The last few weeks have seen more than their share of casualties buying online, so I thought I might share some of these,  to allow fellow collectors to  experience vicariously the misfortune of others. They call it schadenfreude, such a good word that it has been adopted in English in its native form, though strictly it refers to the more extreme gloating over others misfortune. But hey, feel free to gloat, gloating is ok with me.

Funny things, humans. Faced with someone else’s misfortune, we all seem to get a twinge of pleasure – perhaps a sense of relief that it didn’t happen to us. On the flip side, possibly the same or worse has happened to you, and you can trump my tales of woe with your own story.

1. The frequent-flyer record

The music on this record Joe Harriot’s Free Form, had travelled half way round the world and back. Musicians Joe Harriott and Shake Keane came originally from the West Indies to Great Britain, where they recorded this record for the American Riverside-owned Jazzland label, who released it in the US. I found the original US pressing being sold by a seller located in the Middle East. The condition read optimistic enough to bid, and a week after winning it arrived back in England, posted from Holland.

There’s that moment when you hope for the best, mount it on the turntable, to sit back and enjoy..

Up to three scratches each revolution in counterpoint to the time signature, almost a highly advanced polyrhythmic tempo rubato vocabulary, some enthusiasts of the avant-guard might say.

Result: full refund on record, a loss on postage, but I get to keep the record.

2. An original “Blue Not.” Nice label, shame about the vinyl.

It’s a Blue Not, not a Blue Note: no plastylite ear, as claimed. Here’s what the seller said in his description:

From the description on Ebay I reckoned it as a Blue Note second pressing from the  NY years( 1962-6) using up stock label inventory. I was wrong but then so were the other twelve bidders, who pushed the price into three figures.The Blue Note corporate inner sleeve would have been the giveaway – a 1966 end of series inner, which is often found on the first wave of Liberty reissues, which is what this turned out to be:


The claimed presence of the ear put everyone on the wrong trail, as did the inaccurate description as “Deep Groove” which (my) photo clearly demonstrates is non-DG. There probably wasn’t an NY reissue, hence the old stock label inventory inherited by Liberty was a late 47 West 63rd, with R trademarks, circa late 1960/1961, possibly the original release.

I don’t think this was a malicious attempt to mislead. Getting the ear and DG wrong and going into writing about it wouldn’t be very clever.

Result: A straightforward “Item not as described” case, backed up by an LJC super stealth photo was responded to by an immediate offer of refund. As it happens, these Blue Nots, or Van Goghs, are sonically a delight, it’s an RVG master, mono,  almost certainly an All Disc Roselle press for Liberty 1966, and an original first press jacket from stock inventory, there’s a lot to like. A very big discount was agreed.

3. An original Blue Note, nice record, shame about the cover

An original mono Blue Note BLP 4127  Kenny Dorham “Una Mas”  Here’s how it looked on offer :

una mas cover Capture2

The original vinyl was shipped to me with a  Liberty or United Artists stereo later sleeve, as illustrated below.

4127---right-record-wrong-cover-photoI’m not entirely stupid, despite the occasional lapse.  The seller had cropped the jacket photograph in such a way to conceal the 84127 stereo information at the top of the cover. You had to know a lot to do that. Or may be just an innocent mistake?  A query to the seller showed there was no original cover – that’s how they acquired it, and yes they would offer a complete refund if I wanted to return the record.

Result: another tricky situation. It’s a great record, I wanted an original press, the vinyl plays perfectly, still very desirable, just the wrong cover. A price adjustment was negotiated, I carry on looking for a cover.



There were other minor annoyances too – the stereo that turned out to be “electronically rerecorded to simulate stereo” and the audiophile 2x45rpm that consisted of two copies of the second record, but that is just the rough and tumble of buying records. More than a few have been better than expected, and 90% are exactly as described. It’s not a bad result overall, it won’t put me off.  A straight “Not as described” shot back to the seller backed up by visual evidence of the shortcoming has always delivered a satisfactory resolution.

There are so few physical shops left, and even those that do exist (I was told by one insider) move the better stuff that comes their way through a circle of dealers and favoured buyers. Whatever you think of the online market, it’s not like there is a much of an alternative.

