faults that may have been overlooked initially. This can be requested politely and briefly. I have done this on several occasions and it can save a serious buyer and seller time and money. Sellers should be willing to perform this service in a timely manner (one or two days). If a seller cannot do this it can be a warning sign that they do not know how to more carefully check an item's condition.
Sellers should do their best to describe stamps accurately and if they are expensive (over $10?) take an extra minute to "dip" the stamp to observe for faults. Sellers should respond to buyers in a timely manner and also assume positive intent. Sellers should welcome the opportunity to receive customer feedback and chance to increase customer satisfaction. Fortune 500 companies are not the only groups who rely on dissatisfaction feedback to improve in a competitive environment.
Buyers should know that condition is very important to value and that a large amount of stamps sold on Ebay may have faults that may not be described by the seller. Knowing a process on how to deal with such items can help insure a fair collecting experience for buyers and improve the hobby and Ebay community overall.
As a collector of United States stamps for nearly 30 years my skills in assessing stamp condition are fortunately very strong. As a result, I very frequently purchase "sound" "no fault" "extra fine superb" stamps on Ebay for my collection that are actually faulty. The above pulls from my experience over several years.
I hope this guide is of some help. Any suggestions for any of my Guides please write me. If you thought this guide was helpful please vote YES below! Your votes are noticed and appreciated.
Carrousel Stamps Etc - where stamps are accurately described