In any event, I tend to be an optimist. If something “bad” happens, my mum’s folk wisdom kicks in – handed down to me as “there is always something good comes out of something bad“. I genuinely believe that, though there are days I think the opposite is probably true as well.

Like everything, it’s all down to how you look at it, and I think on balance I think it is better to be an optimist than a pessimist, despite this timely reminder to the contrary on a recent birthday card, thoughtfully chosen by my daughter:

Dear Optimists

Smart girl. She seems to have inherited her dad’s sense of humour too.

If you would like to share any of  your experiences buying records on-line that others might benefit from, comments are open,  but please keep it anonymous, as I have.  Ebay have a strict rule about not putting disputes into the public domain and I don’t want you getting into trouble..


18 thoughts on “Schadenfreude

  1. Here is my personal contribution to global eBay misery awareness week:

    As for the audiophile 45rpm records: I think I remember reading somewhere on the Internet that you can stack multiple copies on top of one another to get even richer bass response…

  2. Andy: the moral of this story (and similar related stories, which seem to be proliferating wildly), is this: ONLY – and I will repeat: O-N-L-Y but from eBay sellers with impeccable seller- and track history and superb feedback (hint, hint, wink, wink, nod, nod) and FORGET everyone else.

    And when you find a good eBay seller, hold on to him for dear life.

    This, then, will help you enjoy your eBay experience more and spend less time lampooning the poor little eBay sellers (another hint, hint, wink, wink, nod, nod) . Plus, it will work wonders on converting your inborn pessimism into something, shall we say, more constructive.

    And if – heavens forbid, vade retro satanas – you receive a Blue Not(e) record without – o, tempora, o mores – the Ear stamp, all hope is not lost. Presumably, you still have a pulse, and you are still breathing. It’s (Blue) Not The End Of The World 🙂

  3. you did well negotiating. A refund and some discounts, good stuff. I usually just accept them as a loss. well done

    • Hi Boukman.
      There is only one rule in negotiating – you must be prepared to return the record, even if it entails a loss for you on the postage. Make that clear in your “Not as described” first email. If you try to push the postage on them, you may lose the deal altogether. Look on it as a necessary cost of being a collector. If he thinks he can still sell it at a profit, he will take it back and refund the Paypal.

      Mostly they don’t want it back, because the next buyer will hit the same issue all over again, so they will accept something closer to its true value. They will either propose something, or ask you what you think. You probably both know now what it is worth, and a realistic figure is easy enough to arrive at. I make it clear there will not be negative feedback, because “a small problem, which was quickly resolved, happy to recommend seller” You both walk away with a deal at a fair price you can live with.

      Of course you could try the other way – call him a cheating lying retard, demand your money and postage back, and hit him with negative feedback. It is tempting but you may lose everything, so I don’t recommend it.

      • Yes, you must be ready to return the album, but (advice to the sellers), the seller should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES provide the refund unless and until he receives the goods back. I just had my second-ever theft experience as an eBay seller, and from a London-based Jazz collector (whom I shall not name), to boot. After selling him what appears to be a near-perfect original stereo copy of Art Blakey’s ‘Night in Tunisia, the gent took almost two months to discover that the record (allegedly) skips. He opened an official complaint based on the alleged defect (not that he had to, I routinely and as a matter of course grant all buyers an instant refund, for whatever reason and whenever they express dissatisfaction, no questions asked), and then – surprise, surprise – the buyer “mysteriously” decided to disappear and stopped communicating when I asked him to provide the tracking number for the item he’d (presumably) sent back. It looks like that “defective” merchandise wasn’t defective enough to be returned and was good enough to keep for free. After he received his money back, the buyer apparently discovered that, when he increases the stylus tracking force from 0.00 grams to 1.5 grams, the disc – lo and behold – plays perfectly fine.

        So, yes, there are more skunks per capita of the eBay buyer population than there are per capita of the eBay seller population. Should we expect to see a major essay to this effect on LondonJazzCollector?

        The sellers should also be ready to file an international criminal warrant for the blatant buyer fraud, as the gentlemen who did this to me will soon discover this seller is ready, willing and capable of.

        Seller beware!

        • I am sure there are as many rogue buyers as there are sellers, Bob, I don’t doubt it. I have no experience of which to speak, as I have never sold on line, but friends who have tell me buyers are far worse. You are right to sound a note of balance.

  4. The picture situation on eBay baffles me. I have encountered so many listings where the seller goes above and beyond the call describing the record and sleeve, yet only posts the front cover, or a partial front cover.

    If it was a 99 cent listing I could understand but not a $20 or $30 opening bid.

    On a few occasions I have asked sellers to email additional pics so I can determine what “faint writing” or “small seam split” actually is. Why these additional photos aren’t part of the listing in the first place I have no idea.

    • I quite agree – I questioned a seller recently – why not give us a picture of label. Its more informative than the cover. He answered because ebay charge him for more than one picture and people want to see the cover “If they want to know more more they can always ask”. Duh! We can do the heavy lifting.
      I believe in educating sellers so I often point them for example to my Blue Note Cheat Sheet. As a result I usually I get an accurate answer back straight away. Seller education, works wonders.

      • “EBay charging for an extra picture”: bullshit. Sellers have up to 12 pictures free.
        The only way to make sure to bid on the items one expects to receive is asking questions. If the replies are evasive, or none, abstain, don’t bid!
        The most common problem however is condition. What a seller grades as “E, nearing NM”, can be totally unacceptable. I always check seller’s performance according to the stars system.

          • No, it does not take any effort at all. Telling lies is a cakewalk in the park! First of all, all it takes is incompetence and stupidity, to which the majority of the human race appears to have a congenital predisposition. I would hazard a guess that about 50% of vinyl sellers on eBay are novices who have lost their jobs in the past 12 months and think they discovered a key to an early retirement in selling vinyl online. These people have NO IDEA how to grade records, and incompetence comes easily and effortlessly to them.

            And where incompetence fails, malice, fraud and deception will gladly ride in to the rescue.

        • Agreed. Ask questions. I’ve walked away from more than few auctions after receiving responses that reveal much more than the 1-2 photos. The lack of pictures is likely pure laziness. What a lot of people seem to forget is that the records we’re looking at are 50+ years old, whether its an original Blue Note LP or a Tamla/Motown 45. They won’t be entirely perfect. We just want the details.

        • There are NO universal grading criteria, and there will NEVER be any such thing; all grading criteria claiming universality are a sham, because all perception is by definition subjective and individual, and Goldmine grading “standards” are a biggest sham of all, not only because they do not factor in the seller bias, but because – when you take a good, hard look at the Goldmine wording – it is a cornucopia of evasive and opaque hocus-pocus nonsense that cannot be quantified or qualified on any rational level. The best the buyer can hope for is that the seller will have decency and honesty to grade the disc as God has given him the light to see, and that he will try to suspend his inherent seller bias (which I assure you is ALWAYS present, and will ALWAYS be present. for as long as sellers will want to sell their stuff).

          My grading is simple: after 41 years of collecting, and 15 years of selling, I think I have a solid idea of what I would want to keep in my OWN collection, as a buyer. Those items then, eo ipso become near mint, or at least VG++. Everything else is up for negotiation. But I doubt that there are many buyers who will want to keep a >VG++ item in their collections.

          And, oh. One more thing. When I am grading the record, I constantly ask myself : if I were a buyer, how would I want the seller to describe the disc for me?

        • Agreed on all counts. The key to successful eBay buying is communication with the seller. It is not only WHAT the seller says but – even more importantly – HOW and WHEN he says it. You can infer a bonanza of wisdom just by reading between the seller’s response lines. In fact, I recommend to the buyers to get in touch with the seller (a casual or courtesy note will be fine) even if they have absolutely nothing to say or ask.

      • This is baffling to me as a seller, too. I go out of my way to attach all twelve available eBay pictures, and to make them as hi-res, as easy to visually scrutinize and as intuitive as possible. In fact, I firmly believe that my images are upward of 90% of my eBay success as a seller. In some ways, I don’t even have to grade the cover — the large, hi-pixelated image will do a much better job than my grading narrative,

        I firmly believe that the vast majority of the sellers are either born lazy or indolent or devoid of any sense of professionalism, or that they are so stretched thin that they either have no time or desire to do a decent photo job. Bottomline: ran like hell from listings with blurry, yellowish, incomplete, truncated or otherwise retarded photos. Because, dear eBay buyer, chances are that the seller will treat YOU exactly the same way as he treats the pictured object: with a gross,wanton disdain bordering on crime.

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